When we moved into this house some nineteen years ago, I was happy to see that there was a front and a back yard. It didn't seem like a big problem that if you set a marble down at the front door it would quickly pick up speed and roll with increasing velocity across the floor to the back door. I assumed that the work that the sellers promised to get done on the foundation of our mortgage would be repaired to the degree that this would only occur when there was a sudden shift in the earth's crust, as we were prone to such seismic events this made only a little solace for me, or if there were poltergeists inhabiting the corners and cupboards of our new home. The physical structure of our house became my ongoing avocation. All a part of being a land baron at the end of the last century.
While I was periodically overwhelmed by the way tasks seemed to pop up and regenerate, I was happy that we had a neighborhood. As our realtor had pointed out at the time, there are plenty of nice streets and blocks in Oakland that seem to defy the labels that get thrust upon it. Families raising kids could do a whole lot worse than setting up camp where we did. There was a drug store and a grocery store within easy walking distance. An elementary school just up the hill, and a couple of parks that were just a stroll away for when those front and back yards got too cramped.
Over the years, like a lot of the east bay, there was a certain amount of gentrification. Property values went up as the scary stores turned into bakeries and copy stores. Whitewashed windows came down and "open" signs went up. We had landed in a spot that was on the rise. And there was a McDonald's. This may not seem like a big deal, but back when we were growing a kid in America who needed a certain amount of exposure to fast food and the toys that come along with that fast food, this was a treat. Especially for the part of me that was still that kid myself who needed those Golden Arches, even though the franchise up the street only sported those on the logo outside. I confess that it made it all feel just a little more like home to me. My move to California was eased just a little bit by the blessed sameness of the menu and interior McDonald's had to offer.
Last week, the doors closed at our local Mickey D's. The neighborhood had tired of that little piece of the fast food nation. Or it wasn't making money. Or the owners had given up trying to make it work. Whatever the precise reason, no one seemed to fully agree except to say that it was another failing business in our town.
There are those who would see this as a victory, with the potential for a locally grown and sourced business to pop up in its place. A healthy alternative to the McFood that has been on the wane for decades now. My own family has switched burger allegiance pretty solidly to those found at In 'n' Out. Fresh ingredients, and if you can avoid those bible verses on the bottom of your drink cups, it all feels pretty clean and happy. Which doesn't keep me from mourning the loss of what once was. My son's first Bionicle came from that McDonald's, and while that may seem like a trifle, it was in fact a door that opened for him in a fascination with Lego and action figures that continues to this day. We shared many a pile of "family fries" at that spot, and while our digestive tracts will still be dealing with the challenges presented by the meals we had there for years to come, it is the memories of that place that will last just a little longer.
McDonald's, you see, was my kind of place.