You Can Always Go Downtown

It’s my job to think and learn and write about Downtown Las Vegas. I wonder how many times each day I speak, hear, or write the word Downtown. It’s become a word that I use as much (if not more) than my own name.

And then there’s that song. You know the one made so famous by Petula Clark that urges us to forget all our troubles, forget all our cares, and go (where else?) Downtown. Yesterday, as I started my car to drive (where else?) Downtown, I happened upon a rebroadcast of a 2008 episode of Radiolab playing on KNPR, my local National Public Radio station.

The episode, called “Songs that Cross Borders,” featured a story about that (in)famous tune and how it’s meaning changed over time. As Petula Clark continued to sing it and other artists reinterpreted the song, for some the song morphed from one filled with positive connotations to negative ones. You can listen to the episode here (the story about “Downtown” begins at 6:15).

Of course, the story got me thinking about our Downtown and how it’s changing. As we revitalize the area, we aren’t just changing it physically. We are changing the perceptions that people have about it. For so long, Downtown Las Vegas has been a place that didn’t signify home or community or culture to most of the people who live here. For many who do call our city home, those meanings aren’t yet part of their perceptions of Downtown. But they will be; of that, I am certain–as certain as I am that in this brief post I have used the word “Downtown” ten times. And as certain as I am that we aren’t just changing our city, we’re changing the meaning of what it means to live here.

Photo by Bryan Schnitzer