Now that Wong's was moments away from being leveled, the history of that street no longer had a physical reminder left, and the only references back to those days were the ones we were lucky enough to remember. It was a bar, after all.
With another bang, the backhoe swung at Long Wong's again, resulting in a tumbling rain of old bricks, and the last of the building stood defenseless. No one else took notice, no one else stopped to watch, but I felt fortunate that sitting in an air-conditioned rental car with my eyes swelling and hot, I was there to see a place I loved so much take its last stand.
Those who read Volume 2 of Mill Avenue Vexations probably saw my ending all about how there is a certain cadre who still recall the old things about Mill, Long Wong's, Cafe Boa, Java Road, all of those fading edifices that have been crumbling under the great monster of development -- but not really developing anything.
Long Wong's destruction lead to a big gravel lot that cars are parking on. I cannot say that was much progress. Sure, P.F. Cheng's China Bistro erupted from the muddy hole scraped out of the Ave that used to be a big, rolling green hill that students and passersby alike used to sit on and read. Most of that building is still disused and uninteresting.
Even through all of these terrible vicissitudes of the Merchant's Guild and the myopic vision of the Tempe Government, the culture of Mill still prevails. It prevails through people like Walt Richardson and the open mic at Rula Bula, through Graffiti Shop and Lawrence, and even through some of the people who still take to the street to recall.
As people may know, I study and record histories, as a writer, and one of the more interesting ones is of the Hayden Family. Their old homestead is now a restaurant, which I'm told serves some awesome steaks, Monti's at La Casa Vieja. Check them out sometime.
And while everyone is at it, go to the Tempe Museum. Know the place.