By Sydney Moseley
When I first came to Grease-Vegas, I wanted to do a column called “Stupid City.”
Moving here in ’99 from San Francisco, I was appalled at so many things, from rampant indoor smoking to callous littering with broken beer bottles around the ECU campus. My feature was to have a photo of something I found indicative of city government’s inability to coordinate projects: On the corner of 9th and Cotanche was a fire hydrant sitting in the center of a wheelchair ramp, rendering it unusable.
A city government in which the right hand was oblivious to what the left hand was up to was illustrative of the Parrott administration. When hizzoner spoke to my state and local government class I called him on his boast to us of wanting Gville to be, in his words, “a walker’s community.” That sounded as if he meant a community of people on foot, not wheels. But pedestrians were given the short end of the city’s money stick – unless they were on a BMX bicycle. Money flowed to parks for future X-Games champions while major thoroughfares had no sidewalks, crosswalks or pedestrian lights.
Accommodations for people with disabilities, except on-campus, seemed to be something the city only considered appropriate for certain areas, like the government buildings where they were probably mandated. Until recently I was wondering where the money went, but now they seem to be making up for lost time – concrete is being poured everywhere I go, except the underprivileged neighborhoods where so many of us actually live.
We seem to be in a desperate lurch to pull Gville into the new millennium as far as appearances go, but much has yet to change. It’s not that this is a terrible place, but we could do so much better if we emulated the smart growth I see when I travel about the state and the South. Sure, it’s a comfortable slower pace that makes this a nice place to be, but my friends and family from the Triangle just think we’re backwards. Gville is like a museum one visits to see how cities used to be.
I had come from a place where city leaders did more than preen for cable access channels, and wound up in a place where city councilmen divided their reference terms for our city center – in the same sentence, once – between the disparate monikers “uptown” and “downtown.” Last time I checked, “up” was the opposite of “down,” but this city didn’t seem to get that distinction. I get it, though. “Downtown” had a negative connotation because people went there at night to drink. So “Uptown Greenville” was embraced as a way to band-aid the blemishes, while promoting commerce to legitimate law-abiding consumers who had run to the malls.
What our city leaders were afraid to tell the merchants was that, after ripping up Evans Street to make it more like Fayetteville Street in Raleigh, the late-night bars still brought in more tax dollars than the conservative establishments that closed up at 5. So they attacked the bars in print and on TV while fueling the attraction to kids by blocking the streets at night and encouraging a Bourbon Street culture of raucous revelry (albeit one without the historical and artistic culture of The Big Sleazy, just the drunkenness. “G-Vegas”??? Please…).
It’s not that this is a terrible place, but we could do so much better…
I recently enjoyed an evening concert in lil’ Washington at its beautiful Turnage Theater. I’ve been hearing about plans to refurbish our 5th Street theater (the Park, I believe it was named) since I came here – but like so many things, it has been just talk. It serves as testament to this city’s problem: There will be no money forthcoming for cultural palaces that do not allow wealthy donors to both smoke and drink at the same time. Better we just do our version of culture in a renovated parking lot across the street, where everyone can imbibe without restrictions on “Freeboot Fridays” – though even this revered tradition cannot be sustained without the added proximity of a home football game.
A year before “the flood of the century” named Floyd I wrestled with the decision about moving here from California. I had a great job I loved and a beautiful and cheap rental house on 10 acres with a 50-mile view in three directions – and great landlords. Then again, this was a college town with unlimited potential, and for someone like myself, a chance to use the skills I had developed in California as an assistant brewmaster at a very hip new brewpub. Ham’s was to open in a local funeral home converted into a huge restaurant with three bars. A local businessman we met encouraged us with a great quote. He said, “If you can’t sell beer in Greenville, you can’t sell beer.”
So I consulted a Greenville musician I knew about my decision. At a gig he played in Raleigh I asked for his sage advice, and Mike convinced me to move here with one succinct sentence: “Greenville needs you, Sid.”
I do believe that I needed Greenville, but I’ve never felt as if Greenville has needed me.
Guest Columnist Sid Moseley has very likely done and seen waaaaay more than you. A Durham native and avid rock climber, he has lived from Atlanta to Yosemite to the California coast and back again, settling in Greenville – which he calls “as good a place to die as anywhere I’ve been.”