Friday, June 08, 2007

Morning ARC

Today I finished my third week of walking daily at the ARC. What's the ARC? It's the Columbia Activity Recreation Center (

This city doesn't always do such a great job with public buildings. Witness the public library; probably the ugliest building in Missouri both inside and out. Lovely white limestone adorns the back, with interesting architectural details. But they shoved that on the backside, only for patrons parking in the lot. On the street side it's red granite *and* red brick. Not only do the reds differ enough to clash, but the building is too close to the street and it looms with weird slotted vertical windows, secretive and pinched. Then there's the front glass thing. It's sort of indescribable. Made of glass blocks, it's thick and clunky and looks like somebody whacked the top off. And that's not even mentioning the school-bus-orange-brushed- with-flame-red hunks of metal set so close to the building they look like they're going to crush it. Or the 'brilliantly' conceived orange and red carpet inside interspersed with purple and screaming line green POLKA-DOT carpet. I literally cannot stay in that place for more than about 10 minutes, so I tend to fly in, make my selections, and get back out before I puke.

But the ARC is different. The ARC is public building space done right. It's all light, air, and soaring glass. Graceful and efficient. One wall is a vast curve of windows, sweeping across the corner aspect. The ARC sits well back on its property. It rests on the bones of days gone by. The site used to be the Boone County Fairgrounds, and under its foundations lie the hoofprints and bones of generations of Saddlebreds and those who showed them. From the turn of the century on up into the 1980s, the Boone County Horse Show saw the true greats. The ghosts of Art Simmons and Tom Bass are here, along with the horses they rode. Where the ARC sits, a young girl took a bay gelding into the ring and came out with a red ribbon back in 1979. Today I am much older and remember those days and times as I walk the track that circles the second floor, almost seeming to float over the pool and basketball courts.

The morning crew at the ARC tends to be the same people. We're the openers, the ones who are there waiting at the door each morning at 5:30 a.m. The thin woman who within minutes is running full speed on a treadmill and who is still doing it when I leave at 6:10. The couple--father/daughter? May/December? arriving in a huge boat of a town car. The young man who alternately runs and walks, so light on his feet I can barely hear him as he sprints effortlessly. There are also a surprising number of elderly folks, including one gentleman, probably in his 70s, who is there every single day and attacks the equipment with singleminded intensity.

It's starting to become a place I really like to be in the mornings.

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