Jewish World Review Jan. 9, 2003 / 15 Teves, 5764

Greg Crosby

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Road Thoughts, Part III | I have a couple of more "road thoughts" concerning my cross country drive, and then I promise I won't bother you anymore with this stuff - unless something additional occurs to me. As we drove through the cities in dozens of states we saw one street name used time and time again. Without exception, this street name was found in every city we visited. If you had to guess what that street name would be, what would you say? You might think that it would be Main Street. Good ol' Main Street, like "Main Street, USA" in Disneyland. That would be a pretty good guess, but it would be wrong. And no, it is not Elm Street, either. Nor is it Maple Street or any other tree name. Not Broad Street and not Front Street. It is not First, Second, Third, or any subsequent numbered street.

From my observation, the Street name that appears most in cities across our country is Martin Luther King Jr. I say "from my observation," because that's all I'm going by. I haven't checked with any census bureaus or official agencies which keep track of such things (although it would be interesting to do so), so I can only tell you what I personally saw in my travels. There is no question that I saw Martin Luther King Jr.'s name honored on more streets, boulevards, avenues and highways than any other single American.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a great champion of civil rights for the American Negro and what he did needed to be done - in fact it was long overdo. His core belief that every American, regardless of color, should be granted equal rights, equal respect, and equal opportunity in all aspects of our society is a principle that all good and fair-minded people embrace. My point here is not whether or not Rev. King deserves honor in our society - without question he certainly does.

I am not opposed to King or any other equally deserving person being shown honor in some way - but why does the honor have to be the renaming of places and things that already have perfectly good names? It seems to me we've done an awful lot of renaming in the last 35 years. Renaming places is what they do in communist and other totalitarian countries after a revolution or coup. The city of St. Petersburg became Leningrad after the communistic takeover in Russia - and after the fall of communism the name reverted back to St. Petersburg. Likewise, names of places in South American countries change more often than Howard Dean's political views.

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Have you noticed, too, that when they rename a street, the new name is always LONGER than the old one? It's like in New York, when 6th Avenue became The Avenue of the Americas. Now, that really makes it easy when you're addressing Christmas cards, doesn't it? I don't remember what Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. here in Los Angeles was called before they changed it, but I've got a feeling it was probably shorter. In the Boyle Heights section of LA, Brooklyn Ave. (not exactly a short name to begin with) was changed recently to Caesar Chavez Ave.

If they must name streets after people then at least just use the LAST name, like they did years ago. They didn't call Washington Blvd. "President George Washington Blvd." and Columbus Circle is not "Christopher Columbus Circle." So why are streets named Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd? Why not just King Blvd? The last name should be enough. One exception that I know of is the George Washington Bridge, and I don't know why they did that. After all, the Lincoln Tunnel is not the Abraham Lincoln Tunnel, is it? Mull that over.

In the old days they would erect a statue for a person not rename a street. I hate it when they change a street name for ANY reason - It louses up all the maps and business cards for one thing. Then you've got to notify everyone in the world that they've changed your street name. Like we don't have enough to do. Truth be known, I don't like any name changes on anything - airports, parks, post offices. That's right, in case you haven't heard, naming post offices for famous people is the latest stupidity.

But, y'know, if they're going to name something after a person, it would be nice if the thing being named actually has something to do with the person. For instance, Amelia Earhart Airport is fine, but John Wayne Airport makes no sense. Bob Hope Airport makes a little more sense since he did so much flying out of that airport in his life to entertain our troops overseas, but Burbank Airport is really what the name should be.

Actually, I'm not too thrilled with naming airports after anyone at all, even Presidents. What's wrong with just having airports named by the city they operate in? Los Angeles International Airport. New York International Aitrport. Chicago International Airport.

As you can tell, I really don't like arbitrary changes. I didn't like hearing that they wanted to change the Roosevelt dime to the Reagan dime and I'm glad that Nancy Reagan came out against the idea. There are plenty of ways to honor people without taking an honor away from someone else. Honor Reagan by reissuing the half dollar, for instance.

This whole business of naming everything after people is getting out of hand. Sponsoring a highway by naming it after someone who gave money to keep it clean bothers me. First of all, what happened to "our tax dollars at work?" Aren't we all paying taxes to keep the streets and highways clean and fixed? Who needs to read a sign that says "this clean highway is brought to you by John Travolta" or whoever. What a crock!

Well, I've got to end now because I must run down and mail my letter at the Martin Sheen Post Office. You get there by driving down Steven Spielberg Avenue, past the Proctor and Gamble Sports Arena, just south of the Siegfried and Roy Animal Shelter.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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