A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sad Corner

One of the best things about my neighborhood used to be the presence of an all-night drug store just around the corner from me. Before I moved in, I was warned by friends and relatives who read the papers that it was a dangerous spot. I was foolish to buy the house, but if I insisted on buying it, would I please just stay inside, keep my kids inside, and especially not go near Spring Street Drug. It wasn't called a "drug" store for nothing. There had been drive-by shootings. Rough types hung around on the sidewalk. And blah and blah blah blah.

I'm a member of what the demographers call the "risk-oblivious"--artists and gays mainly, the front line moving into mixed urban neighborhoods. We pave the way for the "risk-tolerant," the "new bohemians," the "middle-class move-downs," the "post-war suburban pioneers." (I love this lingo! Who makes up this stuff?) Bottom line: I didn't care.

The night I moved into the Emory House, I had a muscular friend help out. He's got a bit of a sweet tooth, and even though it was December, expressed a wish for ice cream when we were done. It was the middle of the night, but so what? We walked around the corner to the drug store. He asked me what my favorite flavor was, and I just laughed. Coconut--but what was the chance of that?

Long story short, Spring Street Drug had coconut ice cream, and we bought a pint. Strolled home and sat in the nearly-empty house, at the table I had found on the side of the road, and polished off the whole thing. I savored not only the unexpected treat, but the contentment of owning my own home, and the warm satisfaction of knowing that whatever I wanted from then on was right around the corner.

A couple of weeks ago, Spring Street Drug closed. One day it was open, and the next, vacant. CVS had taken it over a few months ago and then abandoned it when the shiny new CVS on State Street was ready. The building's for sale; its fate still a mystery.

The neighborhood's much quieter now. No more cars and motorcycles roaring up Pearl Street from the downtown bars a few minutes after 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night. Where else could you get cigarettes or sandwiches or a Red Bull or maybe some aspirin for that hangover you were definitely going to have? No more double-parked cars, no more teenagers in and out, in and out all afternoon and evening.

Oh, well. So I can't get coconut ice cream now whenever I have a craving. I can't get a bottle of vanilla in the middle of baking a pie on Thanksgiving morning. I can't get a notary public to sign a document at 3 a.m. I still feel like something amazing is right around the corner.

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Problematic Leaf Harvest

Well, the calendar says it's mid-November, but that's not what it looks like in my neighborhood. In the park behind my house especially, trees are still full of leaves. And not oak trees, either, which typically have brown leaves hanging on them till spring. Maples, which change color earlier than most other New England trees, are preponderant in the park, and they're still a blze of color. Some haven't even turned yet.

The city picks up leaves in barrels or in biodegradable paper bags every other week until December 1st. For a short time after Christmas, there's Christmas tree pickup as well. Then no more organic debris until spring. That schedule could pose a problem for the many city residents who are typical New England neat freak types and need to pick up and dispose of every last leaf. (One of my relatives gathers them up by hand. Another used to pull them off the trees before they could litter the lawn.) This year all the leaves won't be gettable by the end of this month--unless, following the example of him-who-shall-not-be-named, we get ladders and yank 'em before they're ready.