CHARLOTTE, N.C. Tip to DNC delegates: To blend in with Charlotteans, walk down our main drag uptown thats Tryon Street as fast as possible, talking on a portable electronic device and looking neither left nor right.
Maybe we notice Firebird, the sparkling sculpture in front of the beautifully cantilevered Bechtler Museum, or the monolithic Jun Kaneko piece nearby in front of the Mint Museum. We may take 20 minutes to eat a sandwich in a park or let our kids play on The Green, the expanse of quiet next to St. Peter Catholic Church.
But I took two hours to amble up Tryon from The Charlotte Observer to Eighth Street and back down the other side, and I noted 11 cool things nobody else stopped to see or use during the voyage. Im not even counting the lone sweaty busker, a competent saxophonist at Fourth Street who didnt have a single listener and was gone when I passed his spot again.
Heres what opened my eyes:
1 The low-slung stone sculpture in front of the Gantt Center at the southeast corner of Stonewall and Tryon. It depicts the Charlotte of half a century ago, before urban renewal bulldozed vibrant black neighborhoods near the center of the city. Blandville, Brooklyn, Ashlington Heights all are merely memories now.
2 Green recycling containers: once rare uptown, now common and well-marked, still underused or misunderstood. At 1 p.m. Thursday, the first one I examined had one can and one bottle in it. The second had more recyclable material, along with a mountain of trash.
3 Liberty Hall monument, a dwarfish obelisk set in the plaza outside the Wells Fargo atrium, close to Third Street. The Daughters of the American Revolution erected it in 1913 on the site of the 1777 Liberty Hall; the list of trustees on the pillar includes the names of folks who shaped this region: Alexander, Polk, Brevard, Caldwell.
4 Public fountains everywhere. I stopped counting at a dozen, including one streaming out of a sculpture and one plummeting down the side of a building at a street corner. Favorite spot: Standing at Trade and Tryon streets, where I could see spitting jets of water next to the Omni hotel and water across the street rolling down steps outside Founders Hall.
5 Il Grande Disco, the first significant piece of public art to generate controversy uptown. Sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro installed it at Trade and Tryon in 1974 and left his artistic statement in the pavement: Our life today is one of crisis of movement of tension. We do not know what our world will become. I try to say something about this uncertainty in my work. Ill bet the passers-by didnt know it used to rotate slowly, and a person of average strength (me) could turn it. Its anchored in place these days.
6 Historical markers standing upright, attached to buildings, trodden underfoot along Charlottes Liberty Walk, which culminates with a new monument at The Square (Trade and Tryon). One placard points out that Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, stood at Fourth and Tryon when he received the telegram saying Lincoln had been murdered.
7 Continuum, a fresco about disintegration and rebirth by Ben Long. Technically, only the wall plaque is visible from Tryon Street: You have to walk under the dome of the entrance to Transamerica Square to see the painting, which combines civic leaders, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, painters, laborers and naked sunbathers. Longs more famous fresco can be seen up the street at Founders Hall; few who pass under Continuum look up.
8 Charlottes official timepiece, the Rousso Clock. This four-faced tower near Trade and Tryon keeps time accurately and honors the late Al Rousso, a city council member who had a jewelry store nearby. Note four lions with rings in their mouths 15 feet off the ground, available to anyone who needs to tether a giraffe.
9 Many buildings ought to be seen from across the street. Ive been here 33 years and didnt know Spirit Square (Seventh Street) had a bell tower with a light in it. Statues resembling Muses stand gracefully atop Foundation for the Carolinas (Sixth and Tryon). The art deco front of the Hearst Tower next door can be seen in all its glory from farther away.
10 Old-fashioned building facades are all but gone, but you find a few. My favorites are Tryon Plaza, with its intricate stone carvings above the doorway just south of Trade Street, and the Johnston Building, erected in 1924 between Fourth and Third: solid, sober, classy.
11 Keep an eye on greenery, from the bonsai-sized gardens around Chima Brazilian Steakhouse (near Third Street) to the brand-new park installed last week at Sixth and Tryon, outside the long-dead Carolina Theater. To my eye, the grandest and most attractive landscaping can be found at my own building at Stonewall and Tryon. And like many Charlotteans, Id never fully looked at it until this assignment.