Saturday, April 29, 2017

Places Gone Places Remembered

I live in a small community that's constantly changing.  Yes, some of the change can be filed under gentrification, but a good deal of it is subject to the changing social, economic, and technological shifts occurring in this early part of the 21st Century.
Old businesses, like the outdated means of communication and means of purchasing goods and services are dropping by the wayside.  Their replacements are not always progressive, but they are hard to ignore.  Just the other day I saw an older woman write a check to pay for groceries.  In an age when a phone app or the swipe of a plastic card is commonly used to buy a cup of coffee, this seemed like such an anomaly.  I half expected the cashier to take the check and ask, What's this?'
Maybe that's a little extreme, but rest assured, that day is coming.
We do so many things interactively with our phones and computers.  Our phones are our computers now, aren't they?
At this point in my life, I've made some decisions about reading and writing with regard to the technology available.  While I know it's neither good or advisable to ignore what I don't like, nevertheless I'm going to stick with books and records as long as I can.  I like the look and feel of them.  They are more than just words on a page or screens or sound coming from somewhere. They are entities that I want to have and hold.
We like to document the loss of places that have vanished in space and time.  My community is filled with homes and buildings that have been repurposed a few times over the years.  Just this morning I noticed a restaurant that closed down a few months ago will soon reopen as a bottle shop featuring beers and wines of the northwest.  The space was once a tavern that looks and feels like it's origin in the lumber industry as a local tavern.  It's got one of those beautiful ceilings that always grabs those who chance to look up.  I love that it now looks down on millennials drinking pinot noir when once it sheltered flannel-clad lumbermen.

The Beatles sang about "Places I'll remember all my lifetime."  Though gone, we do recall the people and things that occupied these locations.  Some spaces remain permanently in the mind.  The old Polo Grounds,  the house I grew up in, and racetracks like Bay Meadows, Hollywood Park, and Longacres.
I never went to see the Giants play in New York though I have early childhood memories of Willie Mays playing in the Polo Grounds.  The house I grew up in is probably still standing but looks nothing like I recall, though in my mind I see it perfectly and could navigate each room in the dark from memory.
When a racetrack dies, all the memories come rushing back.  Something about an empty grandstand and the stillness of a site that once was filled with color and movement.
Longacres, near Seattle Washington was the quintessential mid century racetrack.  With equal parts country and art deco, it's pastoral setting and classic green/white color scheme made it a template for all the hope and promise...luck and excitement it dished up for years.  I went there once in the 1970s while passing through the area.  The day was stunningly beautiful.  It was a week day so the on site crowd was smaller than usual and I wandered upstairs to a private box in the grandstand.  There was nobody around and as the crowd began to fill in before the first race, I decided to make myself comfortable as if it were my box and I belonged.  I just wanted to watch a race from this prime location.  I had no intention of trespassing.  Looking over the railing at the horses on the track, I sensed two people enter this box of 6 seats.  In my mind I rehearsed what I would say, and how I would apologize, but before I could say anything, one of the two men behind me asked, "Have you seen Richard this morning?"
"No, haven't seen him today," I replied realizing they mistook me for someone they knew.  Sensing I belonged, I relaxed and remained until the horses of the first race crossed the wire.  My two new friends departed shortly thereafter and I decided to move along as well.  I'll always remember Longacres as a very friendly place.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Portable

The first time I went to Disneyland--the Disneyland in Southern California-- I was about 9 years old.  I vividly recall sitting with my aunt on a horse drawn streetcar that took visitors from the front of the park up Main Street.  Back then, it was a re-creation of a turn of the century (20th Century) Main St. with what we loosely called "old fashioned" stores with cracker barrels, penny candy, and proprietors who wore hats and garters on their sleeves.  Disney was always keenly aware of the romanticism of the "good old days" and probably wanted his guests to breathe in the nostalgia as they entered his masterpiece of an amusement park.

So, sitting there with my Aunt Dorothy I had an epiphany.  My aunt had lived in aa world where she could actually remember horse drawn streetcars as the state of the art.  Suddenly, she was, at the age of 50, part of the recent past.  As I watched the monorail train go by and eagerly awaited my first look at Tomorrowland, I realized the pace of technology.
Now it's my turn to be sitting on the streetcar of defunct technology.  I realized the other day how many things that young people today will never see outside a museum or an amusement park.
A couple of years ago, one of my niece's children accompanied me in my pick-up on an ice cream run to the local grocery store.  It was a warm summer afternoon and Annie was anxious to show me that she was now old enough to ride up front in the cab with me.  She suddenly realized she couldn't roll down the window because there was no power window button.  When I showed her the little hand crank, she was dumbfounded but quickly recovered.  Then she thought that it was the "coolest" thing.  I guess it would be never having seen a window  come down that way.
These little revelations occur daily.  Sometimes I marvel at the fact that I went through college without a computer.  I've heard that it's possible to get a college education these days without ever going in a library.  I see how, but I'm not sure I like that idea.

Wish I still had my little Remington portable.  I couldn't get rid of it fast enough when I bought my first word processor.  I should have thought longer on that decision, but then, I do enjoy going to museums.

Friday, April 7, 2017

7th Decade




Outside my walls,
     I welcome measured mystery,
          I no longer remember eating the Blues,
Drinking ancient sadness,
     Just poetry from green lakes,
          and gray rain,

What now?