After Rediscovering the City, from the January Giraffe Call.
It was the job of a lifetime. My lifetime. My apprentices’ lifetimes. And the handsome scientist from SUNY Geneseo with the blue, blue eyes – his lifetime, too.
The City out of Nowhere was becoming the state project. More than that, it was a state revitalization. The Parks Service had, after a good deal of arm-wrestling with every other department and bureau in the state (as well as a bunch of three-letter-acronyms), claimed the city, set up a perimeter, and started regulating who could go in and out.
Lucky me, as a stonemason, I got to keep going in. The place was in pretty good shape, for its age, but it needed work, a lot of work, and my team had already surveyed most of it. So we stayed.
We stayed while the tourists came, while the photographers and the paper-writers and the linguists came. Us, and then the pipefitters, and the landscapers, and the bricklayers. And the brains. And the scientist from SUNY Geneseo with those stupid blue eyes.
All the brains wanted to talk about how best to restore the buildings, whether we should at all, whether this was an artifact that should be left pristine and un-touched. They wanted to talk about how we should best honor the former inhabitants, but whoever that had been, they left nothing.
(Almost nothing. When repairing what we were calling a church, we found their ash-urn storage, and the biologists went to town on tiny, tiny bone fragments.)
So we went from living outside the walls in a kind of tent city, to living in the walls, in what could sort have been an apartment building closest to the biggest gate, and we went from just-fix-the-really-broken-stuff to actually renovating the place, and then they started talking about tourist housing. Because damn were we getting tourists coming out of the stonework.
We can make her live again, I’d said, when I’d first touched the city’s ancient bones. And we were. I just hadn’t realized quite how literally that would turn out.
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