Sunday’s Mélange

  • Fumiko Hayashi (1903-1951) was a prolific, successful, and influential Japanese novelist (Diary of a Vagabond, Floating Clouds) who unfortunately is little known today. I mention her work in my novel in progress, especially The Town of Accordions and Fish (aka Accordion in a Fish Town), so I’m learning more about her in hopes of avoiding one faux pas or another.
  • Last night, we spent a fair amount of time working in the yard after supper. The mosquitos took note and were staying close at hand to help out.
  • Do you lose track of the authors you like? I enjoyed The Witches of New York (2017) by Ami McKay. I just now discovered she wrote a sequel to it a year later called Half Spent Was The Night. Okay, so now it’s on order, the perfect time to get it since I’m re-reading The Witches of New York.
  • I’m really getting pissed off seeing a daily news story about a shooting. We shouldn’t have let Clinton’s assault rifle ban expire since it reduced the number of shootings for weapons of war that are hardly needed for hunting or home defense.
  • Today’s Facebook memory is a photo of my two brothers and me pretending to use a water fountain at Fairview Park in Decatur, Illinois where our grandparents lived. We spent more hours in that park than at their apartment. My memories of Decatur have worked their way into some of my stories.
  • My twice-a-year doctor’s visit is scheduled for Tuesday. We’ll see how he likes hearing that when he doubled the strength of my BP prescription, my feet got swollen. I’m cutting the pills in half and supplementing them with Tumeric. BP is fine. Feet aren’t swollen.
  • If you like old movies, Poet of the Camera about cinematographer James Wong Howe is a great story. I like old movies and always notice the perfection of his camera shots. “He pioneered the use of techniques like deep focus and high-contrast lighting; his dexterity at sculpting scenes of rich chiaroscuro garnered him the nickname ‘Low-Key Howe.’ Weathering changes in Hollywood from the advent of sound to color to widescreen, Wong Howe won two Oscars (for 1955’s The Rose Tattoo and 1963’s Hud) and was nominated for eight others.”
  • Short Story

    My twisted fairytale, “Waking Plain,” will be free on Kindle from June 6th through June 10th. It’s the reverse of “Sleeping Beauty” in which nobody wants to wake up the dull-as-dishwater sleeper.

Malcolm

Here’s why you can’t go home again

You can’t go home again because, by the time you get there, they will have torn it down in the names of “progress” and “development.” Or, should you find your home, the neighborhood will be gone, especially the most historic homes and buildings that made the place what was.

Looking at Atlanta’s penchant for tearing down the historic old in favor of the nonessential new, the late historian Frankin Garrett called this so-called development “municipal vandalism.” I had the good fortune to know this man who had a great office filled with old reference books at the Atlanta History Center. He had a photographic memory of everything that ever happened in Atlanta, but was the most nostalgic and angry about landmarks that had been wantonly bulldozed for parking garages and new buildings without souls. Atlanta’s city planners learned their craft from General Sherman’s “urban renewal” work there in July of 1864.

When I was in high school, my mother told me my father couldn’t go home again because the natural forests and even the orchards of his youth had all succumbed to development. In many cases, houses–as Peter Seeger would sing about in “Little Boxes”–that were made of ticky tacky and looked all the same. I didn’t really understand what Mother meant until I reached the age my father was when she said it.

I have many memories of one of the first houses I knew as a child in Decatur, Illinois, a wonderful Queen Anne home with a beautiful vegetable garden and adjacent sidewalks which were perfect for my new tricycle. However, municipal vandals bought the land and tore the house down. This current patch of grass, entry drive way, and parking lot represent anti-progress:

Google Maps Photo

My brother, who still lives in Florida and makes occasional trips to Tallahassee, still drives past the house my parents owned between 1954 and 1986. When we closed up the house for good, the front yard was still filled with pine trees. The current owners have decided to celebrate concrete with a few landscaped areas for decoration. Our “personal fifty-acre wood” behind the house has now been converted to an “upscale” subdivision that can be seen from the backyard of this house where I grew up. I’ve seen both via Google Maps, but I haven’t been back since 1986 and that’s just as well, for I would probably destroy all that hardscape with dynamite and a backhoe:

My bedroom was the room on the far right. Google Maps Photo.

The older I get–and today’s my birthday–the longer my “municipal vandalism” list gets; places I never want to see again because of what people have done to them. My memories are much better than reality. I last saw San Francisco in 1987; I was surprised then by the amount of “development” that had occurred since my family lived there. “Progress” continues to occur, so I’ve retrieved my heart from that my city by the bay and hidden it in a forest that people have yet to “develop” into something that pales when contrasted with Nature’s work. I won’t bore you with my personal list of places where one bastard or another had no sense of history and/or no sense on the environment.

You probably have your own list.

–Malcolm

P.S. I set my novels in the past because, in my imagination, it’s still there. The most recent of these is “Lena,” the third novel in my Florida Folk Magic Series.