To: The Palo Alto City Council
From: The Committee On Revisioning and Renaming Embarrassing City Things (CORRECT)
Dear members of the council:
The CORRECT has met numerous times and, pursuant to the first part of its mandate, has reviewed city street names. Following are our preliminary findings and recommendations related to select city streets.
'El Camino Real'
This means "the royal road." CORRECT wants to know: the "royal road" to what? Sunnyvale? San Bruno? If that's the case, we're with that pop singer who said, "We'll never be royals."
And who wants to take the royal road? Loafers! A dictionary defines royal road as "an auspicious or easy way or means to achieve something." This is a street that runs right by one of our two high schools. What is that teaching our children? That all they have to do is walk out onto the street and they're on their way?
The guy who was king of Spain at the time the road was started, Charles III, was all right as kings go -- an "enlightened despot" -- but still, he was a king. This is America! A despot is a despot -- out you go!
And while we're at it, CORRECT recommends going the "full Robespierre" and axing Kings Lane as well.
Rename: "The People's Highway"; for Kings Lane, simply remove the "s," add "ML" before King and "Jr." after.
CORRECT is confused by this one. He? She? It? In Spanish, alma means "soul." In principle, we believe streets should not be named after abstract concepts.
It's true that rush-hour traffic on Alma can make you feel as though you are in an endless purgatory, and so the name has a poetic justice, but this is a very slippery slope. Before you know it, citizens will be asking to name their local roundabout "Dante's Circle" or the "Circle of Life."
Rename: To honor the seeming original intent of "alma," but somewhat concretize and monetize it, we recommend selling the street-naming rights to Soul Cycle and putting a bike lane down the middle of the street, lined by scented candles and speakers every 25 yards exhorting bicyclists to push harder.
This street has a serious perception problem. Our poll shows that 88 percent of Palo Altans millennial age and younger think it is named for Homer Simpson -- Doh! The same group believes BART is named for his son.
In actuality, it matters little whether the street was named for the ancient Greek poet. In the eyes of many on CORRECT, the poet idealized war and an antiquated model of masculinity that is ready for the dustbin.
Rename: "Simpsons Street," to align reality with popular perception.
The Stanford Cardinal football team has asked us to take a hard look at this name -- One for the Ducks? Really? And such a big one? Do you think they have a Leland Stanford Junior Street anywhere in Eugene? No!
CORRECT has pointed out that at least the expressway ends abruptly (at "the royal road"), serving as a metaphor for stopping the Ducks, but the Cardinal don't buy it.
Rename: "Phil Nike Thruway" or "Swoosh Boulevard," to align reality with reality.
This short, obscure avenue in south Palo Alto did not escape CORRECT's attention. We're unsure just who or what the avenue was named for, but it may well be for one Finis Jennings Dake, an early twentieth-century American minister known for his writings on "premillennial dispensationalism."
This alone is enough to indict him in the court of common sense, but the Reverend Dake exhibited further lack of common sense when he transported a 16-year-old girl across a state line and was convicted under the Mann Act.
Rename: The much more felicitous "Danke," for the German "thank you," reflecting the gratitude to CORRECT that present and future residents of the avenue will no doubt feel.
"Never never never give up," said Winston Churchill. Most people believe this was about defending Britain in the war, but he was more likely defending his malodorous cigar smoking and gin drinking.
Churchill's personal habits were not his only "warts." He urged the crushing of "Gandhi-ism and everything it stands for" and the abandonment of universal suffrage. He called Mussolini "the greatest lawgiver among men" and believed that Bolsheviks and Jews were linked in a "world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization."
Rename: "Ghandi Street," for historical irony.
As the council can see, revisioning and renaming is no easy task. We assign no blame -- streets were named for people or things about which little was known, or because of beliefs or values that at the time of naming were the "norm." But that doesn't mean the renaming shouldn't be done.
The names of public things are not meaningless or arbitrary; they are not Shakespeare's rose, having an essential reality apart from their name. Yes, they have name-neutral functions, but we accord their names with nearly the same significance that we give to our own. A public thing's name is twisted into its identity and into our collective identity.
This concludes CORRECT's preliminary work. We will soon move on to parks and public art. However, one name has come to our immediate attention: the city's. Named for a tree? How low-tech can you get?
Rename: We recommend "Palantirlo," to align the city's present with its future.