Wednesday, October 17, 2007

what's to become of the clock?

I'm a little despondent today. I found out yesterday that my childhood is going to be demolished. I guess an explanation is in order.
I was born, and currently live, in Rochester NY and I'm nearing 40, which means I'm old enough to remember a vibrant downtown, with throngs of people who are there for reasons other than to change buses. Christmas time was particularly magical, with the mechanized window displays and Santa's Mountain, which was a big sparkly mountain in Midtown Plaza where Santa received his visitors. Santa's Mountain featured a tunnel through which a kid-sized monorail traveled. The monorail ride was always more exciting to me than meeting Santa (I don't think I ever fully bought the Santa myth-- at least I wasn't much phased by the realization that he was a hoax). Riding the monorail remained a part of my holiday ritual until they would no longer let me on.
Midtown Plaza boasts the distinction of being the first indoor shopping center in North America (or something like that). Built in the early sixties, the architecture is blocky and a bit kitschy-- too ordinary to qualify as Googie, but with enough camp to garner affection. Particularly campy was a giant clock in the middle of the plaza that had rotating dioramas of various ethnic stereotypes. It was called the Clock of the Nations, and was kind of like Disney's Small World ride in miniature. This is probably the ugliest clock in America, and we Rochesterians love it (or we love hating it).
Well, wouldn't you know it, they're tearing Midtown down. This is probably the right decision, as it has been largely vacant for decades now, and it will be replaced by a corporate headquarters that will bring several hundred jobs into the city center.
Still, I can't help but feel mopey about it. As a friend put it, "that's the closest thing to a favorite baseball stadium you have, isn't it?".
Malls of America has clipped an old chamber of commerce film to the parts about Midtown. If I'm not mistaken, that narration is by the esteemed Ken Nordine.
I have a cherished fedora made by McCurdy's, which at one time was the anchor department store in Midtown. The label inside the hat says "The Midtowner", in jaunty, I dare say swanky, lettering, and has a picture of the plaza. This is an optimistic fedora. I will wear it to the demolition.

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