Sunday, 26 May 2013

Exploring America on Google Street View

Wauwatosa, Milwaukee

My trip begins in July 2007 outside Wauwatosa Pocket Park. Before me is a closed off road and a crane demolishing a series of Greekly architectural structures. To the left, a burned-out bus heading towards a flat-roofed building that appears too melted and sickly to contain actual life, and to the right, two big-bumpered Cadillac-like cars are parked before the cordons that read ROAD CLOSED TO THRU TRAFFIC. I spin around and proceed up Harwood Avenue, along a wide asphalt road flanked by elm trees, arriving at a church with an enormous grey-brown arch with two window-like holes on each side, a family of bells in the centre, and a drab concrete cross on top. At the bottom, a marble statue of an unidentifiable religious figure (Jesu?), with arms outstretched, welcoming people to the fringe-roofed place of worship. I spin around to my right, where a eatery called Niemann’s shares a blue awning with an unreadable place with an Eiffel Tower symbol on front. There are no people around.

Further up, leafy apartments on either side, Victorian street lamps with two-pronged elegant bulbs, a second entrance to the church that is now chasing me up the road, and on the right the first American flag hangs outside another low-ceilinged mauve-bricked structure with five columns (a school?). A 20MPH sign is pinned to a large pylon that drags across the pavement and a spin to my right reveals a tall building with trendy B&W photos in the windows, and a bald fat man in a blue shirt hangs on the chunky banister beneath a green half-tunnel awning. The wall-pinned white plaque-signs are too blurry to read, but an old-style newsprint is identifiable on all three. A dark blue wide-load SUV is parked in front. A second American flag comes into view as I progress into Harwood and dodge an unattended lawnmower that seems to be moving along the sidewalk on collision course with a skinny tree. It all has the clammy dull emptiness of ten o’clock in a Sunday morning in a place too hot to do anything. Suddenly I disappear.

Flushing, New York

And materialise on Farrington Street. Before me is October 2007 and a dull skyline that emphasises the greyness of the surrounding buildings. A factorial structure with a roof like a loaf of bread is before me, and I advance towards a fenced off site with trailers and a ceremony of pylons strung onto their roofs. A JCB is parked inside. On the road before me, a garbage truck shows its teeth. I ride alongside and pass it, arriving at A&R Lobosco Inc—a grey factory where a green-suited black worker walks towards a recycling skip outside. To the left, a car lot for conEdison. Up ahead, a series of shiny black freight lorries, diggers and stray cars. The first American flags appear (three in fact) outside a car wash which also offers QUICK LUBE in a separate entrance in proud caps on a red sign. TRUCK LUBE is available in a smaller font on the left side.

Across, a small L-shape of shops, three of which seem boarded up with grey textless signs and shutters up. Another shop nestles in the nook of the L, possibly having driven the other two businesses to despair, in the traditional way. Up ahead Astoria federal Savings offers incredible CD rates, and a large five-story building with curvy sides and small wraparound windows looms over another large car park. Everywhere is industrial and dreary and littered with dirty grey cars. Mercifully I disappear.  

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