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Documentary Evidence - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Documentary Evidence
Last night, after two hours of fun conversation at the Shanty, several of us walked through the 4th Avenue underpass, then down Congress Street to the Grill. I've had better food at the Grill. In fact, I've always had better food at the Grill. Nevertheless, the experience was worthwhile, if only to watch Angel's expression as she contemplated her plate of biscuits and gravy.

As we walked back down Congress Street to Sean's car, I reflected on how much more lively and varied the nightlife there has become over the past few years. There are now galleries open late and various indeterminate emporia to complement the bar scene. And the music blaring out onto the street now ranges from lounge to punk with impunity.

Though Congress is definitely on the upswing, however, it still has room for improvement. And I'm not talking about pie-in-the-sky fantasies of urban renewal either. I've seen the future in the not-so-distant past.

Kim got out her yarn box today during the "bag head" -- think the Fandango ad campaign -- project she undertook with Skylar after dinner. Kim hasn't done much with yarn since we moved to Tucson, but spent a good deal of time in the 1990s working on a colorful afghan. The box, like many of our boxes, is therefore something of a time capsule. Inside it was another box, with a dubious connection to yarn:

Our classic yellow tin bus, made in the Czech Republic and prominently displayed in our bedroom, came in this box. More importantly, we purchased it while enjoying a rainy January day on Tucson's Congress Street back in 1994.

Yes, I used the word "enjoyed" and "Congress Street" and "day" in the same sentence. When we moved here in 2000, it seemed improbable to think that had ever been a possibility. Congress was dead. Even the Hotel Congress had temporarily forsaken live music. The all-around hipness it had during our visit in 1994 seemed like a trick of my inner light. Back then, Bertrand's Books -- a real used bookstore -- and the Yikes! toy store provided wonderful browsing. Yikes! is still cool in its new location on Broadway, but the strip mall location deprives it of the charm it had on Congress.

At any rate, this entry is proof that we liked coming here before we came here permanently. The factors that conspired to make us not like Tucson much in 2000 and 2001 -- the stress of moving, unemployment, new jobs, Skylar's difficult two and three-year-old stages -- have receded into the place we put unpleasant memories and are gradually giving way to the pro-Tucson feelings we developed on our vacation visits of the 1990s.

Here's hoping that the edgy parts of today's Congress can survive and thrive next to the daytime-friendly sites slated to accompany the Rio Nuevo project. City leaders rarely comprehend what makes a central business district tick. But there are signs that at least some of the folks making decisions here in Tucson understand that swapping Solar Culture for The Gap would hurt the city more than it helps. For all of its minor faults, Tucson is a place -- and this extends even to the more suburban portions to the north and east -- where independent businesses are valued and chains do not necessarily mean the end of locality.

Mode: tin type
Muse: Corduroy - The Wedding Present - Seamonsters

3 comments or Leave a comment
tommix From: tommix Date: August 21st, 2004 09:15 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yellow gravy, dude... yellow gravy.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 22nd, 2004 01:31 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Don't pull your punches, Charlie. Swapping Solar Culture for The Gap would damn near destroy the city.
What never ceases to amaze me in the "Downtown Revitalization" party that Tucson is coming to a little late is the fact that it's all directed by business leaders, civic staff and pencil pushers with doctorates in planning.
While that's necessary, to be sure, why can't they throw a few of the common folks into the mix? I reckon you or I could tell the Rio Nuevo folks a few things they never would have thought of. I didn't know Tucson in 1994, but I did stop in Bertrand's Books a few times.
The simplest way of putting the whole thing is that Downtown (or central) Tucson has cool... it just needs more of it.
As far as the suburban portions, I do my best to avoid.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 22nd, 2004 05:16 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Right. Thing is, I live in the suburbs. Not all bad, though my subdivision used to be close from a political standpoint. Now we live on "Kerry Alley," thanks to my wife's efforts getting signs to neighbors.

I'd rather have someone with a doctorate in planning, BTW, than a booster or developer. Could be worse. Much worse!
3 comments or Leave a comment