Dragon Park, formally named Fannie Mae Dees
park, sits behind a school for mentally handicapped kids, near Vanderbilt
University. The familiar name sprouts from the giant mosaic
-encrusted dragon undulating
throughout the sanded play area. The monster
is huge, and utterly beautiful. The tiled scenes upon its massive arches depict animals, fairy-tale
s, and adventures of long ago
Story holds the kids of the nearby school created the mosaics, as an art therapy project years ago. The dragon was recently refurbished to repair tiles supposedly dislodged by a hand grenade explosion in the park a while back. It lived behind a giant chain link fence for over a year, but returned to freedom this summer. To climb this concrete beast is an achievement; once at the top, to visualize yourself soaring over the world the on the dragon's back imparts again the ecstatic freedom of childhood.
By day, the park is populated by innocence, children playing, surrounded by color. By night, though, the dragon becomes a hulking demon and the very air hangs with mystery. Its dark corners disguise all kinds of secrets. You'll occasionally stumble upon quiet lovers or the furtive bowl being smoked, or disturb the restless sleep of the homeless.
Dragon used to be home to many a drug deal, but heroin use has been "cleaned up" greatly in Nashville recently. It's not uncommon, though, to wander across a couple of wide-eyed trippers gazing at the dragon in breathless wonder. I'll tell you why:
Sometimes, when the moon is right, you can see it breathing fire.