Rollo: Why don’t you just sit down and relax and have a nice, quiet, enjoyable evening?
Fred: I ain’t never had no fun when I was quiet.
Neither has anybody else. Somebody had better hip Raleigh’s city leaders to that fact before they toss out the baby with the bong water, which is what it seems like they’re fixing to do.
Until recently, downtown Raleigh after dark was a destination for no one, favored – if at all – only by people in the federal witness protection program because the likelihood of encountering someone they’d crossed (or anyone else) was minute.
Now that downtown is living up to the goals set when the city pumped millions into its resuscitation, city officials, some business owners and a few residents fret that it is too lively. They now want to muffle all of the rambunctious good-time Charlies and Charlenes piercing the once-silent nights with joyous screams, drunken shouts and calls to Earl. (If you have to ask, don’t ask.)
’Tain’t gonna happen, at least not without re-rolling up the sidewalks to the point where you can’t even get a sammitch or a can of Cacky Lacky downtown after 6 p.m.
The question city fathers and mothers have to answer is. “Can Raleigh and Mayberry co-exist?”
One needn’t be an old fuddy-duddy – but it helps – to agree with Mayor Nancy McFarlane and others who object to the “city with a bender” aspect of downtown after a night of revelry. Mayor McFarlane, in a Sunday N&O story, said, “It’s not pleasant on Sunday morning when people are coming downtown and there’s vomit and trash.”
(Vomit & Trash: Didn’t they open for Mott the Hoople in 1977?)
Linda Little of Raleigh called me at 8 a.m. Monday to ask, after reading countless stories, including the one on downtown’s growing pains, about the media’s “obsession with beer.”
For one thing, I told her, beer is big business, craft beer especially. For another, the obsession is not as much with beer as it is with youth, the people pumping beer from kegs and money into city coffers. Were city leaders so naive as to think they could get one – well-behaved, beer-drankin’ young people with disposable income – without getting what comes with that: noise, fighting, vomit and those ubiquitous red plastic cups?
Silly. Such beer etiquette occurs only on TV commercials, where everybody is fit and trim and your best buddy never loses his dinner all over your new Steve Maddens – even though you warned him that ordering Oysters Rockefeller from that bus station vending machine was probably a bad idea.
People here seem upset that the party in downtown Raleigh goes until 1 a.m., so I decided to check with a place where – theoretically, at least – the party never stops: Las Vegas. Have you ever seen a cup on the ground in Vegas?
Neither have I. The City of Las Vegas has what’s known as the Downtown Beautification Crew, whose job is to keep the streets litter free. “We have more street sweepers, and they get on it right away” when the bars close down, a woman with the Chamber of Commerce told me.
That seems like a perfect solution: Raleigh could hire a beautification crew that would sweep up the detritus from the previous night’s bacchanalia before churchgoers have to pirouette past puke, or each bar could be responsible for the cleanliness of the area directly in front of it. If their area isn’t cleaned by morning mass, fine ’em.
City officials and business owners had better reach a solution that makes everyone equally happy or equally miserable, because otherwise, we will see a return to the sad, old days of a moribund downtown, the kind Kris Kristofferson wrote about in “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”:
“And there’s nothing short of dying
that’s half as lonesome as the sound
of a sleeping city sidewalk – and Sunday morning coming down.”
There’s one thing as lonesome as a sleeping city sidewalk on Sunday morning: sleeping city sidewalks on Saturday night, which is what Raleigh could soon find itself with a surfeit of.
To paraphrase another great country philosopher, Willie Nelson, city officials and other noise-averse citizens need to remember that “the night life ain’t no good life – but it’s the life y’all asked for.”