an open letter to blake ewing.

This is an open letter to Blake Ewing from the downtown kids; the hipsters, the artists, the punks, the progressive youth, the bohemian college grads and the perpetual students. From the bike bashers, the indie kids, the audiophiles and the cynical assholes alike; we provide to you an explanation, not intended to be a marketing tool, but much more so a hypothetical truce between Tulsa’s modern day Greasers and Socs.

First, let me clear some things up. “Hipsters” and “people like them” (as you so eloquently put it) did not build The Max. Honestly, they didn’t even frequent it when it was all shiny and new. The truth is, the downtown kids of this city; the ones that packed out warehouse shows at Curly’s and braved gunshots protruding from the shady clubs surrounding Arnie’s a decade ago, have always been downtown and already have their homes, their jobs and their dives well established inside the IDL.  The fact that none of these havens fall within the doors of your establishments has little to do with elitism and more to do with authenticity and cultural awareness.

There is a reason that some people would rather buy a jacket from a thrift store than from a shopping mall. At thrift stores there is no marketing. Of course they’re trying to sell you stuff, but there are no chiseled models on the walls or meticulously staged mannequins in suggestive poses, undoubtedly thought up by teams of focus groups in Los Angeles to strip mindless drones of their parents money.  There are no perfectly scuffed surfboards on the walls or newly designed vintage fans blowing stripper perfume into the threads of their already distressed jeans and borderline racist t-shirts. Simply put, thrift stores are real. The things you get from them have character.  More accurately, you give those things your character and your style when you buy them.

Character is important. Especially important when your interior designer is piecing together a heavily bankrolled 80’s themed bar in the heart of an emerging downtown district. Complete with toys tracked down on ebay and tens of thousands of dollars in vintage arcade games, when it comes to true style you really can spare no expense.  Perfectly mimicking lucrative market trends that left the West Coast in ’04 and landed in Wicker Park in ’08, seem to be a fool proof plan thus far so just run with it.  Sure, with character this expensive you’ll have to sell a lot of PBR, but you’ll recoup most of that with the redbull and vodkas you pump out on Friday nights.

Character is even more important when paying design firms to make “local” apparel to hawk at your new t-shirt shop. This is essential if you want to cash in on the “big returns” being reaped at the artist driven retail space on the other side of the block. Luckily you’re getting in late in the game on that one, after someone else has established a good base of support and styling through years of struggle and hard work.  It takes a special type of character to imitate what local artists have put together in their living rooms and mass produce them on a grander scale.

Most of all, character is important when marketing to hipsters, in that if you have any character what-so-ever you won’t focus on marketing to fucking hipsters.  This, because hipsters above all else, are a social group that universally loathe any establishment trying to tell them what is cool, what to do or what to buy.

Ironically (and I say that ironically) you took the time to pen an open letter that could have been an apology for bussing in douche bags and bros on the weekends (a necessary evil we all know we’ll have to live with if downtown is going to flourish) and instead took that opportunity to start a Sunday through Thursday marketing campaign. An irrational last ditch effort to get the very people you openly scoffed (the hipster) to swarm in and help your bottom line.  As if we’ve all been mistaken this whole fucking time and it just so happens that your shitty bar is actually super-cool on the nights that you’re losing money.  You say you want people in your bars 7 days a week? I didn’t really study business in college and I’ve never run a pizza place with batting cages, but I’d probably start by not alienating the only people in this city who are actually downtown 7 days a week.  But that’s just me and I’m definitely no Don Draper.

Honestly, I think that what you’re failing to understand here is that you are not like us.  You’re a southey, a soc (yes, midtown is too far) and we can spot a fake from a mile away.  This means you’re never going to get our money or our support.  Don’t let this dissuade you.  You can bring your fellow Philistines downtown on the weekends to spend their money and fight each other in our streets, but we expect them to go home after-wards. This is our truce, our turf war in the park.  Our side of the tracks will keep the arts and culture alive downtown just like we always have.  All your side of the tracks has to do is bring tax revenue into our neighborhoods two days a week and maybe St. Patrick’s Day and then go home. It’s that easy.  Well, and you also have to stop being a dick.

41 thoughts on “an open letter to blake ewing.

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    December 5, 2011 at 9:36pm

    I’d like to start off by saying I’ve read several of your posts and largely agree with you and appreciate what you have to say. I have to respectfully disagree with you on this topic, though.

    If it’s not your shtick, don’t patronize Ewing’s establishments – that’s your prerogative. But I read his original letter and your vitriol is really unnecessary. Though I don’t share your feelings on Ewing or his businesses, I understand and have no problem with them. However, you say that your disdain for Ewing and/or his businesses “has little to do with elitism” yet you proceed to condescendingly berate him for not being “downtown” enough, calling him a southey, a fake, and a dick in a manner that frankly feels like just that – elitism.

    I fully support your right to express your opinion both by word and by where you take your business; making personal, ad-hominem attacks, though, against someone who is not a chain/corporate hack but a local businessman (whether or not you like or agree with his business) does a great disservice to you as a talented writer and to the downtown that you clearly love.

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    Bart Ford

    December 5, 2011 at 9:41pm

    Why does being a culturally aware, young, progressive indie nerd (hipster) go hand in hand with being uptight? Blake’s letter was, at best, an acknowledgment of the important of the underground youth to the growth of downtown Tulsa BY A CITY COUNCILMAN, and, at worst, a poor attempt at humor. But of course everyone is so god-damned punk that they have to scream “poseur” at anyone who tries to relate to them. Chill out, hipsters.

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      December 8, 2011 at 11:40am

      I stopped patronizing Ewing establishments WAY before it was cool. I’m so hip. ster

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    Dustin Charles

    December 5, 2011 at 10:39pm

    I wish Blake would do something to turn that sausage party into a clam bake. Why not offer discounts to ladies that sew their own clothes or date guys in bands.

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    December 6, 2011 at 12:54am

    Ugh. Quit being bitter that people actually WANT to go downtown now.

    Guess what? You don’t OWN downtown. If someone from *Gasp* midtown (Really?! Midtown is too far?!) wants to come spend money downtown, THEY HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO BE THERE. If you took out all of the “Southey” money from downtown, it would be much more run down and worse for everyone.

    Stay in “your” bars if that is where you want to be, and let everyone else enjoy the fact that there is more to do in Tulsa.

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    December 6, 2011 at 8:45am

    When you defend your cause with name-calling, it makes you look like nothing more than a little boy crying about how things are unfair because you were “here first.” Grow up and try to live up to your mission statement.

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    December 6, 2011 at 10:03am

    This was such an utterly predictable reply.

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    Joshua Kline

    December 6, 2011 at 11:49am

    This is either satire on the level of Jonathan Swift (doubtful) or the work of someone totally lacking in self-awareness. Deliriously stupid, sublimely naive. Kudos, my friend.

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    Chuck U. Farley

    December 6, 2011 at 12:09pm

    Who the hell is Blake Ewing?

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    December 6, 2011 at 12:49pm

    Right there with you Josh

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    Daniel Larusso

    December 6, 2011 at 3:28pm

    Well put! Turf wars….I ain’t scared.

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      Mr. Miyagi

      December 6, 2011 at 9:17pm

      Always look eye, danial-son

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    December 6, 2011 at 3:40pm

    some valid points… really fucking mean though. pissed me off.

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    December 6, 2011 at 4:26pm

    Pffft…who cares? Blake just wanted attention pulled towards The Max, which is now achieved. I don’t give a shit about the politics. I will however go drink some cheap beer that just got cheaper. I’m no hipster but I love to drink. That’s it. Beer.

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    December 6, 2011 at 5:29pm

    Hey Hipsters,

    My name is John, and I hate every single one of you. All of you are fat, retarded, no-lifes who spend every second of their day listening to stupid ass music and drinking shitty beer, growing beards and wearing skinny jeans. You are everything bad in the world. Honestly, have any of you ever gotten any pussy? I mean, I guess it’s fun making fun of people because of your own insecurities, but you all take to a whole new level. This is even worse than you guys jerking off to bands on Pitchfork.

    Don’t be a stranger. Just hit me with your best shot. I’m pretty much perfect. I was captain of the football team, and starter on my basketball team. What sports do you play, other than “jack off to naked vintage porn pictures”? I also get straight A’s, and have a banging hot girlfriend (She just blew me; Shit was SO cash). You are all faggots who should just kill yourselves. Thanks for listening. See you at The MAX.

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      December 6, 2011 at 8:50pm

      Cool story bro

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    December 6, 2011 at 8:21pm

    Blake Ewing….Town Jackass.
    This is of course in jest. Blake needs to grow up and realize that as a representative of his district the time to play school yard games should be reserved for his friends in private. As a public representative it’s irresponsible and immature to put out ads like this. It is his right as an individual but don’t be surprised if people write about how moronic it truly is. Dood you’re not in highschool anymore and those labels don’t exist in the streets.

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    December 6, 2011 at 10:26pm

    Hipster or Southy. Is there a third option?

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    December 7, 2011 at 12:03am

    Can I just say that we dont need any bars. If your big bald boney head doesnt understand why then you should become more educated. Im telling you people this guy is a money hungry atten whore trying to rake in money from shallow economic pursuits. Grow up, learn about something important and do something different. If your life dream was to open bars then you are a loser republican patriot who thinks war is worth while. Once you think you have the answer you reveal yourself to know nothing at all. Millions of people are being killed around the world and starving to death and this moron is talking about hipsters and bros. Fuck you blake the tool ewing. Can I just saying i have been deeply integrated in the downtown culture for a long time and I dont remember this guy ever being around. Capitalist tool. Im sure he is a republican too. You are the obstacle in the way of real progress. Stay a republican blake so everyone can see how your just a selfish conservative trying to live the american dream by wasting everyones time, encouraging childish behavior and not contributing anything to the world.

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      December 7, 2011 at 2:31am

      i think you accidentally an entire paragraph, but i’m probably still with you on this one.

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      December 7, 2011 at 1:27pm

      Hey kiddo, You say he needs to grow up and learn about something important and do something different? You say he is involved in shallow economic pursuits? He ressurected several decrepit buildings into business that created lots of jobs for people just like you, you know, waiters, busboys, cooks, bartenders. His businesses create a large of amount of revenue for the city where, none previously existed.
      So please continue with your deeply integrated activities in the downtown culture (whatever that is) and enroll in some college courses (or GED classes if need be) and see things for what they really are.


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    December 7, 2011 at 12:07pm

    Some really well thought out and educated responses in this thread.

    I think Councilor Ewing was brave to open a place that caters to a group that will only spend $7.53 on any given visit (no tip either). If you are comparing yourselves to the Tulsa thugs (or greasers as we call them) of the 40’s & 50’s, you are way off the mark.
    No hipster I have ever met has even the remotest idea of how to fix an engine, kick ass in a rumble or even boost a car for a joyride. You people sit at starbucks, wear V-necks with a scarf and cover yourself in tattoo’s that you will surely regret after that first job interview.
    Keep in mind most of the “greasers” you compare yourself to ended up, years later, in the frozen ditches of Korea and the sweltering jungles of Vietnam. You will end up pouring my double espresso for minimum wage.
    In the meantime, keep on keepin on and make it a double.

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      derek dyson

      December 8, 2011 at 3:39am

      For the record, I’m probably too old to be a full-on hipster and we don’t really know each other, but I definitely know my way around an engine. I rebuilt my VW rabbit from the ground up, including its 1.6l diesel rattler. I haven’t punched anyone since high school and I’d never fight in a war so I definitely miss the mark on those aspects of greaser-dom. I was actually using the “outsiders” reference to highlight the social divide and it seemed relevant because of its obvious historic ties in Tulsa culture.

      As for the other jabs, a fair percentage of my friends have a college education and hold pretty decent jobs, and the ones that don’t seem pretty ok with it. I’ve personally been a homeowner in the Pearl District since ’01 and have a respectable career working for the School District. That said, I’ve got tattoos, own a few v-necks and have definitely pulled my far share of espresso shots, throughout my college years and beyond. A fact that I am actually very proud of considering that I played an active roll in developing a coffee culture in this city that has put Tulsa on the map in the best of specialty coffee circles. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a starbucks though.

      Again, I’ll say that I’m by no means the hippest of the hip for multiple reasons, but I am definitely a downtown kid that is passionate about this city. After Blakes ad started popping up on newsfeeds, being universally despised by everyone I knew, I thought a reply was in order. Originally meant for my friends, I threw something together for those who I knew felt the same way I did. As expected they applauded it as did many others in similar groups around the city that I have little to no ties with.

      Obviously, no one nominated me as a spokesperson, but that’s irrelevant when considering how broad the range of people Blake and his letter potentially offended. Either way I stand behind my sentiments whole-heartedly. It wasn’t the best piece I’ve ever written by any means and was a bit mean spirited, but considering the people he has wronged in the past and the ones that just despise the way he does things, I feel justified in it’s tone. I just said publicly what we’ve all been saying in dimly lit bars and smoke holes for a long time running.

      – derek

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    Steve Cluck

    December 7, 2011 at 2:15pm

    In regards to businesses that “imitate what local artists have put together in their living rooms,” Dwelling Spaces (a.k.a. “the artist driven retail shop”) produces a number of their tees in the same manner as Blake Ewing’s Boomtown Tees.

    Years ago, the first tees Dwelling Spaces began to sell, the Louis & Cluck tees (“Don’t Hate the 918”, “I’m Down With T-Town”, “Okie Doke”) were created by a couple of TU art students in their living rooms (myself being one of those artists). Today, Louis & Cluck sell their original, homemade, hand-printed tees at Ida Red Boutique, while Dwelling Spaces commissions a number of their tees (“Okie Grown”, “Bigfoot”, “Joe Bot’s”) to be produced by Eskimo Joe’s Promotional Products Group Inc in Stillwater.

    While homemade and hand-printed may be my bag, I do not condemn DS or Boomtown for going the convenient, cheaper, factory route. Just be aware that Boomtown’s Zingo tee and Dwelling Spaces’ Okie Grown tee (and that Eskimo Joe’s tee) were all produced in a similar method at a printing factory, with nary a local artist’s living room in sight.

    Thank you,
    Steve Cluck
    Tulsa Pop Artist and one-half of Louis & Cluck

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      December 7, 2011 at 5:12pm

      Hey Cluck. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information. They’re printed at Nova…
      And Dwelling Spaces loves Eskimo Joes. Their cheese fries are delicious!!!!

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        December 7, 2011 at 7:06pm

        Steve Schmuck

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        Steve Cluck

        December 8, 2011 at 3:23pm

        Thanks, Ashley. Good to get a clarification about the current T-shirt printing place. I will have to try those cheese fries next time I am at Stillwater’s Jumpin’ Little Juke Joint.

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      December 7, 2011 at 7:47pm

      since when the fuck was stealing the “i heart nyc” theme and putting TULSA in it’s place considered original and artistic? coming up with grammar school rhymes and putting that onto t-shirts doesn’t count as art in my book either, nor does taking pictures of underfed coked out girls. what a boring and tired shtick. the more you have to remind and tell people that you’re a “pop artist, former TU art student, one-half of louis & cluck who made those t-shirts in our living room!” is textbook self-aggrandizing behavior that proves you’re anything but.

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        December 7, 2011 at 8:51pm

        Be nice. This thread is not about Steve Cluck

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          December 7, 2011 at 9:01pm

          But he is an ass!!!

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        December 7, 2011 at 9:25pm

        @apollonia, or what ever kinda of name that is. Might as well be Greek to me. Sounds like you are just jealous of Steve’s success. Just because an artist becomes successful with his craft doesn’t mean he’s any less of an artist. Sure, he may have not worked very hard to become what he is, he may not have the most “original” ideas, but no one else can pull off the pinstriped fedora, pink tie, too-tight suit, aligator shoe combo like he does. And by the way he is totally Tulsa’s own Pop Arists. His work is totally centered around only the most culturally current and poignant subjects.
        “I <3 NY" is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the early-mid 90's. My grandparents went to NYC once and they bought tons of shit with that on it. It's practically public domain, so he totally has the right to use it and make it his own. It takes real inspiration and a college educated knowledge of art history to take a completely mediocre mass-marketed image and tailor it to the local vernacular. I mean, it's not like it's as easy as just taking the smiley face t-shirt from the the 70's and putting a mustache on it…(wait a minute, that's a really good idea. scratch that.) You say Steve's work is tired, and that his personage is self-aggrandizing, but what you don't know is that he puts all of himself in everything that he does: it's not his fault that he happens to be a supremely uninteresting person, behind all that Hot Topic faux vintage attire. He only has that much to give, but he gives it all. He also went to TU, so he reserves the right to be "self-aggrandizing" as you put it. Where did you go to school? TCC? And ok, i will admit that he does surround himself with underfed coked out "art chicks," but better that then the fugly ass bitch that i'm sure you are! Woot! Woot! Hatchet Family 4 Life!

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    K Bush

    December 7, 2011 at 9:21pm

    Some valid points… really fucking mean… made me happy.

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    December 26, 2011 at 1:20am

    I thought The Max was a gay bar.

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    December 28, 2011 at 11:37pm

    I guess I’m not as “hipster” as I thought…I just didn’t find Blake’s letter to be offensive…I actually liked it. It made me WANT to go to the MAX…maybe I should ditch my hillcrest area ghetto house and move south … yeah, riiiiiiiiight.

    In all fairness to both sides, though, I got peeved at Blake on a FB discussion thread, which got rather heated, then Blake explained that his humor hadn’t translated well, and since that has happened to me PLENTY of times, and I really wanted to know whether or not he was really an a-hole or just like he said, “misinterpreted,” I met with him for a face to face “no holds barred” discussion. I spent 3 hours grilling him, and trust me, I can be a real bitch, but I found him to be authentic and generally a good guy with the desire to see good things happen here. I felt that his intentions are more than just about HIS success, but about generating success in the lower income community. I think he will use his power and money for good, especially if people are willing to support his efforts. I could go on, but I’m not campaigning, I just wanted to share my personal experience.
    With that said, I’ll just add that the ornery side of me enjoyed this whole sassy response, and bitchy comment section, mostly since it wasn’t aimed at me, and even though I don’t wholeheartedly share your contempt for Blake, I do love that you had the balls to confront him. Kudos!

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