Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Court Squared (Wandering Away From Work Seven)

She showed me much more than I expected.

I wandered recently to downtown McKinney, Texas, my goal to see the inside of the former Collin County Courthouse. Now used to host live theater and small concerts, it is an historic building that for years I had seen only from the outside. From the ice cream crank-off to visits from family, friends, and for a photo shoot, I saw it as a centerpiece getting lost in the past while renovations went on all around it.

My vision, it seems, was lacking.

Downright HelicalI parked less than a block off the square, across the street from a staircase that always catches my eye but has eluded my camera. Not content merely to take a few shots of it from below, I carefully ascended the iron helix and snapped a few from the top. The weather was so nice I could have sat there all day watching the town bustle past.

Down from my perch, I crossed the street to the old courthouse and entered the basement doors. Straight ahead I saw several women, most of them sitting on the floor, working to decorate a room in Relay for Life banners.

“May I help you?” asked a woman as she approached.

“I’ve never been inside the courthouse and heard it was worth seeing,” I said. “Is it open for folks to just wander around?”

“Well, not really. We’re preparing for an event right now,” she said.

“Oh. Okay. I was just out on my lunch hour and thought I’d come over to see what all the fuss is about.”

“Well, I can show you around a little.”

“That would be great. Thanks.”

She led me through large rooms in the basement, their original stone walls (circa 1874-6) still intact. Those rooms can be rented for $40/hour, she explained. “Full kitchen available for caterers to use,” she said, and showed me the kitchen.

A cynic might say that her purpose was becoming painfully clear, but it also was serving my purpose, so I let her continue. Let me just add that I was wearing jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt. In short, I was not looking particularly impressive to someone looking to sell something.

Organ Internals“The organ in the performance hall is one of only two working Wurlitzers in Texas,” she said, leading me down the upper floor’s creaky corridor.

She opened the last door on the left. “Here are some of the organ’s parts.”

Inside was an organized mass of pipes, cymbals, and tiny circuit boards. Only the lack of a sign labeling each piece kept me from thinking I was in a museum.

She showed me office cubicle spaces for rent, furnished and wired, climate controlled, for $300/month. Some part of me wished at that moment that I had a reason to rent one. How cool would it be to work in that old building, right on the square?

Old SeatingAfter a quick stop in her office to give me some brochures, the final stop on the tour was the performance hall — featuring the same seats originally installed for courtroom spectators. With its balcony seating, it was straight out of To Kill a Mockingbird. A judge still holds court there on occasion, my guide told me as I tried to suppress images of Atticus Finch.

Highly coveted by organists in the tri-state area, the organ sat next to the entrance, nowhere near the stage. I tried to imagine which of its dizzying array of buttons and keys controlled the parts I had seen in that distant corner room.

I thanked my guide for her wonderful impromptu tour and headed back to work. Employed by the City of McKinney, apparently she did her job well. Since that day I have suggested the basement rooms as a possible party location for more than one event my wife has mentioned.

And all I wanted was to get some pictures.

6 Responses to Court Squared (Wandering Away From Work Seven)

  1. Wow, what a gorgeous place Mark.

    I wonder what kind of crimes came through that courthouse. If there was anyynoe famous that got sentenced there!

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  2. Would have been keen to see a shot of the outside of the building that enveloped you and your attention so thoroughly, Mark. Such a well-preserved place is always worthy of acute investigation.

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  3. Ah, Southern hospitality. Very cool of her to take the time to show you around. Love the Wurlitzer shot.

    Simon – Surely you remember the courthouse from our outing in downtown Mckinney. http://farm1.static.flickr.com/152/421804128_e6089b472c.jpg if not.

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  4. Dave – Some of the history she shared with me was neat, but I don’t remember any specifics. I wished during the entire tour that I had brought my digital recorder.

    Simon – Yeah, I thought to myself, “Oh, I already have exterior shots of it,” but I wrote and posted this one from my hotel room, and didn’t have those pics with me. D’oh!

    I also was going to remind you that you have seen the building’s exterior live.

    Moksha – And you came through for us on both counts! Thanks for posting that link. My only regret was not getting a photo of the organ keyboard and controls. The lady had been so nice that I just didn’t want to turn it into any more of a photo shoot than I already had. Can’t explain it, really, but I felt weird snapping what pics I did.

    There’s no pic from the back of the seats toward the “stage” because ladies were decorating the stage for the upcoming event and I didn’t want to get them in the pictures.

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  5. Oh snap!

    I didn’t realise it was the SAME courthouse! Carry on then. I’ll just sit here feeling silly.

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  6. Very nice of her to show you around.

    The helix seems very steep and acute for a staircase, the beauty of it. I see very few around back here, mostly rusting from lack of use.

    Places like these reel one back in time, and there’s much joy to be had.

    The performance hall is quite something.

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