Nostalgia's a real kick in the crotch

>> Friday, November 07, 2008

Today is the second and last day of the conference. I may see, on my way back down the mountain, whether or not the Blue Ridge Parkway is open, and if it is I might take a long way home, literally taking a scenic route, as they sometimes say.

It's been a weird thing to be up in Boone again. I was here for lunch at the beginning of September, but I didn't spend any time on the campus of Appalachian State, where I finished my undergraduate education.

It's hard to get the mind around the fact that I graduated from ASU fourteen years ago. The campus was smaller then, and it was a bit of a shock, for instance, to discover that the library where I spent much of my time in Boone is now the "Old Library Classroom Building" while the campus library is a big new red-brick building with a big skylight on top of it. The campus bookstore now looks more like a Barnes And Noble with a high ceiling and well-ordered shelves and a woody ambiance than an afterthought with books stacked on tables wherever. What used to be the cruddiest cafeteria on campus is now a food court with a Chick-fil-A.

One understands, logically, that places don't remain frozen in time. Intellectually, one realizes that a place existed before you came to it and continues to exist after you leave. Emotionally, however, it's another matter, and the best evidence that the world isn't merely a personal hallucination, the proof that there's an objective and not merely a subjective reality, is that places refuse to stay the same. Not only are there all these new buildings, but even the old buildings have refused to remain the way they were supposed to.

Another nostalgia trigger that surprised me actually came from some of the new buildings. One of the dormitories or student apartments near the Broyhill Inn, where I've stayed for the conference, is constructed with these little meeting or community areas on the ends of the wings. They're these sort of semi-circular areas with big comfy chairs and big windows. The buildings didn't exist when I was at Appalachian, I don't think, and I didn't live on campus when I was here anyway, but they made me miss college nonetheless. These days, so many of my old friends are scattered about the country and those of us who are still sort of geographically close are always strained for time. College was a time when almost everyone you knew was located in one place and time was relatively abundant and responsibilities relatively few. Everybody might gather round in the common area and you might all just sit up until some early morning hour talking or gaming or hitting on some cute girl down the hall. There are a lot of things in life you can do again, or can go back and do if you missed them the first time, but being a twenty-year-old college student is something that is gone when it's gone, visible in the rearview and closer than it appears but still shrinking until it's little more than a waving dot back there on the unending horizon.

14 comments:

mattw Friday, November 7, 2008 at 1:56:00 PM EST  

I commuted to college and missed out on a lot of that stuff. I got to experience some of it visiting my wife at her dorm, but it's not the same and I do regret it from time to time.

UIC has changed a lot in its history, and in at least one of the student buildings there were pictures of how the campus used to look (much cooler than when I went there), and I'm sure it's changed a lot since I've been. We can see the University Hall building when we drive through the city since it's a 27-story building where most around it are no more than 5 stories and I suppose I could go back, but I've never had a great desire to.

Jeez, Eric, thanks for the kick in the crotch. :P

MWT Friday, November 7, 2008 at 1:57:00 PM EST  

That's about how I feel about the place I grew up in. Our house was a three story building in the downtown area with a restaurant on the first floor, a bar next door, a local garage behind, and a Salvation Army/nightclub on the other side that later got torn down to become a parking garage.

My parents sold the place when I was in high school. It was first another restaurant, with the upstairs rented out as student apartments. Then it became a catering place with offices. Then one day someone decided to remodel the third floor, took out a weight-bearing wall, and the roof fell in. The entire third floor got replaced with something completely different.

The last time I went by, the stair treads were still the same. Also the pavement in the alley between the building and the parking garage. That was it.

Oh well? *le sigh*

rbird Friday, November 7, 2008 at 4:21:00 PM EST  

ASU is pretty much the best place to go to college in the whole world, outerspace included.

MWT Friday, November 7, 2008 at 4:29:00 PM EST  

Yeah, it was a three story building. The Salvation Army ran their thing on the first floor, and the other two floors were a wide variety of nightclubs that seemed to change to a different one every few months. We tended not to get much sleep while they were there (especially when combined with the bar on our other side). It got much quieter after the place got torn down for the parking garage. ;)

Anonymous,  Friday, November 7, 2008 at 4:39:00 PM EST  

Uh oh! Sounds like the mid-life crisis has officially started! But you are not alone....

Random Michelle K Friday, November 7, 2008 at 7:42:00 PM EST  

I was actually hoping that the Salvation Army *ran* the nightclub.

Now I'm disappointed.

Random Michelle K Friday, November 7, 2008 at 7:48:00 PM EST  

"Hey," he whispers, "is this the place?

"What place do you mean, sir?"

"You know, the place with the," his voice lowers even more, "dancing?"

"Right this way sir."

A door opens into a dark stairwell. A faint thumping can be heard at the top of the stairs. Luckily the railing is sturdy, and there are glowstrips on the stairs. The thumping gets louder as the door at the top of the stairs gets closer.

A faint voice is heard. "eeeeeeeeEEE"

He pushes the door open.

"EEEEEEEEEEHAW!" The banjo and accordion are almost unbearably loud.

"Swing your partners round and round! Move your feet upon the ground! Grab some water from the tub! This here's the Salvation Army's Nightclub!"

Jeri Friday, November 7, 2008 at 9:02:00 PM EST  

I haven't been back to my alma mater, but I wasn't horribly attached to it, and spent the latter two years living in town as a commuter. My husband went back and wandered his, though, and had a similar experience to yours - the changes were really disconcerting.

Matt, you're WAY too young to have any kind of midlife gig going on. Sorry, stamping rejected across the top of this one. Come back in a decade and try again.

Random Michelle K Friday, November 7, 2008 at 9:21:00 PM EST  

I get to see the changes to my alma mater on a regular basis, so... not overly excited about that.

However, one of the most popular pages on my site is "Morgantown Things that Are No More" which is just a really really long list of things that have disappeared from here.

Lots of alumni e-mail me about that one.

MWT Friday, November 7, 2008 at 9:29:00 PM EST  

Heh. Who needs for the Salvation Army to run a nightclub when you can just pretend? ;)

Eric Friday, November 7, 2008 at 11:38:00 PM EST  

This here's the Salvation Army's Nightclub!

The bouncer at the door stopped Vinnie with a hard shove.

"Hey, man, what gives?" Vinnie says, all wounded.

"Coat and tie, sir," the bouncer says in a voice that sounds gravelly the way a mob rat being dragged behind a late-model black Caddy in an unpaved parking lot sounds gravelly.

"Yeah," Vinnie says, "I'm wearin' a coat and tie." And he holds up the loose ends of the tie and sort of sticks them in the bouncers face. "I heard you couldn't get in this joint without 'em."

"That's right, sir," the unblinking bouncer says, his eyes shiny like glass buttons. "If you want to get in, you're going to have to give them to me. Of course it's tax-deductible and I'll provide you with a receipt."

Random Michelle K Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 3:57:00 PM EST  

Vinnie strips off his coat and tie and hands them to the bouncer, who carefully hangs them on a coat rack behind him.

The bouncer then takes a red marker and marks Vinnie's hand with a cross inside a heart.

"That's in case you need to go out and come back, and Max is at the door instead of me. Have a good time sir," and with that he waved Vinnie into the room.

Vinnie looked around and saw men--all in their shirt sleeves--and women in dresses, pearls, and heels milling around, sitting and tables, and standing at the bar. For lack of anything better to do, Vinnie walked over to the bar.

"What can I do ya for?" the bartender asked as Vinnie slipped into an open spot.

"What do you have?" Vinnie asked, genuinely curious.

"Shirley temples, virgin marys, ginger ale, root beer, grape juice, and bottled water," the bartender said.

"I'll have the root beer," said Vinnie.

"Five bucks," said the bartender and turned to the cooler to get Vinnie's drink. With a clang, Vinnie heard the band start up behind him.

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