On Mining Towns & Missing Meza"/>
"Arrest" is a fascinating word. One of those ambitious, multi-tasking words with both positive and negative connotations, and entries under "noun" and "verb." At its root it essentially means "to stop" -- an ambiguous enough root to make its multi-tasking possible. Also, ambiguous enough to leave to question the positive or negative meaning of a phrase like "arrested decay," which I recently happened across while reading about American Ghost Towns.
Photo by Meza, via dailycandy.com
Last July, one of my personal favorite restaurants in the city - the barely toddler-aged Meza on Capitol Hill - closed its doors for the last time. And while, yes, it may be melodramatic for a single restaurant closure to inspire reading sessions about the death and abandonment of entire towns, it is not entirely without cause. Some of the best dining locations in Seattle have fallen prey to economic downturns, or to construction or development projects that, in too many cases leave their spaces tragically unoccupied for months or years.
Meza's menu boasted "Latin Fare," spanning from traditional Spanish Tapas to the Cuban Bocadillo, with an atmosphere that was appropriately casual and flirtatious about being romantic: one can only get so serious over finger food. Late night, weekend dancing was fueled by a specialty cocktail list featuring classic concoctions with rum, cachaça, and Mexican Coca Cola. And then, for some reason inexplicable by the Latin theme, there were the shelves (plural) of house-infused vodkas.
Meza was the first place I ever encountered bacon-infused vodka. Also the first place to introduce chai-, cilantro-, watermelon-, and a host of other curious infusions to my beverage vocabulary. It turns out, you can get a lot more vodka into a beverage when you don't have to worry about mixing it with things for flavor.
But most of all, Meza had arepas. And while Seattle may have other sources providing the city with copious amounts of Latin flavor and flare, it is a city sadly lacking in destinations for anyone craving Venezuelan "sandwiches": little golden corn cakes, hollowed out and stuffed with all manner of delightful fillings. I miss Meza's arepas. All the time.
Guests crowd the bar on a busy night: memory preserved forever by Meza's Facebook.
The strange thing about the restaurant's closure, however, bringing us full circle to the topic of Ghost Towns, is not that it closed. Nor that it remains empty. The strange thing is what happens if you Google it. Meza the physical location no longer exists. But Meza's Facebook, like the supplies left on shelves of old U.S. gold-mining towns, is just sitting there, looking like somebody, someday might come back for it. Nothing has been added, nothing removed, in effect leaving it in a technological state of "arrested decay," adding what seems like it may eventually be a bizarre dimension to the archeology of future generations.
With Meza's closure, as with the closing of many restaurants, came wishful rumors and unconfirmed hints that it might reopen again. To date, no indication of substantiation has been given. But there is an inescapable, whimsical sort of hope that - maybe, someday - the miner who left those boots behind, or the restaurant that left that Facebook page up will magically reappear, and things will once again be as they were when there was gold - or, at least arepas - on that there Hill.