Right Foot Rebellion

My right foot feels confused, angered, and betrayed.

For years, it worked well with my left foot as part of a smoothly functioning team. It carried its share of the load without difficulty or complaint. It didn’t develop an embarrassing condition like hammertoes or require disruptive surgery, either.

1395095126657But now that the left foot has had its surgery and needs to take a few weeks off, the right foot unhappily discovers it’s carrying the whole freaking load. Even worse, it’s a weird, hopping load as opposed to the manageable load imposed by a normal walking gait. With every swing of the crutch or balancing bounce, the full weight of a grown man falls squarely on that 56-year-old right foot. The right foot is growing sick and tired of it.

“It’s not fair,” the right foot thinks. “I’ve done my job and done it well, and now I’ve got to work even harder while the left foot skates. Where is the fairness in that?”

The left foot feels that the right foot is just satisfying its moral obligations as an able-bodied, working member of society. The right foot feels that an enormous injustice has occurred that probably will never be fully rectified.

Will they ever be able to bridge their differences and work cooperatively together in the future?

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The Generic Outerbelt Architecture Zone

Most major American cities have an “outerbelt” — a multi-lane highway that rings the core metropolitan area. Outerbelts are supposed to facilitate traffic flow and spur economic development. Unfortunately, outerbelts typically feature the ugliest, most generic modern architecture you can possibly imagine.

IMG_1860The picture accompanying this post was taken as we were driving along I-270, which is Columbus’ outerbelt. If I didn’t identify the location, though, people in Indianapolis, or Atlanta, or Dallas, or virtually any other American city might easily believe that the picture was taken on their ring road. The squat, featureless, five- or six-story brick or concrete office building is so ubiquitous you wonder why anyone hires an architecture firm these days. Don’t they just recycle the same boring designs endlessly? Don’t architects grow weary of designing utterly graceless, interchangeable boxes that can be plopped anywhere on an outerbelt and immediately be lost in the bland, maddening sameness?

People used to care about the buildings they constructed. They wanted them to be functional, sure . . . but they also wanted them to add to the beauty of their cities. Older buildings have all kinds of interesting cornices, and pedestals, and statuary, and other ornamentation that will make you stop and take notice. With modern buildings, that is no longer the case. Now, we drive by the generic outerbelt ugliness without a second glance, or even a thought.

If you drive to a city, your first impression of the town is created by what you see in the outerbelt zone. For most American cities I’ve visited, it’s not a positive first impression — instead, it makes you think the city is another boring, indistinguishable cookie-cutter exercise. Often, of course, the band of outerbelt ugliness doesn’t really reflect what the city is like. Why don’t city planners care more about the dismal impact of the outerbelt zone?