As I drive around Fayetteville here lately, I’ve noticed parking garages popping up practically overnight, like so many mushrooms. Big mushrooms. Now, for those of you reading this who might be used to big city life, parking garages ain’t no big thing. When I was able to go visit my daughter in Santa Monica, it seemed like they were all over the place, big multistory affairs that held who knew how many cars, the gates busy all day long, digital readouts right beside them telling how many empty spots were available. Handy, that. Keeps you from driving around the thing all day only to discover there’s nowhere to park and now you’re just that much later for your appointment.
Parking garages—I think the call them structures instead of garages—make sense in that kind of setting. Real estate is a limited resource in places like LA. The big sprawling parking lots we have here in Northwest Arkansas just don’t make sense in a crowded city. These towns still have room to grow, so a lot of the businesses buy up a huge lot—or go into a complex put up by a developer—and build asphalt fields that are hot as hell in summer and cold as the Arctic in winter.
Big cities, though, have to stack things because of limited room, and some areas of Fayetteville—where I’m seeing all these things go up—can’t spread out anymore. So they have to go up, too.
As far as I know, it started with the new library building. They’re a LEEDS certified place, though what the parking garage may have to do with that, I have no idea. Then what I believe is a municipal garage—only a couple stories—went in at the site of an old church on Lafayette on the extreme northern edge of the downtown/Dickson Street area.
Now two more are going up simultaneously, one farther down the street on Lafayette, a multistory affair that I’m guessing is another municipal one, and one attached to the Walton Arts Center just off Dickson. Evidently their parking lot isn’t big enough anymore.
So what’s this got to do with anything? Well, if you pay attention to movies, scores of scenes take place in parking garages from New York to LA and everywhere in between, probably even in cities and towns that really don’t have the things. They’re a great place for shady dealings to take place, everything from murders to drug deals to kidnappings. They’re usually deserted, and those echoes make for some pretty cool ambiance. Add in the risk some unsuspecting walk-on character will appear unexpectedly, then stir in those rousing chase scenes of cars squealing around the ramps, and you got a great setting. Heck, an episode of Miami Vice has a motorcycle race take place in one.
So, of course, I drew on this for one of my books. In the climax of Franchise, Lyle Villines helps capture a major crime figure in the parking structure on Fourth Street in
Santa Monica. It was a parking structure I’d at least seen from the outside, and I simply relied on another structure we parked in to go to a movie for interior description, plus a bit of my own imagination. A foot chase begins at street level at the southern end of Third Street Promenade, with the action taking place among Lyle, some DEA agents, some local cops—two of them useless deputies from Lyle’s home county in Arkansas—and their quarry, a man who heads up security for the Sinaloa Cartel.
I used it because I’d walked by it several times accompanying my daughter to work at the Santa Monica Place mall, where she was employed at a Ritz Camera & Image store. I didn’t use it so much because I’d seen them used in so many movies and shows as because it was something I was familiar with, and I love putting real locations in my stories. To me, it lends authenticity. The idea of using a fictional city and/or county just doesn’t appeal to me. It also means I don’t have to figure out how a location looks, don’t have to fabricate it whole cloth. I can just tell you what’s there and keep right on moving.
Another reason I used this location is that it somewhat brought my story around full circle. At the end of Startup, Lyle meets with Joaquín Guzmán in Santa Monica, and they discuss his employment opportunities while strolling down Third Street Promenade. So when Lyle has to call El Chapo to inform him of the mole in his organization
and suggest a way to take care of said mole, it just naturally occurred to him to have it take place there.
I think now I need to explore the parking garages going up here at home and see if they might make cameos in future stories. Those echoes make for great ambiance….