Once, Wet Children Made It Into The Restaurant’s Lobby And Took Mints

milestone

This past week, I went to New York for a couple of days to catch some gigs and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time in my life. Cue my departed grandmother: “If all your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it, too?” Grandmom, if you’re up there, the answer is “probably, yes.”

I’m frankly fascinated by the so-called “Great Inversion” in which, we are reliably told, the next generation of affluent young whites will move to the inner city to live vibrant childless hipster bodega lives, driving housing prices through the roof and banishing the uneducated poor to newly ghetto-ized suburbs. Where the next generation of affluent young whites will be found is anybody’s guess, since as a group middle-class American white people have chosen to voluntarily self-exterminate through lack of interest in having children. You can think of it as “Subliming” if you’re an Iain Banks fan, and the idea is the same. An entire culture has looked at the future and the responsibilities attached to that future and responded with a hearty “Fuck that, I’d rather drink craft beer.”

It’s been rather convincingly argued that it ain’t working, and that American cities are more poverty-stricken and hopeless than ever before. You’d have to be blind, however, not to see that nearly every formerly-scuzzy pothole-rathole from Brooklyn to the Tenderloin has installed, or is currently installing, some sort of sanitized Downtown Disney for the convenience of newly-converted urbanites. My adopted hometown of Columbus is no exception — and, as you might expect, not all is going smoothly.


Some time ago, the Powers That Be in Columbus conspired to forcibly shut down a large-scale encampment of homeless people on the bank of the Scioto River. (“Not my finest hour,” was how one of the people involved described it to me.) This land was then used for a park and a pricey restaurant called “Milestone 229”. I’ve never been, but I’ve gone by it a couple hundred times and it attracts exactly the kind of people you would think want to eat an $80 meal in downtown Columbus. The park has a set of fountains and a fair amount of open area. In hot weather, the fountains attract the families and children who live in and around downtown.

We’ve established that the new generation of urban dwellers is childless, so take that in mind when you read the Clash Of The Fountains article in my local paper. I’ll excerpt a few relevant bits:

Columbus’ decision to shorten the time that children can play in the Scioto Mile fountains at Bicentennial Park came after complaints from people living in nearby high-rise condos and the owners of the restaurant at the park.

Doug Griggs, co-owner of Milestone 229, the restaurant next to the park, also said children were climbing the retaining wall near the restaurant and running onto the patio. Once, wet children made it into the restaurant’s lobby and took mints.

Gretchen McBeath, a longtime resident of Waterford Tower, the condominium building that rises just south of the fountains, wrote the city in June 2012, a year after the park opened, complaining about blaring music and loud children.

“I know I am supposed to enjoy hearing the children playing, but that has gotten old very fast and it has continued without letup,” she wrote. “I really wonder whether the people of Columbus have to be so constantly entertained all of the time at the expense of the peace and quiet we purchased when we bought into the Waterford.”

“But my husband and I would be lying in bed at 10:30 at night, and all we heard was all this noise from the park,” she said. “We’re trying to coexist with the park, but it’s all a little much for residents there.”

Having ridden a bicycle through the fountain area, I can tell you that what is going on is nothing more complicated than the intersection of two racial-cultural groups. The fountains are packed with black kids (the claptrap from the developers about “rich kids and poor kids playing together” can be safely ignored) who are amazingly loud and vibrant and disrespectful of things like quiet eighty-dollar-a-plate dinners. Today, they’re taking the mints. What will they do tomorrow?

Black children have lived in downtown Columbus since there was a downtown Columbus, and they are a known quantity, so I’d venture to say that they aren’t really causing the problem here. The problem is with a group of people who simultaneously wanted to get in on the ground floor (read: pay less money to be part of) a revitalized Columbus downtown and be assured that there was no vibrant ethnic behavior in the area when they arrived. Somebody told them, whether subtly or explicitly, that the black people would be gone by the time they got there. That the homeless camps would be cleared out, that the streets would be policed with aggression, and that they’d be free to do stupid shit like let 25-year-old women walk through the East Village at 12:45am wearing a miniskirt, swinging a purse, and focusing on a cellphone to the exclusion of the outside world.

Yes, I saw that last week.

These people have used the force and power that comes with money to have their dirty work done for them. Via the proxies of developers and city officials, they’ve eminent-domained hundreds of acres and forcibly displaced the people who lived there. They’ve torn down hundreds of homes and businesses to re-create the “Short North” in the image of Williamsburg.(Brooklyn, of course.) They’ve paid for this dirty work to be done and they are unhappy when it’s not done to their complete satisfaction. They want their Disney World, a “downtown” filled exclusively with high-net-worth individuals and a fascinating variety of shopping opportunities staffed by people who vanish into the ether when their shifts finish, and nothing less than perfection is acceptable.

It’s easy to hate them, easy to despise the unthinking, callous way in which they assume that the mere fact of their willingness to pay $500 a square foot for downtown condo space should remove all barriers, human or otherwise, to the SoHo lifestyle. But the real problem is that there aren’t enough of them and that they aren’t parents. The existence of a large group of successful young parents in downtown Columbus would improve everything from the streets to the schools, and those improvements would be shared with the people who live there now.

Unfortunately for that plan, most people with any sense, and certainly most people with any combination of sense and children, wouldn’t move into downtown Columbus if the housing were free. You get all the inconvenience of living in Manhattan with none of the benefits. You can’t park your car anywhere but there’s also no grocery to which you can walk. It’s noisy at night but there’s not a single jazz or blues club open. Most of the shops close at seven or before.

And the natives of the area aren’t inclined to treat your gentrification with the respect you’d like. Not only are the local kids stealing mints, they’re defecating in the pool a few times a month! A forty-four-million dollar fountain, and the kids use it as a toilet! Which, perhaps, displays the true divide between the New Successful in this country and the people who were long ago left behind by a series of recoveries-that-weren’t. It’s not just demographics, it’s not just education, it’s not just luck. It’s two groups of people. The first group is probably unfamiliar with the earthy phrase “don’t shit where you live,” but it has internalized the priniciple. The latter group? It doesn’t matter how pretty you make their neighborhood. They’re going to shit in the fountain. They’re going to shit where they live. And if you live near them, they are going to shit where you live, too.

25 Replies to “Once, Wet Children Made It Into The Restaurant’s Lobby And Took Mints”

  1. -Nate

    Thanx jack ;

    I’ve been watching just this occur in down town Los Angeles , I used to live there in the mid 1970’s when I was dirt poor , now it’s all yuppies wall to wall and I was wondering how it will all work out .

    -Nate

    Reply
  2. Aquineas

    Columbus has changed an awful lot. I went to Beechcroft for my sophomore year in the early 80s and it was this relatively brand-new, state-of-the-art school on the edge of the North side of town. I drove by there recently and it’s so much smaller than I remember it (and smaller than the High Schools in Texas which dwarf it in comparison). Also the area off 161 used to be nice, clean, and relatively well-kept. It all looks a bit warn now, which I suppose it would. I didn’t stop off anywhere to interact with anyone, but it definitely had a different feel than what I remember.

    Reply
  3. Ronnie Schreiber

    I wonder how urban blacks would have fared in the absence of Great Society urban renewal programs.

    I wonder how many of the condo residents vote conservative or libertarian.

    Reply
  4. Ronnie Schreiber

    Dan Gilbert’s organization just announced a $70 million development plan for Detroit’s Brush Park area. It’s where Detroit’s wealthy lived before Boston-Edison and Indian Village were built. It will be a mixed use development and they’ll restore about 10 of the remaining mansion hulks.

    Like I said, it was where Detroit’s rich folks lived before the auto industry exploded (Henry Ford’s first mansion was in Boston Edison), but by the mid 20th century it was the location of the Brewster housing projects. My grandfather was a junkman, dealing in scrap paper and rags (before factory made shop towels, they used rags for that purpose so a living could be made in Detroit that way) and his shop was on Brewster between Beaubien and Brush across the street from the projects. Family lore has it that a teenage Joe Louis, who lived in the Brewster complex, worked for my zayde in the shop.

    Now that the race pimps are complaining about Detroit being gentrified, I’m even more convinced it’s bottomed out and started to improve just a little.

    Some of the same people who call for more “investment” in our cities complain when there are actual investments by people like Gilbert.

    Reply
    • Dan S

      Case in point though, look at the crowds of hipsters driving up prices in midtown, fairly close to brush park.

      Speaking of Detroit mansions, palmer woods is another odd standout.

      Reply
    • Kevin Jaeger

      I’d like to believe Detroit has bottomed out and will start to recover but then I drive around a little outside of the downtown area and I’m reminded of just how much surrounding swamp there is that will try to bring down whatever progress gets made.

      I really hope you’re right but something tells me these hipsters moving into Detroit will eventually re-learn why everyone else left in the first place.

      Reply
  5. Rich

    Jack,
    completely off topic but do you mind my asking what brand of sunglasses you use when driving?

    Reply
    • JackJack Post author

      Hey Rich,

      I wear “New Wayfarers” with prescription lenses. I also have a set of Prodesign sunglasses. All of my regular glasses are Prodesigns.

      Reply
  6. Dirty Dingus McGee

    In downtown Atlanta at the site of a former steel mill, Atlantic Steel, the property was sold to a developer. Many millions were spent to make a “mixed use” development, called Atlantic Station, including some low income housing, office towers, and high dollar condos. With great fanfare it was opened to the public for “pre buying”, and there was a mad rush to get in there. As the surrounding neighborhood was not one of the upscale areas, many watched with a sense of “wtf are them folks thinking”?
    Fast forward 15 years; what many thought would happen, but were called everything but a child of God for daring to say such, has happened. It started out fine, but gradually the less affluent started moving in, or at least spending a lot of time there. Now the high dollar condos are worth perhaps 1/2 to 3/4 of what was paid for them(and many sit vacant), many of the business’s that moved in have left, the upscale restaurants are mostly gone. Due to the local urban ‘utes using it for a hangout, crime has gone up exponentially. It has become an area where those who are “melanin challenged” tend to avoid.
    I don’t have a solution for their problem, but for myself I have a chunk of land out in a rural area. My work takes me all over the place so a “commute friendly” location is not an issue. I know my, admittedly few, neighbors and we tend to watch out for each other. What passes for crime here, would be considered a practical joke in an urban setting.

    Reply
    • Mental

      …and before it was Atlantic Station, it was Buckhead, and before that it was Little 5. (Which has now descended back into a weird place and I deal with “utes” asking for ‘Spange’ Which is a combo of “spare change?”
      – – – You have one job kid and you are looking for a method to shortcut that. Perhaps this is why you are asking for spare change…but I digress for I am also a apprentice-level curmudgeon.

      Every big area in Atlanta always attracts folks who want to pretend to be high rollers. I m surprised Lenox Mall still manages to appear upscale, The Galleria has not faired well since the easter days of my youth there.

      Feel even worse for the folks who bought the half million dollar houses by Turner field and now that the bBraves are moving out my way, those things are worth less than my happy suburban plot.

      Reply
  7. Athos

    The future my friend, belong to our kids, as they’re the ones who will show up. And if by “perfection” (at least food wise) you mean the raw meats and overcomplicated crap I see served on TV reality shows, I pass.

    I see with sadness how many old (and characterful) houses in my suburb or the neighbouring ones get bulldozed to build either apartments or McMansions. Or how the state government wants to expand the CBD to include some other suburbs or how the CBD itself is filled with gazillion apartments.

    Reply
  8. awagliar

    Such a great quote for the title. It is brilliantly, navel-gazingly tone-deaf. I know I’m personally on the path to becoming one of those “hey-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn” old curmudgeons — my wife says I’m already there — but if damp utes with minty breath is the biggest issue one faces in a day, I think I’m jealous.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: dustbury.com » Where all the blights are light

  10. SCE to AUX

    I have 5 kids.

    The oldest lived in Africa for 2 years, now Europe. In 2 more years, the next two will be moved out, and in 8 years they’ll all be out of the house.

    While I’m happy for their advancing stations in life, it means my house is getting quieter every year. For us, the sound of children playing is sweet music.

    This is a sad quote: “I really wonder whether the people of Columbus have to be so constantly entertained all of the time at the expense of the peace and quiet we purchased when we bought into the Waterford.”

    My answer to that: Yes, perhaps they do.

    Reply
  11. AoLetsGo

    Yes, the rich and powerful get to live where they want, it has always been that way. In the not so distance past they all moved out of the US cities (except Manhattan) to the tony and bland suburbs. Now some of the young adults and even some empty nesters are moving back in to revitalized downtowns. There is a variety of housing, lots of bars, restaurants, shops, and galleries and yes some real gritty aspects. Personally, I think it is a great thing for the cities, call it “Disney” but these cities really need the tax money and it is much better than the ghost towns these places were after 5pm and on weekends.
    Your right almost no family with young children would choose this lifestyle, but who cares? The fact that some white people are moving back into the cities and some black people are moving to former all white suburbs is a good thing IMHO. Also some of these privileged folks downtown will become disillusioned, oh well “Fuck-em if they can’t take a joke”.

    Reply
  12. -Nate

    I have the one Son , SWMBO has her one Daughter , SWMBO missed having kids around so we take in Teenaged Foster Boys now ~ we’re licensed to have six , the actual amount varies , usually it’s four .

    This will help fill your empty nest and help some Children get a real head start on becoming happy and productive Citizens too .

    -Nate
    (who yells at everyone to stay the HELL OFFA MY LAWN !)

    Reply
      • -Nate

        Thanx ! .

        It can be a real strain , most of the Boys we get have been caught in life’s switches and have little idea what to do , how to act. etc.

        Every so often , one crashes & burns , it’s a sad thing .

        OTOH , we’ve had most turn out pretty well , it’s not uncommon to have a face separate from the crowd and walk up , say ” Hi ! remember me ? THANK YOU for believing in me , I’m fine now “.

        -Nate

        Reply
  13. -Nate

    As you said , joke ’em if they can’t take a screw .

    Me , I never liked living downtown , I bought a Historic Bungalow (or rat & termite infested dump , you choose) in The Ghetto cheaply and have lived here mostly happily for 30 years , of late the yuppies and hipster dickheads have discovered the Ghetto ‘Burbs are nice and have more open space and less broken glass even when there’s crack houses across the street from you , they’re slowly moving in and taking over my neighborhood , not as many Children as the poor & Blue Collar folks had but still it’s nice and reasonably bucolic……

    -Nate

    Reply
    • AoLetsGo

      You are fortunate that you bought 30 years ago and I am fortunate (from a housing point of view) that I live in the mid-west. I was in Crenshaw last week and I still feel like a hick when I see what a half million dollars buys you on either coast. When I think about it I have to cut the younger guys some slack – they are not just trying to be cool, just looking for something they can make payments on.

      Reply
      • -Nate

        Amazingly ;

        My first house in PO-mona , Ca. was far worse ~ it was built as the sales office for a housing tract in the late 1940’s and never designed to be lived in .

        Too many people think they’re entitled to own a home , I know better and having lived it trailers in the 1960’s i wasn’t about to accept that .

        Blue Collar types are not generally able to buy a house per se in any large town or city .

        I gave up a lot of the things most people have to be able to afford my crappy little ghetto home where I raised up a good S0on to be a good Citizen , well Educated , honest and hard working ~ he’s already gone much further than I ever could .

        No new cars , gold chains of fine whiskey for me ~ I had more important things to accomplish .

        Reply

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