Sunday, March 19 2000
We went to the Zen Bakery on Voltaire Street this morning, hoping to do the coffee and bagel thing. I like the place and wished we went there more often. But when we got there, the bakery wasn't a particularly inviting place. There were plenty of customers hanging out drinking coffee and eating baked goods, but the sign was set on "Closed" and most of the dining area was taken up with plastic bakery crates. "It's so obvious they don't want to be doing this anymore," said Kim, referring to their retail business. Apparently the bakery is in the process of moving their operation entirely into the wholesale business while weaning off their retail customers. Yet the retail customers still keep coming, looking for the small-town community that only a bakery can provide. The only obvious way to drive off these people is with Closed signs, cluttered dining rooms and incompetent retail service, but it's apparently not working. At least Kim and I picked up the message today.
On the corner of Voltaire and Sunset Cliffs is a fairly large, paved vacant lot. For months the lot was apparently under threat of becoming an Exxon gas station because around the lot's perimeter, many of the adjacent neighbors had erected garish red, white and blue signs of protest. But as we passed the lot today, we found the protest had ended. In place of the anti-Exxon signs was a large, crude red, white and blue sign reading "Voltaire Park." All around the lot's perimeter, sometimes set directly in holes chipped through the asphalt, people had planted trees, shrubs and flowers. One sad little Charlie Brown Christmas tree was labeled with a handmade placard claiming it was a Torrey Pine "perpetually" memorializing someone who had died. Out in the very middle of the lot was expedient park furniture: a large electric spool with a ratty old lawn chair. Someone with a very limited budget had decreed the lot a park and had done what could be done to assert that claim. I have no idea if the fight with Exxon is over, but I have to tip my hat to whatever scrappy crew stitched together the delightfully makeshift Voltaire Park. It's a marvel of do-it-yourself community.
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