My October rant about Counterbalance park included intellectually sublime comments about the park’s tagline, “An Urban Oasis.” Let’s examine it more closely.
It contains, gosh, three words.
- An: A preposition. There’s nothing to complain about here, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
- Urban: An adjective meaning, “in, relating to, or characteristic of a city or town.” Seems fine to me. Move along.
- Oasis: Whoa.
Merriam-Webster’s definition is clear: “Something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast.” Leaving aside the neighborhood in which it’s located (I’ll get to that in a moment), where would this park be an oasis?
I propose that an oasis is at least four times better than its surroundings. That is, a spot less than four times better would be a highly desirable address, but wouldn’t rise to oasis-dom. Whereas a spot four or more times of an improvement would justify the oasis descriptive. By example this means an oasis would be a spot that, relative to its surroundings, has…
- four or more times the vegetation density, or
- four or more times the literacy rate, or
- four times the wealth, or
- 1/4 of the crime, or
Any such location would be an oasis. As in, “It’s an oasis of (fill in the blank) for the area.” Sounds reasonable?
So, where would Counterbalance Park be an oasis? What locale has, say, only 1/4 of the park’s vegetation or lushness? Well…it’s cold, uninviting, and hard. It’s built of concrete and gravel. Its trees are scrawny. It’s located at a traffic corner with notoriously unpleasant left- and right-turns from Roy St. onto Queen Anne Ave… Hmm… Ah! There’re two destinations where it would be an oasis.
I can’t seriously think of any other place. Short of teleporting it to a distant war-zone, it’s not an oasis of any normal place on earth.
A park should be called, you know, a park. Its name shouldn’t be laboriously festooned with the incredulous. A wonderful design doesn’t need a false sobriquet, and a poor design (which it is) can’t benefit from a falsity that’s just lipstick on a pig.
Where’s the desert?
By inverting the question, we uncover a more startling problem. It’s the characterization of Queen Anne, and maybe all of Seattle, as a desert. Which is a curiously stupid act for any Seattle government official or department.
Let us assume for the moment, for the sake of argument, that Counterbalance park is an oasis. And I am a doofus, and my dislike of the “oasis” reference is wrong. Got it? OK, then: What can we infer about its environs?
Gee, an oasis exists within a desert. So say Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, YourDictionary.com, Cambridge Dictionary of American English, msn encarta, Wikipedia, and one of my grade–school teachers.
Yo, City of Seattle: Where’s the desert? Is Queen Anne the desert? Is Seattle the desert? One of these must require a haven to which one can retreat from its unpleasant conditions.
One of these two locales must be a desert, if you’ve named this park an oasis. Which one is it?
This is insulting to the Queen Anne community, if not to all of Seattle.
I love Queen Anne. I love Seattle. I love the greater Puget Sound region. I think I love Washington State. I also love America and the human race, but I’ll stop at the state boundary. To say that any of these aren’t deserts would be the understatement of the century. Dear Mayor, City Council, and Parks and Recreation Department, did you consider this tagline’s implications?