Jerkwater is kind of uncalled for. This place isn’t as bad as I make it sound. Okay, it is, but it’s not the city’s fault and I should focus on the good things. For instance:
See? Not horrible. Not Paris, but no Chernobyl, either. Just an ordinary mid-sized city stuck in a floundering, insolvent state. Sure, we celebrate Oktoberfest in the middle of September. And the mayor sicced a SWAT team on a Twitter user for making fun of him. And ‘Peoria’ sounds like a gum disease, as Garrison Keillor joked to an audience of shirty, unamused Peorians. How dare he, they sniffed, highly affronted.
And there’s the trouble. The average citizen is defensive and ultra-sensitive, way too small-minded to appreciate eccentricity. No one gets it. The oddities and quirks are what give this place character, personality. Peoria is wildly out of step, although many pretend otherwise. They’re eager to hide the evidence, stash it away like a crazy aunt in the attic. Well, duh, those are the assets, folks, they set us apart. Heck, this was home to Sam Kinison and Richard Pryor.
Too few value the unique, unconventional nature of what they live amidst. Take the river, for example, the grand old Illinois. It has served as Chicago’s septic tank since the dawn of time. Nothing could survive in there, except Asian carp, an invasive species of big, scaly jumping beans. They come flying up out of the water and, kapow, bash water skiers and pleasure boaters in the head, knocking them unconscious. Happens all the time.
I think it’s entertaining; others find it distressing. They consider the Asian carp an embarrassing disgrace, but city officials are the true disgrace. A more incompetent bunch of bureaucrats you will not find. Their strategy to revitalize downtown is parking meters and / or city-owned parking decks — make visitors pay to plonk their cars in an empty, abandoned area they’d rather avoid. Parking Enforcement vehicles are the only traffic.
That type of applied genius has sparked a mass exodus, transforming the surrounding burgs and villages into robust, thriving municipalities.
City officials, meanwhile, scratch their heads and wonder why. Hmm, let’s think. Could it be the crappy schools, the preposterously high taxes (that they keep raising due to the shrinking tax base), the high crime rate, the gang problem, the crumbling downtown, underfunded services — such as the library and mass transit — the failure to initiate any economic improvement or change or hope? Off the top of my head.
I’m with Einstein, who’s credited with saying (but probably didn’t):
‘Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. And I’m not so sure about the universe.’
— Albert Einstein