World Class City = Yuck!

January16/ 2000

 I‘ve tried on cities of all sizes … three of America’s Top Ten in size, a West Virginia burg with 2,000 in its SMSA and a handful in the 100,000s.  I’ve always tried to buy into the local chamber of commerces’ bluster and bombast; but circumstances, experience, and technology seem to be altering the concept of “a great place to live” … we are a nation of nomads seeking an oasis and that oasis takes many forms.

   Prehaps you’ve heard the apocryphal story of the fellow driving into a town who wants to know “what kind of folks live here”.  He sees an “old timer” outside a “general store” (a “general store” is a “convenience store” that carries pickled eggs in a jar by the cash register).  “Pardon me sir, are there friendly people in this town?”  Well, young fellow, are there “friendly people” in the town you live in now?”  “Yes, there are.”  “Then you will probably find friendly people here too.”  The moral of the story is that one tends to find in any town, whatever one expects to find.  I’ve found this to be pretty accurate.

   I’ve lived in more than a dozen cities/towns.  I stopped counting after “a dozen” for the same reason Jennifer Lopez doesn’t count engagement rings anymore. “A bunch” is “a bunch”.  I’ve lived in the “metro area” of 3 of America’s largest cities … Atlanta, Dallas, and San Antonio plus on the outer fringe of Boston. I’ve lived in a backwater West Virginia town of less than 2,000 hardy souls.  I’ve also lived in about every size community in between.   

Least you think I’m a carny or trying to break Chucky Brown’s record … I’ve lived in Rolly for the past 16 years and have no plans to move again any time soon, if ever.

I developed an eye for certain foibles that “city fathers” seem to have regardless of the community.  

(1) Some guy is making a killing supplying catchy phrases for “city mottos” … 

(2) The first time the phrase “World Class City” appear in the local fishwrapper, call and reserve a U-Haul … it’s a good bet a few babies are about to get tossed out with their bathwater.

   I recall flying into the airport in Columbus, Mississippi a few years ago.  I bet you didn’t know that Columbus is the focal point of “The Golden Triangle” of Columbus, West Point and Starkville.  I didn’t know that.  The “regional airport” was about the size of a Wendy’s without a drive-thru.  The rental car counters were manned by one guy wearing pieces of Hertz, Avis, Budget, and Rent-A-Wreck’s uniforms.  He had one car in his inventory.  It had an AM radio.

   Of course there was a Wal-Mart; and a wooden sign saying a Family Dollar Store was coming soon.  The paint was peeling around “soon”. If this was “The Golden Triangle” I’d hate to see The Bronze Triangle.  The people I met there were friendly.  There was no story in the local paper about “light rail mass transit” or “a new coliseum with skyboxes”.  When I realized that I started to like the area a lot more.


Swagger’s Stumper

Bandit drove the Trans Am; who (actor) drove the 18-wheeler?


   I visited Chattanooga recently.  My second trip to “See Rock City” in the past 5 years.  Both times I was impressed that the local folks all seemed quite proud of their city. Their attitudes reminded me of folks in Greensboro NC and Greenville SC.  On a “national level” Chattanooga is “one of those silly sounding towns” like Walla Walla or Kalamazoo.  Hard to spell but fun to pronounce. Both Chattanooga and Greenville seem quite content to let Atlanta pursue all that “World Class City” silliness.  They seem content to be “nice places to live, work, and raise a family”.  Likewise Greensboro seems content to let Charlotte chase Atlanta and let Raleigh chase Charlotte while GSBO is just “a nice place to live, work, and raise a family”.

   I’m sure there are landowners and developers and McDonald’s franchise area owners who would love to see Greenville, Greensboro and Chattanooga announce, with mucho fanfare, that they want to be “World Class Cities” and attain all the standard accoutrements that entails (aka “light rail mass transit” and “a new coliseum w/ skyboxes”).  A state-of-the-art building to host Yanni, The Royal Lippizan Stallions, AND that really fast Irish tap dance group is apparently a “must” for a World Class City these days.

   I was on hand to watch “light rail mass transit” come to both Atlanta and Dallas.  In both cases everyone I knew was “for it” for the same reason … “get all these other yahoos off the freakin’ road so I can drive my car to work in half the time”.  Boston had its MTA long before I moved there and apparently “Charlie” was still trapped on the fool thing without enough change to buy his way off … or so said The Kingston Trio or Chad Mitchell Trio or The Serendipity Singers.

   Raleigh has its “big enough to host Yanni” building now … and those dreaded words “light rail mass transit” appear more and more frequently in the N&O.  Not too much worry about the “World Class City” stuff though, thanks to Durham and Chapel Hill which despise Raleigh.  The only point that Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill agree on is that all three make fun of Cary.  Cary makes fun of Apex which makes fun of Holly Springs which laughs at Fuquay Varina.  Everybody laughs at Fuquay Varina … except the folks who love there and find, despite it’s odd name, it is (taa da!) “a nice place to live and to raise a family”.  Everybody in Fuquay Varina works in Raleigh of course.

   Raleigh and all its warring tribes in the area might be able to be a “World Class Triangle” however and would definitely jump ahead of Mississippi’s Golden Triangle, at least until that Family Dollar Store gets built.

   Worcester Massachusetts was/is an interesting place.  When the Mass Turnpike was built across the state, the local burgermeisters decreed it could not come within 10 miles of Worcester so that the city would not lose its “identity” and simply become “a rest stop between Boston and Hartford” with the illusion that Worcester would remain an inaccessible Shangri-La.  The fallacy was that Worcester had any “civic charm” that it might lose via the Mass Pike.  New England is chockful of “charming little towns” … Worcester is not one of them.  Give me 1,000 guys with highpressure power washers, and six months.  Worcester is covered with more dirt, dust and grime than Pompeii … and there is no volcano to blame.

   Worcester DID have a building large enough to host Yanni … at least Yanni’s show in the mid 80s before he met Linda Evans.  Then Boston built The Fleet Center and Worcester’s Centrum quickly got covered in dirt, dust, grime and spray-paint graffiti.  

I did always like Worcester’s city motto … 

“Worcester – The City No One Pronounces Correctly”.  

The Chamber of Commerce’s PR guy was the one guy left in town with a sense of humor … after I left.

   They Called The Wind Mariah from Paint Your Wagon … NOT from Oklahoma.  The rain was Tess, The fire Joe in case you were wondering.  I saw that movie for the first time in Miami on December 31, 1969 the day before Missouri played Penn State in the 1970 Orange Bowl.  We (Missouri) lost 13-3 but I had a good time and got a cool ring and watch out of the deal.

   History was made on Wed night in Mooresville.  Two Duke alums paid cash money to attend a Carolina Alumni Club meeting just to hear renown raconteur BobLeeSwagger pontificate.  They said it was $$$ very well spent.  We had a ball with The Lake Norman Carolina Club.  

BobLee ALIVE’s next performance is Friday – June 4 

for the Raleigh Kiwanis Club.  

WARNING … This Saturday’s column will be delayed until SUNDAY … BobLee and The Mizzus are celebrating #20 at a Shenandoah Valley B&B … I ain’t even taking the laptop with me. If you go into Swagger withdrawal just go to the Swagger Archives … over 300 columns to choose from.

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