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The Patina of the Past

Meditations on Memory and Home

Talbot Brewer

Architectural sketch of Mannheim, Germany (c. 1720). Via Wikimedia Commons.

A few years ago I returned to my hometown in Florida to attend my niece’s wedding. I hadn’t been there for twenty years. e day before the wedding, my older brother Dan and I took a trip up the coast on the old coastal highway. Every couple of miles our memories were jogged by the faded remnant of a bit of roadside kitsch whose lifeblood had been diverted to the newer, wider, and faster highway a few miles inland. We drove past an abandoned Seminole Indian trading post, then we stopped and wandered around a dilapidated zoo, pausing beside a muddy pit where Dan recalled having seen a large alligator poked with a bamboo pole until he snapped his jaws open and gave the audience a look at his jagged teeth. e zoo was empty and the beasts painted on the outer walls were peeling and muted shades of their former selves. We continued a bit further along the highway, when suddenly Dan pointed at a little curve of cobblestone road: “We’ve got to have a look down there. I know Mom used to take me down that road, but I can’t remember why.”

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