Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cogito Ergo Doleo

I don't make New Year's resolutions because I don't believe myself when I'm making them and pay little attention to them after they're spoken. Instead, I strive (not always successfully) to identify habits I do have that produce positive outcomes and/or make me feel better and perform them more often.

As I may have mentioned in this space a few thousand times, I do a great deal of walking. The topography of Norwich is such that on a decent weekend day (as a very recent for instance) I can get in a pretty good workout, clear my head and give my family and neighbors a respite by being somewhere else in the zip code.

This past Saturday morning was the type of day, weather-wise, that while you knew you were in New England in the winter, as long as you kept moving briskly, it was very close to pleasant, which is a nice way to start your year.

As I criss-crossed the Consolidated City District and hiked up and then down Church Street to City Hall and towards downtown, I passed a parked car with a bumper sticker reading "Cogito ergo doleo" (I think, therefore I am depressed).

I'm wondering if it was intended as a warning or perhaps a challenge. I'm more a "Selume proferre" (towards the light) kind of guy myself but I fear the light is starting to dim when it comes to our downtown.

As I walked from the viaduct bridge back and forth on Main Street all the way to the Carroll Building, I passed eighteen people on the sidewalk at ten in the morning. In a city with an estimated population of just over 40,000, that few people doesn't even rate one "seriously?" on the incredulity scale.

Perhaps there were mitigating circumstances. Maybe everyone was still at home binge watching that Netflix marathon of Life Is Worth Living but I'm thinking not so much (and I didn't see a lot of empty pizza boxes at the curb). Perhaps they were shy and didn't wish to be seen in public. In that case, mission accomplished.

They certainly weren't stopping or shopping anywhere I walked, making any discussion on creating incentives for retail development that much more difficult when the customer part of  "a downtown business" is completely absent.
I thought of my imaginary street sign, "Welcome to Moot Point. Population: Us."

All we do is talk about revitalizing downtown, none of us feel any responsibility for helping make it happen, that is somebody else's job. If you don't think so, just ask us and we'll tell you. We may not know exactly who should do it, but it ain't us. And (good news!) based on my Saturday walk, our plan is working great!

By all means, avoid shopping local. It'll teach those who've opened small businesses and who live hand to mouth, struggling to keep them going that we are all talk and no action. And later as we drive to other spaces and places to recreate and retail, we can ask one another why we're surrounded by so many destination locations and yet we, ourselves, never seem to be one.

"Sine labore nihil" (nothing without work).
-bill kenny

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