"maybe it's 'cuz 'cuz
we're all gonna die die"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Google Maps as madeleine

Google Maps screenshots: I used to live here
Google Maps screenshots: I used to live here
These are the low-level aerial view and the "Street View", from Google Maps, of the area around S. Wilson St. and W. 1st St., in Tempe, AZ. I lived here, in a rickety old house with holes in the floor, for a little over a year, in 1994 and 1995. Not only was there a swamp cooler instead of an air conditioner, there wasn't even a foundation; it stood on -- I kid you not -- a bunch of cinderblocks. How this is physically possible, I'm not really sure, but I am telling you what I saw. There was also a little stand of bamboo in the front that surrounded the stairs to the screened-in porch. Out back was a mesquite tree under which I put an ancient folding table, salvaged from someplace, and a chair found in the trash, and I used this as a writing spot almost every day for a year. Behind that was a seven-foot cinder-block wall, which hid the slow, slow freight trains from view. There was a little cat-door in the wall, consisting of a hole someone had sawed in the boards and a thick piece of transparent plastic nailed over it. Once when I locked myself out I actually managed to squeeze through this thing. I was thinner then. I occupied the house with a rather motley crew of college students, restaurant employees, and heroin addicts, plus a varying number of cats, several of whom died while I lived there. Periodically the landlords would come and flood the entire property with water from a garden hose in the vain hopes of creating a lawn, but the only result was that for the week that followed we would be plagued with mosquitos.

Anyhow, sort of in response to this post from Alan Levine, I idly surfed to Google Maps and had a look at the address from these two vantage points. It's unmistakable, as you surely can see for yourself: the house is gone. It's just dirt, with a couple of containers parked there. Who knows how old these photos are, but I'm guessing they're from this summer. Google Street View seems to get the expensive neighborhoods first, so maybe this area is up-and-coming. Probably a little Web research would tell me, but frankly I don't care. It reminds me of when, about a year and a half ago, my brother sent me this article, then already nine years old, about the closing of one of the shitty old biker bars I used to hang out in, a place called "Six East."

That's it. I felt sick suddenly in my gut seeing this. I don't know why. I didn't love the place. I didn't, and don't, love Arizona. I did a lot of things in that house I'm not particularly proud to remember. But it's weird turning on my computer and seeing that it's in the process of being swallowed up by condo properties, with expensive cars parked on the dirt lots instead of the ancient Subarus that seemed ubiquitous in the Phoenix suburbs in those days. It makes me me sad and angry at the same time, for no good reason. Well, good night, Arizona, and good night, everyone.

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