Last night, I reminisced with my friend Aileen about the days when the Madrona Ale House was a corner drugstore, the same corner drug store that she and her neighborhood playmates frequented for candy fixes, the same one I passed every day on the 2 on my way to school. It was at this drug store that Aileen bought her very first tube of lipstick–a purchase responsible for a lifelong obsession. (I believe her current collection is in the three-digit range.) But I digress.
The Madrona of today bears almost no resemblance to the Madrona of our childhoods. And so, in the custom of so many who witness the transformation of a place they love, last night we waxed poetic about the “good old days,” decrying the changes and all those associated with them.
On the 48 on Saturday, the driver and a few other Seattle oldheads were engaged in a similar conversation, talking about how much better the city was in the 70s, back when, to paraphrase, folks had some sense. “If I had my way,” the driver said, “I’d send all those Microsoft people out to the middle of the state.”
A common trait among us changephobes is our desire to keep a place the way it was when we found it. We tend to forget that we found it at single a point on a continuum of change. (I imagine, for example, that many Duwamish people have a different version of the “good old days” than I.) So, as deeply as I’ve felt the losses I have endured as my hometown has grown up (and, unfortunately, out), I understand that change is both inevitable and necessary. Resistance to it is, after all, largely responsible for our current transportation nightmare.
And therein, ladies and gentlemen, lies the root of my current internal struggle.
Last Friday, I participated in one of Sound Transit’s lunch bus tours of the light rail construction. Not surprisingly, I am beyond excited about this project. I absolutely believe that we should build light rail in Seattle. I would even go so far as to say we don’t have a choice.
Still, as the tour guide took us by site after site and street after torn-up street, my excitement and anticipation were tempered by a deep, deep sadness. Despite years of opposition by groups like Save Our Valley, I hadn’t really understood the profound impact that light rail will have on the southern end of our city until I saw it up close. Some of it will be good, of course. Rail will reduce traffic and pollution and improve access to key destinations. Sound Transit is basically repaving all of MLK, widening sidewalks and burying power lines while they’re at it. But the process is painful. Homes have been demolished make room for tracks and the aforementioned sidewalks. Decades-old trees have been removed, to be replaced by many more new ones. Beacon Hill is actually being hollowed out, so that one day a train can run right through it. And, of course, property values are rising in anticipation of the neighborhoods’ increased desirability.
I wonder if I’ll recognize the Hill or the Valley in 20 years. Truth be told, I kinda liked them the way they were.
So pete rock hit me, nuff respect due
When they reminisce over you, listen