Voting Day in the city:
There are two barbecue places side-by-side on Chicago Avenue S., very near the intersection with E. 38thStreet. The Smoke in the Pit has been there long enough to have a worn sign. Next door is Just Turkey, delayed with its opening by COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd and then street barriers imposed for months by protestors.
The Smoke in the Pit is traditional barbecue. Its reputation attracted a stout fellow several times when he was driving from the south toward home. Just Turkey is exactly that: smoked turkey, barbecued and in other forms.
Kenneth the Cook was at work in the kitchen at 11 a.m. "Sam around?'' I asked.
Kenneth said co-owner Sam Willis should be arriving in 10-15 minutes and, by golly, there he was. We had not talked in person since March 1993, when he was on a star-laden Roosevelt basketball team, and I wrote a column on him.
"Sam!'' I bellowed as he came through the door, and he responded, "Reusse!,'' and then we hugged it out. Then, I turned to Kenneth and said, "Sam was one of the standouts on an all-time great Minnesota high school basketball team.''
Willis smiled painfully and said: "Maybe the best-ever not to make it to the state tournament.''
Who got you? "Totino-Grace, in the section final,'' he said.
John Thomas. BeBop Walker. Robert Mestas. Willis. And more. Ouch.
"I went to the Wolves game with John last night,'' Willis said. "Jalen [Suggs] was good for Orlando. Quite a talent.''
Change of subjects: Pandemic shutdown. Murder of George Floyd yards away. Barriers for months. How's business?
"We started working on this three years ago and we've only been open for a year,'' Willis said. "With the barriers, you had to park way down the block. The police wouldn't come, ambulances wouldn't come, fire trucks wouldn't come.
"I called a lot of people and said, 'We're paying business taxes. We need a chance to make a living.' It's about three months since the barriers came down.
"Just Turkey comes out of Chicago. I loved it; loved the idea of bringing it here. People come in, taste our barbecued turkey tips or another item, and they come back. We just need more people to know we're open and you can park in front now.''
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Sankara Frazier was a boxer himself. He worked at several gyms in Minneapolis, and even one in St. Paul, as a trainer.
"I was working at a gym where the owner had his name plastered all over, and he wasn't even a boxer,'' Frazier said. "I decided to go on my own, where it would be about the fighters. And the name came to me in a dream. Circle of Discipline.''
He paused and then said: "The first fighters we had, I trained them in a parking lot.''
Jeanne Montrese, Sankara's ex-wife, said: "Or in our basement.''
Eventually, the Circle of Discipline had a long run in a big, unadorned building at 1201 E. Lake St. A series of outstanding fighters trained there, including son Adonis, now the co-trainer and partner with his father.
The gym was shut down by COVID-19, and then came the riots along Lake Street following George Floyd's death that overwhelmed the area. It was untenable to reopen the gym — including for a youth group — that relied on goodwill for security.
The Fraziers have a training camp in Barnum, south of Duluth. It's a location for top fighters, prospects and groups of Twin Cities kids. And they now are opening a new Circle of Discipline across 35W from the University of Minnesota.
It's part of the Ninth Street Collective, with indoor soccer and other facilities in a pair of old warehouses. Jamal James was there Tuesday, disappointed in his title fight loss in Las Vegas three days earlier, but a proud member of the Circle of Discipline.
How do you pay for this multifaceted outreach to disadvantaged youth? "We beg,'' Sankara said. "That's what Jeanne's working on at that table.''
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The students at North Community High start pouring out of school doors at 3:30 p.m.A new football field is in its second season after being little-used in COVID-shortened 2020. It has turf so excellent you have to make sure it's not grass.
It's also 1 ½ blocks from the school, so the football players walk over (a few hitch a ride) carrying their pads. They get dressed on the side of the field, loose as the geese that occasionally squawk above.
Coach Charles Adams III was a third-generation Minneapolis police officer. He was the community officer inside North, until the school district decided to disassociate itself from Minneapolis police after George Floyd's death.
Enter the Minnesota Twins: They hired Charles as chief of security for the team itself. "I'm a lucky person,'' Adams said Tuesday. "Great job with great people with the Twins, and I still get to coach these young men.''
The Polars are 8-1 this season — a loss to Fridley (4A) — and have a section final in Class 2A vs. St. Agnes on Friday night at Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minn.
Are you good? The coach grinned and said: "Yes, we are. We have a running back in Jaylon Washington, a senior transfer, who is dynamic.We also have Will Smith, a tough runner, and we turned Mario Sanders, an excellent receiver, into our quarterback.''
Coach Adams nodded toward the athletes and said: "Yeah, we're good, but we don't overlook anybody. We know St. Agnes will be tough.''