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Walking down memory lane via Google’s street view

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I’m finding Google’s street view feature to be equal parts fascinating
and disturbing all at once.  I’ve done,
what I’m sure, most people have done and immediately looked up all the
addresses of people that I know and basically spied on them, or spied on their
houses and neighborhoods, anyway.  It’s
fascinating in that I’ve attempted to go all over the world and seeing what is
available to view, I wasn’t successful in looking up places in Mumbai, India or
Seoul, South Korea but I did briefly visit the UK, Australia, Japan, France and
Italy all within a matter of half an hour.

My latest foray involved doing some background location
scouting for the setting of my novel, Lawton, Oklahoma.  There were gaps in my memory about the
location of certain landmarks and I wanted to walk down memory lane of the
place that left an indelible mark on my adolescence for the brief time that we
lived there.  Memory is a funny
thing.  The neighborhood that I lived in,
in my memories, is vibrant.  The grass is
green and the trees are in full bloom, flowered and leafy.  The neighborhood is what economists would
call “mixed income”, and so there were houses built with dark red bricks and
immaculate lawns next to houses that were probably painted at one point and
time but the paint being in a current state of, let’s say, distress.  The picture that Google paints of my former
neighborhood is a bleak one.  The grass
is dead, shaded in colors of brown and yellow.
The trees, or what’s left of the trees, are dry and bare.  The neighborhood looks to be in a state of
decline, and the street that I had lived on has been extended and a long row of
square, cement apartments line the right side of the street.  The school I attended, Robert E. Lee
Elementary (The Fighting Rebels), looks exactly the same, at least the building
itself does.  The playground is gone,
turned into a larger parking lot and the softball field is now fenced in.  The other playground, that had been on the
far end to the right of the school is also gone.  The woods behind the school is full of bare
branches and dry tree trunks.  Those
woods, that would be the source of fascination when we first moved there looked
to be dying.  I wonder if the kids in the
neighborhood still tell the same story, that was told to me when I moved there
or from the look of things reality may be scary enough.

Upon arriving and settling in to our house on Mission Blvd,
the friends that I had quickly made, who lived nearby , wasted no time in
telling me the latest on dit that had the neighborhood in a state of
agitation.  The body of a young girl had
been found raped and murdered in the woods, just behind the elementary school
that I was to attend.  She was of the
same age as we were and was well liked.  Apparently,
the police had been administering lie detector tests on the suspects, who were
members of the family and the whispers had concluded that the father was the
culprit, although no one was ever arrested.
But there was another theory held by the kids in the neighborhood, which
was that Tina was killed by the homeless man that lived in the woods.  No one, other than a couple of people had
ever seen this man however there was no doubt in any of their minds that he
existed.  A dwelling had been found,
crudely fashioned with branches and mud and in it contained empty food
containers and other evidence of habitation.

And in a truly adolescent morbid fashion, they took me to
the spot in the woods where the body had been found and pointed in the general
direction of where they believed the homeless man lived and by that time, we
had sufficiently spooked ourselves about the existence of the fabled transient
that we had to leave the woods.  The case
of the watcher in the woods played out, at least in my memory, much like a
Babysitters club or Sweet Valley Twins story, with a group of us boldly seeking
out the dwelling (which we found) and attempting to catch a glimpse of the man
purported to live there (which we didn’t).
Of course, as an adult, it’s obvious to me that it was probably made by
a couple of boys who used it as some sort of a fort or base.  I don’t know why that explanation never occurred
to us at the time but it didn’t.

Lawton is also where I began walking the unwieldy path
towards adulthood, starting with learning about Tina, followed by the sharing of
a secret from my best friend and concluding with a decision made on a warm Sunday
night by my parents regarding the confession of the same type of secret from
another friend.  It’s hard for me, not to
think about what could have happened, if only….

…if only, I’d pressed my parents harder…

…if only, I’d told someone else, some other authority figure…

… if only, I’d been a better friend…

Those memories need no embellishment, there’s no question in
my mind about what happened at those times.
Those memories are bittersweet.

.. ..

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