Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Let's learn from Yankee Stadium and fix up these old dumps" SFGate 6/27/8

Let's learn from Yankee Stadium and fix up these old dumps

Thomas Swick
Friday, June 27, 2008

This year, after 85 years, the New York Yankees are playing their last season at Yankee Stadium. This exemplary American organization has concluded, amid much criticism, that just because your home happens to be a national treasure doesn't mean you can't trade it in for something more modern, more pristine, more dripping with profitable skyboxes.

The Yankees are once again proving themselves worthy of their name. For we are a nation untouched by sentimentality about the past, infused with confidence about the future. We, the people of tomorrow, boldly sweep history under the rug.
In which case, Yankee Stadium should simply serve as a start.

The Alamo

What is the comment of practically every American who visits? That's right: It's much smaller than I thought it would be.
And in Texas no less!

The place has been an embarrassment for over a century. We squeeze into our relaxed-fit jeans, drive our SUVs down eight-lane highways, stop for Whoppers and extra-cheese pizzas, and then pull up in front of this glorified manger.

We're a big people, ours is a big country, independence is a big deal - why do we allow it to be represented by this puny building?

It's time for the city of San Antonio to take down the Alamo (hey, if New Yorkers can demolish Yankee Stadium ...) and construct a new, improved Alamo, one with a 30-story, mission-style facade embedded with colored message boards that say - literally - "Independence."

It could incorporate the Menger Hotel into its sprawl and become a hotel/convention center sort of thing. It could have the River Walk running through it!

Mount Rushmore

Who are those guys again? Yeah, they were important - years and years and years ago.

And they were all, if I'm not mistaken, politicians. We don't venerate politicians. Not in the land of the spree and the home of the rave. Ours is a celebrity culture, and it's time we gave our celebrities their due.

But we're also a democracy. So let's vote on it - American Idol-style. What four stars would you, the American people, most like to see up on Mount Rushmore? Imagine the heated office debates. It's hard to leave out Brangelina, but if you pick them, you've only got space for two others. How do you resist seeing George Clooney in stone?

And because we're not slaves to the past, the faces would change every four years.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Old media. Sure, it's nice to look at, but so what? It stands on prime real estate on the Outer Banks, stiff, unhelpful, a little arrogant. And you have to climb the stupid thing.

Americans want attractions that are fun, interactive, immersive - and don't require a lot of exertion, either physical or mental. Carolinians, tear down that silly tower and replace it with a theme park. And while you're at it, build a 24-hour casino next door.

Grand Canyon

A no-brainer. The thing is older than Yankee Stadium and the Alamo combined. And it's a long drive from Vegas.
Wouldn't it make sense to close up that sorry hole in the ground and build a replica in Las Vegas, the city that's famous for re-creations?
It always did seem a little odd that you went there and saw the fake Paris, the fake Venice, the fake Manhattan and then drove to see the real Grand Canyon. This way you'd get the beauty of four ersatz experiences without the bother of driving anywhere. And in Vegas you'd be able to see the entire canyon from one location (always a disappointment over there in Arizona).

The White House

Too much history, too many straight lines. How's our leader supposed to stay current, fluid, living in that museum?
Hire Frank Gehry to do one of his shiny, undulating numbers and set it down on the South Lawn. Then, even though it will consume more energy than a village in India, call it the Green House.

Thomas Swick is the travel editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where this essay originally appeared. To comment, visit and follow the links.

This article appeared on page E - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle


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