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by andrew haley

For the last few years, rumors have been circulating that this town might be turning into a real city. Our new mayor prides himself as a supposedly hip, urban guy who wants to shower the streets with local music and have multi-cultural food fights on public grounds every night so he can stand around and look at all the brown people and white people hanging out together and say,

"Damn, I'm the mayor of a real city!"

Some of us (not to mention any names) think that downtowns, especially in cities, are best when closest to the anarchist zoo of places like Washington Square Park after dark. Such places teem with energy and surprise-weird people with horrible feet, sudden colorful murals on public walls, local citizens making noise, standing around, announcing the end of their world.

Such places are not where the hump of the bell curve goes to do its shopping; they are the places where the citizens actually live their lives. In fact, these places become the giant body of all the citizens, singing, smiling, farting as it may. Some of us heard the rumors circulating, and began to believe little Salt Lake might be turning into one of these places.

Despite this apparent turn to the worst for our real, righteous ruling class (not to mention any names), things downtown aren't quite as liberal as they may seem. I for one was walking to a movie with my little sister one evening about a month ago, and was cited for crossing the street against one of those little red hands. I didn't jaywalk. I didn't walk out into traffic. I just crossed the street, in the crosswalk, against a little red hand.

I used to laugh at those dull-eyed folks that stood a full five minutes on the curb, with not a car in site, like cows petrified by a painted-on cattle guard. That pride cost me 75 bucks. The cop told me he hated doing it, but the mayor had given a direct order and his boss would check in on him after every shift.

Not long after that, I witnessed another daring action by our overstaffed, overzealous übercops. One officer, C. Platt, put the kibosh on the best live jazz gig downtown. For the last few months, Josh Payne and former members of his Josh Payne Orchestra played nightly gigs of dixie, hard bop, and Josh's particular brand of surrealist banjo bop from midnight 'till two. Under normal circumstances, a city of our size would have at least one, if not a half dozen places where a band this good could play for a small audience at a low cost. But not here-where everything is organized in squares.

These guys played between 100 S. and 200 S. on Main St. A good dozen, laid back, late night revelers showed up each night to sit on the sidewalk, listen and pass around a bottle or two under the silent walls of the city. I guess this was just too much for Mister Platt to bear. So he arrested, fingerprinted, and fined the band, and threatened to confiscate their instruments if they ever had the balls to come back and ruffle up his "city."

And then, just last week, after the twilight concert at the Gallivan Center (how did we ever get anything downtown named after a bunch of whiskey drinking Catholics?), a small group of performers assembled on the corner of Main and 200 S., and put on a drum and fire show. Probably a hundred people, from punks to suits to moms and kids, gathered around to watch the show. They clapped. They even liked it. But in the time it takes to tell your bishop that you touch yourself, the bike cops rolled in and put a stop to it. Even the fat boring moms booed. Makes you wonder who's in charge.

So put away your gee-tars and pick up your scriptures folks-we ain't goin' nowhere.