It’s been a slow week. So let’s go to the mailbag:
Dear Dave: So, what have you been reading lately?
A: I just finished Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. Excellent book, about a struggling Greek innkeeper and his encounter with an American actress in 1962, when the movie Cleopatra was being filmed. Richard Burton makes an appearance. I can say no more than that, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. But it’s a lovely book. Dave Bob, the idiot savant who inhabits a renovated supply closet here at the Warehouse, gives it four stars.
Jess Walter wrote the highly regarded Citizen Vince in 2005. My brother Mike recommended Beautiful Ruins, and because he reads nothing but crime fiction, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this is not a mystery at all. Not a serial killer in sight. It’s just a very good, funny, and insightful book. Check it out. Note to Jess Walter: I’m available to do back-cover blurbs on spec.
Dear Dave: What’s it like living in the Springfield neighborhood of Jacksonville, Fla., now that June has arrived?
A: Well, it’s already muggy. But it’s a lot better than living in the Springfield neighborhood of Jacksonville, Fla., when August arrives. Secondly, the weirdness of this historic neighborhood is not really seasonal in nature.
Case in point: the other day, a ramshackle structure a few blocks from here was summarily torn down as a threat to public safety. I’d walked past the place numerous times, but had recently quit walking past it because of the possibility that it would disintegrate in a moderate wind, crushing yours truly.
The block looks a lot better without this derelict hulk. I was happy to see the open space. I imagine the next-door neighbors, who have been trying to sell their home for two years now, were delighted too. But here’s the weirdness: The demolition has been angrily and widely condemned. They’re exchanging harsh words on various online forums, blaming each other for letting it happen. It was as though somebody had cut down the Treaty Oak for firewood.See, Springfield is an historic neighborhood. That means nothing can be torn down here, unless it’s an abandoned appliance carton. Every block here has at least one rotting structure that is way beyond renovation; my own has two. But the refined historic sensibility of Springfield is such that all derelict structures must stand until they give way to the elements. I understand the need for standards, the concept of preserving a neighborhood’s character. I don’t want Soviet-style architecture going up here. But I also don’t want houses that are more daylight than lumber, the ones that creak when the wind blows and beckon to the shopping-cart set as a good place to take a crap. If somebody wants to renovate ’em, great. But nobody does, do they? And they never will. So a lot of this junk can come down. You want to talk history; I could argue that open space is about as historic as it gets. I’m sure the Seminoles — the tribe, not the team — would agree.
Dear Dave: OK, sorry I asked. By the way, I notice that whole months have gone by without a blog entry. What gives?
A: I may be handsome and intelligent, but I’m also kind of lazy.