A walk down memory lane

If you visit my front page and notice my Flickr set off to the right there, you’ve probably noticed something different.

For the last few times I’ve been home to Virginia I’ve tried to carve out some time to go visit my old college haunts, preferably with my wife in tow.  For various reasons (normally dealing with family get-togethers and running out of time) I’ve never gotten it done.  This time, finally, I did.  My wife ended up catching a cold and being too sick to want to spend the extra time in the car, so I made a solo trip.  In the end, I was glad I did.  I could go at my own pace and do my own thing.  It ended up being a ton of walking in the mountain foothills, so she was happy in the end that she didn’t go as well.

I left at about 10am, stopped off at the cemetery to pay my respects to my ancestors and then stopped at another one thirty or so miles down the road to pay my respects to an old friend.  After that, it was another 100 miles of highway and piles and piles of (mostly) fond memories.

I drove quietly for a while, noticing what had changed and what hadn’t.  A big bypass is there now, that’s different.  But as soon as I got off of it, most things looked the same.  There was one stoplight up on the highway that wasn’t there before.  Otherwise, I felt right at home.

It turned out to be a nice day.  I wore a sweatshirt and a cap, and I almost ditched the sweatshirt in the car a couple of times before deciding it would be too much time out of my way.  I crisscrossed the whole place a time and a half to hit all the stops I wanted to and still get in lunch at my favorite stop and pick up a couple of things from one of the corner shops before I left.

A security guard said hello when I was taking pictures of one of my old dorms.  “Old dorm of yours?”  “Yep,” I told her, “I moved in here 15 years ago.”  I paused.  15 years?  Fifteen.  Fucking.  Years.  Yep, that’s true.  Doesn’t possibly sound right, but it is.  I shook it off and pointed to my left.  “My girlfriend used to live right…there.”  She laughed.  I’m sure she’s seen this sort of thing all the time, but I felt a bit out of place for that one moment.  On the one hand, I wanted to go up the exterior stairs and look off my old balcony, but that felt like it would be a little bit of an invasion for the people that live there now, whether they’re on break right now or not.  I’m a ghost of the past.  Let the present have its own.

I did walk up the stairs to my balcony of my freshman dorm, though.  I thought about it pretty hard, but I did it anyway.  That’s why there’s a picture of a fairly nondescript set of stairs in the photo set.  I’d forgotten how they looked.  Not too special, I guess, but unique in a way that resonated.  Even the smell was the same.  Despite the fact that they’re throwing up new dorms left and right, up and down, in what used to be open or wooded space.  It’s a shame, really, but I guess that’s what they call progress nowadays.

The locks were all high-tech looking now.  I thought about the Virginia Tech shootings of this year and how much the world has changed in 15 years.  Sad.

There were new buildings up, of course, but I didn’t do much other than take a photo of one or two.  One of my old computer lab hangouts has been converted into a beautiful departmental library room.  And the libraries themselves were nicely updated.  I went down and printed off a copy of an article one of my erstwhile roommates wrote for Valentine’s Day.  I’d always regretted not keeping a copy…now I have one.   Now if only I could get full copies of the school’s occasionally-published satire paper…

The trip was everything I wanted it to be, really.  Well, except stepping in dogshit just before I left.  Driving along back to the highway it was “*sniffsniff* something smells funky here.”  (A mile later)  “Smell’s not going away…oh HELL no.  Nope.  Hell YES.”  Nothing like pulling off a 4-lane highway and scraping your sole with a stick on the roadside, huh?

I got to listen to my new Opeth cd on the way home.  Mmm-mmm good.

It was amusing, actually.  Before Christmas, my dad said my old boss had found a set of photo prints from when he’d had all of our photos taken for the local small-town newspaper.  He pulled one out…it was skinny-assed me at about 19, with my hair down on my shoulders, my company cap and shirt on,  big ol’ goofy grin on my face.  (I was laughing because the local photographer, legendary for his “elevated angle” shots, climbed a truck to take the shot.  This is the same dude that climbed the bookcases at the junior high library to take pictures of my Honor Society class in high school.  What a nut.)

My son was interested…once he figured out it was me and not my younger brother.  He took a little convincing on that point, actually.  My wife laughed and said that I’d improved with age.  Me, I looked and found it almost hard to believe that was the same person.  Strange.  In a good way, I think, but still somewhat strange.   Hey, at least it cured any desire I might have ever had to get back to my high school weight.  Yikes.

Here’s a link to the photo set on Flickr.  And here are a couple of highlights.

I laid on my back on the floor to try to get more into the shot on that one, and still failed.  Damn.

Nope, this place wasn’t around when I was a student.

Too bad.  Sounds like a place I would have hung around.  I didn’t go in on this trip, either…I had my heart set on lunch someplace else, and I had too far to drive to grab a drink for the road.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.

I was pissed that I couldn’t find a good angle to get the construction barrier out of the shot on that one.  When I got back and my wife saw it, she suggested getting down on the ground and shooting it almost vertically.  Man, that would have been nice.  Maybe next time.

Cool points will be awarded if you can recognize the place, and extra bonus cool points for knowing any additional info about any of the photos.   Go ahead.  Make my day!

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2 Responses

  1. My college is 20 minutes north of here. I moved to Rhode Island 5 yrs after I graduated. My itty bitty college is huge now. It went from being called a “college” to being called a “university.” I drove by it a few weeks ago when we were looking at houses, and the entrance is totally different too.

  2. The university where I work went through a similar change about 20-30 years ago. It went from being a small school to a pretty big one almost overnight. It’s sometimes strange to compare the before-and-after.

    As for my alma mater, it was pretty big when I got there, now it’s bigger. I, personally, questioned then and still do now whether there’s a point beyond size-for-size’s sake. If there’s a reason for the expansion, like offering more for the students you have, I think that’s good. If it’s just to justify spending more on dorms, buildings, etc. by saying “We have 5000 more students now than then!” then I really don’t agree with it.

    Oh well. I still love the place, there’s no denying that.

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