August 5, 2006

Next year, I'm dressing as a Communist and hiding at home.

'Tis the weekend of Hot August Nights.

Hot August Nights is Reno's big tourist frenzy. The population of the town triples, taking us from the "Biggest Little City in the World" to "A Moderately Big City With Crappy Infrastructure."

What is it that brings so many people here?


Not cars like this one:

Nope. People flock to Reno, so they can look at cars like this one:

If you've been reading my blogs for awhile, you probably know my opinion on the subject of cars.
In summary, big cars fail to impress me. Old cars don't do much for me either.

Occasionally, I will spot a car that makes me pause and say "Ooh, that's kind of neat."

A restored Model T, for example:

Or an Art Car driving through town on its way to Burning Man:

... But cars from the '50s, not so much.

1950s nostalgia is a huge part of Hot August Nights.

Not only do people stand and gawk at the cars, they also dress up like characters form the Archie comics. There are street dances called sock-hops. There are Elvis impersonators. There are "Grease" revivals.

I'll be honest.

I wasn't alive in the 1950s.

Neither were most people who really enjoy Hot August Nights.

But I still think it's a weird decade to glorify.

When I think of the '50s, I think of racial inequality, Communist witch-hunts, and women who "know their place."

I'm sure there were some people who truly enjoyed the '50s. They sat in diners drinking malts, listening to Elvis and Chubby Checker on the jukebox, and then went for long drives under the stars in their oversized convertibles.

However, I just don't believe that most people lived this way.

I think that glorifying a time period glosses over the very real progress that we have made since then.

The Feminist Movement. The Civil Rights Movement. Do we really think life used to be better before they happened?

Maybe I should lighten up.

It's just a car show, really.

If people want to dress their children in poodle skirts and drive their old cars under the Reno arch, why should it bother me?

And, aside from the traffic, it really doesn't bother me that much.

It's good for the local economy.

People have fun.

Still, if I ran Reno, I'd want a tourist event that celebrated a more appealing decade.

Imagine if we could bring 700,000 people to Reno for a Roaring '20s weekend, with flappers, gangsters, and bathtub moonshine for everyone. The casinos would make a fortune!

Or the 1970s. We could celebrate the good (contraception, environmentalism) while playfully satirizing the rest (Watergate, hot pants).

I would even attend the car show.

I'd head downtown to watch them drive under the arch. How about you?

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