Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Etched in Concrete

I often look down when I'm walking. At first, it was because I didn't want to catch others' eyes, and sometimes it was to avoid stepping in something that would probably ruin my shoes, and my day. But then I really started to look down. I started to see things etched or buried in the sidewalks. Testimonies of love, dates, messages written in permanence.

Someone once stood where I stand now, hunched over, writing R + L, then slowly scraping the perfect heart around those letters. Was it day time? Was their lover with them? Did they have to avoid getting caught by the construction workers? Did they run off together afterward, giggling; did they realize that someone like me would be looking down on it years later? I wonder if R + L are still together. Maybe they still walk by this very etching, hand in hand. I hope they didn't forget. They captured a moment in time, after the cement had started to dry, but before it completely solidified, where R really did love L.

I see a key amongst rocks embedded in the cement on 82nd and Broadway in Manhattan. I stop and stare and bend down. That key could have just as likely been layers further down and not visible, hiding. But it is here for me to see. Someone may have lost that key. What did it open? Did it keep any secrets? Was it the only one, momentarily keeping its prisoners captive, safe, locked away? How long has this key been here for, how many people have stepped over it unknowingly? Looking at the stones in the cement surrounding it, it has been here for quite some time. Cement has changed over the years, it is now white and opaque, or black. I imagine that this here section of cement is decades old. This key has seen a lot; many shops have come and gone, fashions have changed, cars have evolved and are maybe a bit quieter than when that key first ended up there.



1959. Fifty two years ago, the cement had a lot more character. I know this because where I live, the cement is dated. For whatever official purpose it serves, to me it tells a story. From the slabs dated 1959 to 2009, they become gradually less interesting, flawed, beautiful. The story begins to fade, each year the cracks between the slabs get further and further apart. Will kids soon forget the rhyme we grew up with? It plays over and over in my head: "Don't step on a crack, or you'll break your mother's back". I never stepped on the cracks.



As these sidewalks slowly get ripped up and replaced with new, cleaner looking cement, stories are erased, declarations of love are forgotten, hidden jewels become lost forever.

13 comments:

Jewels said...

I love this post. I love that you got the prompt and went out to find pictures and things to go along with it. Very dedicated. The key is beautiful. I often think about things like that too...glad I'm not the only one.

PS...kids still sing the "break your mother's back" but the kids I know purposely step on cracks-it's creepy really.

PPS...found you through Studio30+ forum for the concrete prompt.

Random Girl said...

Lex, this is such a great post. I love the key picture as well, ties the whole concept together so perfectly. Well done!

lex [lexinthecity] said...

Jewels - Thanks for reading! :) I actually took the photos awhile ago. The key was in NYC and the 1959 one is right down the street from me. I've been wanting to use them for awhile so this was perfect.

PS - Kids these days are incorrigible.

PPS - Yay!

Girl At Rock Show said...

I love this. We stand where others have stood in the past. In the future others will stand where we have. It is great that you captured that truth in this post.

jerrod said...

there's that Chinese proverb that one generation plants the tree and another gets the shade.

Well written my friend. :)

lex [lexinthecity] said...

Randy - thanks! The key was my inspiration!
Girl at Rock Show - I really could not have said it better than that!
Jerrod - thanks :)

Lance said...

The pictures really bring it all together. You made sentimentality interesting and cool. Good post.

Jules said...

I am in love with this post!!! Seriously, well written!!

lex [lexinthecity] said...

Lance - Thanks!

Jules - Thank you so much, that means a lot coming from you :)

cement mixer said...

I can see the art value of these shots. I fancy the key buried somewhat in the concrete.

adjustable wedge inserts said...

I used to this way back when I was a child. When I saw my dad doing some construction, I put a coin on it and waited till it got dried. That's a very memorable experience.

Home builder perth said...

I used to do this thing as well way back when we first built our house. For me, it was a sign of being a part of completing the house. I was really happy since I was able to help in constructing our house even just in my simple ways.

awnings said...

It is just great when you see these concrete etchings that you have made decades ago. You cannot help but feel nostalgic when you go back to those precious memories.