Things are going to be VERY busy over the next two weeks, and… while I’ll do my best to post an update during that time, Fair Warning that there may be an absence of updates for a bit. Thanks for your continued patience and interest in this rambling story.
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“Angel, angel what have I done?
I’ve faced the quakes, the wind, the fire
I’ve conquered country, crown, and throne
Why can’t I cross this river”
-The Humbling River, Puscifer
XIV – BURROWS
I take the “back way” to the Hospital, driving through downtown Lewiston down main street to 8th Street, up the sloping curve towards the Lewiston Civic Theatre and “Paisley Park”. I have to admit, it’s impressive the strides forward that the downtown area has taken in ‘cleaning up’ and becoming “modern’, while still maintaining much of the character of the original mouldings and brownstone structures. It looks very friendly and inviting, with the wider streets, lined with dogwood trees that no doubt explode with pink blossoms and hay fever-inducing pollens in the spring. The bricks have all been sandblasted into a ruddy shade of burnt sienna. The panels and mouldings have all been painted in an intricate style that highlights each successive line and curve, giving the “painted ladies” of San Francisco’s Nob Hill a run for the money.
While it no doubt is better for the economy here, and allows for more community gatherings, events and activities, I find it unbelievably depressing. As a kid, we’d ride our bikes over here, gliding past the darkened, dirt-smeared windows of abandoned tobacconists, and Woolworth’s and J J Newberry and Floresheim Shoes for the Family. Even the stores that remained had the feel of being some sort of survivalist encampment. As if they’d taken their few meager belongings and hidden themselves away in these man-made caves of stone and brick and wood. Lighting was almost uniformly poor. Counters always has a thin coating of dust. The clerks and store owners were indifferent or surly. Finding what you wanted, or something that unexpectedly caught your eye was an all-day adventure… a valiant and noble quest. You had to commit yourself to the search, knowing full well that no one would help you, and that there were many times you’d spent an entire day hunting… only to return empty handed. No “service with a smile”, no sense… not even in an ignored implication… that the “Customer is always right.”
But on the days you found what you were looking for… or better yet… the days you found something that you didn’t know existed, but instantly filled you with indescribable joy at the moment of discovery… like finding the lost city of Atlantis, or the Ark of the Covenant, or the remains of a crashed alien spaceship buried in your backyard… those moments, those finds… they were priceless treasure. Items prized with a worth far beyond the physical value and the money exchanged. Because of the simple fact that you had to hunt for them. Because they were unexpected and unknown and hence, wonderful surprises.
Moments like that are only possible on main streets and areas of once-thriving business that are slowly sliding into a state of decay. Hovering on the edge of life with the existence of a disease-not-yet-declared fatal. In can’t happen in places like this. Another opportunity for the unknown and the possibilities of imagination and magic, eliminated in the cleaning and scouring and improving of everything.
Driving up 8th, I turn left on 6th Avenue, parking on the street under the impressive awning of trees that line the street surrounding the imposing castle of limestone… a former methodist church that would seem better suited for the climes of England with its towering, rough stone walls … that serves as the local civic theatre. It’s been here for decades, and growing up I thought that the theatre and the luxurious homes that surrounded it represented “High Society”. A world of F. Scott Fitzgerald-style cocktail parties attended by beautiful and wealthy people in formal wear and cigarettes smoked from the end of long, ebony holders. This area represented the “High Life”… a life I’d never be able to experience, much less have. It’s likely that this perception was, in part, summoned by the rumor that the “mansion” on the corner of the hill, with it’s neo-Roman pillars and stonework that surrounded a rolling green estate, had been built for Walt Disney, who wanted to have a home with the luxury he was accustomed to when he and his wife visited her hometown relatives. The rumor held sway on almost everyone… a concrete example of the grand world of Hollywood gracing the valley with its presence. For me, the rumor served a very different purpose. It gave me evidence… or at the very least… reinforced the hope… that someone who was born here could escape. Could find a better life outside of the confines of the two towns that lay side by side.
That things could be better.