Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sewer Raccoons; Blizzard, Waukesha 1947; Chinese restaurant; Bye-bye

A downtown story

Sewer Raccoons

Yes there are such things;
why else would we have devoted
seven + years to their existence?

Granted, our local raccoons are more
picturesque rather than in sewers, when they are swimming laps
in the mighty fox - and more readily seen
by locals willing to look,

but are more often spotted west of the Clinton
and Broadway bridge in the stretch
along the Riverwalk around the locus
of the former Main Street Studebaker showroom
and riverpoints Southwest.

Kendal Lofters might have lots of photo opps
come spring and summer

but the little rascals, as we know,
  we've repeatedly told you,
enter the sewers via tight squeezes,
but once within their subterranean elements
have plenty of room to bustle about

especially at their hub meeting place -
a huge torch-lit congregating hall
beneath the old post office -
currently known as The Rotunda.

That's often where the sewer raccoons are
headed when they disappear into corner
sewer grates around the central part of town.  We've told you 
this; perhaps there is a shortage of belief, or forgetfulness?

You have only to be watchful.

They are there.

Presently there is a big renovation in Waukesha's downtown
on Clinton Street, which runs from Broadway to Wisconsin Ave.
That is where the known and marked Indian burial mounds 
are located, in Cutler Park.

It has been thought that all the digging up of Clnton Street
so close to those burial of Indian artifacts and bones
could turn up additional buried archaeological finds
beneath the road surface.

The downtown street grid was formed from very early
native American trading post footpaths.  The Five Points
are where the various trading trails converged
through the woodland forest.

Over centuries these foot paths became what they 
are today, having previous eras of street car tracks
(now long paved over)
but before that, there were muddy unthoroughfares, then planks, then brick
pavers, etc., evolution of paths turned to pavements
coming into the Five Points like spokes on a wheel.

Today Clinton Street is being excavated as we said
for utility replacements and fresh re-re-paving, 
with improvements galore for old Clinton St. and its sidewalks.

Preservation-minded folks are concerned about
what may be turned up.  Will there be ancient bones?
Arrowheads, shards of pottery, pieces of things bent just so, etc.?

Consequently we read in the local newspaper that there
are archaeologists watching the every move of the diggers,
hoping to save any objects of scientific interest,
to get to the items before they are shoveled away or
crushed under the grinding wheels of the
giant earth-moving machines working this narrow street.

Should evidence be uncovered and salvaged,
we hear that the project will be interrupted (!) while
the Five Point streets (trails) are further dug up
for what may be discovered.
tu prius negotium

This eventuality has some downtown merchants
going about their hampered-already businesses
with furrowed brows.  They are hoping against hope
that nothing is found that will further slow the
flow of their commerce.

The restored to regular-tilt, busy sale
of artwork, coffee and designer sandwiches
cannot happen too soon.

Fortunately for these mercantile coin-changers
they have allies in the sewer raccoons.
The coons are working under cover of darkness
picking up the Indian bones, pottery shards
and the like - ahead of the workmen.

They are secreting them in places where they will
never be found.  The raccoons want this big street project
finished fast, too.  They want to resume their routines
just as much as their distant relatives,
the human purveyors of arty goods.

Now, you say, raccoons are not smart enough to
reason things out like these complexities,
and you are right.

They have an ancient raccoon king leading them,
(also mentioned on these SRN pages)
calling the shots as he's done for seven or more years.
The king spends his time entirely in the grand chamber
beneath the old post office now, for he has become blind.

He may be sightless but certainly not stupid.

He dispatches his raccoon minions
through the sewers and up through the grates
to do his purloining of goods that he 'sees' the coon
community needing,

slices of pizza in the gutters, discarded
drapery samples, grapes, pieces of things bent just so.....

and so out and up they go, the gentle burglars,
- being told specifically -
given shopping lists of what to look for.
The king does have the smarts for things 
of this sort, AND, he has foreseen the urgency
of rescuing Clinton Street artifacts before
the human treasure hunters get to them.

'Everybody is happy'
those are his by-words.
Business for the merchants;
clear new sewers quickly laid
for the raccoons.

In the king's plan there are helpers
because this is a priority, an urgency
of highest degree.

Some of these assistants, people,
are motivated mainly by the milk
(coffee and tea) of human kindness.



Blizzard, Waukesha, 1947

The snow that falls so white and fresh
is quickly pushed to the sides of
the already salted streets
and more salt is spread behind the blades

The snow no matter how persevering
can't win a temporary victory
because it's not allowed to repose there
delaying commerce anymore

Snowbound in the city is an anachronism
The big blizzard of 1947, though, closed
businesses and schools, everything for days
in Waukesha Wisconsin

until the handful of plow-equipped trucks
could get around to opening all the streets,
and  the Inter-Urban electric train did not run
into Milwaukee,  so Dad was home for five days

The snow was dominant then, keeping everyone blessedly
at home, happy captives of unanticipated pass-times,
 skiing to the grocers or to the post office, drinking
 cocoa and digging tunnels outside, dawns to dusks

During cribbage games and radio shows, the wind blew
unending heavy snow all around town
And the ice-blinkered Fox Dairy horses struggled
to pull their milk wagons until they couldn't

negotiate the drifted valleys formerly known
to them as their street routes
And everything was rounded off white
for many deepening days

But now, when there is a forecast of snow
heavy or slight
armadas of municipal plows and reinforcements
of free-lancers idle their engines everywhere

loaded with tons of salt, waiting at checkpoints, ready
to make short work of any white that quietly comes
and to make the trains, trucks and everything else
run on time

The esthete dreaming of snow having dominion
over him for a just a little while
loses to technology and industry
and loses no precious time at work or school

thanks to economies dedicated to rumbling
street-clearing machines
and salt, lots of salt
And fervent salty neighbors

keeping their sidewalks absolutely clear
of Old Devil Snow, running neck and neck
toward the inevitable loss against the plowers
 who fill and re-fill the grumblers' driveways

Over clear but gray-skied days, whizzing traffic splatters
more salt onto the salt-laced drifts and the sun melts
and re-freezes the mounds into darkened, pitted reefs
of dingy black coral

And you wish for another clean, crippling snow, as in 1947



Dingy coral in gutter  3-11-14

Note red Xmas onament still holding forth
on dead evergreen boughs
leading me to muse:  DEAD EVERGREEN?
The planter ice perforce releases its grip.....
spring approaches


Chinese Restaurant

After an argument, my family always dined at the Chinese
restaurant. Something about the Orient washed the bitterness
away. Like a riverbank where you rest for awhile. The owner
bowed as we entered. The face of one who had seen too much.
A revolution. The torture of loved ones. Horrors he would never
reveal. His wife ushered us to our table. Her steps smaller than
ours. The younger daughter brought us tea. The older one took
our orders in perfect English. Each year her beauty was more
delicate than before. Sometimes we were the only customers
and they smiled from afar as we ate duck and shrimp with our
chopsticks. After dinner we sat in the comfort of their silence.
My brother told a joke. My mother folded a napkin into the shape
of a bird. My sister broke open our cookies and read our fortunes
aloud. As we left, my father always shook the old man's hand.

"Chinese Restaurant" by David Shumate, from The Floating Bridge. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008


The dismantling of ink presses