Where it’s cool to be hip, smart, and Liberal again, at last!
Welcome To Chicago East!
Old guard Washingtonians can feel it coming: a vast sea change in the culture of the Capital City. Many locals are unaware of what’s about to happen. Want to see how cool this stodgy old town could actually become? Why not let The Legendary Buddy Guy, give you a sample tour!
And our main man likes to eat!
In 1976-77, when Jimmy Carter came to town replacing the Nixon/Ford regime, the town was over-run by a hard working hard-partying group of Southern Democrats, mostly from Atlanta, who hit the town in waves! Overnight the mean-spirited Republicans were all gone. Old stodgy bars and restaurants where Republicans stopped off to dine before going home, suddenly were transformed into rip-roaring country-rock, outlaw country, music venues that were open late, and re-opened early. These had been added to the folk, rock, and jazz stalwarts of the 60’s Kennedy / Johnson era holdovers which were a strange blend of New Englanders and Texas Democrats.
But just as it began to rage, the Carter era was over.
I’ll never forget driving home late from a hockey game on Reagan’s first inaugural evening. I took a cross-town route from Landover, Maryland, down New York Avenue, and saw, on that War Torn boulevard that The Great Society had left behind, a pair of Republican couples from California, all decked out in furs and diamonds and ball gowns and tuxedos, trying to hail a cab in freezing weather, as dilapidated cars and ghetto dwellers looked on them like odd creatures in a zoo. They were terrified. It was beautiful. I could imagine them in their mansions in Southern California, looking through travel brochures of the Nation’s Capital, and seeing a grand Avenue named for New York, The Empire State, with stars in their eyes. I, like many other locals, slowed down to get a good look and laugh.
By and large, Republicans don’t support the Arts. They don’t even believe in them. Soon the vibrant scene in DC disappeared, as those rockin’ venues turned back into stodgy restaurants, or disappeared altogether. And the culture of the town dried up almost completely. One by one, traditional music and arts venues went under. The local arts community turned inward as it was now to be utterly ignored by the hordes of know-nothings that swarmed the city. And twelve dark long years ensued.
When Clinton came to town, we thought there would be some cultural relief, but unlike other transition periods, the Republicans held on and didn’t leave town, believing that the Clinton thing was a blip on the screen of their perpetual dominance of national politics. Gingrich declared himself the real president and demanded that Republicans never vote for anything again that was sponsored by a Democrat, “Even if it’s good for the country, because ultimately, what will be good for the country is to get Clinton out of office.”
For all Clinton’s staying power and popularity, what cultural benefits, really, could he offer this town being from Little Rock, Arkansas? None. It remained an artless Republican town despite his victories, and the arts and music communities remained underground, functioning in spite of the hostile or merely disinterested, people all around them.
Then came Bush/Cheney/Rove, people who brag about being ignorant and outwardly hostile to anything remotely involved with the arts. The fascist cliche, “When I hear the word Culture, I reach for my pistol,” suddenly had a new and ominous resonance. These are stupid people who don’t read books. And the town slid further into darkness. Now rather than turning inward, creative, thoughtful, intelligent people had to hide.
All of that, thank god, is over.Perhaps now, after ten years of pleading to deaf ears, Quincy Jones’ dream of a
Perhaps now, after ten years of pleading to deaf ears, Quincy Jones’ dream of a cabinet-level post for a Secretary of Culture will get a fair hearing. “People abroad know more about our culture than we do,” says QJ.
Man, I want to see Buddy Guy at the head of the Inaugural Parade, doing the State Street Stroll, down Pennsylvania Avenue!
Go White Sox!