[BY S. SALMI]
Olympia’s boardwalk is a tranquil place, with a panoramic view of the sound and few noises other than the cry of seagulls and the soft tinkling of sailboat masks in the wind.
For a completely different experience, walk one block south of the boardwalk as it passes the marina’s clubhouse. This is where Simmons Street intersects with Fourth Avenue, the city’s main drag.
Unlike sailboats, cars rumble and roar. Fourth Avenue is a magnet for so many vehicles that even at 10 p.m. on Saturday it isn’t always easy to hear a conversation over the traffic’s rolling thunder.
On one corner of Simmons and Fourth is Bayview Market, a locally owned grocery whose clientele includes upscale marina inhabitants.
Through the bushes on the edge of Bayview’s parking lot emerge two guys. They walk in a zig-zag fashion and talk loudly, a cacophony of vowels and consonants. Will the men erupt into full-throated anger before making their way across the parking lot?
Or will they notice me? I’m standing 15 feet away, my camera on a tripod aimed at one of Olympia’s tallest buildings, which has been lovingly dubbed “Mistake By The Lake.” This building is on an isthmus that straddles the sound and a glorified reflection pool named Capitol Lake.
Mistake was abandoned back in 2006. City leaders are considering whether to tear down the building and create a park. But in the meantime, the area around Simmons and Fourth remains the most blighted in the city, with a number of boarded-up buildings where homeless people gravitate.
The two men quiet down as they reach the far end of the parking lot near an entrance to the boardwalk. The moon finally begins to peek over Mistake, but it can’t compete with the streetlights’ emergency-room glare.
The two men got it right — Simmons and Fourth is not the place to linger. It is what anthropologist Marc Auge calls a “non-place.” This is a soulless locale designed to pass through as quickly as possible. Just lock your car doors, crank up the tunes and zoom into the night.
ALL OUR SOURCES:
- Auge, Marc; 2009. Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity. Second edition. John Howe, translator. Verso.
- Hobbs, Andy; 2014. “‘Mistake by the lake’ owners receive permit for hotel, while Olympia council declines $200,000 grant for isthmus park.” The Olympian. Posted July 12; accessed Aug. 10.
PHOTOS: Olympia, Earth Images