Yesterday I hopped on my beloved Suzuki Burgman scooter and two-wheeled to downtown Salem, wanting to check out the 2009 Summer in the City vibe.
I'd read in the paper that Pepe and the Bottle Blondes were playing on one of the pavilion stages at 2 pm. And also that this year it was going to cost $7.50 to get in.
But in to what? I was curious.
Because this music and wine festival was being held on a couple of blocked-off streets. I guess my progressive politics has a libertarian side, because I wondered how it'd be possible to charge $7.50 to access public property.
Standing on the sidewalk, I could hear the band just fine. I also had a decent view of the Bottle Blondes (I guess Pepe was with them; wasn't paying much attention to him) over a chain link fence that enclosed one of the three "pavilions."
Which is a pretty fancy term for rectangular chain link fencing that separated the wine and beer tasting in-crowd, who were willing to pay $7.50 ($10 on Saturday) for the privilege, from the common people like me who wandered the public sidewalks and streets freely.
The whole setup had a funny feel to it. Typical of Salem.
I appreciate the effort that went into planning and putting on the 2009 Summer in the City. However, walling off the center of downtown streets didn't produce a friendly, welcoming, inclusive atmosphere.
OK, maybe there is some sort of rule that wine and beer tasting can't happen in a public setting where, god forbid, a teenager might cop a sip of alcohol (which is probably the least consciousness-altering substance he or she would have imbibed last weekend).
If so, I wish the under-21 and over-21 separation could have been accomplished in a less chain link'y manner. The Salem Art Fair manages to do this in a much less obtrusive and prison-like fashion.
Heading down Court Street with some friends to eat at Venti's, which thankfully was accessible at no charge (and is my favorite downtown dining spot), I was struck by how empty "Summer in the City" looked. Almost depressing.
While we ate, the four of us dissected this year's downtown event. One woman had paid to sit in the Pepe and the Bottle Blondes pavilion while the rest of us cheapskates stood on the sidewalk outside.
She said that not one single person, not one, got up to dance. Would this have happened in Eugene or Portland? I doubt it. Only in Salem, where people sit on their hands to Latin music.
And chain-link off the center of their downtown streets for a city celebration. (Lisa Anne, another Salem blogger, had the same reaction to this that I did.)