Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Kicking it Old School - From CAL to CAL - Part 2

If this is your first time here, click here for this month's first installment.

It felt like it’d been an hour.

Normally, on a long walk, time slips away from you in either direction; you’ll either feel like you’ve been on the bricks for twenty minutes or three hours.  Later in a walk, it feels like it’ll never end.  But here, it felt like sixty solid minutes of walking.

More middle-of-the-road standing.  I’d passed so few cars that the grey trail beneath me felt like it was entirely mine.  Roads are funny in that way; we think of them as the only way to get there, but really they’re just flat parts of the earth where it’s easier to get from A to B.  In the end, roads are only roads because they don’t have obstructions.

Speaking of roads in an essential way, here is essentially the Gene Snyder.

Despite the fact that we drove over this bridge countless times during the course of our childhood, it took me forever to figure out we were going over the Snyder.  To be totally honest, I wasn’t 100% sure until I snapped the picture myself and realized where I was.  All I knew is it was some highway, but I’d never critically considered it.

A few more steps across the idle bridge and I was back in relative peace. 

There’s so much being built up such a short distance away that we sometimes forget that this is still pastoral land in many cases.  Louisville’s expansion out to this part of the county is still ongoing, and up until about thirty years ago, this was firmly outside of Louisville.  Lives were quieter, things were more simple, and prices were lower.  This barn looked like it might barely function in its primary purpose anymore,  but it’s hard to tell.  It was clear that someone owned it still, as most of the wind, rain, and storms we get will break down an unattended barn in short order.

Not a quarter mile down the road from this agrarian memento was a modern, well-tended, and exorbitantly expensive property wreathed with a fence and electronic gate.  The pristine, calm lake in the distance was almost a stone’s throw away, but considering I might be attacked for a $35,000 guard dog, I decided to leave the roadside stones where they were.

There’s something about a winding, quiet path that drives me to follow, but I know better.  Barely, but I do.  I wonder what would happen if I did walk down it?  Would I be greeted with a handshake or a handgun?  It’s funny how differently people can react based on their own history and personality.  As the consequences of a firearm outweigh a friendship, I’ll just keep walking.

The winding path owner’s neighbor had a house more set towards the road.  Alongside it, he has an outbuilding of some kind, maybe a shed or a garage.  The picture makes it a bit hard to tell, but it had a pretty significant lean on it to the left.  Here it almost looks upright, but at an angle, you can see the list.  I guess as long as it’s deep enough, it can lean all it wants.  Look at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, after all.

I rounded a corner after walking another couple property lengths, and then the road opened up significantly, granting a bit of shoulder for more comfortable walking.
Normally, this is a fairly high-speed road, with cards whipping by much faster than the signs that read “35” indicate.  Still that quiet Saturday morning, though, so even the few cars I saw weren’t in any hurry.

In the stillness of the morning, I passed silently under the swaying cables of the transmission towers that intersect with Poplar Lane.  I was more silent than they were, though; because it was so peaceful and the surrounding woods blocked much of the wind, I could hear the hum of electricity coursing through the wires overhead.  I’m not sure what the mechanism of that is, but it was wild nonetheless.  I could hear people turning on their stoves, watching the news, or charging their phones!

My dad had trouble with his mailbox for years.

Over the course of my childhood, our family went through around a dozen mailboxes, each bigger and sturdier than the last.  For whatever reason, our mailbox was continuously struck by cars or, more likely, errant youths with a baseball bat, or so my dad claimed.  He started to eschew plastic mailboxes for reinforced, anchored ones that weighed a ton.  I was skeptical, but one night in summer during the late 90s, I was proven wrong.

It was fairly late, maybe 10:00 or 11:00 at night, and we saw lights at the end of our driveway.  Our house was at the end of a fairly long drive, but we’re in the line of sight of the end of that drive, so we saw the car at the intersection of our paved driveway and the road.  It didn’t come down towards us, though.  Suddenly, the headlights pulled back out, and heard the front tires burn rubber as it lurched onto the road, turned abruptly, and sped off.

Dad immediately assumed it was some hooligans destroying his mailbox, grabbed his big flashlight from the counter and ran down the 500-foot driveway.  My mother, sister and I, who were playing Monopoly in the dining room which had a front-facing window, jumped up to watch the flashlight bob up and down as he dashed up the length of our drive.  A minute later, his beam was flitting back and forth at the street, and a couple minutes later, we saw the light tottering back our way.  Dad came into the kitchen, clutching the heavy metal mailbox, a massive dent in the side, the flag bent at the middle, and the small door on the front smashed shut.  We all stifled a laugh at my father’s enraged, but vindicated expression.  He’d been right.

I wonder if a similar fate befell this mailbox?  It wasn’t likely to have been hit by a car for two reasons: one, a car hitting it would just destroy it at the speeds people fly down this road, and two, the damage is localized, and although it almost looks like a side-view mirror hit it, it’s on the wrong side of the mailbox for the typical flow of traffic.  Unless this box was smacked in Britain and sent back, not much of a chance that happened.  So I bet poor #12609 had been subjected to the pubescent justice of the baseball bat.

I dipped down to a stream and back up on the other side.  One lady was walking to her own mailbox on the north side of the street and greeted me; we conversed about the unusual warm weather and that I’d chosen a good day to walk.  Soon after, it was time for me to hook a right and push forward.

While before I had listened to the gentle rustling of the trees and the few non-migratory birds that weather the winter, I could finally hear the din of civilization: the low, even rushing sound of road noise.  Nearly every place I passed in the first half mile was for sale, intriguingly.  I never know whether that means it’s a good or bad place to live.

This might seem like a pretty typical walking picture, but this was about the only latitude I felt I had.  Directly behind me, Louisville’s FBI office towered over me, complete with an armada of cameras, thick, tall walls and a brigade of armored cars.  Although I could have probably legally taken pictures of this new office building, I could see that not sitting very well.  Not a political statement, just didn’t feel like getting hauled in for questioning on a Saturday morning.

See?  That area just to the right is the office, and I tried to angle it to not capture the facility.  Just in case.

Off I went beneath the underpass, now noisy with the rush of semis and sedans rumbling overhead.  The shade and closeness of the underpass made it surprisingly chilly compared to the ambient temperature, so I was happy to pop out the other side when I found this weird bit of trash.

Now as far as I know, there’s no such thing as Orange Coke; they’ve tried some screwball ideas, but I’m pretty sure a bastardized Crush cola wasn’t one of them.  That means this was probably originally red, like 90% of Coke cartons.  I stopped and wondered: how long would it have taken for this box to attain that hue?  Most sunbleached things you think of are pinkish, tan, or white.  This, however, being such a bold color to start with, is in-between.  Stickers usually bleach in windows within a decade, but this hasn’t been here that long, so I’d say that Coke carton has been sitting there, through storms, heat, freezes and breezes for somewhere on the order of two to four years.  It’s bright enough that someone would see it, but not enough to stop and pick it up to throw it away, so here it is, meant for only the odd pedestrian to truly regard.

This stretch of Tucker Station was pretty straight and flat, so I could already see my next turn in the distance.  On my right, a subdivision sprawled out into the country, and to the left, a cluster of condos wreathed by evergreens abutted the road, save this clearing.

If I’d grown up in Douglas Hills, the nearby subdivision, I would played here.  This nice, open, abandoned field would have been a place to play tag, throw Frisbee, or just lay in the grass and relax.  That being said, who could actually dump crap on this nice little plot of vacant land?  Don’t answer that, I know there’s someone; it just wouldn’t be me.

After a steep climb to the intersection of Tucker Station Road and Ellingsworth Lane, one I dread when I drive here with my stick VW Beetle, I rounded the corner to push to a familiar road, one I took for a small chunk of my very first Miles By Foot walk. 

Ellingsworth is straight like Tucker Station, but it was a constant uphill push, and I was starting to feel the pressures of time, pace, and hunger. 

The field to my left opened up, and despite the fact I’d been down this road hundreds of times in my life, I never noticed the lone chimney standing sentinel atop the hill.

Yeah, that’s just a chimney.  Except for some contemporary telephone poles, that’s all that’s left of the building that stood there.

Given the size of the chimney, I’d say it was a two-story building, but that’s about all I can surmise.  Why would the owner of the property keep a chimney up without developing anything else on the property?  Except for a “No Trespassing” sign, there was no indication of what the building was, its significance, or its fate.  So there it is, quietly surviving the years until some greater purpose plows it over or moves it offsite.

A house across the street, likely home to a GPS and/or map lover, had a pillow sitting on the wicker porch chair out front.  On further inspection, it gave the exact location of the pillow down to the arcseconds.  Later, I determined that it was indeed accurate.  Now that’s something that coordinates well with your house! 

(mild laughter)

Just a little farther, and there’s Blankenbaker!

Blankenbaker, which isn’t far from where I work, is also where I go to church.

I passed by here several months ago on my first Miles by Foot trek, and in the interest of time and distance, I decided to play through in lieu of circumvention.

Southeast is a big church; and the campus has only gotten bigger since it moved here at the turn of the millennium.  New buildings and parking areas of sprung up.  New athletic facilities and fields have sprawled out.  While a normal Sunday service can draw five thousand or more, it was a ghost town early on a Saturday morning.  There are honest-to-goodness roads that course through the campus, with speed limits, stop signs, and yields to control traffic, so it wouldn’t be a problem finding a path to cross the campus.  The biggest building is the sanctuary, which is fed by the atrium, where the majority of the congregation enters.

Again, this is a church, not an airport or a sports arena.  This drop-off zone is big enough to accommodate half a dozen school buses while allowing traffic to wiggle around it.  Traffic cops normally fill this area, moving people along to allow more drop-offs.  Today, though, it was silent.

The front doors, staffed by either an affiliated volunteer group at the church or a reliable body of willing church members, let in hundreds of people at a time to come hear the pastor speak. 

Yep.  That’s one big church.  The sanctuary inside has honest-to-goodness nosebleed seats.  It’s five stories tall and seats somewhere on the order of seven to eight thousand, if I recall correctly, and the two adjacent fellowship halls can each set well over a thousand themselves in overflow.  Many church properties could fit inside the  sanctuary alone.

This building, while built in the style of the surrounding structures, has gone up since I came here as a high-school student.  They call it “The Block,” and it’s their youth center.  I actually dig all the use of concrete; the dead trees, while a bummer for some, highlight the lines of the poured concrete.  I’d been inside, and it is pretty slick.

I have to be honest.  I don’t even remember what was here before.

At a major intersection past The Block, I casually crossed where a crossing guard usually efficiently conducts automotive and pedestrian movement.  Along the road out, and I emerged on the other side.

I’d often walked this far on my lunch, only to have to turn around and return before my thirty minutes is up.  Now, though, I have the freedom to push on towards my goal. 

Down Moser Road I went, a familiar and constant road from my childhood.  It straddles the line between two major East End subdivisions, Douglas Hills and Plainview.  A creek runs alongside it, though few would know, given its recessed nature and currently low levels.  There’s not much of a shoulder to speak of, but soon, a sidewalk appeared from the grass.

Actual sidewalks are more regular the closer you are to subdivsions, and downtown, they’re everywhere.  Soon, I’ll be at the point where these two preferences meet.

Instead of going through Plainview proper, a relatively droll stroll of different but somehow indelibly related 1970s homes and standardized mailboxes, so I opted to skirt the edge of the subdivision and walk the business-centered road of Linn Station.  On a Saturday, businesses are particularly interesting because most of them are empty, so you get to see the building more candidly. 

These houses were a bit older and, although I’m sure technically part of Plainview, were a bit more unique.  I mean, check out the trees in front of that home on the right?  That’s, like, a 90-foot tree in someone’s front yard!  Maybe the picture doesn’t do it justice, but trust me, most of the trees I see in newer subdivisions are saplings at best. 

So this struck me as odd; since this water line had been put in, the sidewalk had been poured.  Since then, no one’s needed to get in here.  Or maybe they have but just couldn’t get to it because of the concrete?  Maybe, any second, the sewer will erupt from back-up pressure, spewing water and detritus about like a fountain?

Nah, they probably just haven’t needed to.  Still, I think it’s funny that the city didn’t care.  Maybe they don’t know.

Abruptly, the subdivision ended, and a stretch of office parks lined both sides of the road.

I considered the owner of the truck.  A security guard, perhaps, or some poor lug dragged in on a Saturday to finish Friday's work.  Maybe he or she is making overtime.  One can hope.

NTS is the same company that rents the properties near my work.  In fact, I'm pretty sure they technically still own the property I work in.  They're everywhere around here.  It's kind of weird to think that one company furnishes the space in which so many working lives begin and end.  It's just the space, but I think about that a lot.

This could be one of two things.  First, it could be a starting line for a race.  Who knows; if Plainview or one of the local communities or businesses decided to have a 5K or something like it, this seems as good a place as any to start.  The fact there's a line above "Start" suggests that might be the case.  Alternatively, it could be a utility line, suggesting this is where some wire or pipe starts.  Either way, it's polite.  "Start, sir."

You can see the ResCare system from the highway, but I never realized how big it is.  It's kind of isolated, too; I'm guessing when they built it, they expected more buildings to pop up nearby.  Now, though, it's a pretty isolated thirteen-story building.

The style, especially given the fixtures and concrete accenting, puts it after brutalism, perhaps built in the 1980's.  It couldn't have been much earlier, because most of the industrial stuff I've found near work and in the surrounding communities is, at the earliest, mid-70s.  The structure is too little a part of the aesthetic for me to think it's any earlier, as this, which I think our generation considers "generic," originates from that time. 

Timberwood Circle is the central boulevard of Plainview, but I'm pretty sure that anymore, you can't view any plains here.  Plainview is middle-class or slightly above, I'd say, with lots of two-story homes and good-size yards.  When I was younger, I considered this to be good, but not great.  Now that I'm paying my own rent and buying groceries on sale, I consider this pretty darn classy.

So this is gonna seem redundant because of all the subdivision stuff I've discussed, but this apartment complex has a bizarre personal importance.  During my senior year of high school, our Government and Economics teacher, Mr. Whitworth, gave us a project called "Story of My Life."  Through independent research, we were tasked with developing a plan for the next five years of our life, whether that involved college, a job, moving out, or any combination of these things, including the cost and logistical steps to achieve this plan.  Lots of people, even with our age and life experience, predicted making sixty grand a year with a data entry job and living in an honest-to-goodness house at twenty-two. 

For me, I predicted that I would be a waiter at the Hard Rock Café, which had just opened downtown, and living in, you guessed it, Plainview Apartments.  The price, amenities, and location were convenient and well-balanced, as I was much more conservative with my income estimates than my megalomaniac classmates. 

Ten years later, I've still never paid as much for rent as I predicted my first place would cost.  The first job I had out of college was, funny enough, being a standardized test examiner.  Even though I'll have a master's degree in eight weeks, I barely make the minimum amount I had set out to as a waiter. 

But I didn't know, and I'm kind of glad it didn't go the way I planned.  I started dating my wife four months later, I went to college and have held a job for five years that's not remotely related to waiting tables.  Things happened differently, but regardless of what I planned, that's my life.  Looking back ten years ago, as I'm sure I considered then as well, I would barely recognize myself now.  And if you haven't changed in a decade, think about it.  We're built for it.


We're halfway done, and I can't wait to show you the last two segments!  Until then, keep going!

- Matt

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