Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Wasteland

This is a picture of a vacant lot in the Rainey Street neighborhood. A careful look (maybe blow it up) shows our building in the distance. There are vacant lots near us, of course. Although about the only one not turned into parking is the one the Feds own for a federal courthouse project, the former site of the infamous Intel Shell. (Your government can hold property, off city tax roles, your money invested without trying to get revenue for you to help pay the national debt. Maybe Obama will build the courthouse as part of his works projects. Maybe he will just build a parking lot and give someone a job running it. But I digress.)

All I'm saying is that the wide sidewalks and trendy shops and cafes in my neighborhood are still a beachhead. While the neighborhood with this debris-strewn lot has fancy condos and apartments and a new Mexican American Cultural Center, it has some unreconstructed, not-yet-gentrified areas including some run-down houses across the street from this lot. Our neighborhood has the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant and Green Water Treatment Plant that are vacant, waiting a grand mix of homes, shops, hotel, etc. but which for now look like an abandoned industrial wasteland. Near Whole Foods, Book People, GSDM and the Noknonah Condos there is a single, old house with a trampoline and volleyball court out back. I think that is great myself. It is this jumble that makes a place livable to me. In our old neighborhood we had that. Sure, you sometimes wished your messier neighbors would clean up or that certain areas weren't zoned commercial, but then you enjoyed the patina of the neighborhood (and being able to walk to a seedy convenience store and a burger joint).

Cities evolve. Every time I'm in New York, Paris, London, Berlin, etc. I remark on the construction, destruction, the ebb and flow. I can see tall, new buildings rising outside my window but I can walk a few blocks and see a house built over a century ago. I like that.

Some people are saddened by any bit of blight, by anything that isn't brand new or a trendy reuse like Lambert's Fancy Barbecue in the old Schneider Store. That's not me, though. In any urban environment, any place not built from scratch by a developer (ugh), there are grubby bits, older houses or apartments or even vacant lots. Things to contrast with the trendy wide sidewalks of Second Street. (Which, by the way, I do love.) I'm happy, personally, to see things torn down, rebuilt, renewed or, sometimes, just happily decaying, waiting for another day. We have this tendency to think that nothing should ever change, that it should be spruced up or bought new and then remain that way.

The truth is that I even like the look of the wasted lot and the dead tree in its own way.

By the way, yesterday's 'Home Alone' entry was annointed as a 'Best of Holidailies.' I feel very honored since I already received recognition for 'A Long Way from There to Here.' Holidailies has been a good ride of writing for me, I think. Maybe I've cleared some cobwebs and can do some real writing. Or not.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Congratulations on your "Best of" accomplishments. Your writing is definitely interesting, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Several years ago, Berkeley experienced a people's movement which centered around going into blighted blocks, cleaning out the rubble, and planting gardens and or pocket-sized parks.

The city doesn't do the upkeep for them, though the owners don't seem to mind one way or the other, and the people's parks for the most part have been maintained by the surrounding homeowners and or rental tenants.

That's the kind of change I like to see.