It's my personal soapbox, a place for me to express thoughts and feelings, musings and rants, reflections and recollections; to have fun with words -- about things spiritual, environmental, social, political, economic, and, from time to time, personal. And of course about peace. Soapboxes are in public places (as London's legendary Hyde Park) on purpose, and so I invite conversations with you, for it is through civil discourse that we can gain some perspective on the seeming chaos of these changing times and learn together how to shape a positive future for ourselves, our communities, and the generations to come.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Walls Remember

I was just stepping off the curb to cross a street on the way to the post office this morning when I saw it…and came to an abrupt halt. Transfixed, I watched for several minutes.

A monster of metal, a modern-day T. Rex, grabbed a mouthful of the back end of the 88-year-old apartment building at 120 Tilton Avenue, chewed it up, swiveled to its left, spat it out onto a growing pile of razed ruins, and then swiveled back to take another bite. And another. And another. And yet another. As the worn and dingy building disappeared bit by bit from the rear, door frames, window panes, bathtubs, toilets, wooden chairs, slabs of stucco, and weathered timbers rained down – twisted, broken, crumpled – onto the rubble pile. And, bit by bit, green trees and blue sky came into view beyond.

A tiny human – tiny next to the T. Rex – was hosing water over the voracious beast’s iron neck and head and right into its meal-grinding maw, striving to keep the dust down. But not all of it could be kept down.

Dusty wisps were rising and swirling, released from their vanishing home, searching for where again to alight. A child’s face peering through the pane of a shattering window. A woman standing at a falling kitchen sink, preparing rice and carne asada for her family’s evening meal. Another woman scrubbing clothes in a crumbled bathtub and then hanging them over a broken bannister to dry. A man with weathered face emerging early in the morning from a twisted door to join his compadres chatting on the front lawn as they waited for the pick-up to arrive and drive them to wherever it was they had a job.

This building is right around the corner from my apartment. I used to see these people every day as I would walk by. Then one day, about four years ago, they were gone. Just…gone. The next day, the ground floor windows were sealed with sheets of plywood and a construction fence surrounded the building. And there it has sat. Until today, when the vapors suffused in the walls of the lives lived in their embrace are themselves evicted.

The historical review done by the City of San Mateo in 2006, the basis for the demolition permit that was issued, concluded that the building met none of the State of California’s four criteria for preservation and listing in the historical registry. For one of those criteria, the report found that no one of “any importance in local, regional, state, or national history” was “directly associated” with the property.

Who defines what or who is important?

Anyway, all things are impermanent, time marches on – and so must I. Taking three deep breaths, I looked into the green trees and blue sky coming into view beyond, and crossed the street toward the post office and the mail that might be waiting there.

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