In old neighborhoods, we use the past to imagine a future.
It’s not quite the same when material history rolls around town. Here’s a strong old house–once a paragon of stability. Is it about to be wheeled off? Or has it just been wheeled in? Is it coming? Or going?
It looks lonely. What used to be on the other side of the fence? What conversations might have taken place? Who fell in love there, or played on the lawn? What did they see in their future? How might it have informed ours?
At some point, I imagine, new neighbors came in–in more impersonal buildings, with gambling tables and slot machines inside. Who lived in the old building then? Owners? Dealers? Waitresses?
Then another group of new neighbors came in, temporary visitors staying in motels featuring appealing design and easy access–or so I imagine.
Behind them, today, are new buildings, signaling changes to come. We don’t know what the changes will be–since the new owners have not told us–but we have allowed their unnamed futures to push out our connections to the past.
Change is the life of cities, of course–but who owns it? Who controls it? Who has a right to the city?
Good-bye, old friend. In your new spot–if you’re going to one–who will be able to see your past, the connections that made you what you were, the milieu that might suggest a new one to us? Instead, our reaction to you will be an abstract nostalgia–uninformed and unconnected.