In The Shadow of Mt. Diablo

Mt. Diablo casts a shadow into a valley where time stands still. It’s twin peaks are the backdrop for a small, junior college campus. A large student body floods the campus between classes, racing to complete the first leg of their undergraduate degree. A diverse blend of learners from all over the world, and right down the street, aim to finish a renowned co-educational curriculum.

The more modern center of campus is sandwiched between two outdated, dilapidated fringes. Separated from the rest of the campus by an artificial pond, walkways, and multiple sets of staircases, the middle of campus is the hub of activity. The buildings have the look, and feel, of a new college campus. Clean bricks neatly fitted with massive glass walls are the standard image. It gives the school an air of legitimacy. It almost feels like you’re in the center of a prestigious four-year school…almost.

A grand piano covered in student graffiti is situated adjacent to a gurgling fountain; free for anyone to sit and play. Narrow stretches of concrete, border the brick walkways between buildings. Two circles of low, wooden chairs are bolted in the midst of green oases. One needs only to traverse a staircase, in order to find the remnants of a bygone era.

The social sciences are situated at the top of campus, along with the business office, and the office of the president. They are housed within old, wooden structures laced between metal support beams; like adult tree forts. The courtyards between the wooden rectangles are overgrown and crawling with ivy. The sides of the buildings are engulfed by the creeping vines; as if the administration is hoping it will devour them.

The contrast between the upper and middle campus is stark but pales in comparison to the stunningly wretched state of the lower campus. Home to the athletic department and kinesiology, the lower campus could be used as a museum of sorts. Tours for curious groups of visitors could be given free of charge. “Come one, come all. See college athletics from the sixties and seventies first-hand. Nothing has changed here, folks.”

The dark grey building sits alone at the bottom of the hill. The ancient pool, windowless gym, brick locker rooms, and a cluster of playing fields surround it. Exposed, dull orange pipes line the ceilings, and shoot down the walls. Matte green beams support the ailing building. The interior walls are a depressingly stale brown, or a gaudy bright yellow. The color scheme is enough to make a person mentally ill.

The collage of inappropriate colors is accentuated by the nauseating smell of rotting wood, sweat, and feet. If the sixties had a smell, this would be it. Despite the unpleasant aroma, it is somehow fitting for the setting. A large oval table, much newer than the rest of the building, sits at the center of the ground floor, surrounded by high-backed office chairs; where the knights of the oval table come to discuss the predicaments of a declining department.

The upper floor is rectangular in shape, with an open view of the oval table below. The walls are jammed with one office after another. Sliding glass doors plastered with team portraits are indicative of the coach’s office within. Hundreds of faces from previous years, stare with forced smiles as you pass by. “So glad I’m here forever,” they seem to be saying through their teeth. This strange photo collection only adds to the odd mystique of the crusty building.

Dusty and forgotten trophies from previous decades hang crookedly along the walls. An out of date hall-of-fame boasts plaques and awards from the eighties and beyond. Rickety wall units noisily blast unfiltered air from every corner of the room. The building is depressingly outdated in every way, shape, and form. It is as if you have stepped out of a college campus, and into the open door of a time machine that has just arrived in 1967.

The break room looks like it could use a break. Cracked walls, stained ceiling tiles, and cloudy lights encase the room. A brown mini fridge hums in the corner, as rows of wooden-shelved “mailboxes”, jammed full of documents watch from the other end of the room. A dripping sink keeps the beat, as the copy machine groans with a constant workload. Paper. Paper everywhere. Stacks of it. Mountains of it. Everywhere you look…paper.

“What time is it?..no, the year?!”, comes to mind. What parallel universe did I just slide into, and how can I escape? I must be in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” This can’t be real. People still use this much paper? I thought we were in the digital age. The methods must remain consistent with the state of the building, I suppose…how fitting.

The turf field is more than ten years old and looks like the patchwork of a hobo’s quilt. The stands on both sides are lined with rows of backless, metal bleachers. The press box is perched above the stands, with questionable structural stability. The track encompassing the field is in decent condition, but the whole facility is surrounded by tall, chainlink fence, which gives it the feeling of a prison yard of sorts.

A narrow strip of pavement separates the track from three beige trailers which are used as classrooms and a training room. A small, brick structure houses the bathrooms and what was once the concession stand. Goals for various sports are chained to the fences, awaiting use. On an average day, the sensation that it has been empty for years permeates throughout the arena.

The trip from one end of campus to the other only takes a few minutes. The pond has been infiltrated by migrating fowl, which scatter their droppings on walkways and grass alike. The artificial pond tends to perfume the air with churned bird poop. Despite the aroma, the pond can reflect the sunlight quite beautifully. Passing from the lower campus to the middle, and finally to the top, feels like a sigh of relief…followed by a slap in the face. Ah, out of the sixties and into the modern age…then back into the sixties.

If only the entire campus were up to speed with the center…what an institution it would be. I like to think that it would garnish more funding, more students, and better reviews. I am unsure of whether or not this would actually be the case, but it does feel as if the upper and lower campus, are somehow creating a regressive vortex. Update these two ends of campus, and perhaps the school will survive into the far reaches of the future.

 

 

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