Old Love

Letter From Baton Rouge

My Downtown is dying. That is perhaps saying too little; Downtown is nearly dead. The neat, grid-patterned, wellpayed streets of the old Baton Rouge, the white hot cement Huey Long pounded Florsheim heel and toe against, the small optimistic stores set up in the 30's and 40's and equipped with illuminated signs in the 50's and 60's with names like Lerner's Dress Shop and Grossman's Hats and Landry's Famous Po-Boys, the tree-lined pedestrian sidewalks with jeweler's standing clocks and newsstands, all this is nearly gone. Now parking lots gape where stores onee stood, but few ears sit in them, and fewer by night. The old things are passing away—like streets with sidewalks, designed for gentlemen and ladies to walk up and down on and to speak to each other in passing, replaced by the vast distended nonplaces of steel and glass towering malls, their huge cooling units pumping nonair through the nonplace to hose down the nonpeople who spend their nontime and nonmoney there. Oh, yes, the ears and the money are real, especially the ears equipped with phones and German precision stereos that insulate one nonperson from the other imitation people who, in their real ears, speed by like smears of paint on the road that has no sidewalk or shoulder but only enormous billboards with giants flashing man-high teeth at the grey interchangeable facts passing by.

And Downtown is more beautiful because it is dying....

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