Andy has memorized twenty-seven knots.
He can easily show you the difference between a davy knot and a double turtle. He knows ten different hitch knots as well as various bends, slings, and splices. He started learning them when he got his first sail boat. He has since sold that boat and upgraded to a rare old schooner with a diesel motor that he is relishing the process of refinishing. He does this when he is not working on one of his several properties in a town that America forgot, but is now beginning to remember.
He was lucky to be there during the forgetting with a little money because he was able to snatch up a few lovely old houses on the cheap. He grew up in the town and he has no plans to ever leave. It suits him just fine. If America wanted to forget it, that was America’s problem.
The forgetting was more of an economic downturn, and like all downturns in American markets, an upturn was imminent. Economic upswings have a way of jogging the country’s memory.
The problem that occurs when America remembers a town that was once forgotten is that the shift in tides can drown the little life that barely managed to hold on there in the mean time. Economic downturns are the definition of “mean time” in case you were wondering.
Suddenly the abandoned waterfront and its lovely dilapidated piers and faded marina is prime development material and the people who had been left behind to bear witness to the deterioration are now in the way. The ones left behind to live out their lives on social security, barely scraping by in the simplest manner possible, can no longer afford their property taxes.
Injury is added to insult. And when these brave stragglers lose their homes they have nowhere to go. But they go anyway. And the condos that rise and shine from out of their tattered lives never look back.
Andy and his wife Sara are doing their part to ameliorate this process, to keep the tides of progress at bay, simply because the tides of progress are destructively precocious. Progress is defined by the ones with the fattest wallets, and the dissenters little voices disappear into mean time.
Sara and Andy bought their house at the height of the forgetting. They got it for a song and now they are raising their two kids and two cats in the old house. They host couch surfers for indefinite periods of time. They also host monthly potlucks for their friends and neighbors.
At least some of their neighbors.
Directly next to them is a house in serious disrepair. It is a slum and a stark reminder of the forgotten who remain like jagged shrapnel in a freshly blooming flower bed. The windows of the house that aren’t boarded up have wisps of plastic that flutter in the breeze like ghastly curtains. These neighbors aren’t pleasant, but that may be because of the sex dungeon they operate as a side business. It’s not particularly savory, but who can judge them in the face of mean time?
The house on the other side of them is in a similar state of disrepair but is mercifully abandoned. A mattress molders in a bag on the lawn like a giant rotten pop tart.
Across the street a woman is breeding dogs for the local dog-fighting rings. She also doesn’t attend the potlucks. She also was in the neighborhood before they moved in and decided they had a role to play. She sets her life according to the ticking of mean time.
They know all their neighbors because they pilot frequent neighborhood and community campaigns where they go knocking door-to-door. They are fighting to maintain the diversity of their neighborhood in the face of gentrification. They would rather uplift the downtrodden than allow them to be erased and replaced. They know what the ticking of mean time sounds like.
The neighborhood is developing so quickly that Sara and Andy have bought several of the houses in the block. They want to thwart the developers who have begun to sweep up all the real estate within walking distance of Lake Eerie. They want to keep their neighborhood from being forgotten again. It is one thing to be forgotten in the mean time and another to be forgotten as you are rushed out the back door just as the show is starting.
One of their houses is section eight and their tenants are doing their part by leaving trash in the street and parking on their lawn.
The Mean Time ticks on.