Monday, June 30, 2008

Old Haunts

"The beauty of the landscape resides in its melancholy"

Ahmet Rasim, quoted in Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk

And changing landscapes produce melancholy -- even disorientation. Walking cities and neighborhoods is pleasurable for many reasons, including the revisiting of fondly-remembered visual landscapes and streetscapes. I'm reminded of the inner-city Boston neighborhood that fought to preserve a statue of a revolutionary war hero that defined a streetscape -- it was their landmark.

One of my recent DC walks inspired two fits of melancholy of the changing city variety. Olsson's Bookstore on 7th and D has been a favored turnaround point in my walks around DC. I also like to buy books. When I walked in the store last week it had that sick, liquidation, stripped down look. A salesperson said they couldn't keep of with the rent. A Washington Post article a few days later said the whole chain was going under -- my store to be replaced by a noodle shop.

Earlier in that same walk I was dumbstruck by the sign for the Billy Goat Tavern and Grill at New Jersey Ave. and E Street. Cognitive dissonance. The Billy Goat, the original one at least, is a Chicago landmark located under Michigan Avenue next to the river in the wonderful infrastructure bowels of Lower Wacker Drive. This is the place of John Belushi's "cheeseborger" routine and a regular haunt of famed Chicago writers like Mike Royko. I spent many a evening during my Chicago community development days chewing on sliders, drinking from a frosty mug, and discoursing on the future neighborhood development.

So what was the Billy Goat doing in DC. Who knows? I checked it out and found an expanded menu in an oddly comfortable triangular space. It sits in a in-between kind of place, at least for now, so maybe it fits.

1 comment:

Josh said...

This reminds me of my experiences walking my old haunts in Cincinnati, especially in the Corryville neighborhood.

Between my time there (around 2000) and the present day the area has been completely gentrified and redeveloped. While the options for mindless commerce have expanded, the landmarks of cultural import have greatly diminished.

See more about what they're up to here: