Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hometown Tourist

Have you ever been a tourist in your hometown? It's kinda fun and gives one a new perspective. Think about this, when you visit someplace new, what is the first thing you notice? Ok dumb question, because it it very subjective, if your from the cold into the tropics, you notice the heat and the smell. If your from the tropics into the cold you notice the cold and the smell. If you have never seen a Palm tree that's what you notice. But after a short time and the initial shock, you begin to notice the architecture. You see the buildings as different. If you are from the east coast and are visiting the west coast, you notice that the Buildings don't seem so old. But if your from the west coast and visit the east coast, you notice the Buildings look ancient in many places. If you have never seen a cobblestone street, you will take notice of them. I was in Odessa, Ukraine and saw this grand old Opera House. It is quite the Historic Building and it is a big piece of History in Odessa. It is a big source of pride.

What many people forget is that their own town has history and it is fun to explore sometimes. When you take a minute to wander around your own home town you start to see these old buildings that you have seen for years in a new light. Maybe you have been in and out of the door of this building many times, but have you ever really looked at the building? I don't mean Wal-Mart or the local strip mall. They are cookie cutter buildings and built with functionality in mind before beauty. (Unless they were designed to fit a zoning regulation such as in the city of Durango, CO. ) You never know where you're going to find something interesting. I have been in European cities that have ancient buildings that have seen half of recorded history, but they are still in use and still giving shelter and keeping the elements at bay.

In America an "Old" building is pushing credulity over 200 years. In parts of Europe there are building that are seeing their 7th 0r 8th century. Castles build back when the year only had 3 digits!
It's funny how something is a part of your life,loses it's mystique, but when somebody sees it for the very first time they are enthralled. I remember as a child, seeing that great dome on the top of our courthouse strung with Christmas lights and thinking that it was the coolest sight ever. Way better than a puny Christmas tree in the living room. But now I can't even tell you if they still string the lights on that dome, because I barely notice it anymore. Today I noticed it again for the first time in many years. I have been in this building a few time. ( never in cuffs, thank you very much!) I have been there for permits, for jury duty, and even as a witness for the prosecution. I have sat in the witness chair and given testimony. I have been there as a student on a field trip. But it is very rare that I look at this building with "new eyes" like I did today. My home town really has some interesting buildings if you would like to find out about them.

Our local paper runs a little history lesson once a week, where there is some old picture and the county or village historian describes the scene and tells about the time that it was taken and who is in the picture and where the scene is located in relation to today's buildings and landmarks. Occasionally the picture will include a building that is still standing today. That is always interesting. One of those buildings that surfaces in the historic pics now and then is what is now our local Public Library. I can't tell you when it was built or how much it cost when it was doen, but I do know this much, once upon a time it was a private residence, and the family that owned it was rich. The family name was "Swan" and thus it is now the Swan Library. It is three floors and the top floor is a little bit of a local natural history museum. Lots of people have been in and out of this building for years and they have never walked up the grand staircase in the middle of the building and seen the collection of eggs. From an Ostrich egg all the way down to a hummingbird egg. I have been they a few times just to identify something that I have found out in the field! LOL It's funny though, because as far as mansions go, I would consider this one to be kinda small. I don't know who much renovation was done when it was turned into a library, but it seems that the kitchen is long gone and I have no idea where it was. I guess if I ask sometime they would show me the original blueprints of the house so I could get a better idea of what it was like as a family residence. I have never asked.

Our town has some interesting history. Ever hear of a Pullman car? You know the sleeping cars that used to be part of the old railroads.... We Mr. Pullman, they guy who "invented" them, He was from Albion, NY and he used his money to build a Church, so now we have the Pullman Universalist Church in our town. There is a legend that The Dalton boys had family here when they died and they were brought here and buried in our cemetary. I haven't been able to prove that so I still consider that to be simply myth.

But all history is in the past, and as they say, "Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." It is great to read and to learn from and in some cases to enjoy for the shear beauty and wonderment of a more innocent time when people didn't shower as often and barely knew what deoderant was. ;-)) but the modern has come to us and we must embrace it, or it will run us over. What was once a corn field is now a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The damn things seem to grow everywhere! They are pervasive. I asked a friend of mine who works there once, how many they are going to build, and he told me that the plan is to put a Wal-Mart in every county in the United States that has a population of over 400 people. That's a lot of stores. Not all supercenters are created equal though, it seems that our is a medium-sized supercenter, but the one in the college town down the road? That is a supersized supercenter. The aisles are wide enough for 3 average Wal-Mart customers to pass by each other!

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