I often hear people complain about the cracks in South Pasadena streets and sidewalks. It’s always the same cranky discussion with adjectives like outrageous and unacceptable. I guess I can see their point. I mean, nobody likes to trip over a sidewalk crack. In fact, my daughter gave herself a loose tooth stumbling over one on our street when she was three. But other than that, I’m a little fuzzy on all the consternation. I suppose driving over uneven pavement could make your car CD player skip, or test the validity of your automaker’s claims of great suspension…
Yeah, I’m being a smart ass.
I happen to love the cracks, the same way I love the patina of my old leather jacket and the crazing of my antique teapot. I love the weathered history of those cracks. I love it that those cracks reveal the way trees have woven their roots under and around our town in a kind of latticed embrace. I love it that on streets with cracks, lead-footed drivers can’t possibly speed as fast as they would in, say, San Marino — where the roads are as smooth as a stretch of new laminate flooring.
Recently, South Pasadena repaved this street, evening out the undulating curb. I’m sure many homeowners are happy about it. I’m sure parking on those uneven surfaces was a challenge. But to me, it’s a little like removing original, wooden, double-hung sash windows and replacing them with dual-paned vinyl. Actually, it feels a little like masking a lifetime of expression with Botox.
“It’s through the cracks of our brain,” Logan Pearsall Smith once wrote, “that ecstasy creeps in.” I know we can’t ignore function in the admiration of form. I understand repairs are sometimes necessary for safety reasons or drainage issues. But progress, unfortunately, is rarely very romantic. And in Southern California where new is regarded with a kind of religious fervor, I love the old stuff. Cracks and all.
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