Sarah Smallwood: Paving over bricks symbolic of what's happening in city
A few weeks ago, I was walking down Liberty at night during the repaving project. The old asphalt had been torn up, but the new blacktop hadn’t yet been laid down, leaving the turn-of-the-century brick road beneath it exposed. I leapt the barrier for a few quick pictures, knowing we wouldn’t see the original street again in my lifetime.
Creeping away from the scene, I wondered why the city opted to repave rather than let the original bricktop come back to the surface. It seems to work for the streets of Kerrytown and Depot Town — would it have been that much harder to drive over?* Two weeks later, Liberty successfully re-topped, I paused in front of Red Hot Lovers and sighed. There was no getting around it.
The times, they are a changin’ — and it blows.
The closing of Shaman Drum was the hardest to take. Although I never had an occasion to buy textbooks there (making me part of the problem, I suppose), I wandered in from time to time, scanning shelves, cuddling with a poetry collection in one of the reading nooks and enjoying the quiet. I loved reading the signed plaques from visiting authors on the wall, daydreaming that one day (oh, pipe dreams) I would have my own book signing here. The confluence of my vanity and deeply-ingrained guilt convinced me that the Drum’s closing was all my fault.
In reality, of course, the blame lay with the economy: when all retail businesses take losses, the independent stores don’t have the resources to survive. So what happens in Ann Arbor, where indy stores are directly woven into the culture of the city? Could we lose Crazy Wisdom, Encore, Orchid Lane — even if none of us regularly shopped there — and still be Ann Arbor? Does the store’s mere existence play into the ethos of the town?
It’s nothing new to bemoan the loss of convention and mistrust its replacement. I’m just wondering what that replacement is going to be, and whether it will have waffle fries.
* Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but I think it’s a shame that the heart of the city is covered over instead of polished up. ‘Old’ doesn’t mean ‘broken;’ spiff those bricks, sand the shutters and put on a new coat of paint. And, oh yeah — get off my lawn. Photo: Red Hot Lovers - Sarah Smallwood