I habitually look right every time I drive eastbound up I-175. People entering the highway from the Fourth Street ramp have a tendency to merge lanes like a sixty-year old grandmother, still a little high on anesthesia and having just been cleared from her shoulder surgery: slowly, suddenly, and without any use of a turn signal. Plus, I have to keep an eye out for cops who might pull me over for doing sixty-five in a fifty. Once I am safe from swerving grandmothers and police cars, I look at the Trop. I am more than a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t notice the baseballs and bats patterned on the outside of the dome until I was sixteen. I had even attended several games there prior to the revelation; how the detail escaped me for so long still baffles me.
What baffles me even more, however, is the fact that my hometown of twenty years has not one, but two creeks that I only just learned about in my twentieth year of life. How had I never noticed them? Better yet, how had I never recognized them as creeks? I drive over where Salt Creek cuts underneath 34th Street next to 26th Avenue South almost every weekday, always thinking that the ribbon of water was simply a drainage ditch. I never even knew that Booker Creek existed. Did I just never bother paying attention?
Having walked alongside Booker Creek by following its path from Bayboro Harbor all the way up to Central Avenue and 16th Street, I still look right. But instead of admiring the sculpted sports equipment on the stadium, my attention is drawn to the narrow watershed snaking its way from underneath the interstate. It’s hard to see clearly. Speeding past such a small piece of earth on such a fast roadway (when there are no cops to slow me down) means that the creek comes and goes too quickly for me to really look at it. The Trop easily outsizes it, and besides, who wouldn’t want to observe such a cleverly designed building? I mean, they put sports on the outside—not just the inside. Everyone who sees it knows it’s a baseball stadium.
But not everyone knows that Booker Creek is a creek. It’s hard to look at nature in the city when the city is designed to make people turn away from nature.