30 May 2009

Downtown for dickheads

It is a truism that downtowns and urban living are now "in" amongst those who ply the conventional wisdom (at least until the next real estate bubble commences in the far exurbs). Like most cities, our downtown here in the Stick has been neglected, waiting for the much hyped renewal it deserves from the moneyed elements. However, there are many unpleasant realities to contend with which stand in the way of such a revival: the armies of homeless people, downtown's distance from the neighborhoods of the professional class, the wear and tear on infrastructure and buildings which comes from decades of use and exposure to the elements, and the simple fact that downtown is "open" for all as the center of the community of all citizens.

So with our real downtown lacking enough of a cool cache for the latte set, the dickheadery in this city instead set out to construct a new artificial downtown for themselves, where all the real life, gritty elements that might upset their discriminating souls have been expunged in favor of a Disneyfied carnival atmosphere centered on high end shopping, entertainment, dining, and other elite pursuits - that is, stuff only dickheads could adore.

So let us pay a visit to:

Resembling a Hollywood movie set version of downtown more than a real downtown, this "town center" in the otherwise concrete wastelands of the suburban ring is a definite hit with the Escalade and designer clothing set.

Look, folks! I'm in Hill Valley!

By the way, if you can make out the lettering on the top of this apparently exploding building, it says "Perkins Rowe Town Hall." The first town hall in history, folks, which doubles as a modern stadium seating movie theatre. 

Indeed, the site is very attractive, and pulls in the crowds easily. The urban feel, intended to emulate an urban streetscape, is definitely a major attracting factor, and is far different in nature from its immediate low density surroundings. There is a complex mixture of uses which includes retail, housing, office space, restaurants, etc. In theory one could live, work, and play here without ever venturing into the forbidden zone of suburban crabgrass past Bluebonnet Boulevard.

In point of fact, this may be the most urban location in the entire city, given our actual downtown's decline into a moonscape of parking reservoirs.

But observing closely, you find that living/working/entertaining at "the Rowe" is at a tad different level than what you normal, working folks are used to:

For one, the grocery stores do not cater to an average Joe clientele.

Furniture stores, you find, sell hideous appearing "modern" pieces which resemble every "art" museum you have visited, each chair and table attempting to outdo each other in the race to appear as stark, cold, and sterile as possible.

Don't see too many of these in the 'hood. I don't know too many folks who make under six figures who might shop here. (This store, by the way, is one of the many in the development that are the only one of their kind in Louisiana - most of them outlets of luxury chains that folks here would never miss.)

The reality, of course, is that Perkins Rowe is intended for dickhead sensibilities - an elite clientele with exotic, often bizarre tastes unknown to Joe the Plumber and his other hardworking brethern. Indeed, they inhabit a strange, diseased world of their own, of chrome and glass and spinning shiny metal objects, where bling is king and style trumps substance or moral integrity. 

I do not blame the developer - this is where the money squats today. This is the end game of bubble Amerika - an endless parade of buying pointless, overpriced luxury goods and eating at deluxe restaurants for the "experience" above all else. It is the downtown functioning not as the working vital heart of a larger community, but the new downtown a la dickhead: an upscale luxury shopping mall with ample free parking, controlled public places, centered on amusement and self-preening as opposed to productive work and sacrifice.

And while this glittering bubble downtown built on debt and possible fraud (how else, the modern way!) thrives, an actual gods-to-honest downtown not five miles away which was built by productive hand lingers and suffers from lack of investment and activity.

God save us from all dickheads.

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