Layers of Meaning / Strati di Significato

Adorned with scantily dressed trees, Pine Street is uneven in places, paved with undulating waves of asphalt that crest and break into cracked sidewalk squares. With stores now shuttered and old buildings colliding in demolition and redevelopment, I watch as they take down the Packard Building on the corner of 12th Avenue. Brick by brick, the façade is stripped to a thin layer of masonry now too-neatly engulfed into the envelope of a new building.

Preserved under the cloak of cultural overlay, this new skin lacks poetry and modulation, no matter what the developer intended to save. Where signage, arts or cultural space could nod poetically at a sense of history, there stand blank walls and parking stalls. Why bother to scantly salvage the past only to whitewash it, make it disappear?

Do the bricks dream beneath the thick coats of beige paint, struggling sleepily to shrug off their latex coffin, recalling that they once were once naked and exposed? Eventually, they’ll slip into a coma of acceptance, surrendering the spirit of the Packard Building that dwells underneath.

I grin as I pass the building on my way up to Spinasse, noticing a hairline crack beginning to form between the old façade and the new concrete. It isn’t shoddy workmanship, but sheer will of the past straining to reveal itself again.

This image remains in mind as I pass through lace-curtained windows and step onto Spinasse’s hexagonal tile floor. Taking my favorite seat at the wooden bar, Steven greets me with a list of handmade pastas and a tempting amuse bouche topped with red peppers in oil. I sip a glass of dolcetto, inhale the aroma of sage from a plate of tajarin delivered next to me, and peer into the open kitchen. The scene is so familiar that I might be in my grandmother’s house in Michigan, watching the chefs cook and serve, talk and taste, laugh and move in a fluid dance.

The tools they use are ancient ones, really, and so is the conversation around me at the bar. These are simple ingredients—old tile, polished wood, good wine, smooth marble, warm oven, hand-cut pasta, servers in white aprons, diners seated on mismatched chairs—together they create and recreate something complex and real, a mixture of past and present that gives life to a new future.

Now, if only someone had consulted them on the building just two blocks away.

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