I've lived in Grand Rapids long enough to know there are two charismatic figures you do not criticize publicly. But I'm just naive enough to express concerns about a decision made by one of them. Damn the torpedos.
Here goes: I think it's unfortunate that Mr. Rob Bliss should plan to sell "Skip The Line" tickets for $30 at his Lyon St. Water Slide Event. I hope to clearly explain "why" it's unfortunate, and I look forward to any discussion that results. I'm very open to being convinced differently.
For my money, the paramount quality of Mr. Bliss' previous events has been this: they were the great equalizer. Everyone who attended or participated was the same. No VIP perks to separate the six- and seven-digit households from the common people. If you took the bus from my neighborhood, and all you had in your pocket was your Bridge card, you were entitled to the same experience as anyone else.
I've attended every event Mr. Bliss has produced, with my family (excepting the Electronic Music event.) I'm sure we'll attend this one. I expect we'll have an excellent experience, as always.
And honestly, I feel fortunate to live in a city where these events happen. Credit also goes to our city leaders, who've seen the value and vision in these big ideas. We're lucky to be represented by folks who embrace and encourage innovation.
I expect I know the argument in favor of the "Skip The Line" pass. Mr. Bliss said the event will cost about $50,000. He said it has about 20 sponsors. So the argument (in favor of $30 passes) might go like this: the sale of these $30 passes makes the event possible.
"So what - would you rather it *didn't happen at all?*"
These are my options?
I admit I don't have a right to impose my sentimental feelings about Mr. Bliss' events having this "great equalizer" quality. And I recognize the need "to do what one must" to achieve a goal.
But I expect the "Skip The Line" passes will have a filtering effect: those who have the money for the pass, and those who have not. I will acknowledge my bias on this: we're a lower-middle income family. My kids attend GRPS and we qualify for reduced lunch. I walk, bike and ride the bus where I need to go. I live a couple blocks south of Wealthy Theatre. It's a neighborhood that, by popular consensus throughout Mlive.com comments, is one step below Viet Nam. None of these parts of my reality is necessarily by choice, and none for lack of hard work.
So I'd admit, I'm not objective. I'd also admit, I'll be jealous of those more fortunate than I, as we stand in line with the thousands of others who cannot afford to go back down the slide immediately after arriving back at the top of the hill. Relatively speaking, this is a minor - almost trivial - complaint. It's a normal fact of life. I ride the No. 5 bus past houses where people rake their leaves into the street, and it all gets cleaned up by workers. I've been to concerts in the upper sections of Van Andel Arena, close enough to see the tinted windows of private suites, wherein people enjoy a better view, eat better food and drink imported beer. It's how it goes.
So I'll have this admittedly disproportional sense of "bittersweet" as I take my kids to the Lyon St. Water Slide. As we repeatedly stand in line for who knows how long, and inevitably watch the more fortunate ones walk by us, with their understandable excitement about the next ride. I feel like a community event is the wrong place to remind everyone of the innate differences between groups of people.
And yes this is all naive, and yes, I'm a populist. And yes I am biased based on the fact that I live and work in a low-income neighborhood. And no, the "Skip The Line Ticket" isn't a separate drinking fountain. This is a tiny issue. It's a trivial thing.
But I believe Mr. Bliss is also a populist - it's part of the reason his events do well. And, for this reason, I believe he'll ultimately withdraw the "Skip The Line" ticket offer. I believe he will respond to sentiment by choosing to simply open that other slide, making it available to the general public. So all of us can have a faster line. That he will restore the paramount quality of all Rob Bliss Events: they are the great equalizer.