a little magic

The trains go by all night, calling to each other in low brassy tones.

Birmingham is called The Magic City because of its rate of growth in the early 1900s. It grew “like magic,” drawing comparisons to rabbits popping out of black hats.

Birmingham lies in a valley surrounded on all sides by soft rounded foothills. My grandmother lives on the side of one of these hills (not Red Mtn.) and from her house you can see the lights of the city below. She used to tell me that they were her “diamonds,” and the city spread beneath me like a treasure chest.

The city is protected by a god. His torch used to shine red when someone was killed in an auto accident in the city on a given day, and green when someone wasn’t. There was a sort of carefulness and group mourning when one looked up to see a red light, and sense of relief and protection when the light was green.

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6 Responses to a little magic

  1. ginny says:

    Good heavens, Jessica! I had no idea your hometown and my hometown were so similar! Roanoke was also at one point called the Magic City, as were, apparently, a bunch of other cities. We had the same rabbit and hat symbol. Roanoke is also in a valley surrounded by low, old mountains (are your the same range?). And your statue of Vulcan with its singular largness and signal colors sounds remarkably like our Mill Mountain Star, which also turns red for auto accidents (and, at the beginning of the current war, for american deaths in Iraq, though they had to stop that. now it’s red, white, and blue all the time). And we are also a city that the railroads — in our case the Norfolk and Western, now Norfolk and Southern lines — built. It gives me a sense of comforting americanness — and comforting nineteenth century southernness — to recognize the similarities.

  2. Jim T says:

    I can’t believe that both the statue of Vulcan and the very pagan fountain in Five Points haven’t been removed by fundamentalist elements. Apparently there is some kind of proposition going around to abolish the latter.

    I just recently proposed to my girlfriend at the upsidedown Plaza. How trashy and Birmingham is that?

  3. Jessica Smith says:

    Ginny, that’s very… strange and cool and, as you say, American, tapestry-like connections.

    Jim, yeah, the complaint most frequently launched against Vulcan is that he’s underdressed and his bum faces Homewood. The debate about the storyteller at 5PTs has been going on since the thing was erected. I think if you’re going to have a devil sculpture, 5PTs is the appropriate place for it. Shouldn’t the xtians be more concerned about the licentious behavior that goes on around there than the sculpture?

    Wait, so you and your girlfriend are getting married? Congrats!

  4. Jessica Smith says:

    that star is pretty damn cool, ginny. bham also has a star, but it’s smaller. it’s atop one of the local hills, but is only lit up at xmas.

  5. Jessica Smith says:

    here is a link to the “infamous” storyteller statue.

  6. speterme says:

    Check out the CD “The Magic City” by Birmingham’s greatest musician: Sun Ra. I’ll be forever grateful to your town for his music.

    pac, lov and undrstanding (nvr giv up!)

    Stv Ptrmir
    no man’s land
    minnapolis, mn
    usa

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