Friday, January 5, 2018

My city was gone

I am in the library listening to the Brambles' album Charcoal, trying to find a bit of peace again. The sun is out and things are warming up. I have had a lovely early morning goodbye chat with Barbara, a coffee chat with my friend Sarah, and another dear Sarah is on her way for lunch. Later, there will be more driving, this time up to Springdale to see another sweet friend but for now, I am here in the library with my headphones on trying to put some order into my day and words to my thoughts of this curious town.

Oh Fayetteville, you are a heartbreaker. I shed a tear or four for you this morning over a massive artisanal chai latte. It's always been hard to criticize you and your strange ways but it can be done among the ones that carry your embers.

I am still a guest in your sprawling, glass-faced condo so I will mind my manners. I will always love and work for you and I will always represent you. It is the heart of your streets that raised me and I am grateful.

I will speak for the broken beer bottles on the railroad tracks that made a romantic and slightly dangerous route through town, I will speak for the old art deco bridges (kudos on the refurb), I will speak for the overgrown vines that wrap around power poles in the summer, I will speak for the fullness of the chorus of the bugs and birds. I will speak for the abandoned graves almost lost in the tall grasses back in the woods.

The alleys and small streets cross my heart and memories, like the pie at the old Red Bird Cafe, after summer art classes at the guild with my mother. I will speak for the punk scene of the mid to late 1980's to the very early 90's and all the brilliant and important music I was able to see in this little town. In this town, I was surrounded by creative and passionate people, many who never lived to see this current version of Fayetteville.

I don't live in the past and I am not out of touch. I understand that things change and that they often should.

Many of my old houses are gone, as are many of my old friends - the working class also appears gone or hidden. Gentrification takes hold as old homes are demolished, green spaces are cleared and newbuilds proliferate. The University now grows like wild kudzu in a ditch.

I speak for the blue sky, the sunset, and the old leaning tree on the sledding side of Wilson Park and of course the wee castle there. I speak for the old view out west from the cross at Mt. Sequoyah and the legend of ghost hollow.

I do have hope for the artists creating new and exciting works and for the old school folks that have stayed behind so that they can preserve some parts of the heart of the town. It's not your job, but I know the ones who work tirelessly for the good and I am thankful for you.

As I drove away from town tonight, I cried. I cried for every student apartment dwelling that obscured the view of the hills or the sunset. It seemed as if a new fortress rose up at every turn like a barricade.

Tears burned down my cheeks as I drove away and back into the old hills of Winslow as I wondered who stole the soul and why were they allowed to?

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