Friday, April 20, 2012

The "Devil's Strip"

I learn on the radio:
In Ohio, the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb is called a "tree lawn." In other parts of the country, it is a "curb," a "devil’s strip," a "parkway," a "swale," or a "street lawn." More than a dozen names for this can be found in the Dictionary of American Regional English.
I don’t know what they call it here in Dallas, but the ones flanking Gaston--a four lane street plus medians and turn lanes--seem unnaturally thin, vestigial, nominal. I myself don’t have a name for them, wouldn’t know what to call them anywhere, but I suspect they are part of what makes it terrifying to walk anywhere from my apartment. They are simply too scant a barrier from the rush of trucks and SUVs going past. I am forever afraid that, if they don’t jump the curb and hit me outright, I will be clipped by a side mirror and thrown to the ground.
So instead I court side streets, tracing the main arteries as if by their capillaries until my path is inevitably intersected by another main road. And there are so many roads. This one to the grocery store. This one downtown. This to the freeway and that to the other freeway and another one over there to go to the airport.
But it helps to keep doing it. To keep finding reasons to leave the house. To keep finding new ways to get to those new places. And it helps to have a new word, a bounty of them actually, to talk about it.

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