Thursday, March 27, 2014

Longing for the good old days...or not

My city is changing. I knew this of course but it was made dramatically clear to me by my two meals today. I had lunch at a kosher deli that has been in the city longer than I have--50 years this summer--and hasn't changed much in all that time. It's comfortable, unpretentious, a bit noisy, and all the people greet me like an old friend. Great tuna salad sandwich--not tuna perched on a salad but tuna missed with lemon, mayo, pickle, and I don't know what else. The deli is in a sort of shabby neighborhood, alongside railroad tracks, and sometimes when I park in the back I wonder about being mugged. But I love it and often eat there twice a week.
Tonight I had dinner in a new restaurant in an upscale development of trendy restaurants--some stand-alones and some chains--and lots of new and expensive apartment buildings. A valet whisked our car away, and inside we were greeted with expanses of glass, brick walls, chrome tables, and an intriguing menu. As I looked at lamb tartare, Scotch eggs with chorizo, crispy little quail and other delicacies I had to remind myself that I was still in Fort Worth. I chose the lamb tartare which was excellent though, as the waiter warned me, a small portion. I compensated with a bit of my friends mac'n cheese (made with rigatoni and sophisticated cheeses) and too many pieces of wonderful toasted baguette. Two different worlds.
I like both worlds. I like the familiar comfort of my neighborhood places, but I also like being able to venture a mile or two away and have really awesome food--or even downtown, which these days is a jumping place.
But I don't want to see the older parts of my city swallowed up by development. If you've read any of my Kelly O'Connell Mysteries, you know how I feel about old houses, particularly Craftsman architecture. Kelly makes a living renovating and selling Craftsman houses and lives in one herself. Many of her escapades involving murder revolve around her passion for preserving the character of her historic Fairmount neighborhood.
I myself live in a neighborhood adjacent to Fairmount. Mine is a single-story house built in the early 1920s. I work hard to modernize it without violating it's historic nature--though someone put a galley kitchen in, and I'll be darned if I can decipher the original configuration of the house. But with worn wood floors, a bathroom with tiny tiles on the floor, and windows with that wavy old glass, it's a marvelous house and I love every inch of it.
It troubles me to drive around neighborhoods adjacent to mine and see one-story houses--a few charming and many not so much so--torn down and replaced with quadraplexes that rent for far more than the owners of those modest houses could afford. Currently there's a zoning board appeal to convert an area just north of TCU to, if I understand correctly, unrestricted zoning so a developer can tear down old but solid and lovely brick duplexes and the truly charming houses behind them for a huge apartment complex. I think conventional wisdom is that apartments buildings are great between the first two series of tenants and then begin to deteriorate. When you watch these buildings going up so fast, that's easy to believe.
I'm not against progress, and I do realize some old houses suffer from deferred maintenance so that demolition is the only solution--they even do that in Kelly's Fairmount neighborhood. But I don't want to find myself suddenly living in an area of apartment buildings and quadraplexes. I want the good old days--my familiar hangouts with the option of upscale dining when I want it

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