Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

03 September, 2007

Nostalgia

I: Life goes on without me

Seeing these brought on some overwhelming pangs of homesickness. I want to go to parties with friends again. In past Big Life Changes, I was dropped into ready-made communities of common interests: a college dormitory, a city of Deadheads, a graduate program and labor union. All of these made it very easy to form durable, lasting friendships. But being transplanted to a large urban environment where you have to do some work in finding folks with similar interests, it's a new experience to which I'm having a little trouble adjusting. With the little one, it's not like we can just go out and indulge in our predilections.

It's not to say that I haven't met some great people. The people in our new neighborhood are really great, but I haven't made those connections that bridge the gap between "person you hang out with at the pool" to "friend." Similarly, the line of work I'm in, social by its very nature, has afforded me some wonderful new colleagues. But the geographic dispersal makes getting together outside of work a near insurmountable adventure requiring some serious logistics.

So I'm pining for the days when a Friday night meant a party with the ones I love, sneaking into the backyard for a puff, and maybe, just maybe, watching someone get naked and run down the road while we all stood and cheered. I miss being able to call someone and say, "Let's go out for a beer." I need those things. Instead I have urban anomie.

II: The past didn't go anywhere

l'il wobs and I went up to Greenbelt today for an annual Labor Day carnival they hold up there. And while the dilapidated rides and grizzled carnies who run them are certainly evocative of my youth, it was the surrounding community that really took me back.

The DC area, in and of itself, is a powerful reminder of my formative years in Tennessee. The sweet, floral smells,the cacophony of insects (westerners would be amazed at the non-stop noise of the Eastern woods; East Coasters, I imagine, would be amazed at the near silence of the Western woods at night), the lightning bugs and thunderstorms, all bring me back to my days growing up. But in Greenbelt, it was the architecture that struck me.

The part of town we were in was Roosevelt themed - we parked at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, the carnival was held in the parking lot of the Roosevelt Center, and we lunched in the New Deal Cafe. Judging by the name and the surrounding buildings, this particular part of town sprung up in the early 1940s - the same time that my hometown, born of the Manhattan Project, mushroomed out of the red clay of the Tennessee Valley. The buildings were near identical to the original part of Oak Ridge: cinder-block apartments, neatly whitewashed; standardized duplexes separated by tiny lawns; and a bauhaus-style shopping center and plaza that was the focal point of the neighborhood. Not much to look at in term of aesthetics, to be sure, born of wartime scarcity. But it strikes me that in their functional ugliness, these buildings speak to a time of shared sacrifice and common strivings that other architectural idioms lack. Not that (in the case of my hometown) the building of the most horrific weapon devised at that time is exactly noble, but the broader context within which it occurred could certainly be construed as heroic.

On the other hand, it could be nostalgia for an age that never existed.

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