Let bygone eras be bygone eras here | NevadaAppeal.com

Let bygone eras be bygone eras here

John Barrette

Nostalgia is a sweet thing, but gets syrupy and sticky if overindulged.

Reimagining downtown Carson City, consequently, requires forging forward, eyes on the road ahead with just an occasional safety check in the rearview mirror. Decision-making must avoid a nostalgic meander back to either Carson Street’s long gone two-lane era or the more recent full-throated, faster four-lane foolishness. One or the other is almost inevitable, but neither need be the main fulcrum point.

“Nostalgia is, ‘Hey, remember the other mall that used to be there?’” according to George Saunders, professor and writer.

The other “mall” that used to be there downtown, in a much smaller Carson City, was the main shopping area for the community. Nostalgia for that era, when this capital city was less than a third the current size, doesn’t fully take into account intervening realities. Those realities came into play for various reasons, not the least of which was the triumph and tyranny of cars and trucks.

But just because some people worship scooting along in seven-passenger sports utility vehicles, alone or with just one passenger, doesn’t mean policy must bow to their nostalgia for a way of life as doomed as the Norman Rockwell painting in the minds of those stuck in a 50-year-old dream world. The only constant is change; it keeps coming as inevitably as it did a quarter-century or even more than a century ago.

Buggy whips gave way to Model Ts, which were shunted aside by sleeker stuff. Such stuff was superceded by clunky V-8s, then by German Beetles in the British Beatles era, which gave way to wind-tunnel designs and our trucks and SUV boxes on wheels. Fuel propellant needs and costs will bring hybrids, electrics and their ilk more to the fore, to say nothing of no-trip Internet and Smart Phone impacts.

“America to me is so varied and exciting,” said Ian Frazier, another writer, “I always feel nostalgia for the place I’m not in, and then I get there and find myself in a traffic jam in the Lincoln Tunnel, and I think, ‘God, why was I romanticizing this part of the country?’ I think it has to do with the romantic, unrealistic temperament.”

We base future vision on past models, but that’s why it’s crucial to rely on prior and current planning, critical thinking minus emotions or personal preferences, and check current working models to find our way in Carson City.

So I’m skeptical about the views of people like Doreen Mack of Downtown 20/20, on the one hand, or Bob Lamkin of Bob’s Shell, on the other, regarding what to do downtown. Mack yearns for the bucolic days of her youth. Lamkin, a practical man in the car care and feeding business, enjoys an era just as vulnerable to change. These are good and committed citizens, but the focus now needs to be forward.

As Simon Signoret, French film star, once quipped: “Nostalgia is not what it used to be.”

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at jbarrette@nevadaappeal.com.