Friday, July 13, 2012

Average White Band -- "Work to Do" (1975)

You might as well get used to me
Coming home a little late
'Cause I got work to do

"One never notices what has been done," Marie Curie wrote in 1894.  "One can only see what remains to be done."

Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and remains the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences (physics and chemistry).  As the above quote shows, she was not one to rest on her laurels, but was focused on the work that remained to be done.

Madame Curie
When I went to Joplin, Missouri last month, I was very curious to see what had been done since my visit to my hometown a year ago -- only two weeks after Joplin had been hammered by a multiple-vortex EF5 tornado on May 22, 2011 -- and what remained to be done.

While much has been done, it pales in comparison to what remains to be done.  But we've reached something of a tipping point, I think.  

The fact that so much has been done convinced me that someday -- certainly not this year, and probably not next year, but someday -- what remains to be done will be completed.  I feel confident not only that Joplin will survive, but that it will be more than what it was before the tornado struck.

(By an odd coincidence, the night I sat down to start writing this post, the Washington, DC, area was slammed with severe thunderstorms and 75-mph winds.  We had some damage to our patio furniture and gutters and fences from some big-ass broken limbs, and lost internet and cable service, but we didn't lose electricity -- unlike a million others in the area, some of whom had to live without air conditioning for a full week when the high temperature approached or exceeded a hundred degrees every day.  Of course, all that was nothing compared to what happened to Joplin last year.) 

While I was in Joplin, I walked from 26th and Maiden Lane (where the hulk of the destroyed St. John's Hospital is slowly being deconstructed) to 20th and Rangeline (where several big-box stores and a number of restaurants and other businesses were flattened).  That route was the path taken by the tornado, so I was able to see how the areas where most of the serious damage took place were coming along.  

As I've noted before, my parents' house stands on the northeast corner of 24th and Alabama.  Go just two blocks north -- to 22nd and Alabama -- and you are in the zone of total destruction.

There used to be 22 houses in the two blocks of Alabama between 22nd and 20th, including one at 2111 Alabama:

Exactly one of those 22 houses survived, although it needed a new roof and other major repairs.  That lone survivor is the house on the right in this picture.  The other house is a new one:

Today, there are a handful of houses being built on that stretch of Alabama.  They are generally a bit bigger than the houses they are replacing, and probably are filled with modern features that make them greatly superior to the fifties-vintage houses that were destroyed.

The effect is similar to what you would get if you laid a three-foot-wide strip of beautiful, healthy, deep- green sod down the middle of a lawn that was well cared for, but had a few weeds and bare patches here and there.  The new grass would be very noticeable, and its perfection would make you notice the imperfections in the existing lawn.  And the new houses in Joplin might draw attention to the aging of the older ones.

One good piece of news is the return of Dude's Daylight Donuts, a long-established and somewhat eccentric business that probably got more attention after it was destroyed (including a mention in the New York Times) than in all the years of its previous existence.

I hadn't had a Dude's maple bar for many years.  They are utter perfection.

Cunningham Park, where I went swimming as a kid and played tennis with my friends and sister during my college and law school summers, was wiped out by the tornado.  The new tennis and basketball courts are first-rate, and the old and very plain pool has been replaced by one that is start-of-the-art.

A few blocks from Cunningham Park stand seven new houses whose construction was chronicled on the ABC television show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  The houses are so distinctive that seeing them is a bit unsettling at first -- walking down the street has the feel of walking down a street in a theme park, or stumbling upon a movie set.  But the overall effect is very pleasant, and the people for whom they were built must feel like they are living in a dream.

Here they are, starting at the southernmost house and moving north:

Click here for short tour videos for each of the seven houses.  The childrens' bedrooms in these houses are especially noteworthy -- most parents would never consider doing anything so over the top as these bedrooms are, but you can bet the ranch that they kids who live here were absolutely delighted by their new rooms.  Can you imagine what a kick it would be if you were 12 years old and could invite a friend over to spend the night in of these bedrooms?

As we were walking back toward where we had parked, my sister and I across a large open space with only a few wide stone steps leading from the sidewalk.  It took us a minute to get oriented, but then we realized that this was the site where South Junior High (where we attended 7th, 8th, and 9th grades) used to stand.  South had survived the tornado, but it had not been in use for several years, and did sustain some damage.  So it was torn down.

That means that none of the schools I attended in Joplin -- Irving Elementary, South Junior High, and Joplin High School (then called Parkwood) -- is still standing.  They were all within a mile of my boyhood home and my grandparents' home (where I spent many nights when I was a kid), and I'm sure that I will never get used to not seeing them when I visit Joplin in the future.

Here's a view of the site of the past and future Joplin High School.  We'll explain the significant of the painted wooden butterflies in a future 2 or 3 lines.

Here's "Work to Do" -- a song that is very appropriate for a post about Joplin.  It's  from the Average White Band's enormously successful (and almost eponymous) second studio album, AWB.  Average White Band was a Scottish funk band whose original members included guys with names like Malcolm Duncan, Alan Gorrie, Owen McIntyre, and Robbie McIntosh -- all of which sound more like characters in Braveheart than guys who play that funky music.

Just before the band hit it big with its huge hit single, "Pick Up the Pieces," band members McIntosh and Gorrie mistook heroin for cocaine at a party in Los Angeles, and helped themselves.  McIntosh died, while Gorrie was kept conscious by fellow party-goer Cher and survived the overdose.

Click here to order the song from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Gary! Thank you for sharing your personal experience with what must be a real mindbender--I can't imagine going back to my hometown and barely recognizing it. I'm curious to see how the Extreme Makeover homes impact the rebuilding in that neighborhood as it continues...