Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lost in the Tangle of Faux Pastoral

Where Boxwood and Mosswood and Boxwood meet.  It's not the only such confused place in Cedar Rapids.  The street I live on is Brentwood Drive east of C Avenue and Ashton Court west of C Avenue.  Why? HIIK.  (Heck if i know).
I met my wife and a grandson at C Avenue Park in Cedar Rapids today, and, to get to campus, bicycled down 74th Street heading west to meet the Cedar River Trail.
74th Street NE is one of those streets in Cedar Rapids, like Council Street, that seems to be under construction for a decade or so.  Nearby cities such as Marion don’t get into the true spirit of road construction—they just bulldoze an area, spread some asphalt, and voila, a done street in just a matter of weeks.  In CR, we understand that streets are organic and need time to grow and evolve.  Or at least it seems that way.

Anyway, 74th Street was blocked off for some sort of project sometime in the Nixon Administration, and it’s expected to open by the time Y3K rolls around.  In the meantime, there are detours.  To give credit to the city, at least there is a “sidewalk detour” marked that doesn’t involve avoiding the whole quadrant of the city, as the “car detour” seems to, and it was said sidewalk detour that I took today on my bike.

I don’t even remember the street names on the resulting convoluted route.  They were weird and English sounding and faux pastoral, like “Pine Mountain” or “Mermaid Sky” or “Chesterfield Barracks.”  Whatever, it got me thinking of the odd way we name things at the edges of our small North American towns.

The sidewalk detour takes you by Oak Mont, where there are few oaks and no monts.  By the way, what an odd word "detour" is.  Because you tour more when you take one.
Why did I pass a little subdivision or condo development named “Oak Mont?”  WTF?  (Why the façade?).  There are plenty of oaks in CR, but not a lot in this development, that I could see.  And “Mont?”  I work at a university whose name, “Mount Mercy,” is unintentionally a little funny, because we’re in Iowa.  There is Mercy to be had here, but no “Mount.”  Despite the groaning of tired students (and bicycling professors) who have to climb it every morning, it’s a Paha, a glacial hill, a bit of rubbish piled up by a sheet of ice, it’s not the stuff of which the name “Mount” is made.

And as I passed along the 74th Street detour, I got to thinking of all those weird names.  The street sign, by the way, is real, yes, for no discernable reason at a T intersection, one wood-named street does not run into the other, rather one street itself makes a 90-degree turn and the other “leg” has another name.

Does it make sense?  Clearly, no.  But then again, I live in a neighborhood quaintly and totally inaccurately named “Bowman Woods.”  Sure we have a creek that has trees, but calling it a “woods” is to insult any real substantial stand of forest.  And “bowman?”  Katniss Everdeen isn’t hunting game here, as far as I know (and I guess if she were, it would be Bowwoman Woods anyway).

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Still, one would expect a bit of swell in the landscape and a bit of forested greenery in a place called Oak Mont.  One would be sorely disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. I always wondered if there had been a Bowman Woods, a woods owned by someone named Bowman. And that they chopped it down for the housing development. But, I guess that makes too much sense.