Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Young Women and Men in Richmond

A young woman from here in Ketchikan is headed to Virginia Commonwealth University in the Fall. Just like a thousand or more from all over the world and Virginia.

I came of age in Virginia, in Richmond, during the mid- to late- seventies. I spent a lot of time in Richmond, downtown, WestEnd, and across the River (The James River to you foreigners). Kat is headed there, at almost the same age I was when I left.

I miss Richmond still. Oh, not all the time, but every now and then, especially when I need some sunshine to break up the two weeks of continuous rain here in KTN. But, as Jeff Cooper so aptly put it, the past is another country. We cannot get there by car, or foot, or aircraft. It is so remote, so far over the horizon of memory that it is only available through nostalgia. What we learned then and lived through is what makes us now, but we can no more open the door and walk in to that time than we can visit the Paleozoic. It was just thirty years ago. How far off can that be?

Gas was about fifty-five cents a gallon. The drinking age was eighteen. What we consider muscle cars were new, not antiques. Our parents were our age, doing exactly what we are doing today. World War II was thirty years over and we all knew veterans, perhaps our Dad or uncles.
Viet Nam was still reeling, a fresh wound in our memories, and we probably didn't know anyone who had served there. The Apollo missions were over and we had no idea what or where was next. The shuttles hadn't launched yet.

But what I learned was the power of place. I loved Richmond then, and within the bounds of memory, I love it still. Richmond was a Southern city, covered in the mantle of history, wrapped in a soft focus of gauze that made even the shade on Monument Avenue seem timeless. (Sad to say, I can no longer remember the sequence of monuments as you went downtown, from the far
WestEnd to the Capitol.) Richmond was home, and I have run into quite a few folks in the intervening years that have no place that fits that word. How do you place yourself in the greater world if there is no memory of place? Heck, I still carry a small Virginia flag with me, thirty-one years later. If asked, I am a citizen of these United States. If asked to narrow that down, I am a Virginian, living in Alaska.

Kat, you are going about as far from KTN as you can go and remain on this continent. It is not the same city that I left. It never will be and it never was. Like any place in this world, it has changed, I have changed, we have all changed. Hopefully you will find the Richmond that is timeless. School will take your time and focus, that's why you're going there, but you will find the time to seek out the larger world outside of VCU.

Richmond is good place to do this...if I remember correctly.

No comments:

Post a Comment