Sunday, June 18, 2006

street names

My grandmother's neighborhood in Palo Alto is wonderful. All the streets are named for authors: American authors run north/south, and European ones run east/west. I ride my bike down Yeats and Byron, Melville and Emmerson. Much to the embarassment of my academic ego, there are several names that I don't recognize. Some of these unknowns are beautiful streets and make me wonder what sort of author they are named for. A ride down the shade-covered Fulton makes me wish for a rainy day to read whatever it is he wrote. On the street named for Tasso, a tree has been toilet-papered, and I find myself hoping that the fellow wrote at least one funny thing in his career. Others I recognize and try analyze. I find it unfortunate that the street named for Tennyson, whose Crossing the Bar is perhaps my favorite poem, has fallen into a season of construction and looks anything but poetic. While passing Mark Twain today, I saw- and I kid you not- a freshly erected fence being whitewashed. How absolutely perfect is that?

I find myself thinking, If a street was named after me, what would I hope to find there? I think that I would want the houses to be beautiful, but small and simple. No ritzy neighborhood for my stretch of asphalt! There would be plenty of beautiful trees (shade in the summer, brilliant in the fall, and covered in white lights at Christmas), gardens and flower boxes under the windows of several houses. The sidewalks would be wide and inviting, and the street calm enough that one could meander right down the middle of it late in the evening. And though Robert Frost was right when he said that there is something in a man that loves fences, none of them would be too high for a conversation with a passing neighbor. Such conversations would be common, of course, because on my street people would know eachother well. And just because I have a thing for doors, all the houses would have fantastic ones, colorful and stately.

Perhaps the best question for me is this: If a street was named after me, what sort names would fill the other street signs? Whose company do I want to be in, and what would I want to be noted for? If I really think about it, such a question just might change how I live.

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