Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Main Street Attic

I am gearing up to write about all these Main Streets I've visited. Jake Izenberg and I are finishing up a paper about the model we've developed. I've launched a project to make a design sketchbook of the key ideas. And I've updated the list of cities I've visited -- there are 105 that have informed my thinking up to this point. I hope to visit Japan, Austria and South Africa in the course of this year and that will add immeasurably to what I know. Part of this assemblage has been to do with reviewing the thousands of photos I've taken and pulling out those that mean the most to me. Given this selection criterion, it is possibly just my taste in Main Street stuff, but I was thinking this morning that Main Streets are a lot like an attic, filled with stuff we might not use but don't want to throw away. I usually think of an attic as some place out of sight, out of mind. Once I put some boxes in an attic in Berkeley, then inadvertently forgot them when insulation was blown in. They are possibly still there. Main Street is not out of mind, except in that way that we stop seeing places to which we're accustomed. We don't necessarily think about the old stuff, unless somebody messes with it. It is horrible when they do. A building owner got the idea that the gargoyles on her building were bringing her bad luck so she chopped them off. I was stunned and horrified -- but ask me the last time I'd thought about the gargoyles or even if I ever thought about it. (I don't think I ever did.) Going to Main Street and seeing the ghost signs, and fading window decorations, the old stone work -- these things anchor us in space and time. I met a woman the other day whose family had owned Moskin's Pharmacy -- they have a wonderful sign that I love to see each time I'm on Palisades Avenue in Englewood. It's not just the familiarity of that sign, but that the style of the sign reminds me of all the signs on all the buildings when I was growing up. It is a part of the signage of my life. There are lions of all sizes on Main Streets all over the world. And not only lions but other cats as well. Why so many? I have no idea. But lions and Main Street go together. I mean, you don't see pandas or rhinoceri on Main Streets, do you? Sonia Sanchez has a book of poetry that has the title, "My house has lions, does yours?" I love that title and eponymous poem. My babysitter had two lions flanking her stairs and I take such comfort from seeing lions. So lions are stored all over Main Streets. When we touch something on Main Street -- whether we like it or we don't -- we ought to have in mind that this is a FAMILY attic -- and the thing we might want to throw out is dear to someone else -- good to check, and not to just chuck it as useless clutter.

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