Tulsa, what are we doing?

reddeadtulsa

At first I wanted to throw cans of food through some windows in the Pearl District, but vandalism doesn’t really hurt the wealthy. They have insurance and a police force and a support system to protect them.

Then I thought about offering rides from the Day Center to the corner of 6th and Peoria all day long. Set up a table in Central Park and give wine and cheese to anyone who hasn’t showered in a week. Post some “free campsite” signs all around the park and hope that some people come from beneath the overpasses to camp in that beautiful spot we all paid for. Sure, it would probably cause a stir, but the homeless aren’t props in some demonstration. They’re people. And we shouldn’t need to make a scene to point that out.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do besides sit back, shake my head and whisper to my friends about how fucked up Tulsa has become.

So why would I want to break windows out of rich peoples houses with cans of green beans and creamed corn?  Because apparently in the Pearl District serving the needy for decades doesn’t matter. Unless you have a certain opinion, showing up to clandestine city planning meetings and voicing that opinion also doesn’t matter. Even bringing millions of dollars of development into a neighborhood that is literally begging for it doesn’t matter, but that’s only if the development is going to feed poor people instead of vegetarians and those with a strong dislike for gluten. If you don’t know what I’m talking about just read up on the  Iron Gate Soup Kitchen vs the Proletariat District. It’s yet another example of leadership in Tulsa putting profit before people and then looking ahead for a chance to get to go it again.

You see, it wasn’t that long ago that a handful of business owners downtown trumped the concerns of every Tulsan I know living north of Admiral and basically said, “Yeah, our business, and street, and district is named after a rich white guy who liked to wear white robes and participate in race riots, but do you have any idea how many tens of hundreds of dollars it will cost me to change the name on my menu’s? My business cards? My storefront? I already spent all of this money on signs telling people not to feed the animals (read panhandlers), and now you want me to re-write the history books and my letterhead? Not gonna happen….and North Tulsa, go fuck yourself”.

It wasn’t that long ago that we shut down a vagrant tent city on riverside because white people started to realize that living next to an empty brown stream was enjoyable. Fast forward 15 years and that same rivers edge is getting a billion dollar face lift and it’s not for the displaced campers wherever they went.

It wasn’t that long ago that we shut down the mental health facility at the YMCA downtown and shipped a portion of those poor fools across town to what looks like a retirement village next to the highway. It’s 5 or 6 miles from literally every other support system these people had when they were downtown, but at least we get to let someone make a bunch of money redeveloping 5th and Denver! And don’t forget, we have an awesome public transit system for people who need it, so living so far away from everyone you know and everyone who cares about you isn’t really that inconvenient is it?

The thing that gets me the most about all of this is that we let it happen every single day like it doesn’t concern us. We aren’t homeless or completely broke but we could be tomorrow if we got sick… or hit by an uber driver going the wrong way on a one way street…or laid off from an oil company that just reported  five years of record profits and tax subsidies. We’re the lower-to-middle class in Oklahoma. We aren’t rich, but we vote and think like we are for some reason. We pay our teachers shit wages and cut funding for food stamps, while simultaneously subsidizing a professional basketball arena for a team owned by one of the richest men in Oklahoma. We’re looking out for the best interests of those who need absolutely nothing at the expense of our children and those who need absolutely everything.

People die on our streets from heat exhaustion and from hypothermia every year in this city. Humans, die, starving at night, on the same streets where we drink lattes and start art crawls. We build parks downtown and encourage kids to play in the fountains, and couples to lay on the benches. But we also build parks downtown and arrest homeless people who cool off in those fountains, and try to sleep on those benches. We watch as people just like us, struggling day to day, are treated like animals. The only thing separating most of us from these animals is a thousand dollars a month and a shitty job working for tips so the owner can live in a gated community out south. What is it going to take for everyone to realize that they’re closer to being poor or homeless than they are to ever accumulating enough money to have their views, their best interests, their lives even considered by the wealthy and those who tower above us in government?

I think we’re smarter than this. I know my generation is smarter than this and my city is better than this. It’s time to get it together Tulsa.

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.