There's a Facebook group that posts old pictures of Minneapolis, and the ones that resonate the most with me are of course the ones from the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I spent a fair amount of time down there. We were more "free range" kids back in those days: I grabbed a handful of change, walked the 6 blocks to the bus stop, took the Number 5 downtown and back again.
I was remembering our family nights - maybe we did this a lot, maybe it was only a few times, but they imprinted strongly on my memory: I remember the 4 of us walking to the bus, riding it down, walking down a side street to a tiny Japanese restaurant called Asuka: Carrie would get Tempura, Dad would get sukiyaki or some similar "lots of things in a big pot". I would get Yakiniku, which was basically spicy beef and no veggies. I do not recall what mom would get... I'm not sure if they did ShabuShabu there? Hmmm.
After that, we would walk back up to Hennepin and pop into Shinder's: It was a wonder of a place - huge and sprawling: Magazines and periodicals in the front to the right, Books off to the left, and straight back to the comics. If you went THROUGH the comics to the left, there was the porn... and the skeevy gentlemen had to mosey past us kiddos to get their fix. As a boy, I was undeniably CURIOUS about what was behind the gate, but never spent much time trying to catch a peek: I suspected that if I showed too much interest, either the parents OR the employees (stalwart trustees of the innocence of youth) would say "this is a boy who may NOT COME BACK IN HERE" - I wanted access to those comics, thank you very much.
After the comics were purchased, we'd walk the extra block up to 8th to catch the 5 back home: The block between had a couple of theaters, but I remember the actual corner being very dark and boring. I wondered why Shinders couldn't have been one block over - at least we could have looked at the brightly lit window displays.
At the bus stop, there was a hot air grate without a fence around it, and we'd stand on it basking in the warmth while waiting for the bus. I'm not sure we ever really knew what the schedule was - I don't recall my parents wearing watches - the bus just CAME every 15 minutes or so - either you caught it or you waited for the next one.
There were a couple of variations on this family trip - I recall at least one time going to the Nankin Chinese restaurant, and the joke at the table was that you couldn't find your food under all of the water chestnuts. I also remember going to a crepes place called The Magic Pan, but don't remember liking it at ALL. I also know there was a Best Steak House down there but I think we went to the one up on 56th and Nicollet instead. If we were ever downtown during the DAY, you know we went to the Brother's Deli - with the theme song "Kibbitz and Nosh! At the Brother's Deli!"
After school and weekends, I took the trip downtown by myself or with my friend Jeaner - we saw movies at the Skyway, we shopped for comics (and maybe were a little bolder with trying to work out what was behind the frosted glass beyond the comics... but I still thought - IF CAUGHT, they will tell my parents next time I come in with them. I actually thought the dudes at Shinders would take Mom aside and say "he was here last week, and we caught him trying to look at the adult magazines... WE THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW Ma'am." At which point I would be sent away forever.)
Of course as we got older (6-7th grade) we discovered the record stores too - Harpos/Hot Licks became Northern Lights, which was awesome... there was never any reason to go into MusicLand - overpriced and NOT COOL. Video Arcades popped up (Pops on 6th was the one to visit - the "arcade" on Block E was trouble).
The landscape of that 4-6 block area of Minneapolis imprinted on my brain: For years into adulthood I would have lucid dreams of walking around that version of downtown Minneapolis, though the stores would change in the dream, and new streets would appear, leading to a new adventure. But in those dreams, it was always dusk or night - the times when tired, full of Japanese food, and comics in hand, we would wander back to the bus stop.