Friday’s Weekend Column
Life in the South

by James Glaser
February 3, 2006

Surprise Surprise Surprise!

I got this from a Knight Ridder Newspapers report by Kevin G. Hall.

Washington—One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there by 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

Tallahassee is a pretty fair size city with a population of 165,000, but what makes it so interesting, is that the average age of the population is only 26.3 years old. The people are young, and the city reflects that with lots of parks, walking trails, fast traffic, shopping that caters to the younger person, many outdoor festivities, and two fine universities.

I don't know if it is because the people are so young or that it is a Capitol City, but either way, Tallahassee is a clean town and an enjoyable one. It surprised me when I first came down here, as many sections of town remind me of Minnesota. There are many hills, lots of pine trees, big yards with flower gardens, and people tend to keep things up. I don't know what I was expecting, maybe palm trees and ocean beaches, but the ocean is about 40 miles away. There are palm trees, but the tree you notice most are the live oaks, huge live oaks, with the Spanish moss hanging down from their branches

I like going for walks around my neighborhood. Jeb Bush lives right down the street, but his place is surrounded with tall security fences and I've never seen him out walking around. I have however met lots of other people walking, and everyone seems friendly and pretty happy.

I keep exploring in every direction as it is fun to see the way people do there houses and yards. There are some homes very close by that are pre-civil war and the cemetery was started in 1829. Those old homes are really something to see, but what I really like are the homes from the early 1900s up to maybe 1930. They still have a lot of craftsmanship in them, but they are not too filled with bric-a-brac. Almost everyone has a big wrap around porch and down here I guess they don't need screens. Having your porch facing the street makes it easier to get to know your neighbors. I like that.

I start my walks early in the morning before it gets light out, and so do a lot of other people. I can't identify the birds by their calls yet, but I think the mockingbird is the first one up. When I first start out it is not unusual to here an owl calling out, but they quit with the first hint of light in the east.

The part of town my studio is in was the rail center of Tallahassee all they way up to the 60s. The Amtrak Depot is near by and there is a non-profit art colony close by called Railroad Square. It is right next to the tracks and I am sure it was used as warehouse space until the trucking industry took over.

My building is on a main drag and was probably a store of some type up until it became a gallery. I think part of it was a dry cleaner. tagging Here is an example of the 'tagging' or graffiti that covers much of the building and those near by. What I have pictured here was on there last week, but it is gone now, as the street artists who paint it are constantly changing what is on the building. It is fun to have the wall change overnight. You never know what new colors or new images you will see. If there is a wall you don't like, no worry because it will change in a day or so. Sometimes art students from Florida State stop over and look at the walls. They want to paint on them, but I think the size intimidates them, so they work of some small low walls in the back. I think the only rule the building owners have given out is No Profanity! And the "taggers" obey that one. They respect the fact that they have a nice place to do their work and after a while you can tell which guy did which wall. Some guys have a lot of talent and technical know how.

At first I didn't like these pictures on the wall and I couldn't understand how these guys would put in so much work, only to see it covered in a short time. After a while I got talking to some of them while they worked, and found that they had a real desire to paint and this is the form they picked to work in. One guy told me that he liked painting the wall better than watching a football game, and that he felt good after he finished. Then the picture was out of his head and until another one popped in, he didn't feel any need to paint again. I liked that answer. These guys are real artists, they just have a different medium that conventional artists.

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