Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rust Belt Chic: Featherbowling

I've done some trolling for reactions to Anthony Bourdain's Rust Belt episode. The show didn't go over well in Baltimore, a city desperately trying to shake the stereotype of urban decay. I've never seen "No Reservations" before, but I loved every minute the journey. Bourdain effectively captured Rust Belt Chic:

I think that troubled cities often tragically misinterpret what's coolest about themselves. They scramble for cure-alls, something that will "attract business", always one convention center, one pedestrian mall or restaurant district away from revival. They miss their biggest, best and probably most marketable asset: their unique and slightly off-center character. Few people go to New Orleans because it's a "normal" city -- or a "perfect" or "safe" one. They go because it's crazy, borderline dysfunctional, permissive, shabby, alcoholic and bat shit crazy -- and because it looks like nowhere else. Cleveland is one of my favorite cities. I don't arrive there with a smile on my face every time because of the Cleveland Philarmonic.
Read the comments. Someone demanded that Bourdain go to Youngstown, the epicenter of Rust Belt Chic. Actually, I think Buffalo made a strong case for that designation as the last city on the show's tour.

The aesthetic Bourdain celebrates is best represented at the Cadieux Cafe in Detroit. Young and old mingle, as does nostalgia and irony. The cast and owners of the bar sip Belgian beer in what qualifies as a blue collar dive, with people featherbowling in the background. During the day, it looks like a senior center. At night, an edgy rock club. This must be Detroit. This, is the Rust Belt.

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