I've said for a number of years that most of the bad things that happen in Fayetteville are real estate driven. From the city's controversial decision to violate its own tree ordinance to the closing of the old Jefferson School to an ordinance that only allows three unrelated people to live together in one residence (making it a lot harder for low wage earners as well as the town's student population to get by) to a coloring book distributed by the city's Code Enforcement department that illustrates housing code violations with offensively stereotyped working class characters to attacks on my own public access TV show as a deterrent to “Young Executives” who might be interested in buying property there, I've seen example after example in my 20 years of living here.
Fayetteville's identity crisis with class and real estate could best be summed up with one incident: During the 2004 Mayoral debate, then-Mayor Dan Coody (who handily coasted to re-election that year) was asked what he would do for the perennially low-income south end of the town (where I, incidentally, lived at the time). He answered that it wasn't a case of “going-to-do”....” we're doing it,” he said, but it was a long-term project that wouldn't come to fruition overnight. He cited the development of the TIF (Tax Incremental Funding) district at the time--this was meant to finance the building of some hifallutin' tower/luxury hotel construct that fell through (I think it's now an ugly parking lot) and boasted of all the good it was doing. Specifically mentioned was the fact that they had gotten rid of some unsightly mobile homes and were going to build some apartments in their place that were going to be “beautiful”.
I watched the debate on TV. I wished I could have been there in person, because the question I would have liked to have lobbed in response would have been, “what happened to the people who lived in those trailers? Were they not also members of the 'Community'?”
To my knowledge, no one, other than me, ever bothered to ask that question. This guy, it should be noted, was the “Green-leaning, Liberal Good Guy” candidate....which probably defines my ongoing struggle with Fayetteville's liberal/activist community---most of them are moneyed, tenured types, and at their core, classist as hell. The Beautification Crowd are suave, educated and sophisticated, and the idea of what happens to human beings really never occurs to them.
The latest manifestation of this phenomenon recently reared its deceptively pretty head when plans were announced for a new suburb called “Willow Bend”. To quote their intentions from their own website, right up front, “the Walker Park neighborhood, located just south of downtown Fayetteville, lacks quality affordable housing “, and this development proposes, on some level, to remedy that issue.
If you're talking quality, they may have something. With the South End, you're talking lots of blighted neighborhoods and shacks....you're also talking a neighborhood Fayetteville seemed to turn a blind eye to when they shut down Jefferson School a decade ago. That, to many people, pointed up the elitism at the heart of Fayetteville City Government—-dismantling a civic focal point in a poor neighborhood as part of a gerrymandering stunt. Poor people----minorities----you know, they don't look good in Campaign Spots.
On the other hand, if you're talking Affordability, where does it balance out? I worry when the pencil pushers talk about Affordable Housing, because their version of Affordable isn't the same as my version of Affordable. I don't look good in Campaign Commercials, either....
So, when I heard about Willow Bend, my initial thoughts were, okay, which poor bastards are losing their homes because of this? And how many of them won't be able to afford to share in the New FutureTM? (And in case you were wondering, my educated guess was, “not many”....)
As it turns out, I believe the future site of Willow Bend is going to be the wooded area behind Walker Park.
Walker Park has a reputation in Fayetteville---not the nicest park in town. It's a big homeless hangout. I remember in the late 90s Food Not Bombs had a lot of big feeds out there (before the first wave of gentrification saw a lot of the Autonomist/Radical element in town vacuumed up). The Salvation Army is nearby and I know that there was a Hobo Jungle out in back of the place----there may be camps in the woods that would be the future home of Willow Bend, also----it would make sense. And it would give our town fathers an impetus to bulldoze that space for something.....well, PRETTIER. Something where real estate could be moved.
And who could object to a nice neighborhood? I couldn't---could you?
You don't have to scratch the surface of Fayetteville's squeaky clean liberal community much to get to the classists underneath. One person I knew commented on the supermarket in the Walker Park area and its shabby clientele by saying “I'm afraid of getting raped there!” (because, as we all know, there's an epidemic of rapes happening in Supermarkets.) She talked about the disgusting caliber of people who shopped there---which my wife and I were privately horrified by---I worked in that area at the time and it wasn't unusual for the two of us to to stop by that store at the end of my shift to grab a cheap breakfast ....so we most likely could have been part of that disgusting caliber of people she felt so threatened by.
Yeah, well....if there's anything I've learned, that's Fayetteville for ya.
There have been problems of late in Fayetteville's transient community; there were two stabbings in 2015----(one occurred in a homeless camp around U of A, one in Walker Park, sparking a new wave of contrived anti-homeless hysteria). So what better time to clean the place up? Can't have all those nasty po' folks runnin' around, bringing down the property values!
Here in Fayettenam, of course, we've put a lot of hype behind how we're a “Compassionate” Community. Yeah. I know all about that. I remember the “Compassion” the city showed when one particular non-profit contractor's board of directors decided it was okay to ransack its employees' personnel files, even though that was a basic FOIA no-no. I remember how activists who tried to blow the whistle on this monkey business were vilified by local journalists and city-related bloggers. I remember this because I was one of those activists. But hey----don't ever get in the way of a good PR stunt, right? “City of Compassion”---that's catchy. And I'm sure it'll sell lots of high-dollar property to well-meaning Young ExecutivesTM.
And like the idea of a good neighborhood, who could argue with it?
As a “City of Compassion”TM, we don't Guiliani the hell out of our transient population, because that would be cruel. We will, however, price them out of existence with the building of lots of pretty things, and we'll bring in lots of pretty people to buy the pretty things. You know....people who bring the property values up. Pretty people. People who look good in PR spots. People who look good in campaign commercials. And then, I'm sure we can get rid of a lot of the other run-down housing in the area. The people who actually LIVE there? Well, they have all the wrong aesthetics and they probably don't even recycle. They can find someplace else to live.
“There used to be this unsightly park full of all these panhandlers and poor people and rednecks and minorities...now, it's really pretty, though, and we're bringing people into the neighborhood who consider that an investment worth supporting. And this whole end of town is looking so much better now!”
Well, who can't get behind that? Soon we'll all be able to shop in peace.
It's been a few weeks since David Bowie shuffled off this mortal coil and I'm still surprised as to how wretched I was over that particular death. Perhaps it's that his demise came a couple of days after the release of a genuine masterpiece....most recording artists are resting on their laurels by age 40. Bowie's career had its peaks and valleys, but BLACKSTAR at age 69? Unprecedented.
I spent a good chunk of those weeks listening to good music and combing over the most recent videos for “Lazarus” and “Blackstar”, the latter of which I found spellbinding. What the hell was going on in that video, that song, and what the hell was Bowie trying to tell us????
Naturally, because everyone's supposed to be part of the IlluminatiTM, all the usual drivel about the Devil started popping up online, complete with the usual contrived psychobabble about “Pentagrams” (sorry, hacks....a book with a star on it is not a “Pentagram”), the usual Albert Pike misquotes and so on and so forth, and sadly when you look up anything occult-leaning or esoteric on the net, that will be the majority of what you find.
I was hoping to read some well-read or well-informed interpretations and eventually I found some thought-provoking stuff: kylebstiff throws around some interesting jazz about ancient astronaut theory and the Gnostic concept of Yahweh/Yaldabaoth as blind/insane god, archons feeding on the religious ecstasies of acolytes, etc.
And vigilant citizen built a pretty thoughtful overview of Bowie's career as an exercise in acension/descent and apotheosis.
I don't think there are necessarily any straightforward answers because Bowie was never a particularly straightforward guy. He probably upped the potential of the Concept Album by refusing to deal with linear storylines (find a concrete plot in ZIGGY STARDUST or OUTSIDE if you can) and I've always had a thing for mosaic-style narratives.
Being a writer and an artist (as opposed to a theologian or a soothsayer) I'm more comfortable with the grey area and the possibilities as opposed to black-and-white meanings. What really enthralled me in the run up to the release of BLACKSTAR was what conceptually, to me, almost felt like an aesthetic line poem of the man's entire body of work....of course, you get the “Major Tom” theme, which has cropped up from “Space Oddity” to “Scary Monsters” and here the man (or his remains, anyway) has literally fallen to earth (or someplace) to be venerated by this tribe of people who form a religion around it.... as stand-alones, there's some strange commonality between the promotional videos for “Ashes to Ashes” and “Fashion” (both incorporate this very cryptic, almost religious-feeling “bowing” gesture but in very different contexts) but cross-compare “Fashion” with that strange “bunny-hop” move the dancers are making and look at what the “acolyte” characters are doing in “Blackstar”....it's MORE OR LESS THE SAME MOVE. Coincidence?
Perhaps a play on culture, customs and orthodoxies? The orthodoxy of fashion and the orthodoxy of religion?
Not necessarily pinned on a linear meaning, here, but an interesting pull back when you realize the threads you may be able to connect in a much larger body of work.
THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST (All Bowie all the time):
- Blackstar (Blackstar)
- Sue (or in a Season of Crime) (Blackstar)
- Panic in Detroit (Aladdin Sane)
- Five Years (Ziggy Stardust)
- Heart's Filthy Lesson (Outside)
- Fashion (Scary Monsters)
- Look Back in Anger (Lodger)
- Rosalyn (Pin Ups)
- Future Legend/Diamond Dogs (Diamond Dogs)
- Speed of Life (Low)
- Sense of Doubt (Heroes)
- Neukoln (Heroes)
- Station to Station (Station to Station)
- Beauty and the Beast (Heroes)
- Memory of a Free Festival (Space Oddity)