L.A. Nik sounds like a candidate for office.
He speaks so passionately about downtown Minneapolis — and he seems to know an awful lot about the unseemly side — that you'd think he's running for something. He didn't rule it out in this Q&A where he stressed that Minneapolis residents and officials don't like to talk about what he believes are real problems that need to be addressed.
He also had a question for me.
"What do you think about changing the name of Lake Calhoun?" he asked.
I think it should become Lake Humphrey. This Southerner did not realize that my Minnesota was ever inclined to honor a racist defender of slavery. Although there have been clues related to how Original Americans were mistreated. Oh, and there was that big clue in Anoka County, where Burns Lake was formerly N-word Lake until the 1970s.
"I did not know that," Nik said quietly, immediately moving on: "Changing Lake Calhoun is opening Pandora's box. What are you going to do with Calhoun Square? The Calhoun Beach Club? Look at how many businesses have the name Calhoun. Changing the name will cost millions. We have way bigger fish to fry. We've had eight shootings in the last six days; who cares about the name of a lake?"
That's a debate for another day with the man who gave his book a title as cheery as his countenance, "Life is Short, Then You're Dead Forever," and laughed exactly once during this interview. Not suggesting he's not engaging; he's just intense. Read on to find out if it was the question about eye makeup or a skunk that got this local personality to lighten up.
Q: At what point should Minnesotans be offended that the self-proclaimed Mayor of Minneapolis After Dark is still calling himself L.A. Nik?
A: First off, the name L.A. Nik, I didn't make up. I came here and [told] people, "I just moved here from L.A." I remember the first day it ever happened, the door guy at Barrio called me L.A. Nik. From then on everybody started calling me L.A. Nik. Once I started getting press, I couldn't kick it. I tried to get rid of it.
Q: How many years did you live in L.A.?
A: Altogether, 15.
Q: How many years have you lived in Minneapolis?
A: I just passed five years.
Q: You consider yourself downtown Minneapolis' cheerleader. What's something that isn't being touted?
A: The biggest problem in downtown Minneapolis is the denial of the people. The people who live here need to swallow their pride and talk about the problems. Minneapolis keeps lowering the bar and making our worst citizens acceptable; making our worst citizens the standard. We need to help these people, raise the bar and help them grab on to it. Talk about why we are [a city with a large number of] Fortune 500 companies but yet have such different unemployment [figures] for whites and blacks. We are the number one city in America with the difference in wealth for races. Why is crime not being talked about? A gang from Chicago, the Gangster Disciples, are coming here literally by the busloads. They can't get arrested here. It's a revolving door. The city won't let the police department take anybody to jail. My main goal is to get people to talk and find solutions. Why do our kids have nothing to do? Why is there no hope? Why aren't there programs for kids in the city of Minneapolis? There are no programs downtown for kids. They don't exist. Yet they are going to spend millions and millions and millions of dollars on bike paths that only 4 percent of the population uses. Where is our future in that? There's no future in bike paths. We need to concentrate on our youth and the problems, but yet if you talk about them, people get mad at you and hate you.
Q: What kind of programs should be available in downtown Minneapolis for kids?
A: There are so many. A basketball tournament. A music center. Let's start a music program. Most inner-city kids don't know how to play any instrument because they can't afford it. Let's get some funds going, let's get instruments. Show them how to play drums and guitar. Yeah, there are programs for homeless kids. That's not the problem. North Minneapolis kids come downtown every day with nothing to do.
Q: Do you see yourself running for office some day?
A: You know, I'm not going to say no. I'm 51 years old. I'm passionate enough and I think I have enough knowledge.
Q: Tell me about Minneapolis' drug problem.
A: Here's the issue. We're a corporate tourist town. Most people downtown are suit-and-tie-ers. I'm not. I look like a drug addict even though I'm not. I was a drug addict. If you read my blog [MayorofMinneapolis.com] I talk about my drug history. But I've been clean for seven years. I get offered drugs on a daily basis. We're the number one city in America for heroin. No. 1 for ODs. No. 1 for the purest heroin. We're a hub. If you watch the show "Drugs, Inc.," they feature Minneapolis as the No. 1 heroin city in America. In fact I just told somebody today, all these new apartment buildings they are building; everybody is either selling drugs or doing drugs. Molly, heroin, crack — it's everywhere. This city is infested with drugs. But you're not allowed to say that. Say it, you're against Minneapolis. People don't really know this town. I'm on the streets, man. People like Todd Walker [who writes "Todd About Town" for MplsStPaul mag are] not on the streets. I'm on the streets daily. There are after-hours places open all night. I know all these spots. I know this town inside and out. I've never seen anybody from the City Council out past 6 o'clock at night. I go to all these parties. It's the same as with drug addicts, in denial. This city is in denial.
Q: Everybody is a lot of people. That's quite the indictment of new apartment dwellers. And I have seen council members out past 6 p.m., but not where people are doing drugs.
A: I don't see council members out past dark. I see suburbanites here for bachelorette parties and the young crowd is doing drugs.
Q: How many hookers do you know?
A: I personally only know three hookers who are prominent in downtown Minneapolis, who I see on a daily basis. But I know there are a lot more and they are all very young girls. I know dozens of drug dealers.
Q: What does your W-2 form say you do for a living?
A: I am an author.
Q: Criticalminneapolis.com was extremely critical of you, essentially saying you are a faker on many levels. (http://www.criticalminneapolis.com/2014/01/06/la/)
A: I never told anybody I was in any famous band, ever. They made up a lot of stuff to get attention for their blog. Who wrote it? Nobody. They are cowards who won't even put their own name on the story. It's all a bunch of BS from a hater who doesn't like that I'm stirring the pot. I'm a drummer by trade and if you look at my Wikipedia page it lists every band that I've been in.
Q: You can't believe what's on Wikipedia. The subjects write that page themselves.
A: Nah, Wikipedia does major research. They didn't used to. My Wikipedia page is a current page. They are very critical. If you can't prove it with a reference … it doesn't matter. I've been in bands nobody ever heard of, so what's the difference?
Q: Is Minnesota's reputation for being nice, real?
A: Probably not. It's a passive-aggressive state.
Q: Since you know so much about what goes on downtown, I've got a wildlife question. Sometimes I smell the pungent odor of a skunk, as if I'm walking on a country road and not on 9th Street, say, near Haskell's. How in the world could a skunk have a habitat in downtown Minneapolis, I wondered several nights before concluding that I'm actually smelling some new variety of marijuana.
A: You know what? We saw a skunk last night. I swear to God. You know we had a deer at the Sexton. The cops came and shot it [in 2013].
Q: Where is Nik's favorite place to eat?
A: I like Seven, but downstairs at the steakhouse. I don't like the rest, the party thing. I like downstairs, street level.
Q: When you cook breakfast for your girlfriend, what do you prepare? A: I usually have two eggs and hashbrowns and always a cup of tea.
Q: How many events do you attend a week?
A: At least four, sometimes I'll do 10.
Q: Will you have eyeliner on when you take your last breath?
A: [Laughter, finally] That cracks me up. I've been dyeing my hair black and wearing eyeliner since I was 14 years old. I would probably say, most definitely.
Q: How long does it take to put on your makeup?
A: I just wear eyeliner, so two seconds. I probably eventually will get it tattooed because as you get older, you can't see. I'm already using a magnifying mirror. It's getting too hard to do.
Q: Do you know what product works best as an eye makeup remover?
A: I just wash it off in the shower.
Q: No, you should use baby shampoo, because it apparently kills bacteria.
A: Really? Thank you for that. You know what's funny? My eye doctor told me I had bad eye hygiene. I swear to God.
To contact C.J. try firstname.lastname@example.org, and to see her check out the Fox 9 "Buzz."