Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Noxious and Condemned -- Saturday 1 August

I grew up in a cul-de-sac in unincorporated suburbia, at nearly the bottom of a little hill. All three houses at the bottom of this street had roughly half-acre lots, but the backyards were down a full storey from ground level, with rocky slopes formed from an old riverbed. All were overrun with a jungle of growth: fir trees, hawthorne, and birch but also English Ivy and, of course, Himalayan Blackberries.

Sure, it's a Noxious Weed, but blackberries have always been one of my favorite fruits, and apparently they're a pretty good thing to eat.

Late summertime was always one of my favorite seasons, and a tradition of August is blackberry picking. The ones in the stores are awfully expensive and usually quite underripe, since ripe berries don't travel well, but if you can find a source set back from the exhaust and dirt of the road, they're free for the taking around here.

This is the spot I found, on my commute into work. This is a scrap of land owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation, and several houses in this area have all been condemned and boarded up -- I think with the plan was to be able to build a highway interchange here, which may or may not happen in the next twenty-five years or the like.

But, for now, the houses stand, boarded up, empty. In their place, I guess, a few miles down the road -- in the flood plain of the Puyallup River, is a bunch of shiny new, identical subdevelopments. I guess people could move there.

But these were perfectly good houses, built to live in, not make a buck. It's really eerie to be here. I feel like I'm in The Road.

I pull off of the road onto the long gravel drive, and roll up alongside the house. It's just like I'm coming home, as I look briefly at the yard, the pear tree and the Noble Fir, the remains of the tree fort. Anyone know what kind of tree that is? Yours Truly is no arborist.

But, of course, no one lives here. The blackberries and morning glory have taken over the yard, spilling over the fence, the garden trellis, the walls of the shed.

Picking berries at the garden, looking at the still green pears, out across the field to the still-active farm a bit down the road, it’s easy to imagine going into the mudroom, washing off the fruit, making a pie – but no one will live here again except the wasps that have burrowed their way into the walls.

Of course, some squatter had already pried off the plywood covering the rear door, made a little pallet out of a scrap of carpet and a space blanket. There’s a 3-year old receipt and an empty CD case in an overturned bureau drawer.

This house is otherwise pretty nice. It has hardwood floors, a two-tier starcase to a little top floor furnished attic, with an old-style slope-sided ceiling that'd never fly in today's clone-a-home.

Wow, that's a lot of hyphens.

The thing of it is, I would've love to live in a house like this. It's attractive, solidly built, ergonomically sound. People would call it "cute," with a lot of "charm," though the nearby freeway would give it "character." One would certainly always hear the noise from it, but so what?

This whole ex-neighborhood is full of empty lots, boarded up houses, and a big, blank field which has a sign suggesting that commercial lot space is available. It's been there, unchanged and unbuilt, for the three years I've lived in the area.

But this is progress, right?

You've got to build bypasses.

It's not the end of the world. Just don't go back for your bag.

The important part about houses isn't that they are livable, "charming," or aesthetically pleasing. The important part is their square footage, the two-car garage, the central air.



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