Wednesday, May 10, 2006

alabama day 3

Monday, May 8

in the morning…
Damn foot. Damn southern slowness. Damn attitude because I can't do what I'm use to doing.

later that day…
Feeling better. We looked at the space in the center of town that we will clean up for the art exhibition. Downstairs was a grocery store. Upstairs was a hospital.

Walking through the halls and rooms upstairs, the texture of the walls demanded our attention. Decayed walls. Abject surface. Wallpaper peeling away, diving backwards, animated by the slight breeze of an open window. Alabama blue breeze.

It all seems familiar. The yellow wallpaper. The woman trapped behind. What stories came and went. The situation reminds me that I promised to give my blue-green papercuts company in the form of floating clothes paintings. All in the hopes that they too—those stories—will be properly maintained.

It's interesting to be here, for such a short time, to make a few waves—a few personal connections, a renovated retail space, a few stories saved. Many choices about where you put your energy--which place gets people's / politician's time and money. The FIMA water, a silent squad of soldiers, waiting to find out who needs them most…wondering if they might be forgotten.

Signs of better days past are everywhere. In a vacant lot sits two dumpsters, a pile of decaying furniture, and bits of a foundation breaking through the grass. Next door is a burnt down building. Signs of its former calling as a laundry mat, repeat along the inside. ...[insert bits about signs]…A sea of blue breaking through the dark innards of the dead structure.

We went for a walk—down the main street, turn left at the drug store that advertises Viagra spray starch, down the street to the public park. Red caboose supervises from the top of the hills. Not far away, a group of teenagers lean against old sedans, pulsating with low beats, all at the edge of the local cemetery. Nearby is a public pool, filled in as segregation ended so whites and blacks wouldn't have to swim in the same water. An artist has placed a concrete bench, where there was once a diving board, in an area that stretches once gave a path from solid to liquid, and now marks the location of an uglier past some would feel best be forgotten. Spring growth and lawn-mowing clippings attempt to hide other hints of that history.

Our friend, the director of the art center here, tells us a story of the board member's wife. She saw a purse in which was stitched the names of famous European cities. The woman exclaimed, "Hey ya'll, I've been to all those places. I just have to buy that purse."

We are a block from the train tracks, and the train runs right through the middle of the town. There seem to be two types of train drivers, ones that go super-slow, the speed of York, and the others who fly through the town and rattle humble abode. When picking up groceries, I watch the other people perform a slow motion dance. It makes my brain neurons fire more slowly. In some moments, the slowness seems comforting; in others, infuriating. The slight humidity has the same soothing expected, a light pressure making you more aware of your skin. Bright fake flowers on the gravestones against a damp sky.

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