Pack up all your crime and porn...
Block E, 1973
When I was a kid, "Block E" in downtown Minneapolis was where the prostitutes were. It was where the porn was. The cheap drinks too. It was everything city officials didn't want downtown Minneapolis to be. So they destroyed it. And when they destroyed it, the story goes, they sang a song. It went like this:
Pack up all your crime and porn, Block or scorn, be reborn, Bye bye Block E
No one here can stop and aggravate us, No more hard-luck stories will deflate us, Say goodbye to urban blight, Now we'll light up the night, Bye bye Block E.
People don't sing about Minneapolis that much. Okay, Craig Finn sings about Minneapolis a lot. But that's just one guy. Slug has a song about Minneapolis - but it's kind of trite.
You know who kind of nailed it? Tom Waits.
Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis is not about Minneapolis. Not exactly. But whenever I hear the song it's like he's singing to me from the burnt-brown corner of a Block E bar. And he's created a museum in his song of the "hard-luck stories" city officials sang about as they destroyed the block's undesirable establishments.
Block E looks like Houston now: a Hard Rock Cafe, a Gameworks, a multiplex. But Waits, it seems, sings his song from a place that for all I know still exists beneath all the neon and glass.
Here he is...