Saturday, November 13, 2004

Main Street

   My trusty one speed bicycle, The Ranger, became a time machine today.

   I needed ink for my printer, and the office supply store is only about 2 miles away. As I rode, I left my neighborhood - the houses are of varying ages - some over a hundred years old, some brand new. A tornado in '39 took out about a third of the town, the many empty lots were filled in slowly, over the last sixty-five years. As I got to Main Street, I saw that the commercial buildings fit this pattern too. Lots of variety, and all still in use. People were strolling from one specialty shop to another. There is the Beehive building, from 1890, with a weathered tobacco sign from the forties still visible painted on the alley wall. Old man Lehn died last week, he had a small electrical store in that place since 1934; he worked in it until he died last summer. Heading east, the business district ended, and another mix of small houses built mainly in the 50's and 60's took over. Nothing special, but well kept, with different colors and styles of decoration keeping it fresh.

   Now I came to the edge of town. Even ten years ago this was mostly farmland or scrub prairie. Now it is home to "developments", cheap town homes and tacky single family units on tiny lots. All the same color - computer beige ("putty"). Each exactly the same as the other. There are covenants prohibiting remodeling, landscaping or yard displays. The sidewalk ended. A few die-hard pedestrians had beaten a single file path into the dirt on the shoulder; when the street went over a railroad track that path ended too. I was coming upon the new shopping "area" of Riverdale Commons. This isn't a mall, it's just a bunch of gaudy stores spread out over one square mile. Nine lanes of traffic. No sidewalks. No rhyme or reason in the off-roads. No way to get to a store except by auto. Even in a car, the roads are so haphazard that you may be able to SEE the destination you want, but you CANNOT drive there without making several wrong turns. I braced myself, and descended in to the maelstrom.

   I did get my ink. I went outside, set my time machine for "past-perfect" and I left "future-tense".

By Professor Batty


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