Friday, December 17, 2004

Downtown cultural geography

I had a great time Wednesday night meeting other bloggers at the Green Bean. Thanks, Billy Jones, for organizing the meet-up; let's keep doing it.

The Green Bean was packed with people, because not only were us geeks doing some real-time face-blogging (i.e., talking) in the back, but UNCG MFA and BFA students (and other literature lovers) were crowded into the front for readings of short fiction.

Wow. In Greensboro? On a Wednesday night?

South Elm Street has become a focal point for creative people who have a whiff of the counter culture about them; not only writers and tech geeks, but also artists and entrepreneurs. There are lots of small, funky businesses on South Elm; that's where ArtsAlive and the Greensboro Center City Marketing Alliance emanate from.

A few blocks north, however, you run into Much, The N Club, the Red Room -- all those bars that advertise by publishing photos of the pretty girls who go there, along with their often suprisingly pudgy, balding, sweaty boyfriends. In these places, you'll find a very different cultural constituency: I think it's all about dancing, drinking, and . . . well, I was going to say dating, but I guess people don't do that any more. Hooking up? Whatever. But I've never been inside those places; I don't think a 47-year-old married father of three would really fit in.

If you go even further north, you'll eventually pass the new Center City Park and, finally, First Horizon Park on Eugene Street, both of which are monuments to the committment of Greensboro's upper-crust, foundation elite to downtown revival.

It's a very Greensboro gradation of cultures, and it's good.

Update: Southern Rants, who was at the blogger meet-up too, also has some downtown observations, along with some interesting comments.


Ed Cone said...

Upper crust elite? Please. Can't people do good things without tired labels getting stuck to them? And if you don't think the revival of downtown was driven in part by the money crowd -- starting with Betty Cone bravely opening the Mantelworks restaurant in the '70s, and continuing with the effort and focus and dollars of many other including (gasp)those entrusted with Joe Bryan's money, JP's commitment to a downtown HQ, etc, then you are willfully blind.

Lenslinger said...

As another Dad who doesn't get downtown after dark much, I too was struck by Elm Street's vibrancy. I'm no student of downtown Greensboro's history but from what I saw Wednesday night, it's future looked pretty interesting.

David Wharton said...

Webmaster, my intention was to give credit to the foundations and their generous donors for their substantial contributions to the downtown ecosystem. As I've said elsewhere on this blog, I'm quite fond of the Center City Park and the new ballfield.

That said, I think "upper-crust" and "elite" are apt descriptors, if a bit shopworn, as you point out. And given my limited experience with the people who move in those circles, I'm not sure they'd object (or -- are you one of them?).

Let's just say that, in my rare interactions with Ms. Cone and some of the foundation heads, I've experienced those subtle but unmistakable assertions of privilege and subtle displays of disdain that can be typical of the very well-to-do. This is not to denigrate Ms. Cone's invaluable work -- it's just that she can project a certain icy imperiousness.

Jim Melvin, however, seems to be a very straightforward guy. I disagreed with his plan for the baseball stadium, but he won, and that's that. See you at First Horizon Park this spring.

Anonymous said...

Cousin Betty has a cool demeanor but the warmest of hearts; said demeanor is that of a UNC math major and no-nonsense organizer, not derived from the fact that her husband's grandfather made a lot of people rich a long time ago.

By the way, she also owns the building at the corner of South Elm and Lee -- right down there among the regular folks! -- which has done as much as anything to anchor and revive the southern extreme of downtown, and in which she keeps her own office.

Also, those elite foundation types in their upper-crusty way put the brownfield lots at the corner of S. Elm and Lee into play by considering the site for a baseball stadium; it is now slated for redevelopment as an indirect effect of their elite upper crusty plans for the world.

And for that matter, you might ask where the money to develop all those clubs in the middle section of Elm comes from...

Sorry, but I'm with anonymous: you may have meant what you said in a nice way, but readers couldn't tell that for your fauxletarian tone.

--Ed Cone

David Wharton said...

I unwittingly touched a nerve, apparently.

I referred to myself and my fellow bloggers as "geeks"; I called South Elm entrepreneurs "funky;" I called the male N Club party boys fat, bald, and sweaty; but the folks who felt insulted are those whose high social status I noted in hardly derogatory terms, and whose commitment to downtown revival I called monumental -- which it is.

In in a post about the various subcultures that have contributed to downtown Greensboro's revival, how exactly *should* I have referred to this group, given the way that I referred to the others?

(You might have noticed that two downtown groups did not receive any negative attention: literary artists and beautiful women. I love literature. And as to beautuful women, res ipsa loquitur.)

At any rate, I said of the gradation of cultures, "IT IS GOOD." "Good" is an unambiguous term of praise and approbation. How can I be clearer than that?

Ed: "Fauxletarian"? That hurts. I *am* a registered Republican, after all.

Anonymous said...

Ed Cone wrote: "Also, those elite foundation types in their upper-crusty way put the brownfield lots at the corner of S. Elm and Lee into play by considering the site for a baseball stadium; it is now slated for redevelopment as an indirect effect of their elite upper crusty plans for the world."

C'mon Ed. Elite? Foundation TYPES? Upper-crusty? Sheesh. Now that's elitest -- calling others adjectives and adverbs like that. They put their monies where there mouths are and Greensboro has a downtown life again. Cause and effect? Dunno. But when I'm at an event on Elm Street at night, the lights are on and the parking lots have cars in them. There's a privately funded stadium and stuff going on in the park. Foundation "types" didn't put brownfield lots at the end of Elm. That location was, I believe, the first choice.

What's your issue(s) with the development we've seen and the businesses opening up downtown? I don't get it.

Sue (southernrants)

SouthernRants said...

You wrote: "If you go even further north, you'll eventually pass the new Center City Park"

The URL for the park is Carolinanet graciously posts a live webcam at the URL you included in the post.


Anonymous said...

Uh, Southern Rants? Try reading before you type.

I was picking up on the language from the original post ("upper-crust, foundation elite") to complain about the use of those terms and defend the actions of those foundation types. And my comment is clearly all in favor of downtown redevelopment. --Ed Cone