Sunday, May 20, 2007

Can't have it all

Friday night here at the Eleanor Roosevelt building, several residents were supposed to meet around the table out back for a glass of wine and then head downtown for an art/antiques festival. But as is often the case with a large group of people, we never could reach consensus about when to leave and thus failed to achieve escape velocity. We simply drained bottles of wine here and invited friends from off-site to come over. Ned made a plate of quesadillas for everybody, and when I say made I mean he took them out of a box and baked them in the oven. We all gave him a hard time because he’s the only native Spanish speaker in the building and he gets his quesadillas from the frozen section at Wal-Mart. They were plenty good, though.

Check out this chard leaf pictured in the photo. I love the way the light shines through the leaves and makes a sort of low-tech stained glass window. I cut this leaf last night and we ate it in a salad. Today I’m setting out some jalapeno pepper plants in the same planter on our balcony.

Saturday I was reading about the nutritional value of chickweed and dandelion in a book by Susun Weed, and it set off a familiar grind of conflicting feelings I have about my living situation. I’d given up on the idea of our selling Wyatt’s place and getting a house with a yard, partly because I’m no longer employed full-time and mostly because I’m so happy with the social situation here in the condo building. I’d really love to farm a yard, but where else could I find a community like I have here? Plus, any kind of yard of mine would piss my neighbors off. My cultivation of dandelions and chickweed would fuel the use of herbicides in the lots around me, so I don’t know that it would be good for the environment overall.

I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing for a long time, and I’m frustrated because I haven’t come to any conclusions, other than the fact that a strong sense of community takes precedence over just about all my other living criteria. Sure, I’d love to live off the grid in a mud and straw house with solar panels on the roof, but you can’t do that when you live downtown in a mid-sized city. Living near where you work, hang out, and shop is essential in my mind. And I like having access to a variety of social options and types of people. We’ve thought about moving to a small town, but we’d likely have a long drive to work and no access to Indian food (India Palace on Tate Street) or Vietnamese food (Pho Hien Vuong on Spring Garden Street). Not to mention the fact that people who live in those small towns tend to be old, white, and horrified by diversity. About 25 percent of the crowd collected at Friday night’s gathering was homosexual, and there was a Columbian-born belly dance instructor there as well. There were also some church goers there, but they weren’t handing out tracts and pontificating. While I have a knack for meeting interesting people wherever I go, I think I would feel bored and isolated in a small town. Floyd, Va., is a small town with a very cool scene, but I get the sense that newcomers there have to crack the local clique to belong. And drive to Roanoke to work.

I like Greensboro because it still feels genuine, like it hasn’t learned to put on airs yet. Raliegh, Durham, and Chapel Hill are nice to visit, but there’s an icky film on those places for me – they’re too slick, smart, successful. In fact, Greensboro is getting to be more like that. The ostentatiouness of the new shopping development at Friendly Center makes me nauseous when I drive by it, and downtown has begun to cater more to those with money to spend than it does to the truly artsy.

What dismays me most is that it seems businesses can be too cool to succeed in this town. The Zauber Schloss, a bar on Bellemeade which featured magicians and customers in costume - I really hated to see that go, and it’s been gone several years. I miss the Blue Hour bar, too. And the Paisley Pineapple’s sofa bar. The things that replaced them just aren’t as cool because they target an Applebee’s audience. I can’t understand why we have such a robust community of topless bars, but music night clubs like The Anvil just can’t seem to make it here despite the number of universities and colleges we have.

On the other hand, if a place gets too cool, there’s a stampede of people moving in, property prices soar, and the cool folks can no longer afford to live there.

No comments: