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Wood Working: I fear we’re edging closer to urban demise

By Dave Wood

Several years ago my wife and I visited a friend in Grosse Pointe Park, Mich. a posh suburb of Detroit. To get there we chose to drive through Detroit’s downtown.

What an eye-opener! Storefronts were closed. There seemed to be no one on the streets, sort of like San Francisco in the nuclear holocaust movie “On the Beach.”

Once proud asphalt parking lots were overgrown with weeds, weeds six feet high that leaned ever so slightly when the wind came in off the river.

We finally arrived at Grosse Pointe Park, a very lovely suburb with manicured lawns and half million-dollar-plus homes with slate roofs. We asked about crime in this obviously rich neighborhood so close to the city that was rotting from within.

“Oh, they don’t bother us here, but we hear gunshots every night,” replied our host.

She also added that since the parking lots had grown such tall weeds, deer had been spotted downtown in the city that formerly boasted the highest standard of living of any metropolitan area in the U.S.

When we left the next morning, we agreed that living in River Falls was a good thing.

But that was years ago.

More recently we’ve seen signs that River Falls is edging toward Detroit’s malaise. Very near our house is a rental property that has had a “For Rent” sign planted in its yard for several weeks.

The grass is knee high, going to seed and if someone doesn’t mow it soon, it’ll make a fine hideout for deer who manage to avoid being run over on the bypass on their way into town.

It seems to me that rental property owners should be responsible for keeping up appearances whether they have tenants or not.

I’ve been told by the city that it hasn’t the money to repair my sidewalk and people will have to heed the splash of red paint the city slapped on the crumbling sidewalk when they were unable to smooth it out.

So what about the lawns that go unmowed?

Will pedestrians who pass by it be expected to carry deer rifles to shoot 12-point bucks when they charge them?

And think of all the bison that roam the plains adjacent to I-94. What if they got into town and took refuge in the tall grass. Probably folks would have to trade in their 30 ought sixes for elephant guns to bring down beasts like that.

On the other hand, optimists might say if you are dealt sour apples, just make applesauce.

Let’s consider making the tall grass pay off. Why not advertise for tour groups who can’t afford to make it to the darkest Africa.

The River Falls taxi service could buy up a fleet of Land Rover safari vehicles and make forays into darkest River Falls.

Great white hunters, who look like Gregory Peck, would flock to town, offering their services to hunters who might like to track the dogs who run loose and besmirch lawns up and down our streets.

If it caught on, the newly created River Falls Film Board could attract production companies to refilm old classics like “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” the “Short Happy Life of Francis McComber,” “Trader Horn,” “King Kong,” and “Tarzan’s New York Adventure” without having the expense of bringing cast and crew to Tanganyika.

Drama majors at UWRF could hire out as extras, restaurants would be crowded with customers, and Bo’s ‘N Mine could feature the Bo Derek Sandwich, Kevin Pechacek could rename the WestWind, “Romanoff’s North.”

Our once-empty hostelries would be flooded with folks who would visit just to watch celebrities like Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Leonardo Dicaprio put their handprints in new wet concrete in front of the Falls Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, so named because it’s near a Chinese restaurant.

UWRF’s Lab Farm No. 1 looks fairly empty these days. Perhaps the ag department could be convinced to retire all those horses and replace them with lions, tigers, giraffes, hippos and the ever-amusing little monkeys.

Of course if strong attachments to these horses had already developed between them and equestrian majors, the horses could be painted with black and white stripes and be passed off as zebras.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.