My Trip Along Wealthy
In order to help get a better understanding of Wealthy and how I fit into it, I finally walked its full length of 5 miles. Although, I originally only planed for 3 hours, I became quite side tracked by my surroundings and ended up on a 6 hour adventure. The following is just documentation of some of my thoughts that arose because of my surroundings as I went along my walk.
The trip started at the dump on the most western edge of Wealthy. As I followed along the edge of the road I spotted an exciting green object back in the brush. Upon careful inspection, I came across a lime green couch, blue hoodie, and old mattress. I started thinking "Why are these three objects here and in this particular arrangement?" So many things could have happened that would have caused the objects to fall in that orientation. They may have been left there randomly by somebody just tossing them out from their vehicle. Or possibly they were moved there deliberately as like a pseudo home, random thrown away objects collected by an individual to construct a makeshift home with. Thats when I noticed the hoodie was stressfully slung over the edge of the mattress as if left behind in a mad rush. The couch was tipped over as if knocked up against while the individual was quickly hurrying away. I tried to capture the essence of my feelings towards theses objects and the stories of how they were left behind from what "I felt" had happened. I wonder happened to the person who sat in that green chair, and why they choose to leave it?
As I walked further down Wealthy alongside the dump, I found myself fascinated by by the natural overgrowth into a manmade environment. Quite often society tells us that what's old and dilapidated is ugly, dangerous, and should be wiped clean and replaced with something new. However, I find these kinds of environments to be inspiring and beautiful. "Imperfect" objects are littered with inconsistencies, non symmetric details, unilinear lines, and thus produce an immense amount of interest in their texture and shape. Predictability gets boring fast; therefore, broken down dirty objects which are almost entirely random in natures produce interest. I in addition I fell that it brings up this sense that where we fail nature pics up. Which I find to be quite ironic, because as an engineering student I'm impregnated with this idea that technology with enough knowledge and patience can concur anything. Yet in reality, given enough time nature always succeeds and takes back what we stole away (Pompei and Inca cities.)
About midway down Wealthy St., I cam across a signal utility box littered with anti-war propaganda. I had come across similar signs on the way on doors and walls about the evils of politics and demands to end war now. But there was something about how these stickers lay, and their weathered state on the utility box that made it feel almost like the box itself was rebelling against society and the government. I'm not sure where I'm going with that... but there was something about that never the less. I guess personification adds excitement to the world around us making it feel more alive.
I was unfortunate not to get a chance to step in the old green furniture store Wealthy. I was in there several weeks ago, and the owner seems rather nice, and as I have heard knows quite a lot about the History of Wealthy St. Again the older antique furniture has something about it that new things lack, a history, or story. In a slight way we sitting down and having a lengthy conversation with each other, sharing our individual stories and creating memories that can lead to more stories. I keep coming back to this idea of stories. I'm weary to use the word nostalgia here as its not really about the connection to the past or better times but rather the experience of living new stories by exploiting stories of the past. I'm stuck here in this thre dimensional world, given the opportunity to experience only what I directly encounter... thus only what is going on at this given sliver of a moment in time. By looking into the stories of an object, I'm able to relive that objects stories in my mind... even if all fictional. It brings me into a new world... kind of like reading you know.
I guess I have this obsession because I firmly believe that our stories shape who we are as a person, well at least our memories do. Memories are also pretty much the only thing that will stay with us until the end, which I guess makes having more memories and stories (even if somebody else's) you end with a more enjoyed life. I don't know where I'm going with this.. just wanting off trying to make some sense. Maybe I'm over analyzing things.
Further up wealthy in East Town, across from Yesterday I came across the remnants of the building that blew up several weeks ago. Allot has changed since the day after when I last saw it, including a newly erected fence around the site. I guess what most caught my attention was a small bunch of flowers placed in a glass bottle inside the remaining base of a light post.
Somewhere between East Town and East Grand Rapids there was a house on the far side of the street with about ten teenage punk kids sitting on the roof. When I asked to take a picture, they responded cheerfully with an uplift of their hands and a center lone finger pointing towards the clouds. I guess they all felt they were some how defying society, teachers, or their parent with that sign. But I found that thought to be quite ironic. Here were a bunch of punk kids with their long torn jeans, black Rancid shirt, and spiked hair, the stereotypical epitome of rebellion and originality. A symbol in reaction to the mainstreams fashion and social hierarchies. I just felt that it was funny that here they were on a roof flicking me off and thinking they were then "cool" for it, and dressing to heir best ability as what they thought a cool "punk kid" should dress like. Seems kind of hypocritical.
Having never been in East Grand Rapids before, I was quite shocked as entered the downtown sector and felt like i was on some newly developed new england boardwalk. It was quite a shock as it was a stark contrast to the barren dump on the west side and lower income homes along the center of Wealthy. I felt like I was in a whole new world, it did not feel like I was on the same Wealthy as when I started.
When I finally came to the end of Wealthy St. I stood under the Grand Rapids Yacht Club sign. Furthermore, it was for private use only and just screamed egotism. Grand Rapids is an inland city with a shallow muddy river as the closest waterway to the rest of the world. It by no way can be considered an ocean or lake oriented city. The fact that there were small sailboats and sloops located there was understandable, who wouldn't enjoy sailing. But the fact that they called it a "Yacht Club" as if to raise their own status to that equal with more prominent social figures was just plain ridiculous. Were the elaborate large houses, expensive high school football stadium, elaborately decorated storefronts, and colorfully sculpted parking lots not enough to boast about the amount of money they have?
There were a few other social ironies I noticed on the way back through EGR. For instance, one particular house was made out to look like an aged country cottage included with a wooden pulley above the garage door and a wood stack under a lean resting against the house. A closer inspection revealed that the firewood staked there neatly, was in reality just the ends of firewood meticulously glued against the wall for appearance. That kind of made me think about my military patches on my old navy army jacket, or the sand blasted, hole riddled jeans my sister buys from American Eagle. And where I expected to find a sign for a lost kitten on a telephone pole was a sign for a lost cell phone as if our inanimate possessions now have equal staus value to us as the beloved members of our family. And if so, what does that say about whats happening to our culture?
One of the projects I'm helping Paul out with a bit, is looking at places of assembly. Particularly on central Wealthy there have been at least three known organizations within a few blocks of each other: Knights of Pythias, Woodsmen, and a book club (or a historical club of some sort). In particular, the Knights of Pythias used to gather in a hall located where the Elston-Richard building now stands. From from the Sanborn maps, one can see the original profile of the building which changed with the Elston-Richard building was constructed by 1953. By studying the brick pattern on the side of the building, I was hoping to be able to find some evidence that the original structure remained. There were three distinct brick patterns on the side of the Elston-Richards old storage building suggestions three distinct periods of major construction. So what all was there?
From there I finished the walk rather sluggishly. Ten miles and 6.5 hours later I was back where I started, at the dump near sunset.
Otis 20:28, 17 March 2008 (EDT)