21 December, 2005
History, the Past, and Remembrance of Things
[I totally, utterly screwed this up, and got lost in the writing. It did not turn out at all as I had planned. I need to rewrite and re-post. But feel free to gambol through the rubble, as it stands.]
Thumbing through my tattered copy of the most recent issue of my favorite magazine, The Atlantic I came across a poem:
Small House Torn Down to Build a Larger
by X.J. Kennedy
Because it squatted on a piece of land
Whose cash price overtook and dwarfed its own,
Its owner couldn't stand to let it stand,
But sold it to be stripped to vein and bone.
A mottled bathroom sink where hair was brushed
Until its drain grew maddeningly slow,
The toilet tank so difficult to flush,
That closet floor on which the cat would go,
Are rubble now. Acerbic histories
That ended in divorce, the hopeful past,
Sprawl with extracted nails and toppled trees,
Too little in the living room to last.
This piece brought to mind any given demolition-in-progress I've witnessed in the past. I stand on the sidewalk, looking through a rented chain-link fence at a half demolished building and seeing bathroom fixtures, paint or wallpaper on walls, dangling wires, sometimes even left-behind furniture, all the jetsam of lives live within rooms being taken apart. The piles of still-intact brick, the tangle of wire and metal, all of it speaks to me in a silly sentimental voice, begging to be used again, to be brought back to life. I was overjoyed to see recently in the Reader that an emerging trend salvages old bricks from tear-downs to use in new projects.
Chicago is changing rapidly. Gentrification is sweeping the neighborhoods of Urbs in Horto like cancerous wildfire. In many instances, it isn’t a bad thing; my new neighborhood, Logan Square, was by many accounts nearly uninhabitable a few years ago. Now, though still a little rough around some edges, it is a very pleasant place to commute home to. When I mention I live there, most people can bring up something about it they know and love: a restaurant, Lula Café, that Ira Glass has creamed about in the Reader’s restaurant reviews; a bike shop that’s supposedly bitchin’; some band/music group they know that lives and performs in and around the ‘Square (walking to the subway in the morning, it seems the streams of people heading toward the deep blue are all indie rockers heading out to their day jobs).
Not every neighborhood is a seeming success like Logan Square. Not even yuppies can afford Lincoln Park anymore – instead of moving in with Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Anniston is rumored to be looking at places in Lake Fucking Forest (oh my god, I just wrote about fairly recent pop-culture). Lakeview is so choked with moneyed gays driving huge cars they can’t park that normal gays who want to live in the Ghayhetto have to trek all the way up to Edgewater. Apparently, Ukrainian Village is losing its soul and its sunlight to six-story decorative cinder-block condo row houses. And be honest: who hasn’t wanted to go on a killing spree in Wicker Park/Bucktown? (Even the supposedly adorable Josh Hartnett couldn’t drag me to see a movie with the name “Wicker Park,” which stands for Squealing White Yuppie Kids (anyone under 28)). I’m told I should explore Pilsen before it completely loses its soul… I do love me some Mexican food! I won’t even talk about River North, my former high-rise home. The mere words bring echoes of the clomp-clomp of over-moneyed, under-polished girls trying to walk in shoes that could literally kill them, while their Praduccicrombie zombie metrosexual boyfriends spout cigar smoke at diners seated on the sidewalk, forcing you to tiptoe along the curb to avoid the gaggle of tourists from Nebraska moving in a slow clump while pointing at the Weber Grill, not noticing the taxi full of…
The imminent demise of Marshall Fields got me thinking. How useful is wholesale preservation? What good is saving any old building, really? Why should we care about traditions? What's in a name? I’m sure the Macy’s at State and Washington (shudder! Macy’s! Oh, how velveeta! Gone the classy green, gone [probably] too the wonderful dining options, to be replaced with linoleum velveeta Macy’s sameness) will still do holiday displays in its windows at this time of year. I’m sure they won’t destroy the stunning interior and exterior details – in fact I’m pretty sure the bastards can’t even touch it. But it will be a Macy’s, for christ’s sake. I don’t shop very often at all, and am certainly no fan of department stores, but sometimes on my lunch I enjoy wandering around the floors at Field’s, imagining what it must be like to have even a penny of disposable income. I remember as a wee bairn going to the old L.S. Ayres store in downtown Indianapolis to romp in Santaland. It was a big, old, traditional, locally legendary department store. The downtown flagship closed over 10 years ago, and the name will soon be folded into the bland Macy’s omelette.
So I wonder: Does any of this matter? People are busy enough, they’ll find other things to do than sit on Santa’s lap at Ayres or meet for dinner in the Walnut room at Field’s. Maybe it will become a tradition to try on fake sports t-shirts at Old Navy, or go shopping for cold remedies at Walgreens on December 21. What is the point of traditions, and why do I sometimes get so nostalgic and sentimental for even the ugly, the banal, and mundane?
Traditions have a certain lure... it's hard to put a finger on.
But my understanding is that pretty everything about Marshall Fields will remain the same -- as far as consumers go -- except for, ofcourse, the brandname. I mean, what's the difference? If it's a made-in-india shirt sold by Marshall Fields or Macy's?!
Okay... so that's my refurbishment of Shakespeare's line.
OH MY GOD!! This is so coool!! Check this out.. my word verification:-
LOLzqxu [intelligent design!]
Ergoober... I think the fear is that once the Macy's name is on the building, nothing will stop Macy's from approximating the actual Macy's experience. Ever been to Macy's Herald Square, the Least Interesting Circus on Earth?
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