In Praise of Sixes

Ok, this post has nothing to do with urban design. It is, however, concerned with Chattanooga and with a secondary focus of C.Rushing, civic discourse.  Apologies for the puerile tone. I tried desperately not to rise to the bait, but in the end could not resist.

As I mentioned last week, I recently made a trip back to the Land of Enchantment, home of my undergraduate alma mater, New Mexico. Upon arriving, my first stop was at Frontier Restaurant for a bowl of green chile and a carne adovado burrito. My second stop was to be 1700 Mesa Vista Drive- The Phi Delta Theta house and my home for 4 years. I was shocked, amazed and horrified to find that the house had been razed and replaced with a surface parking lot. I knew that the chapter had been kicked off campus (again), but the loss of the building hit me pretty hard. I am still inconsolable.

In the early ‘90’s, the brothers of the New Mexico Alpha chapter of Phi Delt were a fine crew. To this day it's the most diverse group of individuals I’ve been intimately involved with. It was an eclectic group of Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews and Native Americans from Cali, Maryland, Wisconsin, Texas, Montana, Alabama, Colorado, Tennessee, Connecticut, Illinois and England. There are dozens of things I could write about concerning my time with them- most notably our steadfast adherence to our founding principals of friendship, sound learning and moral rectitude. For the purposes of this post, however, I'll focus upon the fine art of talking shit.

Caption A: 1700 Mesa Vista: Best. Rooftop. Ever.
Caption B: Nothing like high-altitude sunburn.

I’m not a sociologist and I haven’t spent a great deal of time researching the way that 18-24 year old males communicate with one another, I have only my experience. I found that more often than not, affection and appreciation were delivered in ball-busting form. This was true from everyday salutation to conversation to moniker. At the fraternity, each man received a derisory nickname from his brothers as a term of endearment: “Pinky the Lab Rat” was a guy with a fair complexion; “Spock” was a guy with pointy ears (R.I.P. Little Brother); “Peaches” was the tough guy; and, “The Uni-Baller” was a guy who beat cancer at the expense of a testicle. For the record, I was “Colonel Sanders” in reference to my accent and penchant for wearing bow ties. The amount and quality of trash-talk on a daily basis would have done any And1 baller proud. There are some unwritten rules that accompany that kind of communication. It has to be personal, but not too personal. The goal is to gig your buddy, but not hurt them. One is also required to have thick skin as sometimes a quip can inadvertently cut too deep. The guys that were the most respected tended to take trash talk in the spirit in which it was intended, dish it back out in a funny, witty way and move along.

A group of sixes, and barely enough of those.

This was not what I was originally going to write about this week. I was actually planning on ripping some dude a new one. A comedian journalist from Outdoor Magazine penned an article about Chattanooga as that publication proclaimed us the Reader’s Choice for Best Town Ever. I heard about his article from friends and on talk radio, read about it at the TFP and saw a blog or two in response. In defense of our fair city, I was ready to discredit him, his momma, everything they stood for and finish with a Lynard Skynard lyric. Then, I decided to actually read his article. Friends, what are we so fired up about? What that guy wrote is just trash talk. Perhaps it is odd that he chose that tack in an article of that type, but the gigs don’t cut too deep. A selection of his barbs:

“a place with a history of monstrous industrial abuse”. True, but it’s also squarely in our past.

Concerning single people: “a town of sixes, and barely enough of those”. As a solid six that was actively involved in the “hook-up scene” for two weeks before I met my eventual wife, I can vouch for the veracity of that claim.

“ubiquitous evangelical dogma, and a reputation for red-state conservatism”. True as well, although, I’m not sure everyone sees that as the insult it was intended it to be.

That’s as bad as it gets. The guy is just talking trash. The vast majority of his article is a positive one about the fantastic outdoor opportunities we have in the area. The reason I know it’s just trash talking is because he doesn’t point out any of the serious faults and issues that we’re grappling with. How easy would it have been for him to mention the (seemingly) daily murders, home invasions, and “flash mobs”?  How low-hanging the fruit of the state of our public education system (and the sitcom board of education)? He could have picked on our issues with poverty, homelessness and indigent care. Don't you think that any comedian worth his salt would make hay with our local governments and elected officials?

The guy gave us a good ribbing, but he stopped well short on criticizing our real problems. I think it's silly that we will get up in arms over a writer pointing out mostly true but insignificant points, yet remain largely silent when dealing with real issues. Instead of worrying about what people from Portland are saying about us, we should be rolling up our sleeves and taking care of business.

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