Flip Through

Monday, October 23, 2006

But the beauty is grim

I am captivated by ruin, particularly if there is plant overgrowth involved. If I were any kind of photographer, my film would be wasted on landscapes of forgotten gardens, rotting wooden houses overtaken by creepers, stone walls crumbling under the weight of vines and time.


Tampa, my city, has a lot of this. One reason why I like this town so much--it contains both urban and natural decay, both of which are oddly fascinating. There are the alleys overflowing with garbage and used needles and the homeless; there is the low concrete wall on Columbus, once decorative and now in decline, eaten away by air pollution and shrubs; there is the water tower, white and slim and inside bursting with bats and moths and moldering beams; there is the prodigious graffiti covering the back walls of minimarts and gas stations . And there is perhaps my favorite spot in the entire city: the lot at the rear of the art museum, yards of gardening forgotten, growing wild. There are neat rows of palm trees and clear outlines of intended flower plots and scads of climbing vines trailing down the back wall onto the sidewalk and outdoor lights which have been kicked, shards of glass half-covered in earth. There's even an amphitheatre, its steps clotted with dry leaves and trash. It's a little eerie, to walk alongside the shiny tin-foil musuem wall, modern and sleek, and then climb up to wander in the gardens that somehow, the museum personnel managed to forget. It looks like a movie setting; you wonder if maybe you're about to be mugged, or--depending on the time of day--see a ghost.

I love it. If I had to be homeless, I would ditch the hordes of homeless people who gather for their own private reasons on the fountain steps in front of the museum. I would go a couple hundred yards to the back, where you can see the water and the sun warms the concrete. Maybe the museum has remembered their landscaping project and remedied all the weeds since I was last there, but I hope not. I hope they let it be.
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