A friend and I were talking the other day about how much fun our lives used to be. How, while there were ups and downs, life wasn’t always such a grind and at the end of the day we slept because we were tired not because it (hopefully) provided a respite from the constant churning in our brains that we have both found our jobs to be of late.
After much reminiscing we tried to define what fun meant.
Was it the simultaneous lack of scheduled and very structured time that is college?
Was it the fact that we were young(er) and had fewer responsibilities (make the tuition payments on time, make the rent payment on time, check the couch cushions for beer money sort of things as opposed to being responsible for a six-figure department budget and trying to figure out if your one unstable employee is going to snap, go home, and kill herself the next time you point out that she’s made a mistake in a project she was working on sorts of concerns)?
Did we take ourselves less seriously?
Did we just make more time for doing things we enjoy?
I was pondering this as I wandered through the newest mall to hit the DC area. Its developer describes it as
“exceptional stores and restaurants situated in an attractive, walk able, visually stimulating and architecturally timeless street front setting.”
I’d describe it as new trying to mimic old without really understanding the old. A bit like someone who has never seen a John Wayne movie trying to do a John Wayne impression.
My wanderings took me out of the constricted environment of this “timeless street front setting” onto the actual street and down the block where I discovered that the Flying Dutchman Transmission shop had been replaced by, surprise of surprises, a Starbucks. Normally, this would only be cause for concern because yet another locally-owned business had been forced out by a mega-chain. What really did me in was the loss of the big wooden shoe.
The Flying Dutchman folks, true to their name, had adorned the outside of their two-stall garage building with a six-foot long, hand painted, wooden shoe. My friend and I spent about 30 minutes one evening many years ago describing, in detail, what could possibly go wrong with your flying shoe and how this was the only place in the whole of the DC metro area you could bring your shoe to get it repaired (needless to say, there was some beer involved in this discussion).
Ever since that night, passing that place has made me smile, lifted my heart for a little bit, and made me forget all of the piled up little things that nag at me, replacing them with the image of the slightly out of whack flying shoes coming in for rough landings beside the little garage.
While I still have the memory of the wooden shoe, the march of “progress” has deprived others of the opportunity for the fantasy, for the whimsy of it. Am I saying that businesses that can’t run with the cost of the area in which they are located should be subsidized? No. What I am saying is that I think we’d all have a lot more fun if there were more wooden shoes in our in our “visually stimulating and architecturally timeless street front setting[s].”