Keeping Midtown Janky

Posted on September 2, 2010 – 8:24 AM | by OldManFoster
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By Sarah Singleton   Photo by Scott Duncan

Melanie Dinos created 100 “Keep Midtown Janky” stickers last year and gave them out to friends for fun.  It’s a year later and the plain black and white stickers can be seen on cars, bikes and doors all around town. She recently made “KMJ” t-shirts and more stickers may be in the works.  Our MidMo correspondent caught up to her to find out what the hell “janky” really means.

MidMo:  Darling, what exactly is janky?

Melanie Dinos:  By definition it is a mix of junky and skanky. We mean it to be more synonymous with funky.

And why Keep Midtown Janky?

Because you can upgrade a neighborhood and open new businesses without completely destroying its aesthetic.

I don’t know if you know, but the Midtown Business Association’s slogan is “Go Your Own Way”, like that old Fleetwood Mac song.  What would the theme song be for keeping midtown janky?

“Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett

Oooh, naughty.  What’s your advice for bringing back the janky?

Make sure when a new business comes in they don’t put up some new hideous facade that makes the neighborhood look gaudy. And not all big business is bad. The new Grocery Outlet in Midtown is restoring the original mural that was there instead of just painting over it. They’re keeping it janky. It would also be nice if we could overturn this weird food cart law too. All great cities have a food cart population. Portland and Austin come to mind.

K Street:  Janky or just skanky?

Skanky, with the potential to be janky.

Where, do you think, is the weirdest place you’ve seen one of your stickers?

Honestly, every time I see one it’s weird. The fact that I made these, and it actually made people think, is awesome to me. The place I don’t like to see them is inside folks’ houses. They were made to get the word out. If you have one on your fridge, put it on your car or give it to someone who will display it for more folks to see. Spread the janky.

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  1. 43 Responses to “Keeping Midtown Janky”

  2. avatar

    By J Silva on Sep 2, 2010 | Reply

    So where do we get the stickers?

  3. avatar

    By Michelle Barbaria on Sep 2, 2010 | Reply

    I support Melanie and proudly post my sticker on my car. New and loud doesn’t always mean better. I like to think another part of “Keep Midtown Janky” is supporting historic preservation. A place may be old and look a little run down to others, but it’s truly a treasure to be preserved and cared for. Supporting the mom and pop shops is also very important. I enjoy seeing all the new & old small businesses in my midtown neighborhood and hope to see them flourish and help “Keep Midtown Janky”.

  4. avatar

    By Lisa Price on Sep 2, 2010 | Reply

    I recently moved to Southern California and proudly display one of the original 100 KMJ stickers on my funky little Toyota PU truck….cannot tell you how many folks ask me what the heck it means….I wish we had some of that good old fashioned Jankiness down here, but I’m doing what I can to spread the word – Thanks Mel! =)

  5. avatar

    By Michelle Barbaria on Sep 2, 2010 | Reply

    oh, and as a suggestion- and i’m willing to help- I am suggesting a monthly “Janky” revue of local favorite “janky spots” with Melanie.

  6. avatar

    By Melanie on Sep 2, 2010 | Reply

    You are all too kind.

    @J Silva, I just talked with some folks and am allowing MidMo to go ahead and distribute both the shirts and stickers. Probably available in a few months. All proceeds will go to the magazine.

  7. avatar

    By Paul Choate on Sep 3, 2010 | Reply

    I wiped a little poo on the back of one and left it on the sidewalk in front of the state capitol. Some pol in a suit picked it up and threw it back down saying “ewe that’s janky!”

  8. avatar

    By Robert on Sep 3, 2010 | Reply

    Although the original term “janky” was a clever concept in its initial introduction, it has since become a nuisance phrase and the true cause behind “janky” appears to be unclear. If the cause is to provide douchebag clientele from dive bars such as Old Tavern a catchy phrase to fit in, then “janky” is a great success.

    Preservation is essential, but how does “janky” fit in? Midtown Sacramento is only beginning to reach its potential and does not need its progress slowed with a bunch of hippie-minded slackers attempting to create a mecca encompassed by unkempt and dilapidated residential and retail buildings. The featured story indicated that “janky” is a fusion of “junky” and “skanky”. Really? Who wants to live in a “junky” environment? Let alone a “skanky” one. There’s a certain style that should be retained. Bows and Arrows store is a prime example of preserving the past and respecting history – An ideal marriage of style and preservation.

    Instead of encouraging and condoning a crusty “punk rock” attitude about Midtown Sacramento and the buildings within, let’s focus on keeping Midtown real; Real people, real style and real respect.

    Much like those Italian charm bracelets, the term “janky” is a tacky, passing phase. Let’s hope it doesn’t let the door hit it on the way out.

  9. avatar

    By Leah on Sep 3, 2010 | Reply

    Robert: Aside from picking apart the word, you guys have very similar ideas, methinks. Restore midtown, don’t tear it down. Keep it’s funky and unique vibe instead of whoring it out as a retail hub and ultra-loungeville.

  10. avatar

    By Beau on Sep 3, 2010 | Reply

    Lighten up, Robert. The true meaning of “janky” is “not ready for prime time.” It’s a developers term, usually game developers.

    Sacramento is not ready for prime time, thank god, nor will it ever be. That’s the beauty of it. It will never be like the bay area, thank god. The bay area used to be a great place to live, when it was “janky.” When it achieved prime time status, it became a hell hole.

    Keep midtown janky. Or kiss it goodbye.

  11. avatar

    By livmoe on Sep 3, 2010 | Reply

    He said hippie… LOL.

  12. avatar

    By William Burg on Sep 3, 2010 | Reply

    “Keeping it real” has its own set of meanings, some of which are probably not what Robert intends. In many ways, he is closer to the mark than he realizes. “Keeping it real” suggests bedrock genuineness, not mere surface appearances but inner substance and strength–suitable to a place whose motto is “Indomitable City.” Sacramento really is California’s “keep it real” capitol–people don’t come here to become movie stars or wear flowers in their hair, for the perfect weather or the breathtaking scenic vistas–they come here to find a job, start a business or at least make a fast buck.

    Because we are less concerned with glitz, style and appearances, we are a little more willing to make do, to improvise, and to adapt in ways that aren’t always the prettiest. What could be jankier than a city founded by a habitual screwup and a world-class swindler on a floodplain? And when we found out about the floods, instead of moving away, jacked up the whole city above flood level? Instead of planned expansion, we’re a city of accreted residential suburbs that we took over after they were built–a mismatched thrift-store crazy-quilt wardrobe of neighborhoods that would probably look great on Bobby Burns.

    “Real” just isn’t quite real enough to describe us. “Weird” doesn’t quite work right either–San Francisco has its almost affected level of deliberate weirdness, Los Angeles has its attention-getting “look at me!” weirdness, while Sacramento’s weirdness poisons the tenants and buries them in the backyard so we can embezzle their Social Security checks. “Janky” is just a bit closer to the mark.

    Finally, “janky” implies a certain level of snarky attitude that I think we sorely need in greater quantity. Sacramento sometimes has a tendency to downplay anything local because we don’t want to be seen as putting on airs, and the result is often a citywide case of low self-esteem and insecurity. These are dangerous things, because it is what con men from Sam Brannan to Craig Nassi have played on to separate Sacramentans from their money. Punk rock attitude is based on the “do-it-yourself” ethic and personal creativity that doesn’t need big dollars or outside validation. Bows and Arrows is indeed a fantastic example of just that philosophy–they celebrate local talent, reuse, personal creativity and community. They’re absolutely the best kind of janky.

    Try reading beyond the first few sentences of the article, Robert. It appropriates a term of derision and wears it as a badge of honor.

  13. avatar

    By Sarah on Sep 3, 2010 | Reply

    More Janky, less “world class city”!

  14. avatar

    By Angela Romero on Sep 3, 2010 | Reply

    Let’s keep Midtown “Janky” indeed, meaning let’s keep Midtown real! Let’s preserve the historic past, stop building hideous retail shops that do not go with the facade of the old building in the area.

    Instead of the mentality of demolishing and rebuilding, let’s restore! This place has the potential to be a classy city nothing “hippie” about that!

    Bravo Melanie for stepping up! Support local businesses!

  15. avatar

    By Melanie on Sep 7, 2010 | Reply

    Thanks William. For those of you who didn’t know it, William is the one who actually coined the phrase a few years back. I was just the one with a few extra bucks to make the stickers.

    Robert, if you were to re-read the interview you would see that we did not intend janky to mean “skanky” or “junky.” I’m quite sure we have very similar intentions on how to keep midtown the place that we have all grown to love.

  16. avatar

    By Patrick J. on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    How can Midtown really be janky without street food?

    Answer, it can’t.

    We need to get the ban overturned.

  17. avatar

    By Greg on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the title of this article! You may want to look up in the word Janky in the urban dictionary! It means nothing like the cutsie term you are trying to use to describe Midtown. Janky means inferior quality, held in low social regard: old and delapidated Janky is an adjective used to describe a person place or thing which is questionable, fucked up, wrong, strange, broken down, undesirable. It’s a term that has been around for like 10-15 years. It is not just people in the Bay Area who use this term, it is very wide spread and well used. For you to take this term and make up something different to its’ meaning is stupid. You may as well say ” Keep Midtown Gross”!

  18. avatar

    By Melanie on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    @Patrick, I’m totally with you there. I hate that ban. It’s also one of the reasons I’m giving Randall Selland a shirt. He’s a huge proponent of food trucks.

    @Greg, I wouldn’t really call urban dictionary an authority on words, but what you say is true. As I used a term from there myself. But over the years many words with a negative connotation have been taken on and changed to cast a more positive light. You could always make “keep midtown gross” shirts if you want. I’m pretty sure no one wearing our shirts means that at all.

  19. avatar

    By Robert on Sep 15, 2010 | Reply

    Thanks Greg. It’s refreshing to see that others are aware that “Janky” means messed up. Why would anyone want to try to pass it off as something good? Janky = jacked up.

  20. avatar

    By Todd on Sep 15, 2010 | Reply

    I agree with Greg and Robert. I always used Janky to describe something that was broken or no good. Why use that to describe an independent, free spirit attitude or preservation of funkiness? Besides the “Keep it (choose your word…Local, Weird, Real)” slogans are played out thanks to places like Austin, Santa Cruz, and Portland.

  21. avatar

    By livmoe on Sep 15, 2010 | Reply

    To Robert and Greg…. Curious if you’ve heard of a fellow named Michael Jackson – the late African American recording artist who repurposed the word “bad” in the 80s, redefining the word’s usage from a negative to a positive. Though MJ is the most famous example that comes to mind, American culture does this quite frequently. Gnarly, would be another example of a positive which on first hearing could be construed as a negative. Gnarly is in fact a term generally used as a positive in today’s culture as in “whoa, that’s gnarly dude!” in reference to say a “bad”- ass vehicle or a cheeseburger.

    Therefore “janky,” though potentially defined as a negative on paper or for our purposes the web can, like the word “bad,” serve a meaning opposite from that of it’s usual definition.

    In short this is how we get slang. Or to put it another way…. lighten up dudes.

  22. avatar

    By livmoe on Sep 15, 2010 | Reply

    that goes for you too Todd….

  23. avatar

    By William Burg on Sep 16, 2010 | Reply

    If you dropped Bobby Burns into the Roseville Galleria or let him walk the streets of Granite Bay, people would shun him like the plague. Parents would shield their kids from him, security would escort him roughly outside, the police would pull him off the street and boot him out at the county line. His attitude, his skills and his style would mean nothing. Why? Too janky. In Midtown, he was considered a prince among men, welcome everywhere, his life celebrated a decade after his death. Why? Because Midtown is a place where you can be old and dilapidated, questionable, fucked up, wrong, strange, broken down, undesirable, and still be a star.

  24. avatar

    By JD on Sep 20, 2010 | Reply

    Citing the urban dictionary as an authoritative source is definitely janky.

  25. avatar

    By Robert on Sep 21, 2010 | Reply

    Why are “janky” shirts being printed on fresh, new t-shirts? If you really wanted to keep things “janky”, wouldn’t you use a homemade screen and print them on used t-shirts from a local thrift store? Why is there even a need for a slogan? Shouldn’t those who care about preservation continue fighting for their cause without plugging a slogan? If it is truly about the cause, then a need for a slogan is not necessary. Where are the profits going?

    Yes, there are words that have opposite definitions, but these other words work. They sound good either way. “Janky” only sounds good when describing the jacked-up.

    I don’t think Midtown is very accepting of the unique variety. There is acceptance among certain groups of people within Midtown, but this is the way of all communities. Through years of interacting with different types of people and different types of styles, the unique are celebrated. Midtown is no different. In every town, there is a group of locals fighting to preserve the history and creature comforts they have grown to love and accept. It is not a new idea.

  26. avatar

    By Melanie on Sep 23, 2010 | Reply

    Robert, if you don’t like the idea of the shirts, don’t buy one. It’s really that simple. It’s nothing so serious that you need to get your panties in a bunch over it. It was started in fun and continues to be done as such.

  27. avatar

    By Greg on Sep 23, 2010 | Reply

    I was trying to be polite with my first posting. Janky is slang. It means what it means! To try to use it otherwise is absolutely stupid. Everyone I have talked to about it thinks so also! Your use of the word is stupid. It is a dumb idea and makes Sacramento look like a “cow town”!
    You need to get out more!

  28. avatar

    By OldManFoster on Sep 23, 2010 | Reply

    Greg, your argument -might- hold water if you were talking about a word that wasn’t a slang term in the first place. Slang, by its very definition, has a loosely defined meaning that is not the same for all users. By the logic of your argument it would mean that ‘beat’ could never have transmogrified from its original slang meaning (beaten down) to its kerouac-associated definition (part of the so called beatnik scene) to its sixties meaning (American-style RnB as played by teen bands in Europe.)

    Slang changes meaning – in fact, that’s how most words got to be slang in the first place. In SF, janky might mean gross. In Sac, janky means funky. In ten years it may mean neither of those things in either of those places. it’s the nature of the beast, and trying to insist that your personal interpretation of a slang term is the -only- correct interpretation is absurd.

  29. avatar

    By Robert on Sep 24, 2010 | Reply

    By all means, have your fun. I am entitled to my opinion. I don’t feel that expressing my opinion is getting my underwear in a bunch. There are tons of words that have multiple meanings, but using “janky” as a word to describe what you are attempting to convey does not work. It would be like saying that the words “rotten” or “disgusting” can be used to describe something positive or that they can have multiple meanings. Everyone seems to be pushing so hard to make “janky” something special. This whole situation of people getting so inspired about this dumb word “janky” reminds me of the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

  30. avatar

    By William Burg on Sep 24, 2010 | Reply

    I fully support Robert’s right to totally not get it.

  31. avatar

    By livmoe on Sep 24, 2010 | Reply

    Robert, I ain’t pushing to make “janky” something special. It is something special.

  32. avatar

    By Todd on Sep 24, 2010 | Reply

    This whole discussion is “janky”.

  33. avatar

    By livmoe on Sep 24, 2010 | Reply

    Hmmm, has anyone else noticed the striking similarities between, Todd, Robert, and Greg’s comments? I think they’re the same dude. Or lady….. Boom(!) there, I’m starting that rumor if for no other reason than to stop driving in the let-me-explain-the-definition-of-janky-and-how-it-means-messed-up-and-you-are-all-stupid/cow-town circle.


  34. avatar

    By Greg on Sep 27, 2010 | Reply

    Two words…. “COW TOWN”!

  35. avatar

    By Liz on Oct 17, 2010 | Reply

    I agree with Todd, Robert and Greg. What doesn’t livmoe, Bill B., Melanie understand about some people just not liking this janky idea? How about this new slogan: Keep Midtown Monthly Thin.

  36. avatar

    By livmoe on Oct 19, 2010 | Reply

    Bill, I would like to make a motion to support Liz’s right to not get it as well.

  37. avatar

    By William Burg on Oct 20, 2010 | Reply

    “Blessed are the clueless, for their frustration is our entertainment.”

  38. avatar

    By Shlomo von Glickstein on Dec 31, 2010 | Reply

    Viva la JANKY!

  39. avatar

    By CanuckMike on Jan 9, 2011 | Reply

    Found this page while looking up “janky neighborhoods” in Google for fun! Just to let you know, if a neighborhood is considered “janky” at least here in Edmonton, Canada, it basically means it’s the ghetto, and that you want to stay away… examples…
    “You dont want to have to walk to the store at night in that part of town, its pretty janky”
    “I don’t park my car behind my apartment building because of the jankiness that happens back there”
    “on a scale of one to ten how janky is the atmosphere at 3am on your street?”

  40. avatar

    By Jackson Griffith on Apr 12, 2011 | Reply

    I’m all aboard the janky train, now. That William Burg September 3 post is a thing of beauty. And, yes, slang mutates all the time, so why is that a problem, and why are a few folks worked up into a state of utter janctitude? And if “janky” is “gross,” I’d certainly prefer a janky Midtown over a saditty Midtown, or a dicty Midtown, or one with crossed-up conditions, wouldn’t you?

    Ergo, keep Midtown janky.

  41. avatar

    By BEN-JAM on Jan 20, 2012 | Reply

    janky is a term used to describe someone who is a theif!

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