The West Bank

Cedar Square West
Cedar Square West
(my apt from 1984 circled)

I lived in Cedar Square West (aka The Slum in the Sky, aka The Crack Stacks) from August 1984 until February 1985. At the time, all the floors above the 20th floor in McKnight Tower were reserved for people without kids, and there was no subsidized housing above the 20th floor. It was a pretty clear divide in the building, and the apartments were much nicer once you got above 20. We lived on the 36th floor, which was the uppermost floor which went all the way across the building. 37, 38 and 39 were above us, but not on the other half of the building. The laundry facilities were on the second floor, which was a drag, especially since the building had only three elevators, and very often one was broken.

One of the times when the elevators were slow in getting to us on 36, I decided to run down to the ground floor. This wasn’t something that was undertaken lightly, since once you were in the stairwell, the only way out was on the floor on which you lived, or on the ground floor. But heading down, it’s not all that much of a worry. I discovered that if you run down 72 flights of stairs (9 steps per flight, if I remember rightly), with the accompanying 72 left-hand 180 degree turns, you’re pretty dizzy once you get to the bottom. One time my roommate Mike (aka Gunga-Sam) ran up the stairs to our apartment. When he got in, he laid on the floor gasping for quite a while.

Our apartment furninshings at the time were what would politely be called “minimalist”. We had a couple bookcases, a couple beanbag chairs, and stands for the stereo and TV. That was about it for the living room. In my bedroom, I had a futon (directly on the floor), a dresser and a steamer-trunk. And more boxes of books. But having the futon right on the floor was kinda cool. With the floor-to-ceiling windows the apartment had, I could roll over in the morning, and look out on the world to see what the weather was going to be like before I headed off to work or class. Or on lazy days, I could lay in bed watching the planes come in at the airport.

Speaking of weather, one of the odd things about living on the 36th floor was having the skies be blue when I looked out the apartment window, with what looked like fog below us. At least once that fog turned out to be a low-lying cloud that was actually producing rain at ground-level.

One of the things the West Bank was known for while I lived there was an abundance of bars, some of which had live music. Right at the bottom of Cedar Square West was (and is) Palmer’s. It was a dark and smoky bar, but fairly non-violent at the time. For that matter, the entire west bank was a pretty safe place in the mid-80s. There were some domestic disputes and such, but there was still plenty of the 60s (really the 70s) vibe still there. It helped that the grocery and drug store were both co-ops. Anyway, Palmers was a small place, with a pool table. It was a relatively cheap place to drink, but for some reason I didn’t hang out there as much as I could have.

The 400 Bar was a small place (it’s since expanded, and lost most of the character it used to have). Between the stage for the live music (some of the best on the west bank at the time), the pool table located in the back of the main room, and the three or four pinball machines located in the back room (along with a couple tables), it filled up pretty quickly. There was even a special short pool cue for use on the table, since you couldn’t use a standard length cue for all the shots.

The Five Corners Saloon was a more yuppie-ish bar. The music was still bluesy, but the clientele was more upscale.

The Viking Bar, as near as I can tell, remains unchanged since I lived on the West Bank nearly 20 years ago. It’s still a little bar, with decent music, and a pretty good crowd of regulars.

One of the mixed-blessings of living in Cedar Square West was the PDQ in the courtyard. It was super-convenient having a convenience store in the same complex as the building, but the store wasn’t all that convenient. Their hours were 6am to 11pm, which left out the bar-crowd entirely. There were many nights when we’d be sitting in the apartment drinking, look up at the clock and realize it was 10:45pm, and wonder whether or not we could make it down the elevators in time to get to the store for that last-minute munchie-refill we’d decided we needed. There were also a few mornings when smokers at our parties would be sitting around twitching at 5:30am waiting for the store to open.

Speaking of parties, we held a series of Land of the Scary Dinosaurs parties. Typical fare was a couple cases of beer, a box of wine, and perhaps some less legal mind-altering substances. But a fun time was generally had by all. Except for a few people who decided that leaving by way of the elevator wasn’t much fun on hallucinogens.

Another benefit of living on the 36th floor was that we were high enough that insects didn’t seem to make it up to our level. So we lived with the screens off the windows. Which gave us the added amusement of being able to toss things out the window once in a while (after making sure nobody was in the courtyard who might be hurt). Superballs will bounce back about ten stories when being thrown out a window that high. The empty bag from a box of wine wasn't very impressive, but a half-full one (refilled with water—we weren’t about to waste any of that fine wine) that went out the window turned into alumized-mylar confetti when it hit the ground. Mike had laboriously turned a tennis-ball black using a permanent marker. When that went out the window one night, it disappeared. He also had a stuffed toy that he called Patrick McGoohan. We got to say that we’d thrown Patrick McGoohan out a 36th floor window, he’d bounced over the neighboring three story building, and hadn’t even broken his eyes.

This was also the first time that I owned a computer of my own. It was while I lived in CSW that I bought my TRS-80 M100 (which I later traded to Tina for a VW Beetle while I was living at 717). Mike had an Apple //e, plus I had a borrowed Zenith luggable (the 161) from ETA for a while, and I tried putting QNX on it. We also started talking with the folks on Bad Sector. The start of a long career of being a modem junkie.

But it wasn't to last. Mike started dating a gal and decided to move in with her. The rent went up, and I was left without a roommate. An ad in the papers looking for a roommate netted a few calls from a guy who was looking for a new boyfriend, and that was about it, so I decided to move on. I ended up house-sitting for a friend who had an apartment in Eagan, but that's another story.

Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 13:48:08.