Last night my wife and I decided to go to a movie. I also wasn’t feeling well, so what with time constraints and the distance of the nearest movie theaters (4 miles), we took the car. On this Saturday night there was no traffic to speak of in spite of the 3,000 people coming in for the Falcons’ playoff game and whatever else might have been going on so we arrived at our favorite restaurant, Panjabi Tadka, in just two or three minutes and we were able to park right on Main Street.
The food was as good as ever, the other patrons were interesting. I particularly enjoyed watching the hipster couple parked in the crosswalk; he came in to get a menu, they conversed agitatedly for a while, then she took out her phone and…the waiter at Panjabi Tadka answered the house phone and took their order. My wife was a bit more concerned with the Rasputin lookalike who was coming and going regularly without apparently ordering or picking up anything. After we arrived the place filled up fairly quickly and it gave us hope that we might be able to continue to eat there long into the future.
I pointed out the building across the street I had written about earlier and we discussed some ideas about improving Lyman Street. While I had forgotten to mention Lyman Street was synonymous with prostitution when I was a kid, I did mention that the one big gap in the street was made with the tearing down of a beautiful building with nice bay windows. I wondered if the unsightly railroad tower couldn’t be turned into an asset instead of a visual liability somehow, perhaps a design contest or just a coat of paint.
In any case we finished our meal and off we went to the movies. Memorial Avenue is, if not the mother of all stroads, it was one of the first and therefore poorly designed even by stroad standards. For a long time what were the Showcase Cinemas in West Springfield were the only theaters in Hampden County. When other complexes started to be built in the region their multi-building design was scrapped and a more contemporary design was constructed. What boggles the mind is the size of the parking area. This was a rainy Saturday night in early Spring and the lot wasn’t 1/3 full. The design of the parking area lead to numerous “wrong way drivers” despite the enormous bright colored arrows painted on the asphalt. The further away from the movie house, ironically, the fewer the accommodations made for pedestrians. It would be harder to create a more hostile environment for people in order to accommodate their cars.
We have created such an irrational platform on which to live our lives and yet most of us are completely oblivious of the pervasive ugliness which surrounds us. So many Americans don’t know anything else, they view Manhattan or Provincetown as anomalies which can’t be recreated “just anywhere” in spite of the fact that the evidence is that from Brainerd, Minnesota to Springfield, Massachusetts the sort of active, dense, pedestrian friendly environment those places possess used to be what made up the background of every day life in North America.