5/30/2009

Where would the roots have grown?

Someone I know vaguely from childhood sent me a "memory" thing on Facebook. The message that notified me of this had the text of what she had said, but I quickly accepted it because I was enthusiastic, knowing I would want to reply soon after. However it got lost. Tonight, though, I wanted to think back to that time.

We moved into our street in Campbell County, just outside Lynchburg, in 1980. 29 years ago. I've lived in Virginia for most of the time since then. I remember when we were looking for houses, I had said I liked the street we picked because it seemed to have the most kids. The house was on a cul-de-sac that bordered woods. I was so fortunate to have an entire forest to play in, complete with trails.

At the time, it was all public space as far as I was concerned. While my dad would end up buying the land in the 90's, when I was kid, those six acres were owned by Mrs. Weinbarger. There were several trails, and several places that had special significance. Chief among these was Dinosaur Land.

The path from my backyard led along a winding path for quite a ways before terminating at a cliff where there were several fallen trees. The shapes of their dead carcassses looked a bit like the bones of large reptiles, hence the name of the place. In the intervening years, those trees would decay further, but we occupied our time by digging a huge pit, setting up a zip-wire, and engineering dams. I had such great times back then, and can remember Judy King coming back into the woods to yell at us for creating a mess by backing up the creek.

There was also a wider universe out there. Pineland, which was across the creek. It was essentially this huge stand of pinetrees complete with this very strange dense section of pine. The creek itself was a major character in our lives, as we would play in it all the time. Tara McCraw, the woman who sent me the childhood memory, had something in her message about hunting for crawdads. I had totally forgotten that part.

Somehow in my adult life, these times get forgotten as we are in search of our new challenges and interests. Yet, sometimes we find ourselves in moments of reflection. It's good to look back and observe how we came to be the people we are.

I have lost touch with so many of the people I grew up with. All of their families moved on, so fast, and there was never any way to really keep going back then. We didn't have mobile phones. We didn't have the Internet.

We moved in to the house in June of 1980. I introduced myself to all of the kids in the neighborhood by sliding into them like we were playing baseball. I really wanted to impress them. I was six and happy to be in a new place. I felt so lucky to have this great new place, complete with a forest to play in. We were moving in from Chicago, Illinois, and I had high expectations for the new place. As a six-year-old, I got everything I wanted.

Next door to us were the Stoudts. Across the street were the Vormitaggs. Cindy was the same age as my brother. Also on the street were the Strickland kids, the Anderson kids, the Kings and the Meaks. For the next few years, they made up the characters in my mythology. They were my community. On outlying streets were people like Jesse Shieh and Jeffry Cudlin, smart kids who would teach me a lot about a lot of cool stuff. Jeff introduced me to audio recording when we made radio shows together. Jesse introduced fantasy in the form of role playing as well as video games. He got an Apple IIe at the same time I got an Atari 800.

As a new kid, I soaked up all the details of my friends life as I could. At least, I can imagine that's what I did because I can remember so much. I can't seem to write much of it down, because the memories I do have seem like fragments that pass through my mind like phantoms. It's been so long, and I've lived so much since then. It's important to remember I did live then, and that I did have a good childhood.

Yet, I have few people in my contemporary life who were really part of it. The only person who I stay in regular touch with from then is my friend Jeffry Cudlin, who lived up on another street. I'm talking more today about the people who were once part of my world on a daily basis, in a time when social media was getting out and meeting your neighbors.

But, over the years, they began to all move out. In 1981 or 1982, the Andersons left for someplace to the west of us. They were replaced by the Woodruffs. Their son, Matthew, was two years older than me. He was the coolest thing to enter my life to that point. He had Legos and was always experimenting with creative ways to build new things. He had an Atari and had bootleg ROMS of games. He was so smart and taught me to think in an innovative fashion. I wish I could find him on Facebook to let him know that. He left in 1985, I think, after his mother died of cancer. They moved to Indiana, out west. I can still smell that house, and hear that door-bell. I can still see Matt's stoic face. By the time we got to middle school, he was two years older than me. Then he was gone.

During the Woodruff years, the Meaks moved out and Ms. Hamilton and her sons moved in. At some point the Stricklands left. They also went west, but south, too, I think. No contact with them since whenever they left. They were replaced by a childless couple.

One by one they left. Sometime in high school the Kings left. And then the Stoudts left. By the time I was in college, I was the only person who was invested in my street. New families came in with kids who were babies when I was a pre-teen. It just wasn't the same.

And here I am with Facebook. I will tag this note with all sorts of people, in the hopes they could put me in touch with some of the people. Is it worth revisiting the past? For me, I think it is. I'm the son of a family that moved here from England, so I don't have many roots here. At times that just feels incredibly lonely, because I'm also cut off from any roots I'd have in England.

I have never felt as home as I do here in Charlottesville. I own my house. I have children here, and their mother and I are pledged to raising them together to be great kids. I have a great job that enriches me each and every day.

And, I am fortunate to live in a day where I can tag the people who might know more about this. If you've read this far, I hope you'll respond and maybe we can create a shared history of our childhood together, even though we might not have always been in touch.

And, even if you weren't part of that childhood, I'd ask my Charlottesville friends to maybe chime in with something from their youth. What was your neighborhood like? Are the friends you made when you were young still in your life, or have you moved on?




5/15/2009

Firmly ensconsed behind the bar



As I type, thousands of people are preparing to descend upon Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. Considered by many to be the jewel of our region's social crown, a splendid time is likely to be had by many.

However, Noel the cook and I are sitting in what many would considered to be one of the region's many aglets. That's the word used to describe the plastic tip on the end of your shoelaces. Court Square Tavern's glory days as a Friday happy hour hotspot are more or less over, but yet we're still here, keeping things together.

But, here we are at 5:30 PM, sitting and hoping for people to come in. There's no marketing campaign to get people in here, more or less. ABC regulations prevent me from telling you what we have on special. It is in the middle of May, and this isn't the most appealing place to be for most people.

For me, though, I'm ecstatic to be here. I hope we'll get busy. I'm standing behind the bar and will be here until close, no matter what. For the first time in 38 months, I'm a bartender. I'll likely be doing this on Friday nights for a while, and I feel like I'm in the right place. Even if the rest of you aren't!

I know a few people will come in later, and I'm going to have a good time no matter what. I'll likely catch up on a few tiddly things here and there. But, I do hope people will come in. I like talking to people.

And so now, an experiment in live-blogging. Below you'll find a link to an installation of Cover It Live. Feel free to ask me questions. Keep me company.

5/14/2009

The Notes That Were



I am not yet ready to fully announce the weird audio project I've been working on but mostly off for the past four years. The Notes That Were consists of a mixture of "music" from bands I've been associated with, plus weird sound collages taken from the interviews I've conducted over the past several years. I love playing around with audio, and always have. I started when I was 8.

But, here's a little preview of something that I did about three weeks ago, just as a little throwaway production. I finished it up tonight, and there's not much to it except a sense from me that I want to revamp the creative things I do, especially now that I have a studio again.

So, take a listen if you want a sample of this silliness.
Notes That Were Episode 13: A little one to prime the pump"

5/12/2009

Court Square Tavern news



Well, circumstance has me back at the Court Square Tavern this Friday, but this time I'll be back bartending the place. I'll be there for the foreseeable future, and boy do I have my work cut out for me.

The crowds simply aren't there like they used to be. Now that it's summer, everyone wants to be downtown. I'd rather be downtown, too, but I have bills and they have to be paid. And, I like a challenge.

For starters, I have to figure out a way to convince people to come up for food and perhaps a beverage. I'm not enough of a draw, though I do look forward to chatting with anyone who comes up to the bar. That was always one of my favorite parts when I was working there back in the day.

One new rule under my second stint as a bartender will be that I'm not closing the place on Friday nights until the last person is ready to leave. We have to build up a clientele again because we've closed way too early on Friday night. At this point in my life, I don't have anywhere else to be, so I may as well be playing a good host to people.

In an effort to drum up business, I'll likely be writing about the place over the next few days. For now, I'll conclude this post with a small snippet of a story Rey Barry was telling in the comments section of a great blog entry about the Monticello Hotel. I had asked for more information on the basement space, and Rey provided:

"The Tavern was called for decades the "Hunt Room" before being renamed Court Square Tavern to take advantage of a change in Virginia ABC naming rules. ("Taverns" using that word were not allowed an ABC license until the 70s unless the name was grand-fathered.)

Behind the Hunt Room there was a one-room barbershop from the 1920s to about 1969 when the last barber left. Clark Mann, owner-manager of the building, turned the room into a salesmen's sample showroom in 1970-71, but no salesman used it. The era of drummers traveling through the south by train and hauling their sample cases to the downtown hotel were over."


Click on the article to learn more. And come on by Friday or Saturday to help me issue in this new chapter of whatever else is going on.

5/05/2009

Eating and exercise



Now that I've lost 40 pounds, it's time to think about building back up by adding muscle. Which means I have to eat more. Lately my body is letting me know when it is not getting enough to eat. If I do not eat, I have massive mood swings. This can have disastrous consequences.

Just now, I've had to step out of a meeting for a bit so I could get a bite to eat. Waiting another three hours would have been ill advised, and likely would have ruined the rest of my day. The last thing I need is to crash into depression because my body isn't getting the nutrition it needs.

But now, I've just eaten, and already, I want to eat again but I'll need to stay here for at least a couple more hours. Then I'll go home and fix myself a quesadilla in order to make sure I have energy for tomorrow.

In order to do this right, I'm going to need to come up with a nutrition plan, and I'm going to have to get used to enforcing some discipline when it comes to eating. Today I had a banana for breakfast, followed by a work-out, followed by a tofu curry from Peking Chinese, followed by a packet of peanuts, then a Snickers bar, and then a three cheese bagel.

In short, I didn't plan and so I had to go out to eat. And I can't afford it. I really can't afford it. And now that I cook for myself most days, I'm not in the habit of cooking large amounts at once. I'll have to change that, and I guess it's part of the shift to the new me.

The other night I ran ten miles for the first time ever. I'm really enjoying how my body is changing, and how I am changing as a result. I'm not certain that all of the desired effects are manifesting themselves. I'm not entirely calmer than I was, and there are still times when stressors get the best of me. But, I feel like I can be in control of myself as I learn a little more discipline.

My biggest fear is that somehow I go back to the way I was before, when I took my body for granted, and just assumed all was well. I can remember how sluggish I felt on the weekends, with no energy at all. I won't go back to that. Even if I have to stop running, I'll find some way to stay active. I love running because it gives me a chance to feel young while I explore my community.

Planning is key to everything, and remaining flexible when the plans don't go exactly as you might have thought. I didn't expect this would be my life, but it is, and I'd like to think I've remained flexible.