I just got back from a 5-day trip to my own nativity scene -- that is, the place of my birth, the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Some years ago, I was appalled to learn that St. Paul's Elders had seen fit to tear down Miller Hospital, the actual nativity scene wayyyyy back in 1944, without so much as a call to ask me whether it was all right.......and now I see that the Minneapolis Elders have radically revised my beloved University of Minnesota campus, the source of the MA and Ph.D. and the site of all of those memories (some of which involve poverty, etc.) that fundamentally have to do with who we are.........they built HUUUGE buildings, moved roads, erected a Frank Gehry building that looks for all the world like a pile of crumpled aluminal foil -- and, again, without so much as a note to ask my opinion. I got LOST, for god's sake. It was just unbelievable And to make thngs worse, it seemed to me that they have erased Dinkytown, the area on the so-called East Bank where everyone hung out in small cafes and galleries and junky little book stores....GONE. Or maybe not. I was lost, remember. When you're lost, you're unable to judge where things might be!!!!!
There's some kind of parable here. It has to do with going home again.......and it's not always bad. For one thing, we found a huge pile of truly amazing vintage buttons -- handpainted, etc. -- in an obscure Wisconsin town's antique shop. I got to see my gorgeous (TRULY) great niece, Milana, the daughter of niece Natalie and her handsome partner, David Carbonara. Yes. He's not Irish. And, yes, the family was from Milan. And I got to have breakfast with my old old old friend Ken Moss, with whom I went to grad school, who hadn't yet screwed up the nerve to go look at the campus (he now lives and works in Washington, DC). And then I got to visit my friend Julie Larson, the one who goes back the furthest in memory -- about 45 years, which is really scary -- who is happily living in a neat townhouse in New Brighton, Minnesota -- which, I should add, wasn't where I thought it was. What a disaster.
I wonder if it makes more sense, under the circumstances -- by which I mean, the fact, however outrageous, that I just keep getting older and older and older (!!!) -- to stop trying to identify old things, to perhaps be satisfied with memories, and instead seek out new pathways, new possibilities, perhaps new cities and countries. Why visit Rome, for example, when Rome lives in memory and can only be sullied if you go back and stay in the same hotel, retrace old byways, eat in the same old (now seedy) cafes? Why be upset (as I was some years ago) to learn that the best yarn shop in FLorence (Beatrice Galli's lovely place on the Arno River) was no longer there?
Interestingly, I didn't look for NEW shops when I learned about Beatrice, so shattered was I by her absence. So in the New Year, the idea will be to settle for memories and to push into new territory -- intellectual territory, physical territory, social territory. There are worlds, entire universes, out there that can become new memories, worlds that can't disappoint us because we don't know about them yet. Happy 2013 to everyone.