Tuesday, January 31, 2006

When the Dancefloor Is Nothing More Than the Dancefloor

While I was home last week, my mom took me out to the San Benito Country historical park. This sentence, I realize, inspires about as much enthusiasm as the phrase "scoliosis exam," but I swear this road leads the intersection of worthwhile and interesting.

Some people with a notion of hometown history have been transporting various buildings out into a little community out at the edge of Hollister. One by one, buildings with a history are popping up in this makeshift little neighborhood — everything important within walking distance of each other, artificially transplanted but so close in proximity that the artifice is negligible. It's like an Epcot Center for Hollister. (I know, I know — scoliosis exam, but stick with me.)

The principlele draw out to the historical park is the former office building for my family's business — a structure that was once a saloon called "Cottage Corners." It now rests comfortably with new coat of sea green paint.

I have to be respectful to my family's heritage, but another feature of the historical part easily stole my interest that afternoon.

See the fluorescent caution tape wrapped around the posts of the saloon porch? It's there because the saloon's immediate neighbor, the former dancehall, had been destroyed in a wind storm just two days before. The structural flaw with a dancehall, you see, is that it's generally not compartmentalized into smaller rooms like most buildings would be. Instead, one room, as big as possible, sits under the roof so you can fit the maximum number of dancers. Despite preservationists' best efforts, this aspect ultimately ended up destroying the dancehall when the wind blew through the building and generated enough momentum inside to simply pick the roof up in the air and then drop it in the walls, which buckled and fell to the wayside.

When I saw it, the site has been cleared of roof particles, but the walls remained, broken and lying on the ground. The contents of the dancehall — antiques appropriate to the time period and setting — had mostly been moved to the side, though many of them had also been crushed.

As it stood, the dancehall was now no more than the dancefloor, still smooth and wooden and entirely danceable, but now conspicuously sitting in the middle of the field. For reasons I still don't understand, no one had yet moved the two pianos in, where they might have escape the rain and subsequent further ruin. I ducked under the caution tape and started taking pictures, though I feel I failed to capture the odd familiarity I felt as I stood on this ruined dancefloor and watched a piano older than I am sit and soak in the sun. A little surreal, a little sad.

But so much more than just a broken old piano.

I don't know what will happen to what's left of the dancehall and I probably won't go back for a while. I do know, however, that seeing thing — weird, funny and pitiful, all at the same time — makes me feel more memorably connected to my hometown than anything else has in the past twenty-three years.

Oh yes. I nearly forgot to mention that I later saw some deer, too. It's kind of an epilogue, really.

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