A block long and less than seven feet wide, Elim Street is more akin to an apartment lightwell than a proper, navigable right of way. Narrow, deep, and short; it’s trajectory is amenable to sharp language. To adjectives and metaphors about blades and the cutting motions thereof – slicing, cutting, carving, penetrating, piercing. This language can be liberally applied to Elim’s smell as well. Perpetually dark, windless, and damp; the smell condenses and drips from the nose. Yes, it’s that moist. Yes, it’s that strong. Yes, I was lying on the ground to take some of these shots. Yes, I contemplated burning my wardrobe afterwards. I only wish I was exaggerating.
An artifact of uneven post-earthquake construction, Elim is the demilitarized zone between two warring architectures. Totaling six and five stories respectively, 78 and 62 First Street are roughly the same height at around 50-55 feet each; or about seven times as tall as the alley is wide. Built in 1908, 78 First has windows and a ghost sign meant to maximize a now non-existent view. An empty lot? A petite neighbor? A broader incarnation of the current right of way? I’m not sure what originally occupied the space but it was definitely not such a claustrophobically proximal twin. Coming nine years later, 62 First has broad, opaque windows designed to maximize Elim’s native light while obscuring the lack of native view. Does this mean that 62 First Street is winning the war of mutually assured darkness and will emerge the dominant super power of Elim Street? Perhaps. Or perhaps both buildings will lose when they’re torn down in favor of slated new construction.
Because I love both Elim and ghost signs, here’s a sign on 78 First. It’s for an old commercial tenant at 62 First! How fitting.
As far as I can tell, the sign says:
___ + ribbons
62 First Street
And here is a horribly angled, essentially illegible pic of the building’s other ghost sign. Once upon a time, before the creation of Elim Street, this was all sunshine and clear lines of sight. How the cityscape changes over time, leaving older architectures behind.