Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It's the End of the World as We Knew It...

and I guess I feel fine. Life is good. But, I'm experiencing a rare bout of nostalgia.

Thursday night, changing clothes, putting on make-up, using grape-scented spray to make our hair even bigger, walking the mile from our dorm to Otto's.

Yesterday afternoon, DeKalb historical photographer Brad Oropeza (who also happens to be my daughter's boyfriend) called me from the corner of First and Lincoln Highway to tell me he was watching the building formerly known as Otto's being reduced to rubble.

The bar has been closed for a long time, and I hadn't been inside in much longer. Music had changed, Cosmopolitans had been invented, and life had gone on.

I've passed by that building, sitting quiet and empty, hundreds of times over the past couple of years. That slice of the world as we knew it ended long before they started knocking down the walls, and sometimes it made me a little sad to see it dark and cold. But, I generally don't give much time or attention to the past.

For a moment on Monday afternoon, that changed.  I looked at the pile of broken brick and stone where I'd sat down on the stairs and laid out every student ID, credit card and library card for the bouncer who didn't want to accept my state ID, and I saw my friends half a lifetime ago. I felt the familiar floor under my feet.

The things that happened there were for the most part not significant. A strange man disbelieved me when I told him my name, because a Tiffany song was playing when he asked. A friend fell on our way in the door, early and totally sober. The place was nearly empty at 8 p.m., and we persuaded her that no one had seen--but hours later, someone passing by said, "Aren't you the girl who fell?"

I cried over a friend I wished were more. Our table cleared when "I Melt With You" started to play. I walked away and left a beautiful but arrogant Greek soccer player standing alone on the dance floor. A man on the sidewalk outside sang "You are So Beautiful" to me. I did watermelon shots for the first time on the evening after another big first.

It was only a year. An academic year, in fact, not a full one. But, it was the year I turned 21. A year when the world was unfolding in front of me in exciting and unpredictable ways, and the dark, crowded bar was filled with music and people and sights and smells that were familiar and comfortable. It's been 29 years to the week since I graduated, and yesterday I found out that a lot of ghosts had been living in that abandoned building.

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