The last time I was in Buffalo, New York, was perhaps 15 years ago. It was even then a city in ruins, roads gone unrepaired, the industrial sectors vacant but for the ever-present birds, entire neighborhoods overgrown with crabgrass and Queen Anne lace, dirt lot gaps like missing teeth amid the rows of tumble-down houses.
I met a young man recently who was walking the midwest and lower New England states, not a wanderer, he assured me, but a walker. He had a home on the east coast, money in his pocket, a grey backpack, and a deep tan. He was walking so he could see things. “You don’t see things when you drive,” he told me. “You can’t process the data, it goes by too fast.” I asked him what he was seeing. “Ruins,” he said. “The whole country is in ruins.”
James Howard Kunstler was recently in Buffalo, attending a meeting of the New Urbanists. He writes of an entire section of the city where the human density per acre appears too low even for successful drug-selling. The man has a way with words.
I’ve been moving the furniture around in my house. Literally, of course, shoving bookcases and rearranging my belongings in the aftermath of a breakup. It’s therapeutic, and necessary. Energies collect like dust bunnies in the corners and need to be swept clean. But as it often happens, the literal transmutes into the figurative, in my effort to find meaning in this reconfiguration. And so from the post on Buffalo I read deeper into JHK’s blog, and found this:
That fading modern world is the house that America built, the great post World War Two McMansion stuffed with dubious luxuries in a Las Vegas of the collective mind. History’s bank has foreclosed on it and all the nations and people of the world have been told to make new arrangements for daily life. The USA wants everybody to stay put and act as if nothing has changed.
Therefore, change will be forced on the USA. It will take the form of things breaking and not getting fixed. Unfortunately, America furnished its part of the house with stapled-together crap designed to look better than it really was. We like to keep the blinds drawn now so as not to see it all coming apart. Barack Obama comes and goes like a pliable butler, doing little more than carrying trays of policy that will be consumed like stale tea cakes — while the wallpaper curls, and the boilers fail down in the basement, and veneers delaminate, and little animals scuttle ominously around in the attic.
I’m tired of stapled-together crap designed to look better than it really is. I recently had the roof of my house repaired to forestall any scuttling little animals. You can read the whole JHK post here.