Part 18: Fit The Fifteenth : Cityscape Torment
Fit The Fifteenth : Cityscape Torment
It seemed that the town would always be suffering growing pains. It stood to reason. I had Gus in one day to explain the current electricity situation, as we'd be going beyond the limits of the two existing coal power stations before too long.
OK, it's like this, Boss. More factories means more jobs. But more factories means more power is needed. And more jobs means more people means more power is needed, as they listen to honky-tonk and boogie-woogie music on their new fangled wireless thingamijigs.
And of course their electric kettles and ovens and heaters and such.
Hmm, I see.
Are you even listening to me Wal?
WAL! Pay attention!
Wha? Oh yeah. Sorry, Gus, but your voice has such a mesmerising gurgling quality that it's so easy to lose track of time and space.
Alright, since you have no time for the topic of power generation, I advise that you start thinking about building a new power plant soon.
Gotcha. You can go now.
Gus left, Greta came in.
Aww bless. Another year, another poem. Tell the kids I loved their poem.
I certainly will!
I went and filed it amongst all the other crappy poems that highly impressionable school children had written for me over years.
The Ashy Bend was starting to fill up. I intended to leave a gap for something special, though.
It was a kind of a surprise to see the Mayor of RuPaul return to my office.
Oh I see you have a city hall now. How quaint.
We've had it for well over a decade, you know. But of course you never visit unless you want something...
Yes, well, let's get down to tin tacks. I would like to take your garbage again.
What? Are you kidding me? After the swifty you tried to pull on us last time? Besides we don't have a garbage problem.
Are you sure about that?
Positive. Now go away.
I decided to check what was going on. If the neighbours were sniffing around for our trash again, even though I'd just built an incinerator, maybe something was up.
Well, it certainly hadn't started piling in the streets again.
But then again, yes, the existing furnace was just coping with the city's refuse.
I figured we could hold off for another year, though. I'd keep a little in reserve to deal with that next year, but I also wanted to get a few other things done.
Like a railway bridge across the Ashy Bend River, just so I could finish zoning the downtown area without any demolition worries. The rail wouldn't go anywhere yet, but it was an important step towards settling the north bank.
In the meantime I started to zone right up to the shore of the harbour.
And evicted a few slum dwellers and loan sharks so I could put a nice new park in, in the oldest district of town.
It would raise the tone of that area, ushering in a wave of gentrification.
A few months later, a strange looking guy was hanging around City Hall. Blond hair, but buzzed flat on top as if he'd lived in a house with a low ceiling fan. He seemed to recognise me, though.
Hiya Wal, Rhett McHardnut's the name. Mayor of Achewood. Your neighbours!
Oh, okaaayyy. I've heard of you guys. Just over the hill. Freaks, the lot of you. Funny you've never come to bother us before.
Yes, well I thought I'd be neighbourly and pop over and offer some help regarding a little problem you guys seem to be having.
Uhhhh, I'll pass. Things aren't so bad around here that we're going to play BLOODY NINE BUCKS a pop to get rid of it.
Jesus, man, there's no need to be hostile.
Rhett left, and Samson popped in.
Go away Samson. Jails aren't a priority at this point, no matter what you zero-tolerance preaching zealots reckon.
There'll be problems, Mister Mayor.
There are always problems. Some I can't ignore, some of which I can. Guess which category your "problem" falls under, Sam.
Samson stormed out. Granny trickled in.
OK, whilst I share your concerns that the robotic orderlies at the hospital will grind to a halt without a constant supply of electricity, I really know that you're just pissed because you can't always have a hot cocoa before bedtime.
Look, darling, there's no need to be smart. Brownouts are no laughing matter.
Brownouts. *snigger* Well, since you called me darling... uh, yeah, I'm pleased to tell you I will be commissioning a new plant early in the new year.
That's awfully kind of you, young man. I have one word of advice, though, there's no need to be short with people.
I don't know, I thought you might appreciate me not wasting too much of your time considering you can't have too much of that left. Planned your funeral yet?
Granny scowled and started hitting me over the head with her brolly. I fended her off, grabbed the umbrella and chucked it out the window. I heard someone outside cry out and when I looked out onto the street he was picking the umbrella up off the pavement, looking at it while rubbing their head. Then he looked at me. It was Samson.
WAL BUNKLEY, WHAT WAS THAT FOR?
I blinked. Then I yelled back.
A WISE MAN ONCE SAID, THROW A ROCK IN THE AIR, YOU'LL HIT SOMEONE STUPID.
It's an umbrella, not a rock, Wal!
Oh, really? Well, coincidentally, someone in here has lost their umbrella and it looks like you might have stumbled onto it. Hang onto it, I'll send them out for it.
I turned to Granny, who was watching me the whole length of the exchange.
I think someone's found your umbrella. They're waiting for you outside.
Granny left without a word but with a deep scowl on her face. I did hear later that she'd gotten her umbrella back.
As predicted, the new park, which I called Founders' Park in want of a better name, had a positive effect on the surrounding neighbourhood.
Feargal was back, apparently oblivious to that.
I just had a lovely park built in the middle of town, how could you miss it?
We want more.
Oh, alright then. Demanding little man, aren't you? Parks parks parks that's all you care about. And beheading alpacas.
Oh no, we've reformed ourselves, we don't do that sort of thing anymore.
Oh thank buggery for that.
It seemed everyone wanted to take our trash away. For a price, of course. The last mayor to visit arrived from City Name on a boat downwards from his city.
You want to charge us for taking our trash, right?
How'd you guess?
Just a hunch.
So you're interested, then? Here are the terms.
Not interested. Go away.
At least I was starting to feel pretty happy about what I'd achieved down town. I could leave the Hall and walk down busy streets full of shoppers and workers, all as happy as I was about living in Funkytown.
But I was equally as chuffed by the big smelly thing that had taken root up at the factory site. Employment for hundreds!
Armpit Central. They could certainly name things well, those industrialists.
And good ol' Deadmeat Street also had a pretty funky quality. Appropriate, really.
A little restraint mean that we could deal with two pressing issues this year.
Another power plant. I would've loved to have built an oil plant, but those things were pretty expensive. Maybe next time.
And another incinerator. Maybe all those mayors would stop bugging me now.
That would certainly keep the city tidy for a bit longer.
And the power plant would keep it alight.
It was a pity that you couldn't generate electricity by burning the trash, but I'm sure someone would figure that out one day. In the meantime we'd just have to deal with things as they were.
Before I knew it, the Mayor of City Name was back.
Oh what do you want now. I've said before I don't want to send you our trash.
No, we want to send you ours!
Stone the flaming crows. That sounds like a good offer at face value, but what's with this... penalty fee?
Take it take it take it take it!
Who asked YOU? Have you seen that termination clause, Mort? As soon as we run out of capacity we'll trigger that and bang goes any profit we might have made.
Uh, I hadn't thought of that.
Well, it's a perfectly reasonable expectation, considering that we need a long term solution...
You realise that that's the reason we're NOT agreeing to the deal. It's a con job!
Yes. After all, why, mere months after you offer a deal to TAKE our garbage, implying that you have surplus capacity, would you turn around and offer the reverse. You think I'm pretty stupid, don't you? I'm not, you know, I've been in this gig a long time.
Dang you've seen right through us Wal!
NOW GET LOST. Here, take a map.
As soon one mayor left, another one turned up with the same kind of deal. I just facepalmed him.
Every month or so I got another request to receive garbage, but the request form was the only garbage we ended up receiving from each town. It was becoming exasperating.
After the new plant and incinerator, we had just enough money to bang out a few more subdivisions.
One afternoon, a somewhat laidback guy was waiting in reception to see me.
Uh, hello, I don't think we've met before.
Yes, well, I'd say that I've never had reason to come and meet you until now. Name's Greville by the way.
Greville. OK. Follow me in. What's bothering you?
So you see, I'm becoming rather concerned about this turn of events.
OK. Well, you know, with three coal power furnaces, two garbage incinerators, several heavy industries, a seaport, and traffic overflows, yeah I guess I can see how STINKY WATER might be an issue. I can't do much about it at the moment, though, people need jobs and that. You can't stop progress. Smokestacks are the new church. They will take us to the MOON! POW! Yeah, know what I'm saying.
Dude, that's not cool...
I mean, heck out these graphs, WHOA!
Only kidding. I know things kind of stink but... let me look at these studies... yeah, we might be able to do something about that in where does it say... ten years time?
To be frank, Mayor...
You can call me Wal...
I am really disappointed, Wal, we have such a beautiful place to live in, the hills, the caldera, the river, the harbour, but, you're stinking it up! It's a mess! I mean, whose idea was it to stick that PRISON on the peninsula!
Well, uhhh, I think it was Constance who...
There should be parks and trees where people can walk and appreciate their freedom and nature and good times, but being somewhat of a student of irony, I have to hand it to you, putting that penitentiary there, you have a heart as black as the ace of spades. Like some insane genius architect of torment and agony.
What are you on about? I thought it was a good idea.
I mean, are you nucking futs? I don't like what you're doing with the place. That prison's just the tip of the iceberg, you know.
Jesus, man, I'm doing my best, you're only looking at the bad parts of town, you goddamn pessimist! Ashy Bend looks great! I can't even touch Grenade Island because it seems to have been cursed against the touch of the likes of me because every engineering quote to do with that island is off the blimming scale. I think I'll just send a boat over and have some trees planted on it because that's about all I can do with it. fuck, where's Randall where you need him, he and this kook would get on like a house on fire.
Alright, well, I'll take your word for it. But seriously, the town could look a lot better.
OK, I'll get to the heart of the matter. We need clean industries. But clean industries need smart people. And our people are dumb. So we need schools and colleges to make our dumb people smart. But schools and colleges need money to run. And money comes from taxpayers. Which is mainly our dumb people and our dumb industries. And our dumb people and our dumb industries are dirty. You're just going to have to bear with me.
I was expecting this to be a short conversation, man, I have to get to my tai chi class. I just wanted to tell you about the water quality but you're going on and on and on... I have to split, like, now. I don't mean to be rude but..
You know why I'm giving you all this bullshit, Greville? Because while this is your first visit, it won't be your last, you'll keep coming in and bugging me about shit and the reason for that is, things will get WORSE before they get BETTER. But they will get BETTER. Just saying. You're free to come in and ride my arse about things, that's perfectly fine, that's exactly what I want from you. Some days I'll ignore you, other days I'll surprise you by doing something about things, but today, I can't do shit. Now I'll let you go off to your tai chi.
You talk too much. I think it might help you out if you come and join us. Reconnect with the cosmos. Brighten up your black heart.
Hey! My heart is not black. It's just a little mottled, that's all. I suppose Randall's going to be there...
Yeah, I know ol' Randy. He might've warned me about you.
After all that talk, I did go with Greville to his class, down in Founders Park. We were a little late, but soon I was getting into the swing of things. I looked a bit odd doing it in my suit, though.
The town's population had been teasing with the next milestone, but, finally, towards the end of 1924, we'd broken through the 50,000 mark.
Most of my conversations with Randall were fairly routine these days, the schools were above expectations, but, as usual, new milestones meant new problems.
So I heard you'd been boring Greville to sleep. Remarkable. You're usually the one being inflicted with tedium.
Well, you know, he's new to town and I wanted to intimidate him. Know who was boss.
Very Alpha Male of you.
Also so he was under no illusions as to what the town was about. I'm thinking long term here, our goals are the same, but unlike him, I don't have question marks between "arbitrary immediate goal" and "PROFIT". I have a definite plan. We build up the town, we keep money rolling in, we pay for the things which will encourage further growth, which ...
SHUT UP YOU'RE RAMBLING AGAIN.
Sorry, I was kind of on a roll.
Fuck, this is what you did with Greville, isn't it! But you don't have to do that with me! I know what you're about! You don't have to explain shit to me! Yes, you annoy people with your manner and the way you fob them off for months with your "MAYBE LATER" crap, but I have to say, I look at what you've done with this town, and I have to say I'm right on your page, baby. Go forth! Just don't forget there's more to life - more to this town - than factories and incinerators. I mean, for example, how about a college. I know they aren't cheap to run, but think about building just ONE, man. It'd really do something about your "dumb" people and we might get to your clean industries quicker.
Yeah, well, I might well do that.
The city just about needed a college, anyway. They were NOT cheap, costing §1,500 a year on top of the initial cost of §3,000.
But, given the amount of cash the city was drawing in, it would probably pay off before too long, particularly in the form of cleaner and more lucrative industries. Whilst I would continue to expand the city out, I also had to consolidate the central areas.
Funny, though. Some days you'd drive through town and it felt like a city of substance, but take a step back, and it was apparent I hadn't done shit. I looked at the big picture and just wanted to go crazy plonking down row after row after row of tenement housing just to bring the teeming hordes and their rates in, but things weren't as simple as that. Just when you thought you were on top of things, something new came up.