Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cementing the Future

I did not do this. I swear.

This morning I was awakened at an ungodly hour by the sound of drilling, so loud that I feared I would look out my window and see Sarah Palin riding a rig. Eventually it stopped, and when I stepped outside I saw a fresh square of concrete right in front of my building.

Write in me, it seemed to say. I mean, how awesome would it be to have Jeff’s and my initials carved in a spot marking the location of our first home together? That way when everything is a big sizzling mess of post-apocalyptic Walmart ruins, our grandchildren can still find a family landmark.

Then of course I remembered that my landlord would see it, and would be none too pleased that we (I) had desecrated his sidewalk. So I kept walking.

And then I came to another wet square of cement, a few yards down the block and totally out of landlord range! Someone had already carved LM & SS into the lower left corner, but so what? I could always add SUCK after that and then carve UL & JZ RULE.

But then I noticed that the block was getting kind of busy. I had pedestrians approaching from both sides, plus an old woman was eyeing me suspiciously from her stoop a few doors down. Our names would last for decades, maybe longer, but in order to make my mark I had to kneel down in full view of passersby and desecrate public property. I don’t think it’s against the law to write in cement, but it seems like a violation of neighborly ethics, kind of like letting your dog shit on the sidewalk, only the shit stays permanently glued to the curb for eons.

Jeff and I carved our initials into a tree on his family’s farm in Spencer, Massachusetts a few years back. His grandparents did the same thing in the 1940s, and we were hoping to use the same tree but we couldn’t find it. Even though it’s only been a short time, the carving is weathered and gray; it’ll probably be illegible soon.

It’s such a powerful human impulse to leave a sign of our presence. Of course we hope that it’s in the deeper sense—that we leave a legacy that amounts to more than scribbling on the back wall of a childhood closet or writing furtively in permanent marker on a beam deep within the Eiffel Tower, alongside countless other “I WAS HERE” declarations... but the scribbling works, too, as long as it can’t be washed away. Maybe it’s the fear of not leaving a real impression that makes us scramble to make such small, impermanent ones.

Eventually I kept walking. I decided not to make that particular mark. As I passed the old woman on the stoop she nodded approvingly, and as I looked down I saw why:

In a third swath of wet concrete just below her bottom step, someone had scrawled “Maniac.”

Man, what a waste of an opportunity. Maniac could be anyone: Manson, Animal from The Muppets, one of the 10, 000 that sang “Because the Night” on MTV Unplugged in 1993.

The only justification for the choice of that particular word is this video:

Because a Steel Town girl on a Saturday night will do anything. They all say she's crazy.


  1. Anonymous7:13 PM

    like toeless boots, only less flattering:


  2. AH! AHHHHH! AHHHHHHHH! What did our calves do to deserve this?


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