Monday, December 31, 2007

Cycle Therapy

When we saw the sign which read, "Cycle Therapy," we figured that it was a facility for the treatment of road rash. Drawing up beside the building, the attractive mural suggests something different.

This is instead a place which advises that the avenue to therapy is traveled via motorcycle. There is no list of the maladies from which the motorcycle delivers one, but there's an old fashioned shop in a remote and rural setting in their mural which looks a pleasant pause in that process. A rider rests under a shade tree, against his motorcycle, by himself.

I appears that one need escape not only from the trappings of busy modern urban pressures, but from other people as well. Wherever that road leads, it seems to be a solo flight which is prescribed.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Black and White and Read All Over

In Winnsboro, South Carolina, the seat of Fairfield County, we recently came upon two of our favorite things rolled into one: a mural and a locomotive. We don't pitch from the same mound as a legitimate art critic, but do we admire the creative masking of dull flat walls with clever colorful images. Whether these things are art or craft we couldn't care less. We know what we like.

The artist called Blue Sky gets our vote for the most clever use of color in the stunning "Tunnel Vision" ( other photo ) mural on a wall off Taylor Street in Columbia, SC. This one's in black and white. Looking back at our album of murals we find that they are usually, if not always, in color. We've seen shockingly rich colors, balanced moderate tones, pastels which fairly sink into the pores of brick walls. The use of black painting on a bright white wall is an eye catcher and a new one on us. Not only has the artist sent a painfully drab wall packing, but he's produced an unavoidable message for the South Carolina Railroad Museum. It's such a nice illustration that you're almost grateful that the drab white wall was there in the first place.

One might look down a critical nose at this as little more than technical drawing, but how else would you render a locomotive? If you do it in color or with a cute twisted smiling rubber face then you've got goofy kid stuff. It's like John Wayne riding side saddle. Blasphemy! It is, after all, not just the symbol, but the literal engine of Manifest Destiny in American history. Here it gets dignity consistent with that role while the trailing smoke of copy attracts even the light of heart. A lesser treatment would be not unlike using the odious expression of "choo-choo" before the serious railroad buff. It just isn't done.

So the museum says,"thank you for smoking" and we say thanks for a mural worth driving to see.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This Side of Paradise

Ah, Pringletown, South Carolina, 60 feet above sea level, 53 klicks northwest of Charleston and just this side of Paradise. Paradise, the lounge, that is. Perhaps they had meant Pair-of-Dice because life in Pringletown is something of a crap shoot. Here are three cases where the dice came up snake eyes.

This past July a girl who was visiting from out of state, accepted the offer of a ride from a passing stranger at about 3 a.m. as she walked along U.S. Highway 78. The girl was found several hours later near Pringletown in Berkeley County. She had been held and robbed at knifepoint, authorities said. This little lapse in judgement is somewhere high on the top ten list of things we are born knowing not to do, but you've got to feel sorry for the girl in any event. After all that suffering she ends up in Pringletown.

In June a 13-year-old boy shot and killed his 23-year-old cousin in the doorway to his bedroom of the mobile home which they share in Pringletown. The shooting was apparently the last word in an argument over juice. The Deputy Coroner said the boy had used a "household weapon" to dispatch his cousin. Please pass the double ought.

A bit further back opponents of a proposed racetrack in Pringletown, SC, had appealed a decision by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control that the track's noise level will not adversely affect Francis Beidler Forest. Naw, that shouldn't be any problem at all. We were up that way just the other day when an Ivory Billed Woodpecker landed on the trunk clearly drawn to the seductive resonance of the Mustang's dual exhaust system. Many's the time little birds chortle with delight in our slipstream as we blast past them on our way through Pringletown. "Gentlemen, start your kayaks ? " way.

Color us gone from or at least many miles this side of that paradise.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Grand Slam-burg

Back in June we found our way to Bamberg, South Carlolina and got a look an ambitious renovation of what had been their downtown business district. Bamberg's old commercial center had gone to hell, but not yet back, at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

Does anyone remember the raving national panic over Y2K in which a clueless public came to believe that at the stroke of 01/01/00 all computers would crash and life would end? Well, Bamberg's business district crashed long before computers were invented. 01/01/00 was just another dead day on Main Street. In fact, the first day of 1900 might have seen more prosperity.

The reasons for the decline of small towns are well known and the road to their decline is well worn. What is new and of considerable interest is the effort to revive them and the citizens who might make this possible. An increasing disenchantment with crime, taxes and the invasive bureaucracy of urban life is turning more eyes toward the greener pastures or rural and small town living. Some have moved, more will follow, but there is, as always, a catch.

Postcards from the edge indicate that the placid life can also be a dull one. It is less a generational thing and more a bloc of people of all ages who want a simpler life. Those unwilling to till the land, chew tobacco or sit on the front porch all day were likely to go mad within the first trimester. This meant that folks would either become something like Eddie Albert and ZaZa Gabor of "Green Acres" or their children would all wind up looking like the Alman Brothers.

The newly paved streets and buffed up buildings might not become Grand Slam-berg, but it's a good start. It is the new attitude of people who want a richer life of greater opportunity in the greener pastures which might make it work. Otherwise, we will have a string of little boutique towns which will be nice places to visit, but...