Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tourist Visits in Brief

In more exploring of my local area (part of my tourist at home plan), I revisited two local spots: The Ringling in Sarasota, and Sunken Gardens here in St. Petersburg.  Not surprisingly, Sunken Gardens remains my favorite; lush nature is hard to best.

Ca d'Zan
At the Ringling (free! with my MFA-St Pete SERM reciprocal membership), I toured the museum, wandering by the enormous gold-gilt frames in the regular collection, but that day, there was little with which I truly connected; some days, even I'm not feeling arty. Plus, given my general leanings toward more modern and abstract work, while, for example, the panting of Biblical decapitation was arresting, it wasn't for me. I was looking for the newly-built Asian wing, but must have missed it in my ambling, instead getting caught up in my fondness for the grounds - the rose garden and the enormous Banyan trees remain favorites. For the first time, I ventured into the Circus museum. I understand that they are pushing the idea of the greatest show on earth, the magical wonder of childhood and that they are obligated to present the Ringling family as snappy positive businessmen, but the truth is, I associate the circus more with caged animals and lawsuits on the the treatment of elephants. The greatest show had a viciousness underneath that, as an adult, is difficult to ignore. It did, however, certainly make the Ringlings a good deal of money, as further evidenced by Ca d'Zan, John and Mable Ringling's spectacularly ornate home overlooking the water.  Built before the crash, it's a peek into the opulence of an era.

Sunken Gardens
Sunken Gardens, meanwhile, feels to be less of a sanitized homage to vast wealth, despite its history as a privately-run Florida attraction. The 4-acre botanic garden originally started in 1903 as a private garden, which led to selling fruit from the trees, which led to nickel tours, which led to more extensive tours.  It's now owned by the City of St. Petersburg, and is one of the oldest attractions in the state.  On a breezy Florida afternoon, there are few places more lovely, with soaring palm trees, multitudes of blooming plants, and the largest wall of bougainvillea I've ever seen. Of course, Sunken Gardens too has its caged animals - a variety of birds squawk hello.  They are housed in large and spacious cages, and the birds, as well as I can tell, are happy, healthy and content. Still, some part of me wishes those birds were still soaring through some tropical jungle; to not have enough space to fly when you have wings seems a punishment no matter how much birdseed is available.  I suspect that is my thinking more than the birds though, or at least, I hope so.  We humans do so love the complex safety of our cages, be they fancy houses or metal bars.

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