For a small square block of land, Santa Fe's shady, sweet and timeless Plaza seems to attract way more than its share of controversy.
Who should be able to play music there? How loud? What sort of retail shops should there be? What about the homeless people? Should the tourists be disemboweled? Should the streets be closed?
Two more streets bordering the Plaza finally have been closed to vehicular traffic, at least for the summer.
Local historian Mark H Cross, author of the entertaining Encyclopedia of Santa Fe, quotes a city councilor as saying the traffic debate has been around for a century, "ever since a caravan of Missouri wagoneers careened around the Plaza in celebration of their arrival at the end of the Santa Fe Trail."
That's a really long time to argue about something, and judging from online reader comments on a recent article about the street closings, many residents are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore.
"I could remember in the '90s people cruzing down town...now theres nothing for teens to do but get high or steel…" wrote one disgruntled reader. Well, maybe now this gentleman will have time for that remedial spelling and grammar course he's been meaning to take.
Some readers bemoaned the Plaza's gradual metamorphosis into a tourist mecca, expressing nostalgia for the good old days when locals could shop there for "groceries, clothing, shoes, appliances...building and hardware supplies."
Because, you know, what better way to use prime real estate in the very heart of a state capital than as a place to buy a washing machine, toilet paper and some grout?
The irate readers criticized the politicians who made the street-closing decision, but in addition, a simmering anti-tourist sentiment was unmistakable and seemed about to bubble over.
"Now we can't even 'throw a cruise' around the Plaza in the summer. What's next? Parking spots reserved for tourists only?" asked one resident.
Said another, "Let's by all means, turn the Plaza into Disneyland for the walking tourists." Wow. You can feel his contempt as he makes clear he's not just talking about any tourists, but walking tourists—the very worst kind!
Other reader comments blamed those slimy tourist interlopers for Santa Fe's expensive jewelry shops, high-priced hamburgers and the breakup of The Doobie Brothers.
I guess their thinking is that we should dial back on Santa Fe's tourism business and just let our massive manufacturing sector and fishing industry take up the economic slack. Good plan.
I enjoy driving around the Plaza, because it feels like I'm cruising through history, but it won't kill me if I can't do it. In the interest of ending this debate, maybe it is time to put the Plaza to some different use altogether. I have a proposal. Please keep an open mind.
See, we surround the Plaza area with an 8-foot-high wall, and use it to contain zombies when they come here, which of course they will during the apocalypse. Folks will be able to watch them from an elevated observation deck on the steps of the Basilica, and we'll charge admission.
The zombie attraction will be called "Lurch by the Church," and the walking tourists will eat it up. Thank you for your kind support.
Robert Basler's humor column runs twice monthly in SFR. Email the author: firstname.lastname@example.org