Monday, May 30, 2005

The lot unbuilt upon

My new condo borders one of the many urban brownlots along the old train lines here in Atlanta. When factories had to back up to the train lines to get their goods to market, my section of town was a bustling production corridor. But times changed and trucks took over as the main mode of transport; while the train yard near my new house is always bustling with work and movement, it is the movement of train containers onto and off of trucks. Factories can be way out on Peachtree Industrial where there's lots more space and the property taxes are cheap. Then they can load all their goods onto a truck and have the truck drive to the train yard - and hey, while it's there - the truck can pick up raw materials that have shipped up from the port in Savannah.

All of this is a way of explaining why my area of town has slowly turned from factories to abandoned factories that crumbled into urban brownlots into slow creeping gentrification. My condo is in a converted warehouse, and next door to my condo is an eight foot wooden fence. Inside that fence is a mess of voracious kudzu that covers loads of scrap lumber, old tires, and the back of a rusting semi. When we bought the condo a couple of months ago, the kudzu was asleep for the winter still, a brown gray creeping skeleton that allowed us to see all the trash underneath. Now the kudzu is a lush green carpet that keeps trying to climb over the fence and eat my patio.

Developers want to take the zudzu covered lot and turn it into a neat development of "affordable" townhomes. I put affordable in quotes because I don't trust developers. What they think are affordable starter homes often aren't. Many of the new condo developments around my area are quite posh - marble countertops luxury bathrooms and other add-ins make the price of some places quite out of reach. There are some affordable townhomes near me, but they have a hard time selling because the property taxes in this area are very high, and the market has gone soft with over- saturation. There are simply too many condos on the market in Atlanta right now, and that's how the husband and I managed to get one at all.

Anyhow, I feel a little guilty. I chucked some scrap wood into the brownlot today, confident in the knowledge that kudzu would soon cover my crime. I, the husband, and our friend Daniel have been trying and so far failing in some home improvements today. We royally screwed up at least one entire 4 by 4, trying to cut it into equal lengths at 45 degrees. If you've ever tried to spilt a long piece of wood at a 45 degree angle, you'll understand our problems. It was a first attempt that went horribly awry, and took us at least an hour and a half and a change of saw blades to accomplish. In the end we were just covered in saw dust and feeling bad.

We all looked at each other, and the mangled 4 by 4, after our mistake was realized. "Look", I said, "Let's just chuck the bastard over the fence, and never speak of this again." Daniel felt bad about this. We all did. As the 4 by 4 was heaved over the fence, I realized I'd feel guilty for some time. Not just for public littering, but also for wasting wood. But after heaving that 4 by 4 away I let it all go. Sometimes you just have to put your mistakes behind you. What I want to tell you is that when I heaved that 4 by 4 into the brownlot, I attached a lot of of failures to it mentally. There's been quite a few things lately hanging out in my head that my concience wouldn't let me get rid of. When I fail, I tend to sit around trying to fix my failures for far too long. Sometimes, you just have to chuck a project or section of your life over the fence and let it go.

After the old heave-ho, Daniel expressed his remorse. "But what about when people find the 4 by 4? What the hell will they think happened to it?"

"I know nothing about this piece of wood you've mentioned." I said. Then I went into the house and made a cake.

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