Thursday, February 4, 2016
Sunday, June 23, 2013
This house is just north of Algonquin Parkway, the third structure from the corner, on the west side of the highway. This is the house in which my grandmother grew up with her younger sister and brother. Their dad was a butcher at a nearby butcher's shop on Dixie Highway.
The last time we visited this house it was standing empty with a "For Sale" sign; all the windows were boarded up, and the red brick still looked as it always had. On this visit (June 2013), the house had gotten a new lease on life: a new owner had painted the brick a pale yellow, and the interior is in the process of being refurbished. In this photo you can see a fellow standing on the front porch, talking on the phone; he was working on the house, and talking to the owner. He asked me if I wanted to talk to the owner myself, and handed me his phone.
My great-grandmother (whom, of course, I never met) lived in this house until she died in 1954, but then it passed out of our family. The present owner had never heard of the Bachs, but did know the previous family who lived here, I think he said the woman's name was Alma White.
The present owner is fixing it up -- the bags of trash on the front porch are stuff they have taken out of this long-unoccupied building -- he says he hopes to have a residential unit on the second floor and commercial on the first floor.
I love this photo of the front door with its side lights and transom lights. My mom says that her mom would be really happy to see that her parents' house is getting some TLC. For my part I was happy to see that it was no longer standing neglected and empty, and I was relieved to see that it's still standing.
This type of brick bungalow is quite common in Louisville, and all over the country, in fact. Bungalows date from the early 20th century, when streetcars were common and private cars were not. Bungalows don't have garages, as you can see in this photo. Once the automobile became more common, detached garages were built. Later, houses with carports, and eventually attached garages, were built; the ranch house displaced the bungalow as the most popular vernacular architecture type.
On Dixie Highway many houses have disappeared to make way for commercial development, but north of the Watterson many remain residential too. Just north of my great-grandparents' house is a large discount store called Save-A-Lot, so it's not inconceivable that this house could have succumbed to the bulldozer at some point like its former neighbors. I'm hoping to see it occupied on my next visit, whenever that happens; and if it's a commercial occupant I might finally get to go inside.
|Northbound on Dixie Highway through Shively; notice the two-story house on the right, now Dixie Florist, just past the Pep Boys. Note the above-ground power lines that dominate the view.|
|Dixie Highway in Shively -- six lanes plus a center median|
|Left: Dixie Highway north of the Watterson; right: Some older houses in Shively on Dixie Highway north of the Watterson Expressway.|
|This old farmhouse is now a law office. It has an old-fashioned port-cochere.|
|Post-WWII housing boom: this 1940s house is now an insurance agency.|
In this essay I don't mean to recapitulate the "narrative of loss" so common among so many descriptions of historical development. When my mother was growing up in Shively in the 1940s and 50s, "everyone went downtown for everything," as she tells it. It's nice to be able to find the things you need without going downtown, and today Dixie Highway seems to offer a lot of things people need. As a metropolitan area of 1.3 million people, the growth of the city was inevitable; I just wish it could have been implemented in a more aesthetically pleasing and history-conscious manner. Dixie Highway is not a thoroughfare that historic preservationists are likely to champion, but I think some of these old structures deserve some attention and respect.
|This little house on Dixie Highway and Gagel Avenue appears to be still residential.|
Sunday, August 7, 2011
The trip began in a jarringly memorable way: as we were boarding our plane, two coffins were sitting on the tarmac, waiting to be loaded into the cargo hold. Devout Hindus on their way to be cremated at the place where Lord Shiva would ferry their souls across the river to the great beyond. I realized that their grieving relatives would most likely be on the same flight with us. Having come to India almost directly from my grandmother's memorial service, I was all the more attuned to death and grieving. My grandmother was with me on that trip to India, in the way that people keep telling me she is always with me, in spirit. I kept wanting to share with her my experiences and impressions, and then realizing I couldn't.
Varanasi is intense – old, dirty, with narrow winding streets thronged with market stalls; the crush of pilgrims and tourists making their way to and from the ghats; religious fervor and fervent hawkers; pedestrians, bicycle rickshaws and automobiles all competing for space; very loud music! All of one’s senses are assaulted, between the fragrant aroma of flowers and the odor of cow dung, the loud music, the visual cacophony of colors and textures, foods both tempting and repellant. The heat, the humidity, the mud, and – once you get to the Ganges – the water (I stepped in up to my ankles) – it all overwhelms. Varanasi is like India itself – intense, larger than life, sometimes too much to handle, but somehow captivating.
We were there during a special month devoted to Shiva; in the lunar calendar it occurs only once every three years (or once every 32.5 months, according to Wikipedia). Pilgrims -- almost all of them young men, dressed entirely in orange -- travel on foot to Varanasi to gather water from the Ganges in small pots, and then to travel on foot to other Shiva temples located throughout the country to pour the sacred water on the Shiva lingam. In these photos you can see the decorated poles used by pilgrims to carry the Ganges water:
According to Subhadra Sen Gupta, Kashi may have been a Dravidian center of worship before the arrival of the Aryans in the subcontinent. The cult of Shiva dates to before the Aryans’ arrival, and Kashi is believed to be Shiva’s sacred city. Remains of a city wall dating back to the 9th century B.C. have been found on the northern edge of the city.
1. Kashi (or Kashika, or Kashi Kshetra for the region of Kashi) is the name used in the oldest literary reference, the epic Mahabharata; it means “the Luminous,” or “the City of Light.” This is where Shiva’s jyotirlingam first appeared, a column of light that symbolized Shiva’s presence.2. Varanasi – the city lies between two streams, the Varana (to the north) and the Asi (to the south); together they make the name Varanasi.
3. Benares – a mis-hearing of the word Varanasi4. Anandavana – “Shiva’s forest of bliss”
5. Anandakanana – “Shiva’s garden of happiness”6. Rudravasa – the abode of Rudra (because one of the aspects of Shiva is as the Vedic god Rudra)
7. Mahashmashana – the Great Cremation Ground8. Avimukta: the Never-Forsaken, or the city never forsaken by Lord Shiva
The Ganga Aarti is performed at the Dasaswamedha Ghat every morning and every night; this is a worship ceremony (puja) in honor of the goddess Ganga Ma (Mother Ganges):
Our group got to watch the evening ceremony while seated in a boat on the Ganges. Several priests performed it in unison, circling fire, water vessels, incense, bells, and the other gifts made to the goddess. The ceremony signifies waking up the goddess in the morning, and putting her to bed at night. For the devout Hindu, the river IS the goddess, the living and energetic form of the divine; as we watched the puja being performed, we floated atop her divine presence, occupying the space between worshipers and worshiped.
Early on Sunday morning a small group of us went back to the ghat and in pursuit of the main Shiva temple in the city, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Not only are you not allowed to bring a camera into the temple, but you aren’t even allowed to bring a camera anywhere near the temple. There were two security checkpoints leading up to the temple, and I took a photo of this sign at the first security checkpoint saying that cameras are not allowed (plus I got yelled at for taking this photo as I walked past!):
I’m not sure why foreigners are not allowed, but a couple of explanations occur. According to one of the leaders of our group, the Brahmins (priests) do not want non-Hindus in the temple, and are very adamant about it. For them this is the holiest of the holies, so that attitude is not surprising. A second explanation offered by an historian in the group is that Kashi is witness to quite a lot of communal violence, so in order to preserve security they are quite strict about controlling who visits important sacred sites.
The photo of the cremation grounds was also not allowed, “for privacy,” but I couldn’t resist taking one picture:
I would have needed to sit for several hours in contemplation to absorb everything I had seen. The experience left me speechless, and I'm still trying to make sense of the emotional intensity I felt on that gray morning on the banks of the Ganges.
Diana L. Eck, Banaras City of Light (New York: Columbia U.P., 1999).
Subhadra Sen Gupta, Tirtha: Holy Pilgrim Centres of the Hindus (Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2001).