Sunday, July 8, 2007

Two Stairwells and a Door

One stairwell is tall, stately, alive with the promise of going somewhere, arriving in style. As you would on some occasions be impressed by the sturdiness or stylishness of someone's shoes, you are impressed by the tiles embedded in the risers, their bright colors and geometric designs adding a note of festivity to the journey upward.

You don't see where this stairwell goes, which is part of its mystery, its ascent to unknown wonders.

A scant block away is the second stairwell, its risers and platforms cheery in the evening light, trying, it seems, to make the best of leading to a floor of apartments that window out onto a freeway. These steps have been trod upon by a different sort of person, a person who might not have the same expectations as a person ascending the first stairway. But this stairwell has a mystery of its own, a single paper cup. You see the paper cup and wonder who and what, just as you wonder why--all the ingredients of a good mystery.

In between is a door, a no-nonsense door, not offering frill or window or adornment of any sort, yet not foreboding either, no bars or warning signs, only a small, barely discernible peep hole.

Stairways and doors, platforms and portals, icons of mysteries, of promise, of business, of finding someone or something special at the other end, of finding a place to work, a place to think, a place to feel safe, a place to feel lonely. A place to bring a plant, the first tentative part of making the place reflect you; a place to consider a cat as a companion or a dog, a place to mount photos or reproductions of some other sort on the wall.

There are symbols and objects that reflect our cultural ties to the times in which we were born, the places, the people and clans and moieties and clubs and societies in which we place our love, trust, and faith. We wear some of these symbols, lumps of turquoise, ankhs, crosses, stars of David; we of a particular age wear wristwatches or carry cell phones that tell us the time and where wers trump the importance of these symbols and objects; they lead us to are and possibly even what music we are listening to. We wear name badges, rank insignia, blazer buttons engraved with the seal of a university we attended. Some of us carry social security cards, credit cards, proof of insurance.

Stairs and doo
places, cause us to have expectations. Symbols and objects define who we are to others and to ourselves. Stairs and doors elevate us, trip us, embarrass us; they break our hearts, they lead us to loved ones, they give us expectations.

The stairwell with the elegant tiles needs nothing; it is like a ballerina arching her pliant body to suggest flight, elevation, and a time of being susp
ended in the air to the point where we gasp as we watch. The stairwell with the paper cup needs that cup the way a mystery needs a crime and a detective. The doorway needs someone to welcome us.


The stairway without the cup is merely a stairway to a place that ov
erlooks US 101 northbound.

The stairway with the cup is a story.

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