I find myself at a crossroads with this post in that I’m struggling (albeit mildly) about the direction in which I should take this blog – if I should take it anywhere at all. It was originally motivated by a self-serving need to document some of the events and perspective of the area before I forgot it all. Most of these posts are things I’ve related in conversations through the decades so I figured why not just write it all down and refer people to it just to save time ? You know – I’ll create a “FAQ for Stewart Avenue” kind of thing. What I didn’t understand is that people don’t read as much as they used to and competition for attention is at an all time high what with various social media notifications littering one’s phone. This is in addition to ongoing daily responsibilities and the inevitable vagaries of life. It’s also somewhat problematic that my posts tend be much longer than the typical blog one might encounter. For that I make no apologies because I’m always trying to get AT something with these things even as I’m attempting to be informative at a factual level. Were I a better writer, the posts might be more impactful with fewer words. As to what exactly it is I’m trying to get AT, I don’t really know. It could be something really heavy, (at least for me), though it’s probably just more of the general restlessness I’ve always felt that doesn’t allow me to feel satisfied with the various projects I pursue. I’m no tortured artist here but I know well the frustrations associated with trying to nail down a specific feeling or idea and falling short. Most work is only an approximation of a greater ideal anyway and I suppose I can be cool with that. At least for today anyway.
So people prefer to hear these stories along with any comments (wry or otherwise) that I might use to punctuate the narrative. And having spent a significant amount of time in various “night life” establishments I do realize that the verbal tradition has always been more popular than the written one. And these stories will usually sound better after a few drinks though alcohol is by no means a prerequisite for enjoyment. Nonetheless, I’ve attempted to capture that verbal “saloon dynamic” in how I write these things but it’s only an approximation of how I would REALLY convey the story which might involve more grit. And it wouldn’t be at all gratuitous since the language of the time and place was in fact, on average, more primitive though infinitely more to the point than what one encounters in other parts of life. Just to say that you might suspect that what I’ve offered in these posts is a somewhat sanitized version of events…..and you would be right.
Anyway this approach has all sort of worked and I do get positive feedback although the target readership for this blog is surprisingly hard to nail down demographically. On any given day I get 15-20 visitors most of whom appear to be genuinely interested in the content but there are always a number of apparent out-of-towners who seem interested in escort style companionship as evidenced by the search terms they use and the articles they access. For example, I somewhat regret using the word “prostitute” in one of the post titles because it draws in the “wrong element” (albeit a minority) though prostitution was (and continues to be) a big factor in the demise of Stewart Avenue so it was reasonable to include it. In summary, I do get steady readers who are enjoying the content but I get comparatively few comments thus it remains a mystery as to what they might like to see in future posts. This is not at all to say that the “well has run dry” only that I don’t really know who the readers are so it’s hard to know what direction to pursue. I completely understand that many are, like myself, former residents of the area but there is large variation in age with some having lived there and left before the down turn.
The “baby boomer” generation is supposedly those born between 1946 and 1964 which is a wide enough interval to guarantee big differences in taste, interests and motivation so what might be fascinating for me might not at all be for someone born in 1948 (although I’ve gotten interesting feedback from people as old as 90 !) As an example, I get antsy in discussions with Atlantans who aggressively praise Lewis Grizzard as a comedy genius since I never really “got him”. Grizzard did no one any favors by trying to make a fetish of being southern combined with that over the top, “down home” humor which seemed only to turn back the clock on how southerners are perceived. Put it this way, I’ve never met someone who actually tried to make their southern accent MORE intense although comedians like Jeff Foxworthy who, with his cackling drawl, continue to perpetuate a post-modern Hee-Haw idea of what life is like in the south. He makes a lot of money so there is obviously a market for it. I make distinctions between him and someone like Jerry Clower who actually grew up in the stark rural environment he used to generate material for his act which was more akin to improvisational story telling than offering mere riffs on “redneck culture”. Clower was more organic whereas recent “southern comedians” are more contrived and glibly observational which is odd since most (if not all) of them are in fact southern ! This isn’t to say that I don’t see value in what I call “working class humor” and one the best modern examples actually comes from Canada in the form of the “Trailer Park Boys”. I relate to that show on several levels because 1) I’ve had friends like that and 2) were it not for a few lucky twists of fate, I might very well be one of them ! That show has like 10 seasons though I’ve only watched perhaps the first 5 of them. That it’s set in a Canadian trailer park is just a small detail as the set of characters is somewhat universal.
What has amazed me is that I’ve been able to travel to different parts of the world and have a talent for finding the equivalent of Stewart Avenue in that locale. It could be that I unconsciously seek it out but it’s probably just as true that it seeks me out if that makes any sense. Perhaps I’ve been indelibly marked with a universal symbol which implies that I’m always down for some action and craziness. And maybe I am but I’ve somehow been able to put that aside long enough to get some work done now and then. It’s been suggested that perhaps I should making a documentary of the area what with guerrilla style, IPhone-based filming being all the rage. So it should be relatively cheap outside of personal man-hours. And while this is a possibility the question then remains “for whom would I be making it” ? Once I get a direction in mind then the compass will surely work. Your comments are welcome.