‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Monday, May 4, 2009

Landed Gentry

Vacation, vacation, vacation, why must I always be on vacation?

I came home from our big Washington D.C. trip, washed some clothes, pet some chickens and dashed off for a girls' weekend away. It was a rebound vacation after I broke up with the long-term vacation.

The scene of this weekend's pomp and circumstance was set in the midwest, where the people are friendly and really bizarre storefronts are legion. We saw one little house, set back from the highway, with a sign that said "Airline Luggage." Judging (and oh, I do) from the exterior, they are selling lost luggage. If you buy a suitcase there, it's likely to be full of someone's stuff. Which would be kind of cool. Or kind of gross. Probably gross.

We were mostly in the St. Louis area, where I cannot highly enough recommend a restaurant called Rooster. I had a crepe with mushrooms, goat cheese, basil and roasted tomatoes. Mere words cannot do it justice.

Rooster is in one of those neighborhoods that's being salvaged from the wasteland surrounding it. I don't think I'm saying that in an east coast snobby kind of way, although I can't tell anymore. It's like having an accent. At any rate, I don't mean it in a snobby kind of way. I mean it in a wow look at all the gutted buildings and vacant lots kind of way. There are parts of urban areas that look friendlier than others.

I am awed by people who can look at the less friendly areas and see quirky, hip restaurants.

One of our favorite things to do on these girls' weekends out is find up-and-coming neighborhoods to explore. They usually have stores with things we've never seen and yet can still afford. Since it's usually artists who've tamed these neighborhoods, they're impossibly artsy - with restored architecture and compact gardens. Those gardens make me shake my head and say things like "if only our yard wasn't so BIG. We could have something painfully cute. Something tucked into a corner." Places that make people wish they had less to work with are kind of magical.

By the same token, these neighborhoods make me afraid for them. I know that it's a progression: gutted tenements turn into cheap neighborhoods for artists which turn into cafe-flecked grooviness which turn into new places to put Starbucks and Banana Republic. Not that there's anything wrong with Starbucks and Banana Republic. It's just that when they appear, everyone else has to move because no one can afford the rent anymore.

It's not a huge stretch to see a corroborating pattern in my own life. I never hit the gutted tenement phase, but there's definitely been a theme of picking up things that no one else wants and making them into something resembling lemonade.

I think I like the quirky neighborhoods because they most closely resemble the stage of my life I'd like to hang out in. I've been gentrified, but not completely.

Which is my way of saying that I've started taking sailing lessons. Prepare for comedy on the low seas. And go eat at Rooster. You'll thank me.


Janine said...

Places that make people wish they had less to work with are kind of magical.Yes, they are. I always fantasized about an "apartment" to decorate . I'd look inside the windows of apartment buildings in Boston at night. There was something very curious and challenging about living in smaller spaces, like 300 sq. feet spaces in NYC.

I think we are in awe of these gentrified areas because of the creativity and bravery involved in these projects. And because we are so very hip indeed.

I totally understand about the Starbucks and Banana Republic thing. I love/hate them myself.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

About a year ago, I did a post with this exact title. Great minds, anyone?

TwoBusy said...

"I've been gentrified, but not completely."

Love that.

Lesha said...

I want to see this happen to the small town I grew up near, but it really does take special people. And while there are special people in this small town, they aren't THAT kind of special...ya know.

Actually, I wanted to buy a store front and open a yarn and coffee shop. My dad said that the locals already have a place to get their coffee. Sheetz. *sigh*

Peace Turkey said...

Auntie Susan! Your advice over on PT is invaluable. I mean it. You're morphing from an invisible friend to an invisible auntie! It helped me put down the metaphorical paper bag I've been breathing into.

Also, I want one of those Rooster appliques on the storm door on my house. That thing is killer!

neb said...

photo! if it was on facebook, i would like it!

word verification, snutiolo: craziness in the woods that no one hears....

Susan said...

Janine - I look in those windows. I also love loft tours. Good stuff.

Kristin - obviously.

TwoBusy - why thank you.

Lesha - yes, but is there a place to get coffee AND YARN? That's a whole different thing altogether. And the yarn would smell like coffee instead of damp sheep.

PT - that's a relief. Sometimes I comment on blogs and then go hide in my room and wait for the outfall.

Neb - I wish I could take credit for that photo. If you click on it, you'll see more of the restaurant and its sister chocolate bar - all taken by the owner of Rooster and said coffee bar.

Dana's Brain said...

You're just cool. And good luck with the sailing! I was never very good - we had a sailboat when I was growing up. I miss it.

My word verification is "stern"! Maybe I should look into sailing lessons!

Anonymous said...

Oy, Dana´s Brain, I used to sail a Stern! But that´s been a while...

BTW, word verification: COMENTA, Spanish for Comment?


Susan said...

Dana's Brain & G - what's a stern? Our sailing teacher has no idea what he's in for.

And G, I read your Prince Roderick comment and snorted audibly.