I’ve been talking to quite a few people lately about the changes that have been taking place in Fayetteville. There is a sense of sadness that many of them feel, in that the social fabric that once held the city together is coming apart.
For many editorial writers, the only place they notice any change is in our much vaunted “Entertainment District” (sometimes I suspect that if a local reporter forgets to say these silly words they are in danger of losing their job) but it is far more than that.
But beginning with Dickson Street, though, there is a tendency to patronize folks and refer to the bygone “hippie” era of Dickson, when comparing it with today’s Dickson. How do they know that “hippies” hung out on Dickson? Well, they’ve probably seen them in one of the books of photographs that circulate about Fayetteville.
They see the surface, but don’t even bother to scratch even that.
Yeah, the infamous hippies hung out on Dickson - and other parts of Fayetteville as well - but for many, that wasn’t what made Dickson special.
What made Dickson special was because it truly was a place where folks from all walks of life congregated together, often sitting just a few feet away from each other in the same retaurants. Factory workers, university faculty and students, writers and artists, politicians (I once ate lunch just a few feet away from David Pryor) and others, rich and poor alike, came to Dickson.
It was the great equalizer, or so it seemed at the time.
And it isn’t now. Apologists for the new Dickson don’t even seem aware of this aspect of Dickson’s past; all they are aware of is that hippies hung out on Dickson once upon a time. See, Ma, I know history!
It’s symptomatic of something larger, I think. But you have to look beyond Dickson Street - even beyond the English gothic folly that Block Street is becoming.
A lot of cities go through a sort of metamorphosis as they embrace the New Urbanism (or gussy themselves up, as they case may be) but one thing sort of remains constant - the poor and working class of a community find themselves of less importance than the pretty buildings and sidewalks.
Or silly street designs.
Oh, we may have special conferences and public meetings, but more and more are being left out of the dream.
And then there is poverty - those not actually homeless, but barely hanging on. Not just homeowners, but renters, who live in conditions that some of us can barely imagine.
About 15 years ago I took a Fayetteville alderman on a tour of Fayetteville to parts of the city that he never knew imagined, where folks rent by the week, and the trailer parks, and the rundown duplexes, and houses that could barely called houses. It might not be a bad idea to give new alderman (and some of the older ones as well) such a tour.
We rarely, if ever, get news coverage of these parts of the city, or the lives of the people who live there.
Unless they have the bad taste to be murdered, or commit some other horrible act. Otherwise, it’s on to reading aloud the next exciting press release from Wal-Mart.
When new developments are built, people are evicted from homes that they rent. More unraveling of our social tapestry.
Where do you think they go? You think there is anything in the “rules” that says that landlords must provide any sort of finacial cushion for folks when they are evicted, in a world in which landlords demand first and last month’s rent, plus a deposit?
It’s sort of sad when the only place in the community where the social tapestry is still in full-flower is at a TV staion, Fayetteville’s public access station, but there you have it. Like the old Dickson Street, folks from all walks of life still rub shoulders and work together.
This is less a plug for Community Access Television than wondering why it isn’t seen in more places across the city, and why you can’t get at least send reporters down to Stone Street or Betty Jo Corner.
And not just take pictures, thank you very much.
Well, if you want something done right, I suppose . . .
Quote of the Day
To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival. - Wendell Barry