I have not yet put anything up on the walls of The New Place (TNP). The dozens of paintings and prints I moved from my former house remain stacked in boxes. The walls are bare. My lease says I cannot paint them. Neither have I prepared so much as a snack in the new, ultra-modern kitchen, though I did use the microwave recently to make some instant Yakisoba soup. I am, for some reason, unwilling to personalize TNP yet. It’s too early.
I think this may be normal. One develops a relationship with the place where one works and sleeps and eats. When that relationship ends, it’s difficult to immediately assume a new one. There’s been a break-up, and there’s a need for time, for domicilial healing. That’s my theory, anyway.
The friends who have seen TNP assure me I will like it soon enough, and I’m reasonably certain this may be true. Right now, though, the talking elevators, the large television screen that greet me when the elevator doors open, all displaying the same home improvement channel (I tried to change channels, just to see if I could. I couldn’t), the piped in Muzak, and the very long, very empty and very clean hallways, all these attributes remind me of the Hilton hotels I stayed in when I used to travel for work. Using the stairs is discouraged. During a recent fire drill, I noticed everyone used the elevators, even though a sign advised residents that, in case of fire, the elevators would not run.
The Mosaic district where I now live is relatively new. It is tailored to Millennials and so upscale franchise restaurants, expensive coffee and pastry shops, are side by side with luxury boutiques catering to a new, young middle-class with disposable income. There’s a large multiplex movie house that serves alcohol and pâtés and, of course, a couple of cheaper eating places. What sort of a neighborhood would it be without a Noodles or a Panera?
I’ve wandered around the neighborhood a time or two and it is all spanking clean. It almost—but not quite—reminded me of latter-day Paris, where hordes of street cleaners sweep the boulevards day and night. I have not found a periodicals box where I could buy a Washington Post or New York Times, or any place open very early in the morning that stocks newspapers. In fact, there’s no bookstore or news kiosk to be found, and that is disappointing.
The area is interesting because it is on the cusp of a building explosion. What are now acres of vacant land once housed small businesses, a Seven-Eleven, a place that sold mulch by the truckload, auto repair shops, and inexpensive housing. These have all been razed, covered with gravel, and turned into temporary parking lots. I sense that in a few months, or a year at most, the ubiquitous giant cranes that pierce the horizon will move in and begin erecting high-rise condos.
The central avenues, Lee Highway and Gallows Road, are wide and busy. Today, just for the hell of it, I tried to cross Lee Highway in the time allowed by the traffic lights. I couldn’t. The Walk sign flashed white just long enough for me to reach the island in the middle of the road before becoming a flashing Don’t Walk sign. I finished crossing as the light changed from red to green. A young woman in a Japanese SUV honked at me; I wasn’t moving quickly enough.