With both jobs finished and my last paychecks collected, I threw my suitcase in my car and set off for northern Virginia, my home in Charlottesville behind me and my Scotland adventure directly ahead.
Everyone says that spending a summer in Charlottesville is something every U.Va. student should do before graduation, and with any luck I’ll be back again next summer to do research for a few projects I have in the works. With U.Va. drained of approximately 13,000 students, Charlottesville feels more spacious in the summer. The Corner isn’t as crowded. You have time to wander the Farmer’s Market early on Saturday mornings, when the bustling crowd gives that parking lot on Water Street the atmosphere of a festival. You can float in Grand Marc pool amidst the dead bugs and beer cans or spend a quiet evening sitting on the steps of the Rotunda, listening to the little squeaks of bats overhead and admiring the lit columns around you. It’s a hotter, slower existence than the school year provides.
I’ve spent the last week crossing a few last things off my list of things to do, among them seeking out some new experiences that I’ve been meaning to get to and saying goodbye to my favorite people and places. It’s hard to believe that next time I’m back at U.Va., the warm sighing summer will have hardened into an icy January and my life will be essentially bound to a big stack of books and endless cups of coffee.
Time has moved in a funny slow-fast tease for me; I’ve lost weeks to work before I lifted my head up to to even notice that they were behind me. My two days off seemed endless, a totally separate existence, and those few afternoons after working midshift at the clothing store are tantalizing reminders of the spontaneity I’ve longed for. Now that I’m home again, all of the tiredness that I didn’t have time to feel has hit me hard. My two and a half months in Charlottesville are a blurred tangle of images that are hard to put back in order despite my journaling and blogging, but here are some highlights from this strange summer I’ve had:
Late night Gus burgers at The White Spot – creepy, blonde-loving Gus lurking by the cash register while burgers and eggs sizzle on the grill behind the counter, ready to be paired into a sublime sandwich.
Wandering the Downtown Mall with creamy Chaps ice cream in hand, drifting past buskers with guitars and violins, tables weighed down with Pashmina scarves in wild, swirling paisleys, a capella groups, and, once, a children’s xylophone orchestra that did a sick cover of “Seven Nation Army.”
Laura playing “Started From the Bottom” on her speakers every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. Slowly growing to like it in spite of myself.
Discovering that Catherine, one of my fellow English majors, and I share a mutual love of Elliott Smith. Swapping stories of that Elliott album that saved each of us (her’s, XO; mine, Either/Or) on Tuesday night at Mellow Mushroom and reveling in the lack of competition among Elliott fans. Rereading the story of Ferdinand, the peace-loving bull tattooed on Elliott’s arm, and realizing just how sickeningly ambiguous the ending actually is.
Seeing my phone light up with WordPress notifications. Seriously, thank you to everyone who’s been reading.
Meetings at the Miller Center to discuss my future writing plans. Also emails. Also coffee meetings. Also lunch meetings. Also 5 a.m., panicked wake-ups as my ever-growing to-do list cuts into sleep. Also a big stack of things to read, to learn, to do.
Learning Julian Bond’s verbal tics as I listened to him interview 47 black leaders…and copy-edited all 47 of those interviews, plus the accompanying biographies. (He tends to start sentences with “Now…”)
Eating cookie dough out of a bowl while Ruth baked millions of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Also food in general.
Learning how to play corn hole and reliving the humiliation of high school gym class as my lack of hand-eye coordination was painfully exposed.
Long, quiet Sunday work shifts, where my only company was a good book.
Laughing – and I mean actually, authentically, spontaneously laughing – at The Internship. Maybe it was because it only cost me $1.50 or maybe working 50 hours/week has turned me into a drone of society. Maybe I just don’t take myself as seriously any more, or maybe my film snobbishness is just receding and I’m a less judgmental person than I used to be. Maybe the movie was actually good. Whatever happened, I want it to happen again.
Watching American Beauty for the first time and wondering how I had lived so long without seeing it.
Being minutes away from fantastic concerts. Summer highlights included seeing The National, Wild Nothing, and The Shins.
Being minutes away from friends. Having grown up in a rural area, I’ve never been within walking distance of so many friends during the summer.
Beautiful spots in and around U. Va.
My goal this summer was to immerse myself in the home I’m leaving as I travel to Scotland this fall. Looking back through my posts and my photos, I know that no matter how stressed and tired I’ve often felt in Charlottesville, there’s so much to love about my college town. I didn’t think much about leaving until I said my post-brunch goodbyes over the weekend and sentimental feelings washed over me. These snapshots are just that – brief, frozen pictures that represent so much dynamic energy. They’re an imperfect tribute, but during my time away, they’ll be enough to carry with me.