Tonight I am up late in observation of this being the last night of the Entercom radio tower dotting the neighborhood skyline. Sectional dismantling of the main tower is scheduled to begin tomorrow. The Mayor of Westwood sent out a message the other day detailing the deconstruction process, pointing out that a radio tower has been on site since 1933. For a city of just a couple thousand, this is truly a historic event.
Cities and neighborhoods also go through cycles. Urban areas are becoming denser again, which has a ripple effect on inner ring suburbs like Westwood. The KC streetcar doesn’t extend to 45th and State Line like it did in my grandparents’ time, but at least there is a KC streetcar again. New business are opening, bolstered by people’s desire to walk somewhere close or locally owned. People ride bikes to work and want (deserve, I would argue) protected lanes. Even Woodside Village, the upscale apartment building I wrote skeptically about years ago on this very blog, has proven viable in attracting residents and tenants, while also encouraging new investment along the 47th Street corridor.
Earlier this evening I walked past the tower with my family and saw the sun set behind it for probably the final time. I’ll miss the tower’s gravity and lightness, the way it seemed to be a divining rod for whatever mood or atmosphere was hidden in the clouds. I realized I will *definitely* never climb it now, and not just *most likely never* climb it (a bit of a somber thought, as a former schoolmate died years ago after falling from its summit). On a positive note, I will finally be able to play my Fender wah-wah guitar pedal without signal interference from talk radio, sports scores and weather updates, which my 13-year-old self would be delighted by.
Yes, change comes to us all, even here in Westwood. Tomorrow the communications tower comes down, but the communication itself continues. More than any outward landmark, it’s what defines us as a city.
UPDATE: At 10:37 p.m. Tuesday evening, the tower was still standing. Now it is raining. I suspect it will still be there tomorrow, if maybe not the next day.
Right now Google Fiber contractors are digging a hole in the front yard. Little red, yellow and blue flags dot the neighborhood, marking gas lines and dig sites. Tree limbs are truncated to make way for new telephone polls installed by convoys of trucks with generic sounding company names on the side. My midnight bike rides are interrupted by men standing around drilling holes in the sidewalk, surrounded by flood lights and orange traffic barriers. The irony of Google Fiber’s rainbow bunny mascot is the installation work has scared all the neighborhood’s actual rabbits into flight. During my evening stroll I see entire warrens on the move. It is what it is, even if we mostly use that expression to mean I’d rather it were something else. I hope it’s not being too dramatic to say the whole Snowden thing threw a little cold water on the Fiber project for me. By tracking your digital breadcrumbs and analyzing your text messages and email drafts as you write them, Snowden alleges, the NSA can see into your thought process and analyze your “pattern of life.” This all sounds paranoid, the kind of thinking most often associated with drugs, secrecy or treason. But as these guys point out, “These days you don’t need drugs to be paranoid. You can just be paranoid and be totally correct.” So the Web and telecom networks secretly turn over data to the government — not a big surprise. But do we really want them burrowing directly into our homes? I guess it depends on what you’re willing to give up to be able to digitally record eight TV shows at once.