11.15.2008

DowntownTM Versus The Organic Experience

Today we found ourselves in another universe: the East Bay. B had to pick up something in Concord for his boss and we ended up in Pleasant Hill, which we renamed Unnatural Hill. Not Unpleasant Hill, we settled on Unnatural. We were directed to what sounded like the downtown shopping district, but upon closer sniff turned out to be the latest incarnation of the strip mall, the Downtown _________(fill in town name here.) It looked like a downtown/city centre, street parking, sidewalks, restaurants, coffee shops and planter boxes. But I first noticed something was amiss when I realized that our footsteps were echoing as we walked along the clean, wide cement sidewalks. Although it was a lovely Saturday afternoon, and there were plenty of people around, it was oddly quiet. No, silent. No street musicians, drunks, preachers, petitioners, dreadies, Hari Krishnas or someone imploring you for a dollar. Besides that, the people all around us seemed to be talking in low, subdued voices, neatly licking their frozen yogurts and glancing silently around. All the stores were chains.We got some ice cream and perched on one of the grey concrete blocks that I can only assume were meant to be benches, but instead looked like inverted ice cube trays. It was pretty, pleasant even, we ate our ice cream in the warm autumn sun and watched G's chocolate mustache turn into a goatee. But it was eerie. Unnatural. I realized that all the banners up everywhere that urged everyone to "Shop Downtown!" were not in order to save the local businesses from the big bad mall, it was advertising for the updated version of the big bad mall.
The Organic Experience
Earlier that day we had a delicious & distended breakfast with family at the Palo Alto Creamery and then mosied over to the farmer's market. A string trio was playing silly songs for a gaggle of children who were dancing on the sidewalk and giggling. G bashfully joined in, and I stood back, watching and drinking in the moment. The flower stall down the street was brimming with Ammi majus and that lovely orange straw flower that I see this time of year, and can never remember the name of. Maple and liquidambar leaves spun lazy leaf circles on the cracked pavement, and a building across the street was all but engulfed in an elaborate tracery of vines.
The smell of basil and fresh baked bread was at once beguiling and comforting-(although I am still feeling a bit queasy over certain foods-sorry, tomatoes & leafy greens!) It was so utterly organic and infinitely familiar; I stood there, toe-tapping to the music, feeling happy and full of good food. Later that day, as we drove away from Pleasant Hill, I decided that in the end I was glad that its DowntownTM exists for those who want it, everyone should feel the way I felt at the farmer's market-like I was in my skin & could move adeptly through time and space in that environment. Like my cultural proprioception was regulated; I was at home and at peace.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Praise Him, all creatures here below! Praise Him above, ye heavenly host-Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!*

*Known by G as the Soxdology.

5 comments:

Camille said...

I know that corner of University well. My clan has had quite a few lunches and malts at the Creamery, too. Good stuff.

b said...

I guess DowntownTM isn't bad if it's already a prefab town, but if your town already has a downtown, SAVE IT!!!

Lucy Corrander said...

Rosa - forgive my ignorance - but what does TM mean? (I've only come across it before to indicate a Trade Mark and that doesn't fit.)

Your description of made my skin clammy.

Lucy

rosa said...

sorry, Lucy! I'm not sure, but I think that's an injoke with my husband. TM does stand for Trade Mark,and we use it to denote something completely packaged, marketed and has had any soul sucked right out of it. I think it came from our rounded dislike of Thomas Kincaide, who actually has "The Painter of LightTM" after his name. In the context of this post, I could have called it 'McDowntown' after McDonald's (homogenized fast food), and meant the same thing. Sorry if that didn't translate!

Lucy Corrander said...

Got it!

Lucy

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.