Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tallahassee, Florida

A city of hills and pastel buildings, land of lariope, moss and ferns. The Place Where Spring Begins they say, although spring, without a good winter, cannot really Spring - it's more of a Slide. Still, it is a good excuse for economic indulgence. And the dogwoods, and Japanese magnolias and azaleas and amaryllis lilies are a sight to see and remember.

It does have winter. Some years it may even last a couple of weeks - and it really is miserable. Usually it hits hardest in mid January, just as the Japanese Magnolias begin to bloom.

Spring slides in about mid-February and lasts until late March when it gives way to early summer. Early summer lingers until the last week of May, when the Rainy season begins and runs (or rains) until the middle of September. Then Late Summer begins and it lasts until the middle of October when Autumn starts. It all can be pretty if you have enough time. The dogwoods begin their blush in August - really they are just tired. Mid-December usually brings in a good cool front to sprinkle color among the hardwoods.

There are more full moons in Tallahassee than anywhere else in the world. Live Oaks host great ferns along their arms, and strange grasses slowly grow mad under the endless moon light which always filters down through the magnolias, and swaying Spanish moss. Everything in Tallahassee slowly grows mad with the moonlight. You will go mad too if you spend too much time under these special moons. How will you know if you have become mad? Your life will not seem to change much but you will find yourself remembering only fragments of images.

You will recall oyster Bars echoing with horseradish yells, smelling of cheap American beer and with topless tasties down on the river where music throbs from old buildings built on small stilts which lean out of ancient marshes into the smell of crabs and old fish and mud.

There will be football celebrations marching through your mind. The Tennessee Street Stomp, slowly leveling the sidewalks and streets. Crazy victories beyond anyone's wildest dreams will routinely take place here, and there are Great Losses that obliterate the face in the field.

Rainy mornings come, darkly with no sun. Palm trees bend over toward soaked, blown grass. Gray skies torn with low flying patches of small gray clouds that quickly ride in from the Gulf. Raindrops bounce hard off wet streets.

Just outside of town deep swamps can be found. A land? of cypress knees surrounding large boles in black-red water. Here great birds rise with much flapping then coast silently, low above the water lanes, gliding under dark canopies and dark red water races quickly and deeply into the swamp. Mud, fish smell, muck smell, smell of willows; feelings of unseen snakes lying everywhere, sounds of silent slither slipping around your feet, warm, muggy wind that brings mosquitoes.

Old men suddenly appear, out of the palmetto bushes, standing with bright edgy eyes peering over unkempt beards, in short cut-off jeans without a shirt, scratching their naked hairy stomachs ask why you are "here". Their round women, in dirty one piece smocks, round bodies with a round face, hair yanked behind them in a tightly knit bun, barefoot in the mud and uncut grass, stand arms akimbo with hooded eyes awaiting instruction from small old men.

White shirts, coats and ties adorn the high government men in downtown towers. Men who pace like caged beasts in the capitol building as votes are cast on endless measures. Consummate string-pullers have carefully arranged all of these votes and molded silly-putty minds from their chariots chairs, way up high on ego stars.

Barefoot boys, somehow grown old, walk halls of knowledge in university settings, striding now in earth-shoes and speaking endlessly of very important things, things most people could never imagine or even believe, and some of which may - or may not - be on their tests.

Is this Tallahassee, or is it your mind gone limp? The longer you remain here, the less that will matter. Eventually you will find yourself in your own memories. Then you can finally be happy - here in Tallahassee.

Photos: Florida State Capitol Building from Appalachee street, Statutes in the Capitol Building area around the museum with an abundance of lariope grass. All photos by John Womack

© John Womack, 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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