I spent the better part of the afternoon today in the Corte Madera Town Center with a group of knitters. We were sitting next to the whimsical fountain with it’s Babar-like statue, a baby elephant joyously spouting water from its trunk, sending it up toward blue skies visible through the wedge of open space between the rows of shops facing each other. We were handling yarn, some silky soft, others rougher to the touch, enjoying the breeze, as much as shooting it, so to speak. Just down from where we sat, through the straight little side alley from the main promenade of the center, the mountain loomed, even if distant, ragged and deeply and unevenly green still.
When I took my requisite daily picture of the mountain from that spot, I couldn’t help thinking of the juxtapositions of the rugged and the orderly, of the straight and the curvaceous, and how the Corte Madera Town Center with its faux medieval touches tries to superimpose a sense of mystery and community over the utilitarian mercantile purpose of the entire – well, let’s call it what it is – mall.
I kept remembering a book I read on the poetics of agoraphobia by Paul Carter, in which he quotes Le Corbusier, who rationalizes so well the idea of how the “straight line” leads to what is at the heart of the modern city, which I take to be a particularly anxious variety of fear:
“A modern city lives by the straight line, inevitably; for the construction of buildings, sewers and tunnels, highways, pavements. The circulation of traffic demands the straight line; it is the proper thing for the heart of the city. The curve is ruinous, difficult and dangerous.”