The biggest kick in the head on this trip back home came when I drove past Kenilworth School, where I went from first through eighth grade. Other alumni include Senators Barry Goldwater and Paul Fannin.
When I was there in the 1960s, the stately building was surrounded by grass and trees (watered by flood irrigation), including the mature palms that lined Third Avenue. Teachers could park on the streets, although a number of them walked because they lived nearby. The houses were all landscaped with lawns, trees, flowers, and hedges. In addition to making the neighborhood attractive and walkable, this helped cool it. We went back to school without air conditioning in September.
Kenilworth avoided aggressive attempts to demolish it when the unnecessary Papago Freeway inner loop was rammed through the neighborhood in the 1980s. It also survived the curving of Third Avenue, which destroyed the grid designed to give the neighborhood a pleasing aspect. And the mammoth widening of Seventh Avenue to feed the freeway.
Now a bunch of rocks have been thrown down in front of the school. A driveway and even larger parking lot have been added where the grassy playground once stood. Where we would lie on the cool ground, watch jet contrails, and dream the dreams of youth. The dissonance is painful. The classical revival building set amid all this ugliness is similar to a diamond lying in a pile of manure.
The trouble is that I am one of the few people who would even notice. Like Carson McCullers, "I must go home periodically to renew my sense of horror." But I am increasingly a foreigner here.