Sunday, July 15, 2012

Post apocalyptic agaves

For the last few weeks I’ve been meaning to stop at the street corner shown in the photos below to take a closer look at a very peculiar landscaping project.

I’m baffled by what it is, or what it is supposed to be. Xeric landscaping à la Mad Max? A botanical tableau vivant in a post apocalyptic world? Or just a weird patriotic statement (after all, the plants are Agave americana)?

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I can’t even tell if it’s a work in progress or if it’s finished.

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Just beyond the agaves are dead-looking palm trees tightly wrapped in plastic and festooned with plastic flowers.

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Just as baffling is the array of hoses. What exactly is being irrigated?

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The driveway this unique installation is on doesn’t go very far.

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But at least I find the likely source of the three agaves at the corner. It’s odd to see this huge clump of Agave americana in a sea of weeds and just beyond it a brand new Chase bank building.

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Further down the broken road is an oasis of palm trees that looks like a Fata Morgana in the desert.

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If you’ve ever driven through Davis on Interstate 80, you’ve seen this stand of palm trees. I’ve been wondering for 15+ years what the building was but I never stopped until today.

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There is a non-descript sign with a company name but it isn’t immediately clear what the company does. I hear the X Files theme music playing in my head.

The parking lot is deserted but I spot two well-groomed Agave americana.

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I wonder if they, too, come from the massive clump behind the new Chase building?

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I’m no wiser as to who created the bizarre installation at the corner or whether the mysterious building in the palm oasis has anything to do with it. But often the questions are more interesting than the answers, so I’m not too desperate to find out.

UPDATE: The garden installation at the corner is the creation of a homeless man named George Swazo. He previously had a makeshift garden closer to downtown. Click here and here for more information. Kudos to George for making a barren spot more interesting.

14 comments:

  1. Remnants of a 4th of July celebration? You have me more intrigued by the mysterious building with no evidence of humans other than the tended plants. -- Bom

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    1. That would have made perfect sense, but it isn't so. See below.

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  2. Wow...how very Twilight Zone! (except for the bright sunshine of course, that would never fly on the Twilight Zone)

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  3. Gorilla gardening, that's so weird. Perhaps a couple local hobos decided to get creative. ;)

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  4. Strange indeed. At least the cinder block bed isn't in a neighbor's yard, right? :-)

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    1. This isn't a residential area. It's right next to the railroad tracks and the freeway so no houses.

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  5. My guess is that it's a roadside memorial. Around here, Central American immigrants will sometimes create elaborate, colorful, and eclectic shrines by the side of the road if someone died there.

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  6. Were you tempted to release the palms from their plastic prisons? Since the cut-off driveway was striped, could that have been a part of highway 80 before some sort of straightening project? Maybe the Agave Americana was part of the plantings of some sort of roadside attraction or gas station, motel, or even a house that was demolished or burned down. What a cool mystery!

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  7. A long-term Davis resident revealed the answer in an email:

    The "driveway" is a remnant of old highway 80, which was redone sometime in the 60's I think. Part of the frontage road past the fruit stand is also the old highway.

    The building was built in the 80's I think, and was used by Ramos Oil company. They left maybe 10 years ago.

    The garden is purely Davis being Davis. It originally was on the corner of L and 2nd. It was created by, um, how can I say this in a P.C. way... a gentleman with a somewhat different mind set than the norm, who prefers a more primitive lifestyle than the average person. The railway needed to change the configuration of the tracks at that spot several years ago, and his garden was destroyed by the construction. There was a uniquely Davis outcry about the desecration of his little installation, (aided by one of the better known Davis Enterprise columnists) and he was invited to recreate his garden in the current location.

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  8. How spooky and bizarre! I couldn't piece a possible story behind even if I tried!

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  9. Mystery revealed. See update at the end of the original post.

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  10. New mystery: Were the hoses initially put there for irrigation? Or are they part of the art? - Bom

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