A BROCK BELVEDERE SPECIAL REPORT
Last year, Berenice Cradles and her boyfriend Josh Wilson-Shires paid $26,000 for a three bedroom, 1,600 square-foot Lankville Northern Regional Style house in the Snowy Lake Area. After growing up in the nearby Eastern Hills, attending Lankville State Easier University, then living and making music in the Islands for two years, Cradles and Wilson-Shires came back to Lankville, where they have become active in a movement of young preservationists bent on restoring the nation’s old homes and buildings.
“The new Lankville Dream is not about owning a giant mansion or a fancy Neptune but owning something that matters more because it’s accessible,” said Cradles, as we sat over Apple Cider Toast and salmon at Flour to the People Bakery while Wilson-Shires sat very quietly and obediently nearby. “I think the whole Lankville Dream is really shifting because young people are out there changing Lankville.”
At age 26, Cradles’ life is a sort of marketing campaign for Lankville. This summer, after wrapping up a series of episodes for the Lankville Broadcasting Company in which their refinished home was shown repeatedly at different angles, Cradles and Wilson-Shires were married, becoming Lankville’s First Couple of Historic Preservation. The event had its own hashtag– #lankvilleloveweddingwithcake, mirroring the name of their own recently founded company “Lankalove Developments”, which restores old homes, commercial buildings and pebbly lots.
As she wolfed down some more Apple Cider Toast (and added some brie to our repast), I asked Cradles what Lankville’s new slogan should be.
“Lankville: Comeback Nation,” she said, instantly. “Oh my God, I’ve thought about slogans for months and months and months.”
“She has,” added Wilson-Shires in a quiet, feeble manner.
According to census data analyzed by The Lankville Daily News, from 2000 to 2015 the number of college graduates between the ages of 22 and 30 in Lankville jumped 45%, more than in the Islands or the Distant Peninsulas. Part of attracting that younger demographic involves programs like the Lankville Salvage and Love Project, which provides loans for individuals and businesses to improve downtown properties, many of which have been ravaged by neglect or challenges.
“A lot of people look at these old structures and think that they’re just rotted old places full of rats and vermin and bum’s piss,” noted Lankville Re-Use Project CEO Dawn Elliott-Cryoden, aged 27. “But millennials see possibilities and so they tear out everything and put up new walls and solar panels and little gardens and they clean up the bum’s piss and what you’re left with is development. It’s really a new movement.”
Upon my arrival in Lankville, I landed on the basement couch of Nora Jeans-McGriff, a 26-year old who, in 2012, ended up in Lankville after biking up from the Islands. She had just been planning to stay for a few months while doing a work exchange at a wood shop in the Middle Outlands, but her plans changed after she bought a house at a foreclosure auction for $1,000. The house isn’t livable yet (it was partially destroyed by numerous challenges, a Super Tornado, and bum’s piss), but she’s been slowly fixing it up, adding a green roof, gutters made of recycled stiffened cardboard and insulation made of pressed trash and with help from handy friends in town.
In the meantime, she pays $150 a month to rent a room in a communal house in the Middle Outlands and waitstaffperson’s at Emoti-Flan, an artisanal custard cafe.
“I make a lot more money here than I did in the Islands,” noted Jeans-McGriff. “And I can save a lot here– I didn’t work at all for four months! I just traveled, played music, made graffiti art, raised nine chickens, collected rainwater, fed some bum’s at a community kitchen, counseled children, built reusable water bottles out of found trash, grew tree fruit, started a bicycle laboratory, purchased some vacant lots, and hung out with my boyfriend!”
Starting a business is also less daunting in Lankville. One day, I visited PAO QUOTIDIAN (owner’s capitals), a worker-owned bakery in the Great Northern Mountain Area opened last year by first-time business owners Tori Loops, Allison Hunter-Awnings, Emily Freedmont-Westerbrook and Kim Fields, all in their late 20’s. They raised $40,000 to start the bakery from an online funding platform and now pay $400 monthly on a graduated rental lease for their 1900 square foot space. The artisanal bread market is not saturated in Lankville; business is brisk.
Loops, 28, originally from Hoover Island, got her master’s degree in performance studies and Gender Musings from Eastern Hills Easier University. After graduation, she worked sporadically as a graphic designer, co-operative farmer and a waitstaffperson at a cupcake cafe but decided she wanted to live in Lankville where she could do work that “mattered”.
“I’m glad we’re past the point where the Islands are the only places to go and be successful and make your mark on the world,” said Loops (rated about a 7 out of 10- 8 out of 10 if she ever wore a bra). “There are a lot of places in Lankville to have opportunity that are a little more accessible.”
Smith Bryce Phillips agrees. He lived in Lankville until he was 22, when he moved to the Islands. Last year, at age 27, he moved into a house in Lankville with his homosexual lover.
“I couldn’t really make a name for myself in the Islands. I didn’t get any attention. So, I came back to Lankville. The energy feels right in Lankville now,” he told me at just desserts cafe (owner’s lack of capitals), where we met for brie, cupcakes, and pumpkins.
Right next door, Smith rents a storefront for $500 a month. He hasn’t disclosed the name or purpose of his store yet (currently, a sheet of brown raw treeless “paper” covering the front door reads #MYSTERIOUSSTORE, but he imagines it will serve as a community bike space, used gay bookshop and pottery learning center. While he fixes up the place, it stores his massive sculptures, several interconnected repurposed tractor wheels that take up nearly 3/4 of the space. He calls the sculpture HUGGINGLANKVILLE.
“People are really excited about the mysterious storefront,” noted Phillips, as he smeared an artisanal free-range pumpkin with brie. “The idea of a completely unknown storefront is something new, something they haven’t seen before. Every day, at least ten to fifteen people come up and ask what the store is going to be- try to guess, give me suggestions. It’s inspirational. I wouldn’t have got that kind of attention in the Islands.”
“Millennials have that can-do, entrepreneurial spirit, said area psychologist Winifred P. Temple. “It’s relatively easy to be in the Now,” noted Temple, “but how many of us can live in the Next? Millennials can, and do.”
As just one example, she pointed to the historic Lanqueduct that runs along Old Pondicherry Avenue in the Western Lankville Plains. The aging structure, built by the ancient Lankans who first settled in the area, still services many longtime residents with fresh, slightly colored water.
Janice Tippitt-Toes, friend and sometime “physical sharer” of Berenice Cradles, has big plans for the Lanqueduct. “It will be a mixed-use development. I envision an artisan youth hostel, a Men’s Feelings Center, and an urban park that you navigate with a network of webs and pulleys,” she said, beaming with an almost off-putting confidence as she sipped a soy Lankichino near Pondicherry Square.
Despite the growth of the millennial demographic in Lankville, the nation’s population is still in decline. “The reality is that people do tend to move to the Islands when they start drawing a good salary,” noted Eastern Hills Easier University Lankville Professor E. Talbot Bonds. “We’re still dealing with the reality of the challenge problems, the tenting murder epidemic, super insects, eldritch horrors– the list goes on and on.”
But Cradles still believes that Lankville will prevail.
“We’re right at the dawning of a new age,” she said, after giving her husband the okay to consume an unadorned bagel. “So many groups are starting– I’ve started so many groups. Just while we were talking, Brock, we closed a deal to buy 22 vacant lots in Lankville. We’ll turn them into co-operative farms and composting stations. It’s a labor of love, Brock. A labor of love.”
Photo credit: Catrin Lloyd-Bollard