Messenger Archives - January 2006
by Grant Cogswell
I am surrendering my fellowship at the Hugo Huts-by the time you read this I'll have returned to Capitol Hill. I can't say I'm sorry to go; a lot of good people are trying their best to create a civilized neighborhood here, which in this city at this time is as tough as growing tropicals in the stony soil of New England.
It's crazy how we admire and covet old world charm (realtors even have an acronym for it, OWC), but zoning laws now forbid any attempt to recreate it. Those dense and bustling areas of Capitol Hill and the (unfairly underrated) U District? They were created by the liberal building codes of the early 20th century, girded by ancient habit, i.e., no parking. Belltown's grandiose monstrosities with their "grand" concrete entrances bring in people only to isolate them in their towers with an automatic garage door for egress. Belltowners fought to keep the monorail off Second Avenue, but Second is huge - it feels like a goddamn airstrip.
Humane spaces must be either majestically immense, or intimate. The incurious Boomer architects who have crowned themselves as Seattle's cognoscenti royale have, for the most part, no clue when it comes to how people live. So we get the ridiculous staircase paralleling University Street alongside SAM that no one uses, because there's a sidewalk right there already that's easier to navigate. We get the Broadway Dance Steps, separating tourists from residents, to whom the charts are forgotten and invisible. Because our Puritanism forbids even a simple pissoir, the whole city gets used as a toilet.
We have people coming here to be creative-or once did-from all over the world. With our famous liberal character, our tolerance, our safety (Has any important American city been this safe in the last fifty years?) you'd think we could start to move beyond the stricture of our national character (which we abandon politically) and challenge ourselves to solve our collective problems on a personal level.
Having trouble paying the bills? Rent out your bathroom a buck at a time, like people do in Mexico. Short of gas money? In Russia there is a hitchers' registry which allows drivers to share rides for money, cabbies at their own discretion.
We need more people like Ali Ghombari (Cherry Street Coffee). Ali will not leave you alone to float in your cloud of purchased aloofness. His love is strong. We need more people like Clark Humphrey, the editor of this paper, to honestly process what is going on around us, unafraid to talk about values. (He'd never use that word, too William Bennett, but in an anarchistic style, that's just what he does.)
The P-Patch is an excellent amenity that is turning into a 24-hour crack-smoking lounge. Fences and calls to the police won't turn this around: a broad-based human presence will. The Community Cottage needs to host a community-oriented business. (Ali?)
There is a lot of talk about community and innovation here, but so little courage and risk-taking. For ten years I've listened to writers, filmmakers, painters and actors kvetch when their peers leave for greener pastures. Big non-profits like the Film Festival, Northwest Film Forum, IFP and the unfortunately named (it must be said) 911 Media Arts struggle and spend cash to nurture the creation of a permanent and successful "film community." Yet a company (mine, I can hear you saying, here we go) starts making a film (a horror movie: Ka-ching!) with bankable stars (Cara Buono, Scott Green, Tori Spelling), a production bigger than any other begun here by a factor of three, a real movie (not just for the friends of the people who made it) with most of the crew on board that took Police Beat to f-ing Sundance, which picks sixteen films out of two thousand submissions; and yet, who is investing in this down payment on a film community? Me, the screenwriter. The director's girlfriend's parents. The A.D.'s mom. Friends, relatives, friends of relatives and relatives of friends. None of the people who have the most to gain from the success of the project for their own endeavors. Show me there's something to be loyal to here. If you don't believe this movie is going to kick ass, check out the trailer at www.cthulhuthemovie.com. I know, you did that already, but this is a new trailer, representing the full range of what's completed so far. If the trailer doesn't rock your world, I'll send you money. God forbid anyone here should get rich, it would be unseemly. Plus, the trailer has Tori Spelling in a bra and fangs.
Don't call me unless you want to get into the movie business: 324-6400.
See www.hugohouse.org for writing assistance. Stop bitching, the smoking ban is rad.
© 2006 Belltown Messenger