Wednesday, August 31, 2005

through the past darkly

I've been out of town for almost a week, but am now back in the land of 10,000 lakes. Here's the deal. Everybody knows how bad the book market is. Most writers I know are either unemployed or have taken a pay cut. I fully expect things to get worse before they get better. I'm already making plans, bracing for an even bigger crash. I'll be putting my house on the market next spring, and moving to cheaper digs. This isn't as pathetic as it sounds. This house was supposed to be temporary - and I've somehow been here five years. New neighbors have built a towering monstrosity next door that has robbed my house of sunlight. My block used to be mostly singles and geezers. The geezers have died off, and the yuppies have moved in. Now I know how the crackheads feel when their neighborhood gets gentrified. Time to pack up your shit and move on....

But I digress. Kinda.

A few months ago, after a book signing in my hometown, I got the bright idea that I should move back there. I could own a Victorian mansion overlooking the Mississippi River for the same monthly payment of a studio apartment in St. Paul. So last week I returned to Iowa to scout out some possible nesting spots. This is where the big WTF moment happened. Visiting for fun and visiting with the idea of living there - two different things. How had I even considered it? Was I insane? And how had it seemed such a perfect solution one minute, a total head trip the next?

As I tried to analyze the dark pull of beautiful dying towns and that kind of nostalgia, I got even more confused. I posted my confusion on a message board - just to get it out there, not expecting a single person to even understand what I was talking about. I couldn't believe how many people responded, telling me they'd almost done the same thing. One guy returned to a ghost town after twenty years, saw his old house for sale, found a real estate agent, and was almost ready to buy it when he came to his senses. Another person moved into the actual apartment where his father had died, but couldn't get a job because the town was dead.

The past is never really the past.

What's the Faulkner quote? The past is never dead. It's not even past.

7 comments:

Kelly Parra said...

It's tough to find a place to call home. I think it would be a hard decision to make to settle down in a new town and state. Good luck with your search. =)

Jeff said...

In recent days, circumstances brought me back to my old hometown and some of the familiar haunts where I grew up. The stroll down memory lane was good for me, but do I want to move back there? No way. Too much has changed.

anne frasier said...

for me, it's a little like manuscript drafts. i have a hard time seeing the final version clearly because the previous ones are still in my head.

jason evans said...

Once in a while, like an island in a river, time seems to flow around a house, or a neighborhood, or an entire town, and leave a pocket of the past behind. What a treat it is to find those places and have the rare opportunity to feel a piece of what it was like (or remember what it was like) to experience that era.

anne frasier said...

jason, i think you've hit on part of the draw these places have. they are isolated, locked in the past. there is a sad appeal that is comforting in the way a cemetery is comforting and sad at the same time.

jason evans said...

Anne,

I completely agree about cemeteries.

Nice site, by the way! I've added a link to you.

anne frasier said...

thanks, jason! :)