Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cool Places To Go

But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to the essence... illusion only is sacred, truth profane. Nay, sacredness is held to be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness.

--Feuerbach, Preface to the second edition of The Essence of Christianity (introduction to Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle)
Raleigh is cool, man. Er, at least as cool as Athens, Atlanta, Denver, Minneapolis, and Nashville.

Of course you trust a middling financial publication to ferret out the coolest places to venture from your gated community.

They've helpfully included a "Not in NYC bonus" calculation to show you what you'll save by locating to one of these reasonable simulations of urban living, although they somehow didn't include a "Not in NYC penalty" assessment to show you the cost of having to drive every goddamn place or intangible costs like not having more than one decent Thai restaurant, grocery store or art gallery within 15 miles.

One of the "hipster" Raleigh hotspots mentioned in the article is a former strip of ho-hum business frontage on Glenwood Ave., recently gentrified and spit-shined with the contrived moniker of 'Glenwood South'. Here we find a perfect example of the 'revitalization' chicanery that catches the eye of young urban investment bankers: A place called Dive Bar, the typeface of which on the sleek black sign acts as quotation marks modifying the 'Dive' part. Dive Bar occupies a space that used to be an actual dive bar (I suppose they intend the name as homage instead of painful irony) called Mary Lou's. Shortly after moving to Raleigh, I had been warned against going into Mary Lou's, as it was alleged to be filled with suspect and potentially violent ne'er-do-wells. I wisely ignored this advice and found Mary Lou's to be a perfectly servicable drinking joint, with a couple of pool tables, plenty of ashtrays, and (most thankfully) only one small discreet television set that appeared to be primarily for the bartender's pleasure. The 'scariest' thing about the place was a large Confederate flag and the fact that the clientele most assuredly did not shop at Ikea. In general it was a fine specimen of the type of place I spent a sizable portion of my twenties hanging out in.

Such a place would not do for Glenwood South, clearly. But the idea of urban 'danger' appeals to the losers who populate such neighborhoods, so they create a theme park ride to signify 'edginess' without having to actually interact with anyone out of their demographic comfort zone. This Disneyfication-- the transformation of actual urban environments into their sanitized representation--looks to repeat itself all over the country, until every rough corner is smoothed over, every property value stabilized, and every unruly desire subdued to fit the contours of a commodifiable balm.

Yep, every bit as cool as Atlanta.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh man, oh man. Now you got me all depressed all over again. That last link was moaning about credit and development back in 1998, before the the current orgy of debt and development was even a glimmer in the current administration's greed-blind eye.

6:41 PM  

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