In my past few columns, I’ve been inadvertently discussing St. Marys’ “sense of space” — a term used, often by consultants and historians, to put a finger on the indefinable-yet-definite feeling one has when experiencing the Stonetown.
I’ve touched upon this socially and topographically, but never virtually… until now, for St. Marys is now on Google Street View. The omnipotent search engine’s equally omnipotent navigational service, Google Maps, recently uploaded images of our town and area. Just click and drag the yellow humanoid to your chosen address and instantly, an image of what that spot looked like on a sunny day in October, 2012 is yours to behold.
The instinct is to check out your own address. The changes at 47 Wellington over the past 18 months are interesting; our addition wasn’t started, and our parking lot was unpaved. My Mom’s SUV is in our driveway, as is our van, wide open with a jug of water for the cooler sitting beside it. Andrew’s closing the garage, which, curiously enough, was storing a golf cart that we used to lead a funeral procession.
Faces and license plates are blurred for privacy reasons, but you can tell who’s who if you know the lay of the local land. Unlike the slow-exposure photos of the past where we were forced to pose for minutes at a time, or unable to get a second, third, or 30th chance with a digital camera, Street View is about as true a glimpse of a place and time as we can get.
Take the Oregon man who typed in his recently deceased grandmother’s address and found one of the last photos of her, sitting, as she did, on her porch reading the newspaper. The man says he finds it comforting that his grandmother “lives on” with Google, doing what she did in the most commonplace way (and — thanks to the high-quality images — without the cane she was supposed to be using regularly).
There’s the opposite end of the spectrum. A blog (http://goobingdetroit.tumblr.com) uses Street View to plainly document the decay of houses in Detroit, which was ravaged by the Great Recession of 2008 and declared bankruptcy last year. It’s chilling to witness tidy bungalows turn vacant, then become swallowed up by overgrown greenery, or razed by arson or neglect.
A few observant types have taken advantage of the (tiny bit) of advance notice that the Street View mobile does provide. There are medieval warriors battling it out in more than a few frames, and some Norwegian scuba divers chasing the cameras in another. And — hot off the presses — there are mechanics in Scotland who hurriedly set up a murder scene in the street in August, 2012, only to be visited by police a few weeks ago, when the images were finally uploaded.
The pair was quickly cleared, but when Street View captures compromising images, they are removed — or covered by a black square — until new images can be captured.
Have you checked out your home yet? We may think we know what St. Marys is all about, but perhaps our best sense of time and space is captured by the unblinking eye.
Father’s Day is this Sunday. Charlotte’s father happens to be a chocoholic, so this decadent pie might be on Sunday’s menu.
Anna Olsen’s Chocolate Cream Pie
1 ½ cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
½ tsp salt
2 cups milk (2 per cent)
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup. whipping cream
2 tbsp. icing sugar, sifted
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine graham crumbs, sugar and melted butter, and press into a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool while preparing the filling.
For the filling, whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepot. Whisk in milk and place over medium heat, whisking until it reaches a full simmer and becomes thick and glossy. Remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Have the egg yolks in a separate, smaller bowl, and whisk about a cup of the chocolate cream into the yolks, then add this and the chocolate mixture back to the pot, whisking over low heat for one minute, then stir in vanilla. Pour into the cooled pie crust and immediately cover the filling with plastic wrap directly on the surface. Cool for 15 minutes, then chill for at least four hours.
For the topping, whip the cream to a soft peak and whip in the icing sugar and vanilla. Spread over the chocolate cream and serve.
The crust and chocolate cream can be prepared a full day in advance, but topping should be made within four hours of serving.