So the 10-year anniversary of the City Paper has arrived, and I was awakened from a long sleep and asked to write my thoughts on the past 10 years of social evolution in Charleston. OK, not really, they just wanted me to make fun of Jump, Little Children some more, but I've matured a great deal over the past decade and, seeing the error of my ways, I want this to be considered a peace offering to the ever-gracious Jay, Matt, Ward, Jonathan, and Evan. Thank you, gentlemen, for being such good sports and enduring my weekly jibes, even if I still do hate your music!
The past 10 years have been dramatic for me and for our city. While some of you may agree with some of the changes, others — like myself — are aghast at the loss of certain freedoms that we've always taken for granted, like the right to have a martini at 4 a.m. or walk your dog on the beach on a rainy Sunday afternoon — things we quietly watched get taken away from us..
And then there are the physical changes. Every month or so the area seems to lose another of the quirky, hip places that once fueled the city with undeniable creative energy. The area along King Street between Calhoun and Wentworth streets now feels more like a shopping mall in mid-America to me than a metropolitan street. You won't find places like Sharky's, A.C.'s, or 52.5 in that area anymore. That visceral feel of city life that the block had 10 years ago has faded to a repetitious drone.
King Street might as well be razed and replaced with an enclosed shopping mall and parking garage with air conditioning and Muzak piped in and private security guards making the rounds.
But then again, that movement can be a good thing. It can provide the catalyst for change that everyone and even our society as a whole needs now.
As a result of the corporate takeover of lower King Street, the creative energy has been diverted a little further north, presenting all kinds of new opportunities for mom 'n' pop establishments and artists.
Take a walk north on King Street from Calhoun and try one of the quirky eateries that you may never have noticed before. Go to a gallery, buy a record, or some locally-made clothing from any number of cool boutiques that have been finding success up there recently.
Some other exciting changes are afoot in the Lowcountry as well. The fact that we may actually get a world-class concrete skatepark is a ray of hope for those of us who have been wondering why Charleston is still in the stone ages when it comes to providing alternative outdoor activities for its citizens.
This is not a new concept, people. There seem to be more kids interested in a skate park than baseball diamond or tennis court these days, and it's not just a trend.
After all, we've always been fortunate to have some of the best skateboarders in the country reside here, yet we've got no real terrain for them to hone their skills. And as any skateboarding Charlestonian will tell you, if you regularly skate within city limits, you will eventually have to deal with overzealous law enforcement and suffer stiff fines or physical and verbal harassment. Did you see that now infamous video from the Dowd brothers of the Fairview Skate Shop that garnered our police force worldwide attention a few months ago?
No child should ever be treated that way by the people that are sworn to serve and protect the citizens of its city.
Something else many of us thought would never happen was the legalization of tattooing. It was a long arduous battle to get it done, but it is finally here. The tattoo shops are busy and some of them are turning out beautiful, colorful work — not to mention generating more tax revenue for the city.
I must admit that just on these two issues alone we've seen our city awaken from a 100-year long nap and start moving into the future, guiding us to the next big change and keeping me hopeful that our city does care about its younger population.
With change comes varying opinions. It is your responsibility as a citizen to speak up and decide what direction you want things to move toward. As we have seen over the past few years especially, we can make change and force new direction.
We have to resist the urge to be complete creatures of comfort lest we become stagnant. If we get out there and get involved, we can influence that change, and that's a good thing.