Wednesday, July 30, 2008

a vast and sickening place

Nothing screams economic downturn like terminal deferred maintenance. The Seaport Marina Hotel in Long Beach has seen better days. I wonder how the decrepit place fared during today's 5.4 rumbler…? What is so apparent in Long Beach, and still mostly hidden in Portland, is the stark residue of hard times. Anxiety and rage and despond and, at times, resignation. All very obvious in this part of SoCal.

You could see it in the signage. When all else fails, imperatives linger on. The no this, and no that, and the we reserve the right to refuse.

Years ago I wrote and rewrote a story, a long story, called Capturing Pedersen. It was, by and large, an unsuccessful story, but there was one clause in it that continues to bubble to the surface when I'm confronted with large, empty tracts of abandon: The supermarket was a vast and sickening place… a string of words that continues to issue disappointment in its resonance.

In light of the Long Beach scene— the weeds growing up in the cracks in the parking lot behind abandoned cars, the "spa" with no water, the broken ice machines, the sad little hooks in the popcorn ceiling that once held the cord of a swag light but now hold nothing, the three dollar clock radio bolted to the pressboard nightstand, all these sadnesses—I am reminded of the fragility of humanity, and that maybe one really big earthquake could reverse the misfortunes of that falling-down hotel, and from the ashes might come grace.

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