An Ode to Parking Lots

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I’ve been a resident of Southwestern Utah for quite some time. I grew up on 400 West, went to West Elementary, Dixie High School, Dixie College before heading off for colder pastures. I feel confident that I have a pretty good reading on the pulse of the area. And there is obviously something missing. It wasn’t until a couple of days ago, as I was riding to work that I realized what it was that this area so desperately needs.

Any time I chat with someone thinking about moving to the area, the conversation will quickly turn to the fact that SG has no night life. If you aren’t married, not LDS, over 30 and not a meth addict, your chances of meeting someone in this city are almost non-existent. If you think you are going to be able to find some live music and a lively crowd of single folk dancing and enjoying themselves, you are sorely mistaken. You can find some live music if you know where to look, but the only people that will be there are in high school or married.

Do you want to head out on the town for a beer once in a while? Good luck, you’ll have to hit a chain restaurant because they are the only ones that are given liquor licenses. That or you can hit the one dive bar that’s tucked away on St. George Boulevard, but they only have 3.2 beer and no liquor. A brewery? That’s funny. Every other major city in Utah has one, but St. George doesn’t and it’s not likely they ever will.

And if you were to continue that chat with someone thinking about moving here, you would be lead to believe that it is, in fact, this lack of night life that we so desperately need. If you would have asked me a couple of days ago, I would have responded that bicycle infrastructure and a descent place to hang out are the things this place lacks.

However, as my two skinny, hairy sticks called legs were pumping up and down spinning the cranks on my bike, I realized that St. George needs more parking lots. That’s right, we don’t have enough semi-pliable, black covered surfaces in Southern Utah that have been built with the sole purpose of letting us station our automobiles.

There’s just something magical about that flat, almost rocky surface. Its lines drawn with careful symmetry guiding each person to their resting place and indicating the social order that dominates any shopping experience. There’s a beauty to the unnatural, manmade blacktop. Especially when it hasn’t rained for a while and the oil leaking from the cars glistens in the morning sun. Yup, that’s better than any brewery we could ever have.

Think about it. There is no down side to parking lots. They are big open spaces that are provided for the explicit purpose of allowing us the opportunity to drive our cars to a store and have a beautiful landscape laid out before us of other people doing the same thing. By allowing us to drive to the store, we don’t have to bother speaking with other people whilst on public transport or acknowledge that one other guy riding his bike as you pass. No, parking lots allow us the ability to be completely anonymous.

Parking lots are the impenetrable fortress wall to forming any sense of community. We know community is one of those things they teach us we are supposed to want, to foment, to create, but when it comes down to it we just want to be left the fuck alone. It’s like the idea of teaching children to share and then once they learn how to care for someone else, they are old enough to understand the socioeconomic landscape before them and they quickly learn that sharing means you are weak, will never amount to anything and will be poor because you gave everything away. Community is one of those ideas.

As my legs continued there redundant motion, spinning a set of cranks that had no resistance because I’m a baby and run mountain gearing on my cross bike, I began to notice all of the hideous places that we should plow over and lay down some asphalt. Luckily, some of them are in the process of being developed. You know they wouldn’t call it development if it wasn’t actual progress. And what better way to improve on this,

ben-on-barrelThan to make it flat and put asphalt on it. I certainly can’t think of any.

P. L. and R.

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