REAL ESTATE AND MEMORY

In London I could show you a lumberyard built over a plague pit. They threw bodies in all through the summer of ’65 until they lost count of the dead.

The ghosts of America are limited to the lifespan of whatever local can remember that this apartment complex was once an orchard full of pheasants, or that this bank was once a funeral home was once a hamburger restaurant, was once an Indian burial mound. No one remembers and no one listens anyway if it interferes with a real estate deal and making a buck.

There’s a section of wall that Charles Dickens’ father stared at when the alley was part of Southwark debtor’s prison, and there’s a corner in the Old Cheddar Cheese pub off Fleet Street where Dickens the son sat staring at the fire, just around the corner from the house where Dr. Johnson wrote the famous dictionary, and a stuffed parrot in that pub once held renown as the greatest master of profanity in all the British Empire, including Poona and Rangoon.

John D. MacDonald said once that a Florida conservationist is someone who bought their waterfront property LAST week. A few years ago, Disney had to be talked out of building a theme park next to the Fredericksburg battleground where Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain covered himself with the dead to guard against snipers and had to listen all night to the hogs tearing at the dead and the wounded. That was before Gettysburg and the Battle of Little Round Top, when he and the 20th Maine saved the whole sorry country for the makers of theme parks and the real estate mavens.

A volunteer for ACORN (they lobby for housing for the poor) told me that their greatest enemies lurked in the United Way, which is often controlled by local real estate interests. I wonder what part memory will play in the rebuilding, I mean systematic looting, of drowned New Orleans? It's not just the poor that are being dispossessed. A good many people in the middle class are learning the hard way about the Invisible Hand of the marketplace: who it favors and who it bitch slaps, despite the pretty words of the civic boosters.

See Also: Eminent Domain and the Supreme Court, et al

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It isn't what you know, it is who you know...... works out here in the West. Shady deals on land are famous out here. Iowa farmers all buying the same piece of property and the first one out here is the one that gets it.
I never did go all out for United Way --when I worked at a University they would leave me alone if I gave $1.00 --that way they could say the whole department gave. Whoopie!
smile, Dee Ann

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only brave one to respond.(I'm 4,000 miles away from Kzoo.) I know there are more readers.....
Even if it is a "yeah man, so right!" a writer needs to hear comment. How else are we to influence them? Sigh, Dee Ann

Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica said...

Eh (mental shrug) this blog is/was intended to be 1) a warm-up exercise; 2) a place to vent; 3) a place to post non-commercial scraps (you mean, my entire output?) and 4) occasionally provide material for the Encyclopedia. The page history shows that there are more readers, though it's true I have a large following among blind mutes who cannot use their fingers. A lot of them post with the aid of helper monkeys, and I finally had to block them; damn things kept trying to type "Hamlet" over and over again.