Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kalamazoo Pride

Bill from Kzoo told me about this site. Kinda makes me feel old because I remember most of these places, spent time at a lot of them and even worked at one (Piranha Alley). I went to see The Love Bug at the Douglas Drive In (the site of which is right around the corner from Kzoo Skate Zoo) with my family as a very young kid and went on a double date there in the 80s where they played back-to-back African American action movies. My bands played at Harveys and Club Soda. I connected with my wife for the first time there too.
This photo is crazy because the set up was pretty much exactly the same the 3o0 times that I was there 40 years after this photo was taken. If you look at the Harvey's photos, there are two long-haired dudes in a band. One is Eric, the creator of this site and the other owns a skatepark. Awesome. I ate at a lot of these restaurants and was scheeved out by some of the sketchy motels in their later incarnations. I saw my first punk show, Black Flag, at the East Hall gym at Western Michigan University. My wife and I used to go the Hi-Lo and play pool. There were never more than a couple other people there but inevitably, some douchebag dude would get a macho urge and "challenge" us to pool. I would play one half-assed game with them and quit. The 131 Drive In is right up the street from where the Plainwell BMX track was. If you read about it here they refer to it being a junkyard now and the Twilight Zone set up with the junk cars all pointed to the giant cement wall that used to host the movie screen. Not only did I go to lots of movies there, I sold my Honda Accord to the junk yard in the mid-90s after it blew a head gasket. I went back a couple years later to look for parts for my sweet 77 Ford truck (wish I would have kept that one) and was stunned to see my once beloved Honda stacked at the top of 20 or so smashed cars as kind of the cornerstone of what had become a giant fence of junk cars around the place. My Honda was king of the junkheap. Trippy.
There are a bunch of photos from the big tornado of 1980 that hit Kalamazoo. My mom had taken me to get a new bike, a Thruster. I got it put together pretty quick and rode it down the street to "Hartman's track", our neighborhood practice track. I was so stoked because it looked like it was going to storm, but it wasn't raining. I remember the sky being very still and kind of green in color. It was weird. Little did I know that five miles away a tornado was wreaking havoc on the city.
There are several references to the homogenization of America on this site. It's a very unsettling movement that has been going on for years. Independent businesses are gone and in place are giant corporate chains, all the same (even the same proximity to one-another), at every off ramp in every city. I'm guilty of contributing to it. It's easy to go to Starbucks because you know what you are getting. I know Burger King has veggie whoppers. We're all in a hurry. We want what we want right now. Use the GPS to find a Chipotle. Never mind that it's McDonald's answer to mexican food. It's good. It's all culminating now, with the economy in the shitter. These places can't all survive. Who cares if Circuit City closes? Honestly, what do they have to offer that Best Buy, usually located across the street, doesn't? Who shops at Eddie Bauer stores? I love Home Depot, but there is a Menards 8 miles away and Lowes 5 miles from that. How many giant warehouses of home improvement shit do you need?
Also, I'm frustrated by the spam nonsense in the comments of the post below. The reason you have to jump through all the hoops to post a comment is to block such activity. Hocking Nike of all things...


Landen said...

My mom had told me about that great tornado. She said it was absolutely incredible, almost as if you were in a movie. I really hate urban sprawl. Even tho I work for such an establishment, I really do wish small business could thrive once again. It bothers me so much that they come in and bully around. It has always been my dream to open up some kind of shop pertaining to bmx, and or some type of apparel store. But it freaks me out, and I can see it ending in bankruptcy. Great post Scott. K-zoo FOREVER!

PJD said...

Saw Star Wars (The Original) at the Douglas Drive in. Box stores suck, that's a given. It's hard to fight economy of scale though.It's almost worse here in Detroit because all the cool old spots are still there, but burnt out shells of what they once were.

Smitty said...

One of the old drive-in theaters in my locale (east of St Paul MN) is for sale. That would be shittin' cool to reopen. Can you imagine the fun you could have operating a drive in? Getting to pick the movies and lining up corny promotions and shit?

But no point in inquiring about it...the land is surely worth more than I could ever dream about mortgaging.