That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

I kill with my heart.

Posted by kozemp on May 18, 2012

The Olympic Park reminds me of Mid-World.

It makes me of nothing so much as the way King describes the landscape Roland moves through, a place that has been passed by, that is slowly crumbling, but is still full of people trying to live there before it finally becomes too hard.

Walking through the park you are struck by how old the place feels – everything has that distinct 70s architecture, right down to what I pointed out to Tim as “old-school 70s ticketing booths.” It is vaguely reminiscent of what Epcot was like when I was a kid, a giant anachronism that you find yourself walking through.

The past’s conception of the future is always vaguely unsettling.

I have spent large portions of the last two days walking the length and breadth of Olympic Park, and the same thought keeps striking me about the Stadium area specifically: I cannot imagine, back home, something so big that looks and feels so old still standing. If we had built the Olympiastadion in Fairmount Park we would have torn it down a few years later, and put up houses on it, or let it go back to being a park naturally. We preserve our history as history, but we are so eager to get rid of the recent past. We’d never keep the Olympic Park around for so long, never mind keep using it the way the people of Munich do.

I have often joked with my English friends, when we talk about sports, that they seem to think history is a physical force, a presence that can reach out and touch human lives and change the course of events. I dismissed the notion entirely. It was inconceivable.

Here, though? History is palpable. The earliest written mention of the city is in 1158. Monks lived here since 400 years before that. History IS a force here, an accumulated weight from almost 1500 years of people coming together and living and dying in one place that you can almost feel in the back of your mind.

But the people here soldier on as though they don’t feel it. And, probably, they don’t. I met someone once who grew up in New York City and the first time she had to sleep in South Jersey she couldn’t manage a single minute. It was too quiet, she said. She’d lived with the background noise of Manhattan for so long she couldn’t get to sleep without it. I think, perhaps, the people here don’t feel the weight of that history because it’s been a constant presence.

I wonder if, when they get to places like America, they feel like they might fly away from the lack of it.

In the Olympic Park, though, it feels as though history is beginning to push down on the present, and the present is starting to give way.

The construction of the stadium and the surrounding outbuildings is all grey steel and beige concrete, the buildings all odd collections of geometric shapes that resemble nested cardboard boxes or elongated arcade cabinets.

At the edge of the park is what was the athlete’s village, row on row of concrete boxes with identical windows and doors, one after the other stretching off like stacks in a library. It’s student housing now, and the outside of each box is decorated by the kids staying within, but underneath the paint and the flags and the ferns – dear god, so many ferns hanging from so many balconies – it is hard to get over that it is still just row after row of identical concrete boxes, and when you look down one of the empty paths between them and a stiff wind blows around the leaves and human debris, it can be as creepy and desolate as any horror movie.

Between and surrounding the village and the stadium is the park itself, which is lush and green, with rolling hills and worn walking trails, but as you get away from the main areas, the greenery starts to grow a little wild. The grasses and bushes are thick and high and compete with very large weeds for sun and space. The walking paths are visible and usable, but you get the sense that’s only because they are still often used and kept fresh, that they are unmaintained, and that if people didn’t walk them every day they would quickly disappear.

Yesterday, I stood on a cobblestone path leading into the village from the park, already shot through with grass and moss that had grown wild but was kept tamped down by many feet walking on it over and over again.

I looked at the path, and then looked up at the sky, and… the light here is different. I realize it’s probably just an effect of latitude and climate and a hundred other perfectly reasonable scientific factors, but the sunlight here in the late afternoon seems more yellow and… I don’t know, almost thinner, somehow, than what I am used to back home. It’s an odd feeling, and hard to verbalize, but it’s there.

I looked up at the sky, then I looked at the path and thought, “the world has moved on.”

JLK

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