Nightmare on Smith Hill?

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by David Brussat, Arechitecture Here and There

Nightmare on Smith Hill

By David Brussat

Last night I had a dream so disturbing that I woke up, got out of bed, and sat at my computer to memorialize it. This was about 5:30 a.m. With minor clarifications and omissions, my memo reads:

Dreamed I was walking along the Providence waterfront and entered a new segment of the Capital Center district that had a ramp leading into a low concrete space in its bowels that turned out to be my apartment, with large plate-glass windows. You could see in from the ramp, and I saw my dear mother in the apartment kneeling on my living-room rug, arranging something. We went in but by then Mom, who died in 2004, was gone.

I was with a reporter or a public official who was examining my place for some reason unknown to me. She was dismayed at the ugly view of a wet concrete trough outside one of my windows. I said I liked it. Then she pointed from a bigger window down to a highway with many cars passing below. I said I liked that, too. We looked up approvingly at the Providence skyline through a slanted window along an upper edge of my apartment.

Somehow it occurred to me that I had not paid any rent for a long time, but then I remembered that I had agreed to allow a music entrepreneur to store his audio tapes there in return for paying my rent, but I hadn’t seen or heard from him in forever, nor had I been bothered for my rent money. Then I recalled that someone else had made the same sort of deal with me. Then I stumbled upon the audio tapes stored in an archival chest with a label – “Charles Morial” – their owner [nobody I’m aware that I know in real life]. Then I pulled from a storage unit a file of old, black-and-white photographs of Providence.

Then Bob Whitcomb [a former editor at the Providence Journal and the only person whom I recognized in the dream, aside from my mother] entered with a small group of people and sat down at a table, as if part of my apartment were a restaurant. They did not seem to notice my presence. For some reason, I suddenly began to wonder whether I was going to be evicted. Then I woke up.

What could this dream have meant? Nothing, probably, although my positive assessment of my “apartment” and its nastier views is very strange. The brief appearance of my mother through a window was a blessing. But if I could don my Freudo-Jungian cap for a moment, allow me to speculate that the dream might be about one or both of two things:

  • First, it could be about the ridiculous, copy-the-past design of granddaddy modernism for a new state archives building proposed by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea – right across Smith Street from the State House. Fortunately, nobody in the administration or legislature seems the least bit eager to fork out the $52 million in state funds she says it would cost.
  • Or, second, it could be about the legislation proposed by Dominick Ruggerio to strip every Rhode Island municipality of its authority over the zoning and design of any major state project of over 20 acres in their jurisdiction. The bill is designed to grease the skids for the Fane tower but might also be used to turn the State House lawn into a parking lot, if the capitol and grounds exceed 20 acres. A hearing about the bill is scheduled for Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Room 313.

Either possibility qualifies as a nightmare.

David Brussat, Architecture Here and There