Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Big Easement

The rail tracks in Google Maps are multiplied many times over in the presence of easements alongside. 
 These wide easements are increasingly the last bastion for the storage of sometimes-dubious looking materials, 

They catch the eye in aerial view because of their studied organization, looking highly regimental in their numbers and
their repetition to the point

  where instead of counting sheep you're counting chemical tanks or ribbed metal culverts, large enough for whole families to sleep in...

Finding the Water Tower in South Dakota

I play another game as a cure for sleeplessness affectionately called "Finding the Water Tower in South Dakota", and it is pretty self-explanatory.  It worked like a charm for my husband who was looking over my shoulder.

I was inspired by the story of Millicent Atkins and how she recently gave 37 million dollars to two universities and her Congregational Church.  She was incredibly frugal and knew how to work a farm. I thought I'd probably find a water tower in her home town of Aberdeen, South Dakota.

And here it is, a spic and span water tower in Aberdeen.  Something very tidy about the whole town.

I moved south to Huron.  Following the County Road, finding the railroad and these lovely grain elevators:

Aah, there it is, just to the left of the railroad tracks:

Finally, you've arrived at your destination.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sleep Walking in Irving Texas

When I can't sleep at night I go for long walks up and down streets I'll never actually see in my waking hours.  Because I'm sleepless I don't go to Prague or Kyoto or Liverpool.  I go to Irving. 
Just listen to:

Scott Donaldson, in his 1969 book The Suburban Myth, characterizing Irving as the worst example of suburbia.  He starts by blaming the housing stock:

"Examples of this new housing abound throughout the land.  Crackerbox homes went up and sold in astonishing numbers and with incredible speed.  Mostly, the previously sleepy suburbs welcomed the growth; the equivalence of growth with progress is part of the folklore of America.  An extreme example is the tract suburb of Irving, Texas, located on the main highway between the boom cities of Dallas and Fort Worth.  In 1950, Irving's population was 2,621; in 1960,  it was 45,489.  The results have been less than satisfactory from an aesthetic point of view." 

 He concludes that planning, or lack of it, has also played a part:

"'In its pattern of scatteration and, probably in its built-in decay, Irving tragically represents too many other galloping suburbs across the United States, suburbs which have inflated the worst possibilities of their native landscapes.'  Part of the tragedy lies in the ugliness of the development tract homes and in the suburb's 'homogeneous, tasteless architecture...'  But Irving is also tragic in its seeming acceptance of growth for growth's sake, without planning, without leaving space for parks, to provide amenities, or for industry, to provide a tax base."

Goodness gracious great galloping suburbs! 

Scatteration?  Decay?  "homogeneous, tasteless architecture"?  I had to see this place for myself.

When you enter Irving, Texas, from Google, it looks like this.  A lot of parking lots, between Irving Blvd. and Rock Island Road:

The street view looks like this:
Irving Blvd, Irving, TX

and this:
Irving Blvd, Irving, TX
Car Wash, Irving TX
Long John's, Irving Texas

Rock Island Road, Irving, TX

Irving now has a population of 216,290.    It sits within Dallas County inside the "Texas Triangle" of Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and Austin/San Antonio.  It is at the intersection of Interstates 35, 45 and 10.  
    Will it be as ugly as they say it is?    I found it poetic, with ample free parking.

 How does Google decide where to place that push pin that marks the center of Irving?  Is it Irving Street?  Is it Main Street?  Is it City Hall?  Is it the railroad station, the busiest freeway entrance, or does a business pay them to stick their pin through their roof?   There must be an algorithm to it.  Does it have anything to do with walkscore?  Where does the pin land when you google a place you know well?  Does it make sense?

Before I knew it, Irving was popping up everywhere.   "The United States of Texas: Why the Lone Star State is America's Future" bellows Time Magazine's cover in the waiting room.   More facts:

Three of the five fastest-growing cities in America are in Texas.
Four of the ten fastest-growing counties are in Texas.
Only in Texas are suburbs surpassing cities in growth rate.

At the gym the other day I picked up a copy of Business Facilities magazine which bills itself as "The Source for Corporate Site Selectors".   PRE-CERTIFIED SITES, stamped boldly across the front cover  of the September/October 2013 issue, are "everywhere for the taking."  Inside, Broward County, Florida "where life is less taxing" proudly shares its motto:  "Hey, it's not what you make.  It's what you keep."  Governor Rick Perry is equally bullish on Texas.  Especially that Texas Triangle, formed by Austin/San Antonio, Houston and Dallas.  Irving is in there, at the intersection of a lot of freeways, in Dallas County.  

Even the corn chips I chose for dinner last night were made in Irving, TX.  Funny how that happens.
Gruma Corporation, home of Calidad corn chips, a subsidiary of Mission Foods

 Irving's big claim to fame up until 2009 was as the home of Texas Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys.  When the Cowboys wanted a newer more modern stadium they moved to Arlington and left the Stadium to be imploded in 2010.  By all accounts, it was spectacular.

They've been trying to figure out what to do with it ever since.
Oliver McMillan of San Diego has presented a mixed-use development  to the City Council.  But I digress.

I just kept thinking about those Dallas Cowboys.  For some reason the Cowboys  decided to abandon Irving after 40 years.  I found it sad.  Now I feel empathy for this place that's epitomized suburban ugliness for decades.

And I would stop by Joe's, "where Irving meets and eats,"

before falling asleep.

Rene Magritte, "Empire of Light," MOMA

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Port Townsend part 2

Sacrificial Anode 2
Adventures in the northwest have their share of
Twin Peaks moments.  (Click on the link for a brief, hilariously unsettling look back at the origins of the coffee cult in Seattle.) 
After stopping for lunch and before finding the perfect place for pie and a damn fine cup of coffee, we walked and window-shopped the main street.  Always curious about the places between the antique shops and the beach, the parking lots, rain gardens, otters, marinas, cafes, bookshops...I was drawn into a place that was a little of everything and nothing, no apparent purpose to it.  It was a vacant lot, but far from vacant.

 There were boats and bikes.

 There were still-lifes everywhere, imbedded in concrete, framed by driftwood, caught in nets.

There were 2.00 antique bottles for sale on the honor system.  Like roadside vegetables and fruit.

There were planters and bottles and bricks.
And the most beautiful driftwood structure I'd ever seen.

We peered inside.
More flotsam.  More jetsam.  Strange monkeys everywhere.  A drum set.  A place to sit.  A third place. A view.

The light was fading.  It was really cold.  Dad was moving away, toward the shops.   A cage sat in the gravel, housing something dark, which I photographed.  He came back to see what I'd stopped for and said, "That's macabre."  Like you tell a dog to leave it.  It was just the outlines I could see, the bright spot of a tennis ball and soft toy, the monkey pillow.

It was really horrible.  
Even when you're with your dad bad things happen.  That's just the way it is.

Like Jeffrey (Kyle McLachlan again) finding the ear in Blue Velvet's Lumberton

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Port Townsend with il papa

All my life I've had the pleasure of observing my dad, the unrepentant architect and teacher, look at boats.  We joke about how he dragged me through marinas, chandleries and boatyards and how the only way I could ever repay him for the hours of immersion in all things nautical would be to make him visit a fabric store.  But in truth he would find something interesting in a fabric store, and in truth time spent with him was never time wasted.

Sacrificial anode

So a couple of days ago I accompanied him on a working trip to Port Townsend where he needed to get some photographs for an article he was writing.  Now retired from teaching, he freelances for a number of boating magazines.  It was freezing cold and we only got out of the car long enough to photograph here and there as we wove our way through a city of hulls.  A small town of cradled boat bottoms, here and there a cafe, a clutch of bicycles, guys working under cover, stopping to chat.  And such beauty.
Here is the oakum that lies between the planks--strakes or spiles I'm not sure which, but my dad would know.

Here are Alma, Genius and Creosote:

 Here is Cutterhead, whose planks change direction in the bow to accommodate the routine scraping of the anchor against the grain:

Even my dad didn't know what this strange little metal jaggedy protuberance from the bow was for.  Perhaps to cut cables?

And then, because this was Port Townsend in winter and I was with my dad, we saw something unspeakable.
To be continued....