28 May 2005
We tilt this city
The rumblings began, I think, with Bass Pro.
The sweetheart deal that the city struck with Bass Pro Shops to locate a store on the edge of Lower Bricktown came in for some criticism, which largely subsided after a while and the store started producing revenue close to projections. Still, it's Bass Pro, which caters to guys in flannel shirts who might own rifles and think sitting in the middle of the lake with a line over the side is fun, and this just irks the sort of young trendy types who believe that Bricktown ought to be their own private preserve, a row of bars, upscale shops and more bars, who aspire to have Bricktown become the local equivalent of Dallas' West End or Deep Ellum and worry that any development of which they do not approve is a sign of creeping Lubbockization. The last, or at least next-to-last, straw was the hint that John Q. Hammons Hotels was contemplating dropping its plan for an Embassy Suites in Bricktown and replacing it with a presumably less-prestigious Residence Inn. Good God, this is the sort of thing they do in the (gasp!) suburbs!
Not that this mindset is limited to this part of the world, as Andrea Harris knows perfectly well:
I know, because I tried to be like that: I'd go see boring indy bands in gay bars play sub-par pub rock and try to hide the fact from myself that the cover band at the suburban dance bar I and my friends used to go to in the early 80s was at least as talented, if not more so, than the indy band; I'd go to the tiny room behind the railroad tracks where the art crowd gathered to watch foreign films, and tried to ignore the fact that a soap opera isn't any more interesting or original when done in black and white, spoken in Czech and spiced up with exposed breasts; I'd go eat at the French restaurant and pretend that snails in garlic-flavored oil and fungus dug up by pigs were not foods inherited from a poverty-stricken, starving peasantry, and that the salad I'd just finished consisting of a plate of warm lettuce was just fine; I'd go to old warehouses converted into "alternative" art museums to look at displays of cardboard boxes containing battered dolls with knitting needles stuck through their eyes and red paint poured all over them and tried to squelch the memory of my sister and I doing the very same things to our dolls just for fun before throwing them in the garbage.
I bring this up because this is the opening day of the Paseo Arts Festival, and while this is a quintessential "urban" event, it's worth remembering that the Paseo, now an established artists' district, started out as a shopping center back in 1929.
Cities don't always grow and develop in the directions we'd like. Stores close here and open there; neighborhoods rise and fall. Official proclamations have little or no effect: there's nothing to stop someone from opening a Mexican restaurant in the Asian District. If your biggest fear is that you'll take a date to an upscale club in Bricktown and you'll run into a bunch of tourists from Woodward on their way to Toby Keith's, perhaps you need to rethink your definition of fear.
(Update, 10:45 pm: The Downtown Guy reprints this screed, and notes: "Everything I've heard about the Embassy Suites ... that is being downsized to a Residence Inn [is] because John Q. Hammons couldn't get a deal to build a garage across the street." I can believe that.)Posted at 9:43 AM to City Scene