Monday, October 16, 2006

Gazetteer Entry: Big Shaft

Stanford Theater, originally uploaded by Dawn Endico.

I didn't take this picture. Thanks, Dawn Endico

Geography Situated in the lush Peninsula and contained by the Flip Flops to the west, the East Big Shaft to the east, suburban expanses to the north and Muttonham to the south. The land is generally flat and dotted with many elms, sycamores, volvos, Eichlers, SUVs, tastefully landscaped software campuses and romantic turn-of-the-century mansions with turrets and bay windows.

Lock your doors
This shaded, monied idyll ends abruptly when you cross the railroad tracks and fall into the prickly and poverty-sticken bosom of East Big Shaft.

Primordial Associations
The Silver Screen
Big Shaft was a regular Friday night destination for my family when I was in high school. My parents took a dim view of the contemporary Hollywood offerings and opted instead for the vintage films shown at the Stanford Theater. I fell in love with Eva Marie Saint's dresses, red velvet curtains, the exotic mock-Moroccan interior with the authentically fake sunset-lighting, the Mighty Wurlitzer rising from the floor at show-time and cobalt blue-tiled water fountain.

Close by the Stanford is the Pen Creamery, a depression-era diner (we have only been going since the early 70's), where hungry movie-goers can slurp heavily ice creamed malts with their burgers.

Gigantic Bronze Breasts
"This is erotica!" -The Pater, on entering the Rodin Sculpture Gardens, circa 1987. I was 12 at the time, and had be physically dragged away by my sister before I was finished thoroughly contemplating "The Kiss."

Cons Big Shaft represents a strange kind of oblivion. One could, conceivably, pimp one's soul (or scholarship, if you are very elite) for the money required to make a life in Big Shaft, and sometimes I am envious of its quiet streets and beautiful neighborhoods. Then I remember that Big Shaft's siren call is ultimately empty and that beyond its torpid borders lays a world that is wildly unpredictable, messy, grotesque and alive.

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