Celebrating Downtown

(With regard to: Press Citizen: Panhandling law passes first vote)

Every weekend, heck, every day and every night, people get their friends together and head downtown. Why? Because downtown Iowa City is a legendary place that they’ve been hearing about for years. Their parents talked about it when they were babies. Their friends have looked forward to experiencing it since freshman year.

You never know what you are going to find down there, what you are going to be confronted with. It makes you ask questions, like “Why are people drunk at 9 am?” Why do people shop at this store and not that store? Why is this veteran asking me for money? Why did I give him my last dollar? Or why did I instead opt for coffee? I don’t care how old you are, these are important questions to ask yourself, subconsciously, in spite of your desire to be oblivious to the lives and experiences of others.

Lessons are learned every day on the Ped Mall. Sure many of these lessons are learned the hard way (the time I got drunk and made out with a stranger on the dance floor at Vito’s when I was 19, and a couple of my friends stopped talking to me), but often the easiest way imaginable (the countless afternoons I’ve spent since that day, just sitting and watching, witnessing life and society blow by).

Mandolins, violins, drums, boomboxes, guitars, harmonicas, hacky sacks, halter tops, wheelchairs, high heels, higher heels, birkenstocks, Menonites, Krishnas, Mormons, and dirty, bare, bloody, shoeless feet have all passed by me on the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall, enriching my life and adding meaning to innumerable afternoons of coffee and cigarettes.

Sure, I’ve felt threatened before on the Ped Mall, but never by a homeless person or a busker. No, it’s always (not sometimes, always) the gaggles of rich, white, sexually predatory males that I am watching out for, that I see committing random acts of violence, disrespecting their dates and spitting on the homeless. That’s who I’m scared of, but you don’t see me lobbying to kick them off the Ped Mall. You see me trying to engage them in their sober moments and, failing that, calling them out and humiliating them to their faces, then running for my life.

I didn’t intend to include any discussion on this post, but I couldn’t help it. Please fight the city council’s efforts to “clean up” (read: militarize) the Ped Mall. How? By celebrating downtown.

Please send me your images, videos and ruminations on all that is positive about downtown as it is.

My email:

Video By Ely Matson:

An image of a friend of mine. He comes from Xetal. He likes the ped mall. He is not allowed in militarized areas. -John E.
Swing Dancing
A Tiny Circus!
Live Music

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