Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Get your squalor while you can

I don't know if it's the quasi-gentrification, but the sidewalks of my Obscure Midwestern Town don't seem as colorful lately as I'm used to. They keep coming along and painting the alleyways, and even the back door of the VFW, a traditional band-loading spot, which used to be a trove of stickers, stencils, and random art, has all been beiged over. Yeah, because that's rock and roll!

But one thing I've learned from the "downtown Renaissance" (cough) is that it's not loitering if it's at a sidewalk cafe. Maybe it's loitering from the the cafe's point of view, but not from the city's. Every time I pass the new old coffeeshop, home of the tasty misspelled sandwich, there's a whole row of people lined up in front of the windows, sitting in the little chairs. Some of them I recognize for hanging out for hours at the public library (a fine activity, nothing I frown on), and I also frequently see the enormous man who's usually stationed in front of the barber shop.

I can't help imagining almost a cartoon about well-dressed folk seeing people sitting on makeshift seats, like on the giant cement flower pots we used to have downtown, and shaking their head at them lounging on the "street." And then the same people smiling at the same people sitting at a sidewalk cafe, maybe thought-bubbling, "Ah, at least they're buying something!"

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