Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Seema a go go

One of the hardest parts of the new job is getting used to the commute. This is the longest commute I've ever had. Combine that with the fact Sweat Sock City highways give me a nervous breakdown every 32 seconds, I'm not necessarily the happiest camper first thing in the morning or right at quitting time. Today, it took me an hour and fifteen minutes to get home. And keep in mind, this is going against traffic. Of course, today was special circumstances -- a truck had overturned on the overpass near my exit and hence, the entire freeway had been shut down to clear out the mess. I didn't hear any mention of injuries, so that's a Good Thing (tm).

I detoured prior to my exit, otherwise I'm pretty sure I still wouldn't be home. The alternate route is much less trafficked and one I use when the weather is bad (read: torrential downpours with zero visibility and street flooding what you might call a daily occurance here in Sweat Sock City this year). This route also takes me through one of the poorer sections of town. It's an odd juxtaposition -- dilapidated houses held together by paint and willpower, yards overgrown with weeds, the road a patchwork of different colored asphalt because no one cares enough to redo it against the soaring silver and glass skyline of one of the country's largest cities. In this neighborhood, time seems to stand still.

Dogs languidly creep across the street, pausing to check both ways. Once, I saw a dog standing on the low roof of a back yard cottage. People cross the street, slowly, and anywhere they wish to; crosswalks don't seem to mean a thing here. Every other block has a lot overgrown with weeds. There are many abandoned buildings with black signs with "For Sale" printed on them in red block letters. The billboards are all in Spanish and promote local health care clinics and the community college. The cars parked on the street and in driveways are late models, usually Fords or Chevys, their color dulled by a coat of dust. There's only one metro bus line that runs through this area and the bus is always full. Occasionally I see a taxi drive through, but I've never seen one stop. One auto repair shop seems to have given into its surroundings and graffited its own walls with a list of services available. It's the only business open on this three mile stretch of road.

There's a yellow apartment house (complex?) that gets me every time. There are two buildings, and one of them looks like it has been condemned. The windows and doors have been boarded up. The other one is open for living, yet the windows are broken, the doors to the staircase are perpetually open revealing rickety stairs and the yard is littered with trash. There are always people sitting outside of this house, no matter the weather, and occasionally they have beer. There are always children in the group. Once, I drove by and saw Sweat Sock City's finest in the yard. They had two of the teenagers facedown on the ground, and one of the cops had his gun drawn. In three months of driving through this neighborhood, that's the only time I've seen the cops.

This must have been a pretty area once. I see the echoes of history as I get closer to downtown. There are buildings that look at home in an episode of "Little House on the Praire", there's an old church, a rundown general store building, and all around, this lush, lush greenery courtesy of this summer's crazy weather. But it's as if the whole area has given up and boarded up these beautiful old buildings, letting the elements take their toll on structure and foundation. Somehow, the financial success of Sweat Sock City and its enormous growth in the last five years haven't filtered down to this neighborhood. Soon, the investors will move in and tear down these feeble structures, essentially evicting the current residents. And as much as I want this area to be cleaned up, brought back to life, I can't help but wonder what will happen to the people who live there when the change comes.

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