For almost a year I’ve been visiting an odd bit of curbing in a vacant lot where a supermarket was once located. There are two or three places where the curbing of the store’s parking lot had been broken up. It’s not clear if that destruction was accidental, intentional or organic. What was clear, though, was that somebody—for reasons entirely unclear—had tied a length of red PVC wire around a chunk of the broken curbing and carried it some sixty feet away.
And then set it down. I’ve been fascinated by it ever since. Why was it moved from its original position? Why that particular chunk of curbing? Why fashion a carrying handle from red PVC wire when it would be just as easy—easier, in fact—to carry it in your hands? And why leave it where it was left? It made absolutely no sense. I loved it.
Over time, the chunk of curbing was moved again—maybe twenty or thirty feet from its last position, and perhaps it would have been moved farther had the red PVC wire ‘handle’ not snapped. On a later visit I noticed the curbing had been overturned and another chunk of curbing had been carried and set down nearby.
It continued to make no sense, and I continued to be fascinated by it. But now the conversation is almost over. On my last visit, the curbing had been moved once again.
I suspect kids are responsible for most of the recent moving, if only because young boys do things for reasons even they don’t understand—or no reason at all. It doesn’t matter, really who moved them, or even why. There’s something appealing about these migrating chunks of curbing. But the wind will probably blow away the red PVC wire eventually. And then the conversation will be over.
I’ll continue to visit the vacant lot, of course. There’s something about the slow reclamation process that I find weirdly comforting and attractive. There’s a sort of drama to it, though a very patient drama. It’s a different sort of conversation—less peculiar, more fundamental.
This abandoned lot is set on a fairly busy thoroughfare in a moderately poor neighborhood. Nearby is a car-wash, a small local Latino-operated auto repair shop, and an indie copying center that never seems to have any customers. The road noise is vicious—at least until you get near the back of the empty lot. Then it becomes muted, and it’s difficult to distinguish between the road noise and the sussuration of wind through the trees.
It’s not quite tranquil. But you can sense that tranquility used to exist here, and may some day return. That’s a conversation I’d like to join.