Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A plea for a Plea

As a lifelong Stockton resident I've seen a lot of change in this city. Growth has obviously been the biggest change, but there's always been one major constant. People under the age of 35 have been roundly ignored by local leaders. There's been plenty of examples of this over the years. Whether it's the booking of Neil Diamond, opening up a teen center that's usually closed by dusk, or fast-tracking places like Paragary's and the artist formerly known as the Sheraton while making Middagh jump through hoops to get a downtown music venue built. The generational gap is enormous and signs don't really point towards it closing any time soon.

Not that I can blame them, I have a teenage brother and I can't understand half the shit he finds hilarious. He asked me to Netflix "Epic Movie" for him once and he thought it was the funniest thing ever. The only conclusion I could come to at the time was that he must have discovered drugs, but that movie's not even funny when you're stoned. Trust me. I had to unfortunately chalk it up to a generational gap, and we're only 10 years apart in age. I can only assume what people 10-15 years older than me think of my generation's predilections.

The difference in the gaps between city leaders/young folk of Stockton and my brother and I is that my brother and I have found a common ground to bridge that gap. We're both big fans of Mixed Martial Arts. We both thoroughly enjoy "Spongebob Squarepants" (although to be fair, who doesn't enjoy Spongebob?). And we're both unabashed fantasy football junkies. Sure we may not agree on everything (and who does?), but I've grown to at least respect my little brother's tastes because we share at least some of them. Even if I really want to say "Fuck! 'The Suite Life with Zack and Cody' again? How many times can you watch this shit?"

We haven't found that common ground with Stockton yet, although we may be close. When David Rea won the Stocktonian of the Year award for his contributions to the art community, Slick rightfully asked what the fuck they were talking about. That's because our definition of art is different from the definition people who have juice in this town uses. Art to them is paintings and symphonies. Which is why people were bemoaning the fact that the Stockton Symphony's spring concert series had been cancelled. To the older generation, that's less of their high class definition of art.

For us, it was no big deal because Stockton's art community has been thriving over the past year (especially musically). But that's because we have a wider definition of the term "art". As far as we're concerned, what I'm doing right now is art. This blog is art. Sure, it's not some faggy wine and cheesefest but it's something creative. Middagh's band Novacain may be the very definition of the word art, but many in the community probably wouldn't give them a second chance because all they hear is noise. Pretty sad for a town with a street named after Dave Brubeck.

If we're ever going to bridge that generational gap we're going to need to merge our definition of art with their's. And we have a chance to do just that tomorrow at the Plea for Peace Center permit hearing at city hall. We have a chance to say "Hey, we like art, just like you guys!" and hopefully gain some gain some modicum of respect from our elders.

Now, I know what you're thinking "if they don't like us, fuck them". And I understand that line of thinking. I used to be as rebellious as the next guy. But rebelling only gets you so far. After a while it just becomes cynical bitching, and that would make you a hipster. You don't want to be a hipster do you? Nobody respects those douchebags. And that's what a lot of it's about. Respect.

Respect from city leaders, respect from the rest of the art community, and perhaps most importantly; respect for ourselves. It's why the Plea for Peace Center is such a great idea. Art can be a great catharsis (again, especially in music), doing this blog has been one of the most cathartic things I've ever done. But it's the kind of catharsis that matters.

I can't even count the number of shows I've been to that have been shut down prematurely due to fights or senseless property destruction. That's bad catharsis (for the venue. Don't worry, we still love fighting, just in the right places. Like octagons). Unfortunately that's also grouped in with the rest of us just looking to go to a show.

That's why Mike Park started the Plea for Peace Foundation. He saw the negativity that just oozed out of Woodstock 99 and wanted to show that that doesn't represent the art community as a whole. Some of us just like to go to shows and have a nice, drama-free night. You know, at a place where people have respect for each other. And hopefully that's what the Plea for Peace Center will be.

will it happen? Frankly, I don't know. I sure hope so. I know the word "peace" in the name of the venue scares a lot of people. It's not going to be some anti-war, hippie love-in. We just want peace. Peace between the generations, if the quotes in the 209Vibe cover story showed anything it's that we feel there's somebody warring with our art community, trying to hold us back. Peace between ourselves where one doesn't have to worry about getting in a fight because someone caught an errant fist to the nuts during some hardcore dancing. Will it work? I don't know. Nobody knows for sure. But I do think we deserve the chance. And really, that's all we are saying. Give peace a chance.

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