A while back, I had the opportunity to spend some time in my childhood hometown. I walked around for a couple of hours, taking pictures of scenes that had often provided the jumping-off point for my imagination when I created the fictional town of Angel Falls. Sometimes, my imagination didn’t have to jump very far. Some places in Angel Falls will feel familiar to any reader who has lived in–or even driven through–a small town in the deep south. Other places are unique to Angel Falls, and to the town that nurtured me through my formative years. It took me a long time to realize that under the surface appearance, every town has its own particular vibe. Even fictional towns, like Angel Falls, have a certain feeling that defines the town and mold the people who live in it.
The picture in this post is of my the first studio where I taught ballet back in the day. My studio was upstairs in the building to the right. As you might be able to tell from the photo, the floor space was enormous, the pressed-metal ceilings too tall to reach with even the tallest ladder. Paint flakes hung from the ceiling, and the wide-planked wood floors had warped over the decades so that the floor rose and fell like its own gentle sea. Gentle, except for the splinters. When we sat on the floor for stretches or center exercises, I always warned the unwary: “Don’t scoot!”
The narrow space between the buildings had a pressed-metal staircase and landing that led to a heavily carved studio door that opened with a skeleton key. Heavy metal I-beams spanned the width between the buildings, and pigeons roosted on those beams. We watched them through the windows during barre work. The comforting coo of pigeons will always remind me of that time in my life.
Casey’s studio would have had windows more like the building on the left. The newspaper office on the first floor was more modern in my imagination, with gold lettering on one large glass window, and an updated yet quaint fabric awning to shade the windows.
…we crossed the street to the sidewalk in front of the newspaper office. I glanced inside and saw a man so gorgeous, so sexy, so perfect, I forgot to walk. I forgot to breathe. I forgot to do anything but stare. … Lizzie, the best dog ever, trotted to the pressed-metal staircase sandwiched between the Angel Falls Informer and the Gulf States Bank. She turned and sat on the first step, waiting for me to follow. I couldn’t. I stared through the window of the newspaper office, afraid that if I blinked, this mirage of masculinity would disappear. But I blinked, and he was still there.