Updated at 10:10 CST.

The Indistinct Men of No Particular Attributes make an appearance in the Twin Cities; perhaps they were translucent albinos. (Note: story has since been changed to reflect additional information; initial version did not include descriptions, although other wire stories were reporting at the time that the fellows were "Middle Eastern.")

Hmmm. According to the TV, the men said they were in town for “a religious conference.”  Interesting. I was talking today with a guy I know; he’d been at a suburban hotel for an annual company sales meeting. The regional manager was having a difficult time speaking, since the party in the next conference room was praying about as loudly as is humanly possible, and had followed the prayers with a speaker who expressed in rather . . . forceful terms the depth of Muslim oppression in America. Unless there are several Muslim religious conferences going on in Minneapolis at the moment, I’d guess that might be the one. If so, I wonder if the reported truculence of the men might have been influenced, or at least reinforced, by the speaker. Whoever he was.

I phoned the info in to the paper, as a good citizen.  Wonder if there’s anything to it.

Update: the paper removed all reference to the gentlemen's ethnicity.

Update again: just for fun, I googled Omar Shahin, the imam quoted in the WCCO story. (If he’s the president of the group, then it’s possible he gave the speech that drowned out the aforementioned sales conference.) Seems a reasonable fellow, although this story is interesting: in 02 Shahin was president of the Islamic Center of Tucson. The article notes that “bin Laden's chief of logistics, Wa'el Hamza Jelaidan, is believed to have been president of the Islamic Center of Tucson in the 1980s.”

And this little throwaway line at the end of the piece: “With the United States tightening security, students from Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden's place of birth and the former home of 15 of the 19 suspected Sept. 11 hijackers, represent one of the largest groups of students who were denied visas.

"Despite this, Tucson Muslims feel safe, said Shahin, who knew Osama bin Laden in 1981 or 1982 while he was studying in Medina, Saudi Arabia.”

Small world.

Last Update: Jeezum Crow. Yes, I know, this is guilt by association, and does not prove that Mr. Shahin was connected to the "charity" or knew what they were doing with the money. Everything mentioned here is circumstantial, coincidental or irrelevant. Move along, folks. Nothing to see.

I mentioned that I’d gone to a different grocery store yesterday, and no doubt you have been waiting for the exciting tale that no doubt resulted. Some backstory first. A new Lunds store opened in a condo called “Cobalt,” a project designed to blend into its neighborhood with all the grace and finesse of a brick dropped in a wading pool. No, that’s wrong; that’s exactly backwards, now that I think of it. This was the old site:

You’re not seeing the building at its best, but you get the idea. It was part of an ancient high school, long ago turned to other purposes (storing old text books for other demolished high schools, probably) and knocked down when the land was bought by canny developers. A sad  weary strip mall, once the wonder of the neighborhood, was razed as well, and the neighborhood lost a grocery store. That can be traumatic, and fatal as well – a proper grocery store gives a neighborhood heft and focus and a certain feeling of respectability. The Safeway in my old DC neighborhood stunk of dead meat and live mice, spilled milk and BO, but without it the neighborhood would have relied on small dark grocery stores where the only thing thicker than the plexiglass cashier’s cage was the profit margin on malt liquor.

This neighborhood has been on the rise for years. It’s close to downtown, close to the river, close enough to the U so the students come to shop & drink & add boho flavor to the streets, but far enough away so they don’t move next door and stay up all night playing records. It has a nice mix of low-slung stores and brownstones with a few enormous sentinel apartments:

They’re built to face the river, and they look better from the other side. Not by much, though. Anyway, they’re certainly better than the version on the other side of the river, on the other side of the campus:

That’s about 2/3rds of the total project. And they only built 1/10th of what they originally planned to construct; those monsters would have marched for a mile.

Anyway: here’s the new project. It’s a wading pool dropped in the bricks, now that I think of it; shimmery blue glass in a neighborhood where reflective surfaces are confined to store windows and college freshman diary pages.

The grocery store in on the ground floor, and looks nothing like the other ones in the chain; the space is efficient, the selection reasonable, with lots of high-end mouth-baubles for the gourmands. (More varietie of cheese than baby foods, I'd guess.) Compared to the giant stores in the burbs, it’s wanting – but this is for Urban Living, with all the lesser storage space and diminished room that suggests. If I’d had this in my DC neighborhood I might well still be there, although given the general level of service in the district the mood would have been different. (A nice old lady offered me some ham, and said “it’s it just scrumptious?”  while I chewed. In DC the clerk would have stood there glaring off into the distance, and she wouldn’t care if you ate the damn ham or left it alone, she was off at five one way or the other.)  I bought a reusable grocery bag for a dollar – doing my part to reduce climate change, I guess – and headed to my car, satisfied. I doubt I’ll go there again, though. Parking. I got a spot on the street at a meter, but it was Sunday night.

I was born in a country where you didn’t  pay to park for groceries, and dadgum I’ll die in one.

Oh: while sorting and archiving, I ran across something my mother saved for no possible reason I can understand, except that she liked it. I give you a grocery store ice cream bag from 1962. Step right up and call him Froste!