Tuesday, August 24, 2010
One building in the Plaza trumps a city full of historical buildings.
The uproar over the proposed office building on a Plaza corner has more peoples shorts in a wad than that time TKC compared the Waldo Rapist composite to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The local news outlets have been as excited over this thing as Liberace discovering a dick tree. Everyone has an opinion on why it would be sacrilegious to build a modern glass structure smack in the middle-ish of Spanish Architecture. I was listening to 3 or 4 clowns on Steve Kraskes show going on and on about how The Country Club Plaza IS Kansas City. How our history as a city is entwined with a shopping district that few of us ever actually shop at. How important the Plaza is as an entertainment destination, even though most Kansas Citians don't really dine there, or drink there. Oh sure, you might take your significant udder out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory or Plaza 3 once a year. And we all like to go look at the lights around Christmas, Hanuka, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, whatever , pick your poison. And yes the streets are often crowded with posers and drunk women hoping to catch the eye of some sports figure, or spittle if it's Larry Johnson. But the Plaza isn't Kansas City, it's just a small sliver of stores most of us can't afford to buy a pair of socks at. It's like the really hot chick in high school, nice to look at, but not of much use on a day to day basis. She might bat her eyes at you, she might give you a glimpse of cleavage, but at the end of the day, she is going to go with the biggest over privileged douche bag in the school.
Anyone with an interweb connection has chimed in on what a disgrace it is for someone to suggest building something on property they own. They being Highwoods. So I wasn't going to bother with throwing in my 2 nickles. However, by the end of Kraskes show, after every single caller went on and on ad nauseum over how horrible it is to even suggest tearing down one of the old Plaza buildings, I'd heard enough. Like a mighty trout rising to take the fly, No Seacrest, I couldn't resist the bait, the pointing out of what is either glaring hypocrisy, total ignorance, or a sense of entitlement. I'm going to go with all 3. Here's the rub, I don't really care if they put up the building or not. I would even say I agree that the Plaza should stay looking like it does now. I agree it is a historical part of the city. No problem with the Plaza per say. I just have one question.
Where was all of the outrage, the face book pages, the radio, news and print soup stirring, before the Plaza conflict? The same people who are so incensed over the thought of a modern building amidst the Spanish Stucco themed Plaza, were as quiet as a group of Deaf Mutes over the Sprint Center and the P&L district. Or they cheered it on, called it progress. Someone please explain to me how a giant mirror disco ball building lives in peace and harmony, all feng shui and shit, among a downtown that is dominated by Art Deco buildings. Where is all of the outrage over a Jazz District that is nothing more than crumbling facades with a couple of money pits thrown in for good measure.
In one of the greatest movies ever made, Cool Hand Luke, there is a particular scene, it's really the biggest scene in the movie. Luke gets brought back from another escape. They throw him in the bunk house, beat up, broke down, tore up from the floor up. Some of the cons crowd around him, all carrying on about a picture he sent them while he was on the run. He is flanked by two flashy looking women in the photo. All smiles, all Cool. He tells the cons the pic was a fake, he paid to have it taken. Tells them to stop feeding off of him, get their own lives. He tries to make it to his bunk, but he falls and can't get up. He sticks his hand out, looking for a hand up, and they all turn their backs on him. "Where are you now?" is his money line.
See, it's like this, when Luke was all flash they loved him. Couldn't get enough of him. Then he falls, he is all dirty, beat up, not a trace of flash. They turn their backs, to a man, every last one of them. This city, the majority of it's people, they turn their backs on the dirty old bricks and mortar buildings. The old homes where lives were lived, the backbone of this city, it's reason for existing in the first place. It's just not pretty, no flash, just blood, sweat and tears. In the minds and eyes of most, the real history of this city can't hold up to the stucco , the fashion, and the fountains.
I know what some of you are thinking, "Why not both? Can't all historical areas of the city be important? Does caring about the Plaza mean we can't care about other parts of the city?"
Good point, and I've no doubt that many of you probably do care. Sadly there are only a few hundred of you lonely rubes who regularly take time out to read this shit. The majority of the people who are raising a stink over the Plaza, the ones getting air and face time from the media, they could give a shit if some old building gets demolished downtown. They could really not care less about some stately old home on the Paseo, or some craftsman bungalow in Midtown. The majority of the people in this city have never ventured beyond the commercial districts, the Plaza, the Power and Light district, maybe the City Market area. So when I see the outrage, and I hear all the sanctimonious horseshit about "Saving the Plaza" from the greedy corporate types, it pisses me off. When I get pissed off these days, I write. There was a time when if I got pissed off, I'd get in a fight. At 51 carpal tunnel is more appealing than swollen hands and the likelihood of getting my ass handed to me. So write it is. Over the next couple of weeks, starting Wednesday, I'll be giving you rubes a history lesson, with pictures and everything, Double M style. It's time for another Urban Blight tour with hopefully a little history thrown in. Maybe some of the French Poodle crowd will stumble across this humble lil blog and it's humble lil writer. And maybe, just maybe, they will find out that there is more to this city than a half dozen blocks of pretentious stores and overpriced restaurants. The Plaza doesn't define Kansas City. There are far more important parts of this city decaying, slowly dying, and it's bigger and more important than one building, in a place most Kansas Citians rarely visit.
Where's the outrage?
Where are you now?