Friday, June 2, 2017

Vignette City 52.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

We showed up to start work. It was the first day and on the first day it is usually just me and Amos who do the work, ripping out the floors and the doing whatever demo the Designer wants done. The lady who answers the door was really pretty and young. She was about Darcy’s age and it made me feel a little fatherly at her, so I felt bad that she looked like she’d maybe had the flu. “It’s this room back here,” she said and took us to the back bedroom. “Thank you very much ma’am,” Amos said to her and we go to work. There was a nice blue rug in the middle of the room but no furniture. Amos and I rolled it up real quick and he opened up the door to the closet to see if we could fit it in there, but there wasn’t any room. “Look at all that,” Amos said, examining all the unopened boxes filling up the closet. “That is a nice looking crib in the picture,” Amos said, “and that’s one of those strollers that’s also a car seat, right?” And I said, “Hey Amos, let me see those plans,” I took them and I looked at them and it was just as I’d remembered seeing, design for a home office.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Vignette City 51.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

I was up in the old Chinatown district because I was craving a fancy donut, but the line was really long and all the tourists were there, taking pictures of themselves with the bright pink donut boxes, so I just went wandering around, thinking maybe I would find a place to grab a beer even though it was only 10am, but it was the weekend, so who cares. If the waiter ended up looking like someone who would look at me sideways then I would just get a bloody mary. I went a couple blocks up toward where I vaguely remembered there was a bar tucked into an alley. I found the alley and turned into it but there was no bar there, but there was a giant gray rock. It was big and jagged and it was sitting on a kind of short pedestal or mount, like it was on display. I reached out and touched it. It just felt like a rock and I felt dumb because what had I expected?

There was a thick plaque mounted on the pedestal and I had to bend down to read it. It said: This is original ruble from the April 14th, 1920 earthquake that decimated the city, killing 34,000 residents and demolishing the city center and many of the river ports. It is placed here in remembrance of our fellow citizens who were crushed, squashed, flattened, burned, crippled, broken, and decapitated that day.

I had never heard of this so-called decapitating earthquake and I grew up six blocks from here. I pulled out my phone and tried to look it up, but couldn’t find anything. When I eventually found the bar, I ordered a bloody mary and asked the waitress if she had ever heard of the 1920 quake and she said, no.

I ended up having three bloody marys and I took a stroll on down to the City Historical Society, which gave free walking tours on Sundays and I asked the man at the front desk about the quake and he said, “Sir, have you been drinking?”

And I said, “What in the hell does that have to do with an earthquake?” Then I asked the security guy who was walking me out of the building if he had ever heard of the 1920 earthquake and he said, “Do I look like a historical seismologist to you?”

He did not and I told him so.

I stopped by my local place and had a gin and tonic and said to Dan, “Hey Dan, you grew up here right?”

“I started bartending here with my pops when I was five, what do you think?”

“You ever heard of the Earthquake of 1920? Killed 34 thousand people.”

“Here? Naw. I would have heard about that.”

“Thanks Dan,” I said as he brought me another.

Later, at the central library I went up to the top floor where they keep all of the dioramas of the city from each decade of its history and I walked from one end of the room to the other: 1850, 1860, 1870, and so on until I got to 1910 and then … I’ll be damned if the 1920 diorama wasn’t gone. The 1930 diorama was still sitting there, lots of tiny people lined up in long bread lines outside tiny city hall. “Hey!” I yelled at the closest librarian I could find, who wasn’t actually a librarian, but a high school kid who looked smarmy and nerdy and kind of stuck up, “Where is the 1920 diorama?”

“They took it out to clean it.”

“They clean them?”

“Yeah, they get dusty and then people start to think that the past was really dusty.”

“People are idiots.”

“Tell me about it,” the kid said.

I went back up to chinatown, but the donut line was even longer and so I went back to that one bar and had a couple more bloody marys and then when the waitress told me she wasn’t going to refill me any more, I stumbled out of there and went back to the alley so I could look at the damn rock again and see if maybe there was another plaque or something, maybe on the wall, but when I turned into the alley, there was no rock. The pedestal was there still, but it was empty and the plaque was gone. I bent down to look at where it had been and I could see that there were fresh scrapes around the screw holes, like it had just recently been taken off. I pressed my hand down on the flat top of the pedestal, but it didn’t feel like anything, just an empty spot.