Downtown Meridian is much like most other American downtowns
that were abandoned in the 1960s as the country suburbanized.
However, unlike many other downtowns that became vandalized,
burned-out shells, Meridian's downtown is remarkably well-preserved,
as if it was frozen in 1950s before all the nice white folks
moved out. There is a limited amount of business life and many
lovely old buildings bear the scars of modernization attempts
in the 1960s and 1970s, but it's an interesting walk while
waiting for a train at the restored Union Station.
Some of the old "ghost" wall advertisements had obviously been
restored, giving evidence that there are historic preservation
forces at work - conservatism in the best sense of the word.
I also discovered Jean's Restaurant, just down the
street from the train station, which featured fine Southern
cuisine and was justifiably packed.
It is curious how some people respond to the sight of someone
taking photos. After 9/11, some have become especially sensitive
to tourists taking photos of public buildings and photography
has become an act of civil disobedience. For awhile there
was a ban on photography of any New York transportation facility
and I still find myself looking over my shoulder before snapping
pictures of the subway. In the St. Louis bus station, a Greyhound
worker asked me to stop taking photos of the station, although
he was quite happy to chat about it's construction in 1927
as the Cass Bank. During my walk around Meridian, I got numerous stares
and a unusually friendly greeting from a gentleman who appeared
to be driving an unmarked police cruiser. The needless level of
paranoia that has been nurtured in our country since 2001 is
quite stunning and it will be nice when we have politicians who
don't use fear as a primary tool for consolidating their power.