Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The other side of the tracks

After work today, I had to drive over to the UPS building and pick up a package. It's on the west side of town by the airport. I don't get to that side of town very often, and it was kind of interesting.

First of all, I should say that there are lots of nice neighborhoods on the west side, with lovely two-story homes. But the areas where there are shops and restaurants look pretty dingy and sad. Dirty little shops on the corners, extremely had lettering that said "CB Specialists!" Who needs a CB specialist any more, good buddy?

But what really caught my eye was some of the buildings. It's actually a fairly historic area, and in Studebaker's heyday, it was THE happenin' place. Lots of immigrants settled there, and I've read that there were little Mom & Pop shops all over the place, bakeries, what have you. Behind the cheap vinyl siding and poorly renovated exteriors, you could catch a glimpse of these gorgeous, solid brick buildings, with some really interesting architectural detail. And some of the older homes were fairly well maintained, with lovely big porches. Naturally, my mind jumped into its Wayback Machine, and I started thinking about what the area must have been like in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Fascinating!

I know that every science fiction story about the subject warns that time travel is a very bad idea. Remember the story (I think it's a Ray Bradbury story) about the guy that goes back in time and steps on a butterfly and the entire world is changed? Or Dr. McCoy going back and changing history so that the Nazis won the war and ruled the world, thus space travel was never developed and the Enterprise was no more? It boggles the mind! But God, how neat would it be to go back and just observe? I'd love to go back to various ancient civilizations, but I'd be happy enough just to sit here right where I am, like in "The Time Machine" (the original movie) and see what Nutwood looked like in the mid-19th century, or earlier. I'd see Native Americans, bobcats, and all kinds of wildlife! Oddly enough, I don't think I'd want to go into the future--some things are best not to know, and if you've seen "The Time Machine" (or read the book), you'll recall that the Morlocks are in the future. The Morlocks still give me the creeps.

When it comes to books on the subject, one of my favorites is Time and Again by Jack Finney. No, it's not the basis of that lame Christopher Reeve movie filmed at Mackinac Island--what was the name of that? Something with "time" in it. No, in Time and Again, the guy goes back I think to the 1890's in New York City. He has an apartment in the Dakota overlooking Central Park. I need to read that one again, I really loved it. But he actually interacts with people. I just want to observe, and I wouldn't change anything, I swear!

In science fiction stories, those are the famous last words of everyone who goes back and totally screws up the world.

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