Death By...Arches
by Sally K Lehman

I remember the excitement when McDonald's came to town. The west-facing, building-tall windows shimmering the sunset into our eyes. The smell of fries being Frenched in just the right way. The fastest kitchen in town spewing their venting air into the atmosphere to tantalize us over and around and onto the corner of Division and Burnside to buy and eat. Buy and eat. Bring your kids along to play while you buy and buy and buy and eat.

Until the day they erected the chain-link fence.

Chain-link fences in Portland stand for something. It is not that the building surrounded is mine and not yours. It is not that the owners of the building are concerned for your safety while at their property. When a building in Portland becomes entrapped in a chain-link fence, that building is going down, is getting destroyed and something new and better is going to be going up. But this was McDonald's! They were an institution. They were always there when you needed them. I mean, what the fuck? There was nothing to be done but drive west. Out of our suburban ideal - how idyllic could it be now anyway? Into the city proper for our fix. Or we could go to (gasp) Burger King.

The building came down quickly. Ash and dust displacing the golden arches and Ronald's Playhouse. No patties left behind. No fry or Happy Meal toy. Not even a ball from the ball pit remained. Tears were shed, until... From the rubble we learned they were building a new and improved, entirely modern McDonald's.

We went to the construction site regularly. Had to keep an eye on the progress. To know when those glorious fried foods would be available again. New west-facing windows were put in. The play area cleaner, more intellectually challenging. The vent above the kitchen went up and we prepared for those glorious smells to return.

The last thing to be installed was the modern, stream-lined set of golden arches. I went to the raising ceremony. Hell, everyone did. The crowd in attendance jostled and pulsed, everyone ready for the big moment. The crane lifted a huge, yellow M high, higher, then a loud twang swack!

Never even saw the damned thing coming. Never saw a hamburger come off that brand new grill. All I saw was the yellow edge of a single arch as it flew earthward.


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