Monday, November 11, 2013

Downtown on the weekend

Over the last week or so, I've been indulging in a few videos. One, "The Third and the Seventh", really stood out as a tribute to great architecture. I encourage all of you watch it on a big screen in a quiet setting. It is truly an inspiration to watch.

The Third and the Seventh evokes many memories for me. Like downtown Los Angeles, early on a Saturday morning. In the ARCO towers, 28,000 people go to work every day, but on the weekends, the stone covered surfaces are empty of people. Hope Street looks like a ghost town, surrounded by shiny tall buildings. I can easily cross the street anywhere, between these buildings, without fear of rushing cars - because there is nobody there.

I used to work in Downtown Los Angeles as a construction worker. I saw the hustle and the bustle. I rode the freight elevators up the towers to install air conditioning. That life is a memory to me now. When people are there, rushing to and fro between work and home, work and lunch, there is plenty to see.

On the weekends, the sensation is eerie as empty streets and sidewalks evoke thoughts of the lives that have passed by here. As the sunshine reflects off the buildings onto the street, the fountains and the steps, I get a sense of the time gone by and wonder just what goes on in these tall glass towers.

I am reminded of summer days riding my bike. Every summer, as a young adolescent, I would ride though my old elementary school and remember the times I had there. I'd ride up and down the narrow ramps, ride around the empty playgrounds, notice the hidden alcoves near the restrooms and the cracking asphalt with grass shooting up. That school is no longer being used for public education, it is a ghost of a school to me now.

I also rode up to the other school, the school that I only heard about, but never attended. I rode through their halls and wondered about the memories there. I enjoyed the eerie silence of the walkways and playgrounds when no one was there. I wondered about the lives that went on there, and sometimes wished that I could have escaped the troubles in my school by attending the other one, on the top of the hill.

I am also reminded of the time I've spent with the California Paranormal Society. I went to their meetings with an open mind, I wanted to see what they see. So we visited cemeteries and mausoleums. I remember as I walked through a mausoleum, I can't remember which one anymore, but I remember the scene distinctly. Marble floors, ornate columns and ceilings and stained glass windows. I saw the colors on the floor as the sunlight passed through the stained glass. I imagined the light, moving across the floor, day after day, crossing the same path, year after year, hardly anything ever changes there. Mausoleums are uniquely designed not to change, to help hold the memories of those departed in place. Forever.

I live in Utah's capital, Salt Lake City. From time to time, I get to visit the capitol buildings and see some really great architecture. Most times, it's on the weekends, and even then, very few people are there when I'm there. Again, I get that eerie feeling when the building is nearly empty or when no people are to be seen. I see the skylights, the ornate surfaces, the wondrous murals on the ceiling and the walls. I see the empty Supreme Court chamber, so dark and ominous, and wonder what has gone on there. The times gone by.

Familiar places take on a different character when they're empty. They seem empty, yet eerily haunted by times past. They evoke nostalgia and a sense of what could have been. For me, they also evoke compassion for the lives that have traversed their walls. We wish we could do more, but in these walls, there is only so much we can do.
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