Have you ever have a day where you are just blank?
I feel like this has become the salutation for several offerings here lately.
The well for ideas hasn’t run dry, but when you are in the final stages of Jumanji 2020, you start to breathe a sigh of relief only to find out some 9-year-old got their mom’s credit card and ordered 1,000 VBucks and both the hurricane season and West Coast Wildfire expansion packs. It tends to weigh on you.
Oh, and VBucks are the virtual currency used to purchase things for video games, Mom.
We didn’t have those when I was a kid. The video games you and Dude and the Grands bought me were completed before they were put on the market.
The designers and engineers were drinking beers because they'd finished the job.
The story already mapped out in beautiful side-scrolling 16 to 32 pixels.
Now it’s nothing like that; everything has expansion packs.
Maps are made bigger. Rosters quadrupled with characters and athletes who weren’t quite ready for primetime, but we are going to throw them out there anyway because people are going to utilize them.
I sound like the old man telling the kids to stay off my lawn with your new-fangled contraptions and your Instafaces and Facespaces and (mimics a mime having a small seizure) TikkityTokkity "dances.”
You can’t walk down the aisle at Walmart without seeing some pre-pubescent writhing or gesticulating like the yellow-helmeted guy on the runway at Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta pointing the Deltas this way and the Southwesterns that way and the AirLinguses straight ahead.
I was in SuperFoods a couple of weeks ago and I think a teenager told me to steal third as they bopped to the beat in their head.
The older I get, the more I begin to sympathize with the serial killers in the horror movies. Well, it’s 2 a.m. and the only thing open at this hour are emergency rooms and… I’m going to stop there because I actually want this column to run and don’t need to give the Baptists or Pentecostals any more reasons to pray for me.
I’m searching for column ideas, as I write this at 11:30 Monday night and used the phrase “local column ideas” to plug into the Google machine. After looking at several images of lovely front porches (columns, porches) and trends in home architecture I stumbled across this article that featured a cavalcade of topics. The one that struck my fancy was a phrase … “I want to improve my community.” That’s stuck with me.
Now, at 11:37, I’m sitting here thinking … how could I actually improve my community?
In the past few weeks, I’ve written about local politics and the need for people to keep moving Tallassee forward and the inevitability of a prison community becoming town adjacent, but have never actually given thought to how I would improve the community.
I’m not naive anymore to think no one reads my thoughts spoken out loud .. well .. typed loudly on my well-worn laptop. At the same time, I’m not self-important enough to think the loudly typed words have any weight nor are given any merited-thought beyond .. hey that’s funny or he’s got a point or I’ma pray for him tonight.
But … how would I improve my community?
This is where life isn’t like a video game. It's never really completed.
There’s always an update or an expansion pack or the unexpected bug that wipes out the whole system.
Given the opportunity and a blank check, what would I do?
Build a new high school. That’s a given; it’s going to happen. Improve downtown to make it more of a central gathering place. Plans are already in the works for it, given the leadership of our mayor and the current administration.
What would my mark be?
Four things come to mind. The first being the mill property; a blank check would allow that area to be cleaned up and then thoughtfully landscaped with a mindset that whatever is put there would have to account for rising and falling river conditions. Install a boat ramp and put a bait and tackle store there, a nice one. Not Bass Pro level, but something like you’d see at the beach and it would have a restaurant attached to it. And then, maybe, a couple of shops with room to grow. The rest would be parking.
The Hotel is next. I’d tear it down. And look at it as a clean slate to rebuild it into modern studio apartments and lofts like in larger cities that have put the focus back on building and branding their downtown as a point of focus. Having apartments and possibly a business incubator nearby addresses a handful of needs not currently being met in town and would create a steady stream of income for businesses in and around.
The third thing is to repurpose the library and into a community center owned and operated by the city. It would give the city the opportunity to have a mid-sized event space that will generate income with little upkeep needed. But the town needs a library.
Absolutely they do. Look around at the empty storefronts either in downtown or along Gilmer and retrofit one of those to be a Learning Center with the library, but also a computer lab and meeting spaces for tutoring sessions or for people who are working from home that may be experiencing internet issues or may not have access to computers.
The fourth thing I would do, and really the thing I’m hoping to bring to fruition with the help of some friends, is to have a community cleanup/fix-up day for the playground across the river. I don’t know how many people use it. But I know at some point the community came together to create it; why not bring the community together again years later to fix it up, revamp it, check it for safety by today’s standards – maybe look at expanding it?
Maybe I’m just being sentimental because I remember how exciting it was to build the Imagination Station in Alex City while I was a high school student and to remember how much pride I had knowing forever (or until someone comes along and says hey, we should rebuild this relic) I helped improve my community.
But these are just ideas spoken out loud by a guy who’s staring down the barrel of 40 years old (in a few months) and feeling nostalgic.
It’s that simple.
Griffin Pritchard is a Tallassee resident and weekly columnist for The Tribune.