Thursday, June 10, 2004

I'm about tired of people saying that I'm anti-Catalan. For the umpteenth time, I'm not. I wrote that bit on Catalan / Spanish claims to protagonism and importance that are demonstrably goofy because it's my job to make fun of the foibles of wherever I live. If I were living in Kansas City locals would be writing in bitching about me all the time because I'd be writing stuff like this:

The local publicity-mongering Babbits responsible for city public relations are going around saying "Kansas City has more miles of boulevards than Paris and more fountains than Rome." Well, maybe it does, if you count every multilane divided street as a boulevard and every drinking fountain in a public building as a fountain. Come on, people. We have several pretty streets and a couple of nice fountains, but let's not get carried away. We're playing in the same league as Omaha and St. Louis, not up there in the first division with Rome and Paris.

And there's that other ridiculous claim, that "Kansas City barbecue is the best in the world." Well, I dunno, maybe it is. There are a lot of barbecue joints and steakhouses in town and they're all very popular. If you like meat you can have several very enjoyable meals in KC. But, come on, it's not like we're a center of world cuisine. We're a one-Thai-restaurant kind of town. And having the best barbecue in the world isn't that big a deal compared to, I dunno, say the Indian or French culinary traditions.

Locals pride themselves a great deal because we're a "major-league city". By American standards, OK, we are, since we have a professional football team and an allegedly professional baseball team. (The NBA team moved to Sacramento about 20 years ago.) Our guys play against the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. But KC is about the 30th biggest market in the country, and that is just barely on the fringe of the major leagues--both baseball and football have 32 teams. We could very well lose a team. And this American habit of judging places by their sports teams is pretty dumb--is, say, Santa Fe or Austin any less attractive, or Detroit any more so, because of pro sports or lack thereof? (Note: The city of Barcelona has a rather similar relationship with its soccer team.)

Not only that, but we've made a mess of some of the things we had going for us. The city's jazz heritage is real, as Count Basie and Charlie Parker can attest, but they built some lame-o Jazz Hall of Fame that just has nothing in it but Bird's saxophone, which cost them like half a million bucks. City fathers should look to New Orleans and Austin and Nashville and take them as an example for reviving a real music scene in KC. And we've got a very attractive enormous old train station in the middle of town that had been a wreck for years. The building, of course, is of first-rate quality; you just can't tear a monster huge thing like that down. So what do they do? Put, say, a RAILROAD museum in the TRAIN station? There are tons of railroad and history buffs out there who'd come to such an exhibit, especially if they had lots of cool stuff like, I dunno, functioning steam engines. So what did they do? Why, put in one of those kids' science museums that every city seems to be building. Nobody visits it and it sucks and is overpriced. At least that's a better idea than this other one they had about putting in an aquarium. Oh, yeah, that'll bring in the tourists. Kansas City is about a thousand miles from the nearest ocean. Our only native water creatures are, like, crawdads, minnows and catfish. The only thing less appropriate would be putting a dude ranch on the Upper East Side.

However, I don't usually write stuff like that about my beloved hometown because I don't live there and I don't see it every day. I do, however, see Barcelona's faults close-up, because I actually live here, and so I do write about it.

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