Saturday, January 8, 2011

Another Perspective...

... this one with the Crane of Destruction hovering in the background:

Many thanks to whoever might have taken this shot.

And many more thanks to everyone responsible for allowing me to find it on the Internet.

I don't know if this was taken the same evening that I spotted my old landlord wandering around the front lawn of this, his boyhood home, but close enough.

He would have been in his 70s at the time.

I thought about leaving my house, crossing the street, and saying hi to him, but... it didn't seem like the kind of moment he would have wanted to share with a teenager.

If it turns out that all of time rewinds and repeats, over and over again, however, and we're free to make at least a few different choices each go-round, I suppose I would go stumbling over during at least one of those replays of history.

Maybe he would have shared a few treasured memories with a young prospector of treasured memories.

As it is, those memories now seem gone forever - at least as far as I'm concerned.

Whatever good and bad times may have unfolded in The House (and there must have been many over the decades that it existed) are almost certain to always remain a mystery to me at this point.

And as much as I might now enjoy looking at a few of the photographs that must have been taken of those times as they unfolded around and inside The House, I suppose they're more or less irrelevant to me. The House was never about the people who lived in it, as far as I was concerned, but about Itself.

Its big, looming Self - the stately Mansion on the Hill, the sturdy delineator of Interesting Spaces larger and more numerous than I myself ever hoped to live in, an undeniably physical connection to the era of the streetcar, and the Keystone Cops, and the First World War (among many other long gone things).

People change moment to moment, they contain unknown (and apparently unknowable) depths, they come and go (so quickly!); but houses and buildings and structures of all sorts are always there, firm, and (mostly) unchanging, their innermost realms easily capable of being entered and explored (or captured and revealed by any decent architect with a drafting table).

At least until they're not....

A reader asked me recently "What did they tear down this house to build? What's there now?"

The answer is that they tore it down not to build anything but only to get rid of it.

In fact, very little of that entire block remains today.

Even the hill is gone.

See for yourself:

The duplex I lived in across the street is gone, too - replaced (along with the hill *it* stood on) by the parking lot of a Family Dollar store.

The last time I went by, it took me half a mile to realize that I *had* gone by.

I don't plan on going back anytime soon.

As Gertrude Stein once allegedly said about Oakland, California, "There's no there there."

Was there ever a there there to begin with?

If it wasn't for the handful of photos I have, I'd be inclined to dismiss it all as a dream or an indecipherable fable.

I might anyway - just to be ornery.


  1. You do draw a very poignant picture about the appeal of the permanence of buildings... It's really too bad the homes weren't maintained, instead of demolished. I wonder if the reason for that was as a result of them having been built with wood instead of brick? Wood eventually tends to rot and/or warp, which might cause concern with legal liability, should trespassing kids be accidentally injured. (Once upon a time, I was that trespassing kid in an abandoned house, so I understand the appeal...)

    By the way, our paper's Sunday supplement runs a feature called "Now and Then" that shows photos of prominent buildings or places back in the late 1800's or early 1900's, and then shows what the same location looks like now. Here's one sample link...