Signs from God at city hall

From the 10-26-2003 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune
And the 10-30-2003 Comstock Chronicle

Last Wednesday, the big news item was a proposed ordinance to criminalize possession of spraypaints. This represents just the latest example of narrow, parochial hypocrisy in the fight against graffiti in a city which sorely needs it.

Some children of the subspecies Artistes Graffitus are really quite talented and their self-expression should be encouraged, not criminalized.

A couple of soulless rockhounds were recently arrested for taking some petroglyphs off Peavine Mountain. A petroglyph is a hifalutin' way to say graffiti on a rock. The Native Americans who laid down the images a few thousand years ago would probably have been grateful for some spraycans. Reno would have undoubtedly busted them, too, if they were still alive.

How can the Reno council criminalize possession of spray paint after so recently having hailed the opening of that awful art museum on (of all streets) West Liberty? The local affectatious artsies destroyed some perfectly lovely old houses to build a monstrosity in the image and likeness of a lump of coal, complete with a little cartoon house out front in which the Grinch can hang his Christmas stocking.

The place veritably cries out for grafitti to liven up the ugliness of its battleship gray exterior. But how could one do so without risking jail time, condemnation and fines?

Easy. First, state upfront that you love battleship gray as an expression of support for the troops we have scattered in 120 of the 189 member countries of the United Nations. Next, use red, white and blue paint and make sure that somewhere the slogan "God bless America" appears. Presto, the offending Artiste Graffitus morphs from civic nuisance to superpatriot. Sparks Mayor Tony Armstrong would picket the place if they tried to modify that sign.
Such civic unrest would be perfectly consistent with Reno's history of creating new textbook cases of the law of unintended consequences.

Reno City Hall itself veritably drips with self-satire. Long ago, somebody decided that a portrait of every U.S. president should adorn its California fern bar of a central atrium.

In recent years, Reno officials moved Washington and Lincoln above the left and right doorways to the council chamber, with the current president between them. The picture of Dubya the Dense, above the central door, now hangs noticeably off center, tilted down to the left and up to the right.

Perhaps it's indicative that the building is grunting and groaning from overcrowding. The previous council under Mayor FEMA Griffin solved that problem by acquiring an old bank building down in the mucky Truckee River flood plane (across the street from the new Frank Lloyd Wright-designed civic center hotel-casino which currently occupies the site of the ugly, demolished Mapes Hotel).

The designers of Sparks City Hall proved just as waterlogged when it came to innovation. Why build one big building when you can have four small ones connected by sidewalks in a rolling park where staffers in high heels can bust their buns on the ice in winter?

Far from decrying these visionary traditions, I embrace them. Taking lessons from those who have gone before, I submit we can interpolate from them all the designs we need to revitalize the decrepit downtowns of both the Biggest Little City and the Rail City.

Here are a few modest ideas.

TOMMY CHONG'S BONG AND SPRAYCAN SHOP. If ArnoldLand is going to imprison the legendary stoner comic, the least we can do is offer him sanctuary and business opportunities.

CLARENCE THOMAS' PORNO EDUCATION VIDEO STORE. As the late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Arthur Hoppe opined, in Clarence we have at last a supreme court justice who understands pornography. Free him to spread the benefit of his wisdom so that you'll know porno when you see it.

WINGFIELD SPRINGS REVOLVING DOORS, the employment agency for ex-Sparks officials looking to trade up after leaving office.

TONY ARMSTRONG'S SIGNS FROM GOD SHOPPE. Not in a storefront, but in a proper revivalist tent in front the downtown Sparks Syufy Corporate Welfare Tax Break Theatre. Miracles may result. I forecast that proper piety might conjure up water from the dry pavement.

NEIGHBORHOOD CASINO STARTER KIT BOUTIQUE. Primary education in the art of campaign contributions, with graduate courses in hiring lawyer Steve Mollath to beat the city in court if they turn you down. References from K-Mart and Wal-Mart available upon request.

DRIVE-BY SHOOTING STREET DRAGS. Combining and legalizing two increasingly popular sports will give local downtowns a pair of killer new special events.

ASSEMBLYMAN WENDELL WILLIAMS' DOUBLE DIP ICE CREAM PARLOR. The confectionery which could lead to sickeningly sweet victory and an all-GOP legislature in 2005.

LORRAINE HUNT'S DIRTY COMMIE BATH BOUTIQUE. Our light-guv, who just returned from a schmooze-em-for-business tour of Red China, should be asked to open a shop featuring their best sweatshop products along with the Red Army's latest innovations on the AK-47 assault rifle.

WAL-MART'S TACO BELL RUN FOR THE BORDER. Athletic wear and fake green cards totally satisfying the needs of all the giant retailer's illegal alien employees. No union members need apply.

THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX M.R.E. STORE. Discounted pouches of surplus Meals-Ready-to-Eat in their original pouches. Buy a bunch and bring them to the V.A. hospital for wounded soldiers currently being forced to pay for their own food. Better yet, bring the soldiers some Taco Bell and make Dubya, Cheneygang, Rummy, Condomsleeza and Colinoscopy eat the MRE's.

Anyone want to start an Indian reservation to draw a Mercedes dealership?

All other suggestions welcome.

Happy Nevada Day.

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Copyright © 1982-2003 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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