Sunday, April 29, 2007

Our Brand Is Development

Recently I read a Capitol Hill Times article in which a youthful resident bemoaned the demise of another city block to make way for the stacked condos eating up every inch of real estate here. It was a typical piece, wistful, yet offering no ideas about how to change things. The citizen quoted in this article was most upset about the passing of a dumpy one-decade-old pub, Kincora.

Well that takes me back. Because I myself hated to see the end of the squalid Squid Row Tavern, where I saw Jesse Bernstein read "More Noise, Please!" fresh out of his typewriter, and Bay Area poet Jack Foley read marvelous works in progress.

You see, in the 1990s some nutty developer stripped out Squid Row Tavern and replaced it with this shamrocky joint called Kincora--yet another faux Irish pub that featured nothing special as far as I was concerned. So, pardon my cynicism, but after SRT went without a whimper, I stopped caring about that corner. Knock it down. Who cares?

Whatever crummy stupid place you squatted in when you were young, that's the golden memory spot, I guess.

There is a battle going on for the "development" of real estate all over Seattle. In the case of Kincora (makes you want to talk like a pirate, doesn't it? Arrgghhhh…) the location is prime (a couple of blocks from the Seattle Community College campus) but the place being demolished is junk anyway.

What was there is dead. What was there had no value to the city. What was there? Just a bunch of poets. Jack Foley returned to Oakland, and Jesse Bernstein did what Seattle artists do when they reach the end of the line: he killed himself.

So the person quoted in the paper looks at Kincora and sees—what? Nights on the town. Friends laughing and telling stories after a concert, a film, dinner, sex. Whatever. I look at Kincora and see the crass real estate development that obliterated a local legend. What did the owners say to themselves?

"Hey, let's get this place cleaned up! This would make a fine 'authentic Irish pub'!"

Good luck, then, to the person who mourns the passing of Kincora (arrgghhhhhh). I envy his light-hearted life as I recall the trembling, tattooed fingers of the poet, the sweat-marked scrap of paper, the deep, resonant, and impermanent rumbling of something real.

"I live on a street
where there are many
many cars
and trucks
and factories
that pump
and bang and
grind all night
and day…"