Monday, May 01, 2006

twilight zone

last weekend, we had tickets to a comedy show that H really wanted to see. the venue was an old-school renovated theater i had seen in a newspaper article years ago-- quaint, like a toned-down version of 'The Majestic.' and the name of the town was familiar, too, in an i-saw-it-on-a-high-school-letterman's-jacket-at-the-mall kind of way.

the plan was that we'd get an early dinner at one of my favorite spots in the city and head out to the show with plenty of time to spare. it was a good plan. well thought-out, even. to avoid confusion, i had written out the directions and grabbed my trusty map (because everyone knows a car ride with cadiz includes at least one three-point turn). but as we got our bearings, it seemed the destination was a little farther than i had estimated. about 25 miles farther.

we decided it'd be less of a hassle to grab some food near the theater; that way we wouldn't risk being late rushing through dinner. and if we made it a light meal, we could swing by the original restaurant on the way back and have a leisurely meal without the crowd. everybody wins.

this would have been a grand plan if we had known anything about the place we were going.

the road into town had an industrial feel. like any other suburb, there were gas stations, fast-food joints and a kmart. but there were also dilapidated warehouses and factories, remnants of an old steel plant. and churches, lots of churches. there was probably a house of worship on every block, if not two, and one across the street for good measure. now, i'm all for having choices, especially when it comes to something as personal as prayer, but the reason the abundance of them seemed so odd was because there were no people.

sure, on the neighborhoody outskirts, an occasional grandmother shuffled up the sidewalk with a toddling grandbaby, or a hooded teenager coasted by on a mountain bike. but as soon as we turned onto Main Street and entered downtown, it was as though every living soul had run for the hills. i was half expecting tumbleweed to roll by at the stop sign. there were endless parking meters on either side of the street. dated photographs in a portrait studio window had faded to a monotone shade of tan, the edges curling. there were boarded-up businesses. a bank that looked as though it hadn't been updated since the '60s. a corner building had a vertical sign that said 'restaurant' in big green letters, across its windows painted 'the best chinese/japanese food in town' in big loopy letters. it was dismal. it was dreary. it was dead. it was five p.m. on a saturday afternoon. we parked ten feet from the entrance to the theater and didn't even bother to refill the meter. who was going to ticket us?

walking around, we got more and more creeped out by the silence. even the Subway sandwich shop we went into for a snack exuded an eerie aura; the only real sound was the hum of the ceiling fans. H and i became uncomfortable, convinced that this was exactly what a bustling town would look like five years after body snatchers invaded, turning townspeople into zombies or however it goes in those black-and-white horror movies. we just couldn't figure it out. especially because it seemed so full of potential: fairly close to the city, interesting but rundown architecture and most of all, right on lake michigan. it's appalling that property with even a sliver's view of the same body of water goes for hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour south, and this town was enjoying a full-on gaze from crumbly apartments with overgrown trees or boarded-up windows.

we were eating our sandwiches quietly, save for a few wide-eyed whispers about how odd the place was, for about fifteen minutes before the door jangled and some red-faced frat boys came in. it was obvious they were also in town for the show. and by the time we got up to leave, many more people were out on the street, a steady stream making their way into the theater lobby from all directions. like zombies.

when we found our seats in the theater, everything seemed perfectly normal. the show was hilarious. H half-expected the comedian to remark about the creepiness of the town, but he didn't. for a couple hours, we relaxed, and when the show was over, the crowd filed out and people got into their suvs and sedans. but because of our prime parking, we had to wait until traffic dispersed. then we buckled up, turned on the tunes and joined the tail end of a parade of cars headed up Main Street toward the highway and out of town. as i made the turn, i caught sight of that lonely little intersection in my rearview mirror, empty once again.

i couldn't get out of there fast enough.

14 comments:

Guyana-Gyal said...

One day, city folks who want to run away from the city are going to discover that place and then it will be the trendiest spot around. Mark my words.

This was really, really well written, Cadiz.

Andy said...

nicely written, Cadiz. :)

But I agree with above, in that quiet places soon end up getting crowded, because everyone realises how quiet it is... paradoxically.

Jon said...

I agree with the above points. Which is why it is imperative that you invest now! That way you can make a killing when the trendies move in.

cadiz12 said...

thanks, guys. :)

you know, you guys are probably right; they're just about to start a multimillion-dollar renovation project on the harbor there...

omar said...

I agree that this was very well written!

Radioactive Jam said...

I think I used to live there.

Katie said...

Or else it's like that episode "Home" from the X-Files. Never, ever go back! At least it's not like Acadia.

And I agree with everyone else. Very well written, extremely creepy.

Farah said...

Hope i'm not being repetitive but yes, really well written.

The scariest thing just happened was about to post a comment after reading and the pc crashed. And that never happens.

Coincidence? That's joincidence with a J!

There just might be such a thing as watching too many friends reruns.

Gloria Glo said...

That's creepy, all right. I hate it when I turn a corner and feel like I've rocketed into a different dimension. L.A. is full of those corners. And I always wish they had better signage so I'd avoid.

But my favorite line of this post was:

"because everyone knows a car ride with cadiz includes at least one three-point turn"

That's awesome.

Ale said...

i know how to fix that town and bring HORDES OF PEOPLE in 24/7!!!

build a Meijer! oh.... and if we really want to get ambitious - add a Cosco

you're welcome..

Roxtar said...

I know it's been said, but very well written! You have incouraged me to try harder in my writting style. Very good - kudos

Guyana-Gyal said...

Add a Cosco hahaha, Ale cracks me up :-D

Modern Viking said...

Creepy. There are dozens of places just like that around Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh itself is one of them. If you're ever downtown after dark, the place is deserted. Nothing but newspapers blowing down the street and the occasional bus. Otherwise its a ghost town, and anyone you happen to see while your there just might be a zombie. So I know how you felt.

angel07 said...

Not to sound like a broken record, but your story was great! I was glued to my screen!