Wednesday, December 03, 2014

nostalgia is dead. long live nostalgia.

I walk across my neighborhood every day, and every day something has changed. The old buildings have been torn down and rebuilt as ugly modern apartment buildings with storefronts downstairs, those dreaded mixed-use building that defile every block of Capitol Hill these days.
I heard today that the Harvard Exit movie theater is closing next year. The Harvard Exit was where I spent much of my childhood, as my parents only ever watched foreign films with subtitles. I am sad, but at the same time, I can’t quite recall when I last went. Same goes for the Egyptian, which died and was resurrected by SIFF.

I like nostalgia as much as the next person who says “I remember when…”…”things were so much better then…” Do we really mean that, or do we just like to say these things to show that we were there first, and therefore are way cooler than you could ever hope to be? I remember I hated the new ACT space when they moved across town from their intimate quarters, long since transformed into On The Boards, to the sprawling Eagles Auditorium, where they crashed and burned through a couple of seasons before closing, briefly, and then coming back from the dead.

There are things I miss. The lamb chops at Labuznik. Beef noodle soup at Green Village II. The old Shanghai Garden, which really isn’t as good as it used to be. The old REI which always smelled like creosote. The Seattle Art Museum used to be in Volunteer Park, where the Seattle Asian Art Museum is now. When I was in elementary school, the Seattle Children’s Theatre was in the Poncho Theatre at the Woodland Park Zoo.

But the old memories give way to new places, new things, maybe not better, just different. A new skin grows over that raw place left behind when you shed the old one. There’s nostalgia, and there’s the paralyzing effect of looking back so single-mindedly that you completely miss what’s in front of you. Like Lot’s wife, I suppose, if that’s the right metaphor. A city is a living thing, changing and evolving before your eyes, and there will always be things you love and hate about it.

Nostalgia is dead. Long live nostalgia.