Tuesday, December 10, 2013

And we call this Progress?

I miss the days when my friends and l used to play street touch football. You know, the "Dave, you run to the VW, do a button hook, and l'll throw it to you!" I live on a lovely tree lined street here in Whittier. It cries out for a football game. Nothing doing. It's a treelined car park,with the occasional cat or two running across the street.

I miss getting large cardboard boxes, the kind that you packed large Zenith television sets in, or the kind you packed a fridge in, and then making a fort out of it.

There was a vacant lot at the bottom of 11th street and Prospect Avenue, in Hermosa Beach, where l lived until l moved to Torrance when l was 15.  When l lived there Dave Anderson and l would used to get kites, balsa wood paper kites, "The Jolly Roger" was the best, some torn sheets/pillow cases, and two rolls of kite string. Each roll had about 120 yards of string. We'd tie the rolls of string together and let out all of it.

Today there are two houses on that lot, the paper kite is a thing of the past.

I miss playing "war" with your plastic M-16, and pistols. Having an argument as to whether or not you got shot. Although nowadays the air-soft craze has sort of replaced it. It's fine, even for this 52 year old ex-Army noncom, but it's a pail faint echo of the memory of me hiding behind the porch, taking aim at my best friends brother who was hiding under the Ford Truck.

I miss sending $1.25 plus postage to the Johnson Smith Co. And getting those X-Specs. After playing with it for a while, and being amazed that l apparently saw the bones in my hand, l peeled the cardboard lens apart and found that there was a simple feather in between the pieces. The simple things really fired up the imagination of a nine year old.

Imagination. A word largely ignored by todays  kids, in lieu of the X-Box, and other mind rippers.

Mom and Dad used to say, "Turn off the TV, and go out and play." And we did.

But today? Mom and Dad would have to put an ankle bracelet, and have the Amber Alert number on speed dial if they wanted you to walk down the street to the 7-11.

Play "war" in the neighborhood today, and you'd either get capped by the gangs, or have the police and the helicopters hovering overhead.

Isn't progress wonderful?

From 1989-2008 l lived in the U.K. I averaged a return trip home once every five years.

For me it was like watching an old friend die a slow and lingering death, as each time l went to the mall, l saw more and more shops closed and boarded up.

On one of trips l went to went to the escalators on the upper level. Looking down towards the spot where then UA Del Amo should have been, that whole side was boarded up, the lights out.

The next time l made the trip, right where the escalators should have been, that part of,the building had been torn down, and there was a Plexiglas window that allowed me to see a rather sizable crater where the theatre, B Daltons, Orange Julius, McDonalds, and Fredrik's of Hollywood used to be.

Now the place is a pale shell of its former self. The main connection to me was the food court onward. Now, from what l hear, even the food court is being gutted,and "improved".

This is kind of funny in a sad sort of way. It now seems as if the old part of the mall is slowly being eaten away, as you leave the food court and head towards Sears. One can't help but wonder what will happen when the erosion of these decades old memories takes place,on the Sears end in a few years time.

First the Redondo Beach Pier goes up in a puff of smoke. Instead of restoring it with shops we now have a concrete slab walkway, and the breakwater wall is off limits.

Old Towne Mall died. Not with a bang, but with an asthmatic whimper.

Now Del Amo Mall is in the midst of a death rattle or three.

I am not wishing to appear morbid, but we are, collectively speaking, losing something rather important. It must be important otherwise there would not be this interest in this Facebook page, and others like it.

I do miss those days. O there were problems, aplenty, but it was different somehow. We've not lost our innocence, or anything like that, but have become more remote, isolated from each other. It is more convenient to order via the internet, to communicate via Facebook, Twitter etc., than deal with face to face communication, or even take the time to write a letter and wait for an answer a few days or a week later.

We, as a society, have turned into the real life versions  of Veruca Salt. "I want it now!"

I for one miss getting those large hot pretzels with mustard on them, or heading to B Daltons the smell of the books was really something wasn't it?