We parked in the slanted spaces facing away from the church I attended once in a blue moon. Mom slid a dollar into the parking meter. They have parking meters now? I thought as the machine spat Mom's dollar back at her. She reached into her purse for a more acceptable bill, while my two little ragamuffins ran ahead onto the clean green grass.
My six year old wandered about, looking for whatever treasure the grounds would yield. "Don't pick that up. That's garbage!" We scolded at least twice. The kid in me sympathized with her; I can still remember my ground-hunting days. But after she placed a used band-aid (with dried blood) on the table I knew I couldn't let her touch anything but sticks.
She wandered away some more, and I followed her closely. A boy and a girl froze around a fountain - was that fountain always there? - heads bowed, faces transfixed on their smart phones. There's no Pokemon here! I shouted to them in my head. And why would Pokemon want to hang round this fountain? It was full of sludge water.
As I led my little one back to our bench she picked up a discarded tube of Burt's Bees Strawberry lip balm. "Don't pick that up. That's garbage!"
My mom was waiting for us at a park bench. She'll be 74 soon, and a lifetime of backbreaking labor has taken its toll. This time next year she'll be in a wheel chair.
The girls ran around playing hide-and-seek while my wife kept an eye on them from a safe distance. "Ready or not, here I come!"
I noticed something lying on the ground. When the girls weren't looking I showed Mom and D. This is why we don't let the girls pick things up off the ground.
"What is that?" D asked.
It was a tiny plastic bag, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. And it contained two long white pills. Like aspirin, only flatter.
"Drugs." I replied.
I didn't examine the pills closely. I simply tossed the contraband back to the spot where I found it.
Don't pick that up. That's garbage!
I spent the first 24 years of my life in this town. Mostly unpleasant memories. I couldn't wait to leave. But it's where I grew up, and I'm the nostalgic sort. I see the town now as a scrapbook - This is where Vicki used to live. And Kenny. This is where we used to climb trees and cover the slide with mud for Super Sloppy Double Dare. This is where my frememy lived. He showed me his porn collection in that garage. This is where I sucker-punched Ed for no apparent reason. This is where my dad and I used to collect cans and bottles. This is where we used to return them. This is where I played little league.This is where I bought a Dodgers hat, and a baseball sticker album, and there used to be a WaWa there and we'd get Peanut Butter ice cream and eat it right out of the carton....
My mom has lived in the same two-family house for 35 years. Our first neighbors were a rowdy bunch. I don't really remember the parents but I heard stories about their teenage children. The girl hated my sister. The guy liked my sister.
Somewhere around 1990 they moved out, and my aunt moved in. We used to sit on the porch and chat - about school, or work, or family life. She always asked about my writing.
|The house I grew up in. My aunt lived on the right side.|
There's a wooden sliding window in the kitchen connecting both sides of the house. Mom or I would slide open our side, knock on Aunt C's, and she'd come and open her side. Sometimes we'd chat, or leave things for each other, or if we ordered dinner we'd just open the window and say "Food's here!"
When my aunt died last year, my nephew and his wife moved in. They're expecting their first child in October. Aria will begin her life in that house, but she won't grow up there. My mom and my nephew and his wife and their child will all have to find a new home in the next year or two.
A long time ago my mom started hearing about plans for a new waterfront shopping center which was to be built along the bridge area that borders New Haven. She always sounded so excited about the West River Crossing project, which would be a short walk from her house.
WEST HAVEN >> Two developers with a track record of success are looking to build a $200 million “high-end” shopping center with 100 outlet stores, six restaurants and, in its second phase, a hotel and possibly apartments on the West River Crossing site the city has spent two decades trying to get off the ground.
Sounds great, right? Well, the project was finally green-lit earlier this year - and it was more ambitious than anyone expected. "Phase one" would redevelop the dilapidated shoreline area.
I decided to tour the site Sunday morning.
I stood on the corner of the main road, a block away from my childhood home. I used to work at that Rite-Aid. And over there was a cheese steak place with an arcade in the back room. And this building? Well, no one was sure what was in here. I always thought that it was secret CIA headquarters.
This was all a big dirt field once. I used to play Wiffle Ball here every summer. Home plate was back by the dumpsters, and any ball hit over Larry's fence was a home run.
They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.
Closer to the bridge is a take-out seafood place called The Sandbar, which has only been around for a few years but became an instant favorite.
|I did not take this picture|
Meanwhile, on the other side of the street...
|I took this picture...from another blog.|
This area definitely needed to be rebuilt. A lot of the old structures were falling apart but some were still in good shape. My dad used to work at one of those factories. And my mom and I cleaned offices in that building. There was a furniture store at the far end still doing business. D was going to get a job over there. I played hockey in that park. We lost every damn game - to a team of ten year olds. Let's turn back.
|The furniture store is way back, at the far left.|
It didn't matter if the building was an eyesore or a thriving enterprise - the city threatened to use Eminent Domain to take every last lot.
And in phase two, they're going to take more property - on our side of the main road.
|The marina next to my (mom's) house will be rebuilt.|
|The street I grew up on. All of this will be demolished.|
My sister-in-law works for City Hall. She called my mom with the bad news.
The whole town is sort of sketchy, and it seems to get worse every time I visit. There are million-dollar homes on the opposite end of town, by where my Grandma used to live. (Mom plans to move somewhere in that general area - as far away from the construction as possible.) Other than that, West Haven really isn't anything special at all. If my old neighborhood is "blighted" enough to justify Eminent Domain then they could legit knock down 90% of the city.
I stood in the wooden pavilion and waited for my family to emerge from the ladies' room. Faded pictures of Old Savin Rock displayed in a cracked frame caught my attention. I could hear my mother's voice narrating stories of each attraction. This is where the roller coaster used to be. And the fun house. And over there was a seafood restaurant. That road was a speedway and we'd watch the races every Saturday. We used to sit on those rocks and boys used to buy us lemonade.
|None of these pictures are mine.|
"The carousel was destroyed be vandals in 1967." (yes, it was misspelled)