Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Tired of ugliness

Part of this, I suspect, is my usual summer malaise hitting a little early, but it feels like I'm surrounded by a great deal of ugliness and I want to run away and find somewhere less ugly to be.

And while I mean in some cases metaphorical ugliness, and there's nowhere to get away from that (well, if you throw your tv out the window and never read anything dealing with current events, I suppose). But the more immediate cause of my unhappiness is physical ugliness.

I am old enough to remember when billboards were a big issue. People hated them. There were groups that wanted to ban them, at least on some roadways. Apparently we've conceded that issue. Same with noise pollution. I remember a time in the 1970s when people were het up about noise pollution. Now, no one cares - drive your hoopty with the exhaust modifications so it sounds like a jet taking off, great, drive it in residential neighborhoods. Or run your loud leaf blower at 2 pm on a Sunday. Doesn't matter if your neighbors don't like it.

Right now, there are a couple of things in my town really bugging me. I mean, the noise thing is eternal - the people who stake their dogs out all night long and the dogs bark and whine, the jerks who see fit to drive through a residential neighborhood at 1 am with music blaring, people having loud cell phone conversations in public places.

But also: our torn-up streets. Several times in the past few days I've apologized to my car when I hit a bad pothole, and on my drive in to work - well, it's like learning a "speed run" in a video game, where you have to swerve in some precise places and straddle certain parts of certain lanes.

And all the construction/aftereffects of the flooding. A lot of roads have a lot of mud on them - the sandy mud that is common around here - and it gets tracked every place, and if you have to walk across a sidewalk covered with it, sometimes you have to be careful lest you slip (mud can be slippery). Stuff gets torn up and stays torn up for weeks. I get that much of that is adverse weather preventing jobs from being finished, but it's still unattractive to have to deal with. (We had a sinkhole open up near my building - apparently they had to close it for a day before I got back so they could shut down the electricity - somehow, the underground cables were involved - and fix it).

But the biggest thing? All the dang advertising. Many businesses in town now have these....I don't even know what you call them, but they're a 8' or so tall flexible pole with a large (3' or so wide) banner attached to it, and the things flap in the wind. And in a lot of places, they're placed without a lot of consideration for drivers - there are a couple of intersections I try to avoid because it's hard to see oncoming traffic for the banners flapping. Three types of businesses tend to have these: used-car lots ("BAD CREDIT?" "WE FINANCE" "USED CARS"), or furniture/appliance places (the same banners about credit and finance, plus I guess a listing of the brands they sell? I don't really pay attention). And then there are the medical marijuana dispensaries.

I tell you what, it's a real brain-bender for someone who came of age in the just-say-no 80s to have 8' signs saying MARIJUANA on them flapping in her face every time she drives in to work.

I think what bugs me about the big flapping signs is their sheer in-your-face-ness. Actually, that's something that bugs me about our culture in general now. Everything is so big and so loud and so right-there-demanding-you-not-ignore-it, and of course there's the race to the bottom of things being increasingly big and loud because their neighbor just installed something bigger and louder....

And no, there aren't many guidelines about not uglifying your city. I used to be on a beautification group. We spent a lot of time drafting two things - first, guidelines about availability of public trash cans (as an attempt to fight litter - which, yes, is another ugly issue and I get so sick of picking people's left over fast food wrappers out of my yard) and second, some recommending that new businesses being built leave some "greenspace" instead of totally paving over the whole area around the business. For that second one? One or two of the businesses moving in to town sent a lawyer to our next meeting to fundamentally tell us we weren't allowed to do that....and it was after that that I kind of quit the committee, because what is the point of working to try to make some thoughtful suggestions if someone else is just gonna say "I'm gonna do what I want and here, screw you, I'm not even going to try to have a dialog or listen to your side." That was also when I realized that my thought of maybe someday running for city council was an entirely stupid and misguided idea....and so now I just focus on keeping the trash picked up in my own yard, and planting pollinator-friendly plants there.

And again, I admit, I'm contemplating - maybe when I retire, I just move away from here. If I can afford it, find some kind of artist's-colony type of place, maybe even up in the mountains a little bit (so cooler in the summer), somewhere a little less....I don't know. I keep hoping that things will improve here, that we'll get some new businesses that I would actually use and enjoy, but I think the problem is we're close to a state line, and so everything is engineered to get that sweet, sweet out-of-state money (casino, the "medical" MJ shops - which boast either doctors or "virtual doctors" onsite, so I am assuming the oversight into actual medical justification is kind of wobbly) and the people who actually live here....well, we don't matter so much. Or at least that's the sense I get.

And yeah, yeah. I get that the answer is focusing on what I can make attractive or quiet or nice in my own world - like planting flowers butterflies can use instead of worrying about the used-car lots and fast-food places that have paved over every inch of the land they occupy. But you also have to live in the world, and every morning when I drive to work being confronted with a great many ugly flapping signs, and have to dodge potholes....well, it wears on you. Or at least it wears on me.

1 comment:

Kim in Oregon said...

I'm sorry so much of your town distresses you. Certainly living in an 'artist's colony' sounds tempting but may not address the issues you encounter. Well, maybe the big floppy flags.

I did take pause when you criticized neighbors who run their leaf blowers on 2pm on Sundays. When are working people supposed to do yard work? Wouldn't you prefer 2pm rather than 9am? If you'd just prefer no leaf blowers, then what is the alternative? Many people have physical issues which limit raking, bending, etcetera.