1316 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas. The place where we lived when I was born still stands, the apartment building on the left. Though obviously the same building and easily recognizable, much has changed about it. I have always imagined the wood siding of the original was tinted a redwood color to match the low slung 1950s modern sensibility of the architecture which communicated the unimposing aesthetic of an urban cabin. “What I really want to do, instead of designing apartment buildings, is go hang out in the desert with Frank Lloyd Wright” was perhaps what the architect was thinking, who was working his way up to designing similarly low slung ranch homes. What I know about architecture amounts to door, walls, ceiling, floor, but at some point when the roof was redone an obtrusive gable was added that swept away the open, clean facade facing the street. The wood deck of the first floor, which angled out in a modernistic fashion, probably rotted and was replaced with unimaginative wrought iron that contributes nothing with much annoying flourish. The landscaping and concrete walks, which were once crisp, are now uncertain where what begins and ends. The demarcation line announcing a street is exhausted and no longer cares. Not observed here, to the left was also added, many long years ago, a car park masquerading as a fanciful driveway leading nowhere, which necessitated removal of the shrubbery to the left that was covering utility meters for the apartments. The driveway is where the large tree in the old photo was once standing. So, for the sake of a car park, they took out that tree and planted a new one square in the middle before the building. Its tap roots perhaps know another closely neighboring tree preceded it.
William Burroughs would settle a mile away to the south in the 1980s on Learned Street. Langston Hughs spent a few years of his childhood at his grandmother’s about a mile away to the north on Alabama Street. While my mother was pregnant they were living on California Street.
During the 60s the windows would have been open in the warm months and I imagine a lot of Beach Boys I-want-to-surf music serenaded the neighborhood through them, spun on the record players of KU pre and post grads reading On the Road and wishing for oceans that were over a thousand miles distant no matter which way you started driving. It’s a coin toss which was to go. West or east coast?
My parents decided to go for the west.