Monday, June 25, 2007

The old names and sideways houses

Our little 1-acre family homestead amid the wilds of suburban Edmonds, Washington is on the side of a hill. The overly busy street our property fronts is at the bottom of the hill (a valley really, as another hill begins to rise about 50 yards opposite), and the top of our property is just shy of the top of the hill. I have known, for as long as I can remember, that I live on Cherry Hill, though the name appears on no map of the area, and there is nothing official marking that particular place-name save "Cherry Hill Estates", a 70's era housing development located on the broad, flat top of the hill. The reason our hill is called Cherry Hill is simple, there used to be cherry orchards on the hill. When we walk our dogs I'll point out the few surviving cherry trees, now old, bent and gone wild for lack of pruning, that are the only reminders of the agrarian past of my neighborhood. We are lucky enough to have one of these old cherry trees in our orchard, the only fruit tree in the orchard that pre-dates my parents' ownership of the lot. The tree still bears fruit, though it is so tall now that the birds get most of the cherries, and since we have three other cherry trees of manageable height, I'm willing to let the big, old trees fruit go to the birds. It somehow wouldn't feel right to try and aggressively prune the old tree into productivity, though since it is good stock, I have toyed with the idea of taking cuttings or trying to germinate seeds from it.
The street in front of our house is officially called Olympic View Drive, though by a quirk of some sort, mail addressed to our house with 68th Ave West as the street name instead arrives just fine. Our house is one of the oldest on the street, and due to poor planning on the part of the City of Edmonds and the City of Lynnwood (the street being the border, my house is in Edmonds, my mailbox across the street is in Lynnwood), none of the houses on our block are in order numerically. The Postal Service seems to have resigned itself to this anomaly, but UPS, FedEx, and pizza deliverers can't seem to figure it out. To add to all this confusion, when I was growing up, my road was not known as Olympic View Dr or 68th Ave W, it was known as Snake Road. I don't know why this name came about aside from the fact that the road becomes very sinuous about a mile from my house and it winds its way down towards downtown Edmonds. Nevertheless I do have old maps of the area that show the road as Snake Road. It is not hard for me to see a Chamber of Commerce conspiracy behind the name change. After all Olympic View Drive is a more "marketable" name, despite the fact that over its three or so miles of length, there is only a 1/4 mile stretch where one can actually view the Olympics. I've often had a mind to mail myself a postcard. but listing my address as being on Snake Road.

There are still vestiges of the agrarian past in the area, reminders of a time gone by, whose continued existence is an indictment to the sprawl that surrounds us for those who know what to look for. The are a number of old farm houses, tucked away inside obnoxious housing developments. They would be instantly recognizable, even if by their architecture and quality of construction they did not counterpoint the homes around them which combine the worst of socialist homogenization and capitalist greed. The things that makes these home stand apart is that they are facing the wrong way. The old houses face the main street, and what was once the driveway is now the cul-de-sac that the rest of the cookie-cutter homes face. This leaves the old house in the awkward position of presenting its side to the new street, and its front to the house next to it. I can hardly understand why these homes, a poignant momento mori to a bygone age were suffered to remain. Since these developments are all built by giant house-building corporations (I will not deign to call them home-builders), which are by nature soulless, it must be some historical preservation law that requires it. Whatever the reason, I am glad for their reminder.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Libertarians and Marx

I've always looked at Libertarians with a slightly jaundiced eye. Once one gets past the populist "Reefer and machine guns for everyone!" aspect of their philosophy, and disturbing materialism becomes apparent. The fact that this materialism is in the service of the sovereign individual as opposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat in Marxist materialism, is no defense as far as I'm concerned. Materialism is evil regardless of who or what is being served by it. I always wondered if there was a connection between Libertarianism and Marxism, aside from the surface-level connection that both philosophies seem to produce ratchet-jaw ideologues that make poor company and tend to spoil the conversation at genteel dinner parties. Even the much-vaunted individualism of the Libertarian counts for very little when this sovereign individual is reduced to an abstraction, or to quote a certain Libertarian, "Consumers are necessarily free agents who exercise choice among competing alternatives."
Thus it was much to my delight that I found an article which makes the connection between the two:
Why Karl Marx supported Libertarianism

Monday, June 18, 2007

A quote...

"Every man is followed by a shadow which is his death - dark, featureless, and mute. And for every man there is a place where his shadow is clarified and is made his reflection, where his face is mirrored in the ground. He sees his source and his destiny, and they are acceptable to him. He becomes the follower of what persued him. What hounded his track becomes his companion."
- Wendell Berry