Hiking the Avenue
My car is dead. It. Is. No. More. Together, my car and I recently took a big hit in the driver’s side and it died to save me. I waited three days, but it was still dead. The people in both cars walked away uninjured.
I’m taking my time buying a new car and in the meantime I’m walking when I can. The loss came at a pretty good time in a way: I’d just received express orders from my doctor to get more exercise and I’ve been wanting to get back to my twink weight, anyway. It’s a pretty sweet deal to do what you must do, need to do, and want to do, all at the same time.
So I’ve been walking home from work several evenings each week and much of my route is on St. Charles Avenue. The oaks and most of the houses are beautiful and, in fact, real refurbishment is being done on some of the mansions, like the “Wedding Cake” at the corner of Rosa Park and St. Charles, at very roughly the 6000 block, which has been repainted and (I’m told) gutted and remodeled inside. I’m glad the grand old homes that need work are being saved lately, rather than being allowed to continue to crumble or being scrapped and replaced with something “up-to-date” that either wouldn’t fit the surroundings or would look tacky in any surroundings.
You have to be careful not to become completely absorbed in architectural appreciation on the Avenue, though. Local people will know exactly what I’m referring to when I say I have a hard time deciding whether to classify my long walks on St. Charles as “brisk walking” or “cross-country hiking.” Surely many or even most of the sidewalks haven’t been maintained in 20 or 30 years! It’s not the mounds where the oaks have pushed the sidewalk up that are the worst. It’s the deep depressions that worry me, where something under the surface has given way and it looks like it might give way some more under the combined weight of my pack and me. That’s not completely hypothetical; last night, I made the mistake of stepping on a metal plate covering a water meter or something such as that and I felt my foot start to push through the sidewalk as I put weight on it. I moved off the plate before I could fall through to a compound fracture.
I don’t have a specific recommendation. In fact, I sortof smirk knowingly over the seedy richesse of run-down grandeur and break-a-leg sidewalks from a former time. I’m told there was a time just a few decades back when people thought that things naturally get better over time; I don’t think that view has entirely gone away. But “the historical inevitability of progress” isn’t a conclusion one can draw from my crumpled car or the sidewalks and houses of St. Charles Avenue. Instead, what we call progress seems to be progress for us. It’s not a “force” or anything else in itself; it’s not self-sustaining, let alone inevitable. The results of progress crumble back into disorder when people look away or when they lose the means to keep up the good that was achieved by others before them.