The parking lot outside my window is empty of cars, surrounded by a chain-link fence and crawling with men in hard hats. They are raising a large canvas overhead, a feat requiring poles, guy ropes, and perhaps the tractor that keeps driving in tight circles underneath the partially erect tent. The plywood wall that will encircle the lot soon enough is going up in stages. A worker was painting the public side yesterday, careless of her brush in the breeze, splattering passers-by with blue latex. When confronted, she claimed to see no damage.
Rumor runs wild among those who gather at my lobby windows to appear at the workers through venetian blinds. A circus? A show of some sort? Construction? Of what? The rumors are laced with bitterness, for everyone here, until just last week, used to park in this lot.
I like the construction theory best; the tent is to shelter what happens there when the fog drip gets thicker. But I’m not sure how much sense this makes, especially if they have to dig to lay a foundation. What will the tent supports rest on then?
Actually, what’s the purpose of sheltering a construction site? Should you really be building if your materials can’t survive the local elements? Wouldn’t it be wiser to reconsider location and materials before building something that will need reconstructive maintenance before it’s officially completed? No, I think they’re sheltering the area because they are about to launch an archaeological dig. There are significant historical remains under the cracked and faded pavement of this parking lot by the Giants’ home stadium.
They will use pick axes and shovels to remove the blacktop; jackhammers might damage delicate artifacts with the vibrating. After the power tools will come armies of graduate students and local labor crawling through the dirt with trowels and wire brushes; they will turn up the usual archaeological treasures for California, and what they find will go to a small museum corner in the stadium lobby.
I find myself wondering about what was here before the city. When San Francisco was a small town, before the miners came searching for gold, what was the landscape like? Before the Spanish came building missions along the Pacific Coast, who lived here? How did these hills look in the sunrise before they were covered with cookie cutter houses? Was there a beach along the waterfront or was the line between short and bay blurred by marsh reeds? Before the sound of jackhammers and dot-com stocks rising and falling, before the sounds of hammers and miners’ charges, how long could a bird’s call echo in the fog overhead?