Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.
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Monday, August 3, 2009
The Proust in me gets loose
This lovely Beaux Arts building on the edge of a vast and wasted brownfield made me feel like I was inside a Hopper painting. I was feeling that Hopper loneliness on the inside as well...
Mere hours after writing that last bit about not feeling strange to be back in the old neighborhood, I lost it and started sobbing like a little girl. I was in the studio packing up Sebastian’s area and when my iPod served up “Coney Island Baby” by Tom Waits it hit me like a truck: the hours Sebastian and I spent at the Treehouse studio are gone forever. No more shark mask, scribbling on the chalkboard, “Play Tom Waits Daddy,” or bouncing on his tummy on the yoga ball. Nothing illuminates the relentless passage of time quite like a child growing up—except perhaps packing—and packing a child’s things can be downright deadly.
I quickly stuffed his past of the studio away as much to get it out of sight as the need to get it ready for transport to Virginia. Sebastian will probably never enter that studio again but I still need to keep working there through the autumn. I can’t be spilling tears on my drawings every time I notice his empty chair.
When I left the studio and went back to Mark & Amelia’s to go to sleep, I kept seeing the neighborhood in double-vision, always oscillating between was and what is. Walking down Bedford to the old apartment building, I couldn’t help thinking about the first morning Meredith and I woke up there. We were incredibly glad to be there and walked hand in hand down the avenue to Verb café for breakfast. Croissants in a sidewalk café felt like a little piece of Heaven to us.
We had high hopes for the neighborhood and for the life we would make there. I don’t mean to say that our hopes were betrayed or that our dreams did not come true; they did. More so, perhaps, than we had bargained for, as the single café multiplied faster than rats. I still prefer Verb and its contemporary Read/Rabbit Hole which were there when we moved in. Perhaps a good thing run amok, but Williamsburg is still fun and our life there was still good all the way up to the last day. And the time I spent there this past week was lovely. I don’t particularly begrudge the place what it has become. Everything changes.
Whether dreams live or die or come true or not, there’s something priceless about their wide-eyed early days when everything seems possible and we give Life the benefit of the doubt. The things about the neighborhood that came to drive us crazy were very present back then: noise, stink, bugs, crime, poverty but they were easy to overlook in favor of a more beautiful vision. So it’s not really about how the neighborhood was, as how we were.
Awareness of the passage of time can be a very troublesome thing, the source of many heartbreaks. I’m sure every parent sometimes wishes their children were young again and we occasionally wish something quite similar for ourselves as well. I think it’s sweet and it keeps us connected to something gentle and pure inside. Like any indulgence, nostalgia should be taken very sparingly but it can be a real treat from time to time.
Even when it hurts a little bit.