4/04/2009

Charlottesville's Opening Day


Today is the first Saturday of April, and it appears that the Charlottesville we all live here for has returned in all its full glory. This blossoming has me feeling absolutely buoyant and jubilant about the decision I made to live here way back in August of 2002.

Let me set the scene. I'm sitting underneath the awning at Miller's listening to a band that's playing in front of that expensive stationary store. I say band, but it's really a teenage kid playing with a drummer. I can also hear jazz music playing through the tinny speaker above my head.

Let's go back and add one more prepositional phrase to my description of where I'm sitting: under the awning on the patio. Crowds keep milling by, and everyone's smiling in the sunshine. The music is part of one of the downtown group's celebrations of the re-opening this section of the mall, which is an odd idea considering there are orange fences blocking off the sections of the Mall where the patio for both Hamilton's and Miller's are usually located.

But, so what? I think it's appropriate to celebrate what I'd like to think of as Charlottesville's opening day.

Think about it. The Charlottesville City Market opened up today, and thousands ran in the Charlottesville Ten-Miler. All of what makes this place this place is here. Even the unfinished nature of the Mall. This place is still a canvas on which all of our futures are being drawn and sketched.

I told you I was feeling ebullient and positive. Nice change, huh?

But, seriously, I feel like we're at the beginning of the year, the real part of the year when the world comes alive. Why do we celebrate the New Year in the middle of the winter? This sets up a false hope followed by several months of dread and relative hopelessness. I want to cook the psychological books and say 2009 starts now. Who's with me?

Baseball has it right, starting the season at the most appropriate time. Think of all those teams each starting off at the same place. On opening day, there's a sense of renewal and purpose. There's a sense that it's all going to work out. You don't think about anything else other than glory on Opening Day.

Let's be honest. It's been a pretty rough time for a lot of people, for whatever reason. We need this spring more than we've needed any other for a long time. The trees have seemed particularly threadbare this winter. The temperature stayed just on the wrong side of the comfort line. For those of us in Charlottesville, our public space has been walled off and we've been channeled through narrow tunnels while walking on the Mall. We've got an unfinished building reminding us of the perils of over-extending ourselves.

Yet, I have confidence that someone is going to figure out how to turn that Tyvek Tower into something that complements our community. Will it happen this year? Maybe. Will the Cubs win the World Series? Maybe. Does it really matter?

What does matter? What matters is that we live in a space where we get to be with each other. We're all seeking out communal spaces, and we've got one of the country's best examples right here. I talked to at least a hundred people this morning at the City Market. At least two thousand people had the shared experience of running the Charlottesville Ten-Miler. Soon we'll have Fridays After Five, as well as what I'm sure will be a fantastic celebration when all of the orange fences are up.

Play ball, Charlottesville!

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