11/21/06

Reminded by TV (Arrrgghhhh!)

Watching the new Charlie Brown (and the old one) tonight, I had some issues with the new one - nothing major, but then a single word came to mind that explained it all for me.



Marcie's newfound freedom in expressing some interest in Chuck, and her enjoyment of torturing Peppermint Patty. Charlie Brown won something.



Well, it might not seem like much to you - but in the world of Charles Shultz's Peanuts, it's a whole lot. But think about it: A nearly 50 year old franchise, steeped in tradition and warm memories of people everywhere making a seemingly small change to a formula that has always worked.





Then it struck me - Context.



In today's age, simple classic stories like the Charlie Brown Christmas special are held in a glass box on the mantle - taken down only on very special occasions - looked at, and then put back up on the shelf.



But in order to keep an entire new generation of viewers interested, you keep the old formula going strong - but slip in a new touch or two. Nothing major - your not killing off a character here - but you are adding a touch that the newer viewers are accustomed to seeing. Context.



Reminded me of something I have been thinking about lately - the whole issue of context. And how that fits into life in Roanoke.



Roanoke is a place out of Context.



Numbers here are taken out of context, as shown by the yearly article "Having to go out of town for shopping". They claim a population of 94,000 according to the last census. Well, sure - according to that, and if you limit the draw of a store to the city limits. But let's not forget, Roanoke is a draw from all 4 points on the compass, which expands it's potential draw numbers amazingly.



I would go so far as to guess Roanoke sits perfectly poised to take advantage of a potential 1.5 million people - but that's just me. I think in radius, not census.



Politics is taken out of context also, as evidenced by the City Manager government we have, the fact that we cannot register to vote AND a political party (ie. registered republican, registered democrat) for the purposes of primaries, and the fact that now there is talk of removing the labels altogether from elections. This is being talked about as a way to "unite" rather than divide along political lines. Truth of the matter is, without the context of total involvement in the process - removing the labels is another way of pushing people further outside the process. It might not seem like much, but it is.





And it all comes down to context. Politics within the context of life, life within the context of a community, a community within the context of a city, and so on...



But Roanoke has decided at some point that it wishes to form its own context for things. Like Victory Stadium, the Downtown area, and even the Airport.



The base concept for all these things seems to be "make do with what you have." We have an airport, and it's pretty good - but we don't want to talk about it getting bigger or more popular, so we tend to steer conversations away from it, with the exception of the occasional rumble of rumor.



For ages Victory Stadium was debated, studied, and beaten with a dead horse. But rather than act, it was easier to continue the status quo. And when someone finally decided to do something about it - even that took ages to accomplish. The problem of Victory Stadium was minimal within the context of the problems of Roanoke as a whole.



We still are living through the revitalization of downtown, and if things continue the way they are going - our grandkids might be as well. But the problem of Downtown Roanoke is highly important in the context of Roanoke as a whole.



And the problem of Roanoke as a whole is highly important within the context of the entire Roanoke Valley, and all of Southwestern Virginia.



It's the first place most businesspeople see when they come to scout an area, the initial impression of what Southwest Virginia is all about. And Roanoke shines like tarnished silver.



You know it could be better with a little effort and attention. But the attitude of "make do with what you have" prevails, and rather than striving to become the beacon that our Star is, we plod along - dimly gleaming in the darkness.



We could have had a vibrant downtown, with tons of opportunities - living, recreational, arts, and community - if the whole concept of downtown events had not been shoved off on one semi-committed group. If the city had allowed the residents more of a say in what events they wanted, or perhaps even allowed the citizenry to organize it's own events (without the assistance of that certain group), but instead - within the context of Roanoke, downtown events are welcomed with a flat underwhelming feeling, and much talk of "it could have been better..."



Roanoke continues to be the "Home of Missed Opportunities" because it's attempt at creating it's own context have put it out of sync with the rest of the state, nation, and world.



But what have you, status quo makes for a great retirement community, until someone puts out the wrong colored flowers. Then the seniors revolt. And yes, it can be that simply put.



Once again, I ask you - the citizenry of Roanoke to help me make the Star City shine again. Show them what this town is capable of, not what it's making do with.





1 comment:

ATL said...

Roanoke is dying, has been for decades. The future it needs to embrace is one of risk and change, something Roanoke cannot stomach.

Look at the downtown. It's plastic, everything is put into nice little blocks, buildings are built and rebuilt to look older, and cultural expression like the building of the Sw Va Art museum is not the cultural vision of the community but rather of a small, insulated board.

Roanoke is a town run by Aristocrats who seem, oddly enough, to remain in their respective offices until they wish otherwise. There are exceptions, but they are run.

I say we take down the Aristocrats.