Yesterday after work I walked Pablo north up Main Street from 39th to Armour Boulevard and over to Broadway and back. There is something about walking a dog on Main Street that makes one's life feel more complete. There is no Main Street in Eugene, Oregon. Eugene has a numbered and presidential grid. I lived on Washington, Polk, Taylor, and Tyler. I walked a lot but never on Main.
We live in Old Hyde Park--it's a little funky, a condo development here, a rundown highrise there. It's on the bus line. If you start at Main and 39th and head north, you'll see a lot of pay day loan places and car title loan shops and stuff like that. I got pitched one of those loans at the nice comfy bank the other day. What a drag. And more of a drag to be preyed upon in a cheap way, on Main Street, because you have no other alternative. I rolled a short movie in my imagination about borrowing against my 15 year old van to buy groceries and pay our rent. As I get older I am able to stop playback on those little movies.
No restaurants to speak of, until you get up toward Linwood, which has Gates BBQ--oh yeah bud. There are bars--a gay bar shuttered with loud and proud rainbow designs next to a joint called Sidekicks. That is next to an African grocery store and specialty shop, and across from a shop called Fragrance World--aromatherapy, incense, perfume, essential oils. Kind of an olfactory analog to a head shop and geegaw place. It's a pretty low-rise, nondescript urban environment--loans and pawns and watering holes and practical businesses without fancy signage--heading away from The Plaza and toward downtown. I love it--it's new. Everyone likes Pablo as we pass by.
At Armour we headed West toward Broadway past a handful of older apartment buildings and some cool but run down houses. The Ellison is one--it reminds me every time that I have not read The Invisible Man. We saw a young woman come out of a more modern building and load her black lab into an old truck. I think about fear and anxiety and the urban environment. At dusk on a clear blue November day, it all seems pretty paranoid to me. There are people walking around who live at the margins of society, if you believe in that kind of thing. Too tired to mug me, or ask for a cigarette, or spare change, or even vibe me out. And everyone likes Pablo as we pass by.
Once you hit Broadway on Armour, you're at the Kansas City Life Insurance Company, a weighty old building that looks heavy and Chicago-style, like a place where the men in John Cheever stories would work. Except there's no train in Kansas City to take back to the suburbs and a gallon of martinis. (There should be, and there will be, when oil becomes an unviable resource, if we don't fry ourselves first.) Head South, you pass the Uptown Theater, where I saw Husker Du in '87 and our buddy Carl saw Lyle Lovett and John Hyatt the other night. There's a black and gold Mizzou bar, a jazz bar, a coffee shop, and the ubiquitous smoke shops. I see those and have the same reaction I have to frisbee golf. I guess I should try both hookah smoking and frisbee golf and not be a close-minded jerk about it.
We kept on heading South and hit Westport, the part of KC I'm most familiar with. I don't know much about cities, how they work, how they grow and fail and regenerate. It's a mythology, you have to immerse yourself in it. And I have been intimidated by cities all my life. I can recall panic attacks in Portland in my early 20's that made me want to crawl under a bed and sleep for two days. More recently, I saw a long, skinny rat on Main Street go out into traffic, then head back and leap the curb in front of Clint's Comics and Harling's. I want to start composting in our courtyard but need to research it so I don't create a rodent-friendly buffet. Limestone is readily available. I could make a craggy, crenulated compost bin. The sun is bright here--it rains once in a while but isn't overcast most of the time, like in the Northwest. That's a miracle I'll never get over.