Life in the Construction Zone: The Noise and Chaos of Progress


It was “trash day.” Normally, the trucks don’t appear until eight or so in the morning, but today I heard the roar of an approaching trash truck at seven-thirty. I still had one container left to bring out to the curb so I rushed to get it out. The truck was picking up “green waste” first so I had a chance to chat with the man who dragged the containers to the truck. It was one of the new trucks, really quite shiny and clean considering what it was meant to encounter in its daily rounds. I asked him how he liked the new truck. “Slow”, he said. “Takes an extra hour or more to do our route.” Interesting. Perhaps progress is different in the trash trade.

athens services, west hollywood, city vendor, trash disposal“Why so early?”, I asked. “Holidays,” he replied, then off he and the truck went. As it rounded the corner on Robertson, I heard another roaring engine coming over from San Vicente Boulevard. A very long flatbed rig towing a very large forklift, the sort you’d see down at the docks, pulled up across my drive. It was loaded stem-to-stern with bundles of drywall. It had been waiting for the trash truck to clear out before coming to park.

The driver hopped out of the cab, went to unbuckle the forklift and immediately began to quickly take one- and two-ton loads of drywall to the building site. It is David Jones’ former home and studio, where, for the last year and  couple of months, much interior activity has been taking place.

The arrival of the drywall was a very good sign. If that material is being delivered, the end of demolition/construction cannot be far away. A moment for minor rejoicing. Perhaps we will have our street back. Actually, because much of the early morning work is done during the a.m. rush hour, traffic has been slowed down by the presence of all manner of large, noisy construction equipment, generators, backup alarms sounding endlessly. Perhaps one of the minor pleasures of living in a condo, say, on the fifth floor, is that one is not exposed to the commerce below. Sort of like inhabiting the legendary irvory tower.

Well, it does get noisy, dusty and often chaotic down here on the street. The thrusts and parries of progress are often exaggerated in these days of the late machine age. But, change must come, not “on little cat feet,” if ever, but clanking and screaming and casting clods of asphalt and cement and epithets for those who would bar the way. When I had a chat with Tom Hayden at the city’s 10th anniversary party, the intentions of having an “urban village,” a “walking city,” were campaign phrases like banners under which the voters (we resident citizens) would assemble. Ron Stone and others of heady imagination and desire still strode the bricks of our town, and one never heard a word of “progress” but of inclusion and visions of a protected place.

It ain’t easy to retain memories of times when my boys and I could toss a football in the street, stepping aside now and then for a car to go by, when we now see upwards of 400 cars during the day. Neighbors have come and gone, some by choice, some kicking and yelling that it was too soon. AIDS took at least seven on my short block of WeHo. Age and infirmity took others. But, look – there’s a couple with a baby carriage and a toddler in tow. Unheard of in 1984 when the city’s flag was raised for the first time. That’s another form of progress and the intent of inclusion personified. Life in the construction zone, indeed.

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