Friday, February 10, 2012

You can knock me over with a feather, but I'm stronger than a brick building

I always seem to catch things right at the tail end of their existence, just before they either don't exist anymore or they become superfluous.

Over the summer I watched all nine seasons of Scrubs. With my Roku box in my room, I shuffled through 181 episodes of the show in what I believe was less than two months. Maybe even less than one month.

After I'd seen every episode, some more than once, I decided I wanted to go to Sacred Heart Hospital myself. Like going to Comic Con and meeting big names from your favorite shows and films, this building in a cruddier part of Los Angeles seemed like a celebrity in its own right. I wanted to visit and I wanted to take a picture. If I could have gotten an autograph, I would have.

But alas, by the time I arrived at Sacred Heart (actually known as North Hollywood Medical Center), I could not even get within five feet of the place, much less ask for an autograph (or perhaps leave my own on the wall if I was feeling particularly vandal-y). Because by the time I took the effort to watch every episode of Scrubs, by the time I was infatuated enough with the show to make a pilgrimage to its filming location, it was already being uprooted and destroyed.

Poor Sacred Heart.
I still took a picture.

Sad as the place was, with entire floors of windows gone - the same ones Turk and JD looked out of when Turk returned from his honeymoon - and whole portions of the building demolished into nothingness, just being there was worth the sadness of seeing it being ruined.

Four years before I witnessed the destruction of Sacred Heart, I went to a game at the old Yankee Stadium. It was 2007 and my first Yankee game in New York. A-Rod made his 500th Home Run and even though it was so hot and sticky outside that my legs were practically glued to my seat, I was ecstatic beyond belief.

Even someone who is not particularly enthralled by sports can get drawn in during a game at Yankee Stadium. It's like being at the Olympics or a junior league soccer game surrounded by overly enthusiastic moms. Everyone is just so into it and there is a clear distinction between home and visitor. And sitting with a bunch of middle-aged New Yorkers, all my dad's close friends from childhood, was just the ticket to feeling like this was exactly when and where I wanted to be.

But a year later, even the shining monument to sports that was Yankee Stadium was gone.

I've always found a comfort in knowing that the places I've been in my life still exist. I've been known to drive past my childhood house, happy that even though I don't get to live there anymore at least someone else is. Just the fact that the locations I've lived in or visited are still around helps to remind me that maybe everything I've ever experienced is not just a figment of my imagination.

We always think of the objects of our present as being unwavering, unchangeable. But even our homes, even the architecture we've known, even the biggest stadiums in the world are just a speck. A speck that a wrecking ball can destroy before you even have a moment to be nostalgic.

So the comfort I get from going back to my old home, from visiting restaurants I ate at when I was little or bookstores I frequented in Elementary school is really just an illusion of permanency. Try as we might to hold onto the things from our past, nothing can ever be held onto forever.

A few months ago I went to this shopping center near my old home that I used to go to quite often with my mom. There used to be an inexpensive faux-Asian restaurant in the shopping center that I really liked. I remembered going there with my mom and ordering noodles and an orange soda. For some reason that was a memory that stuck.

When I returned to that shopping center a few years down the line, the Asian place no longer existed. But next door, there was a brand new inexpensive Indian restaurant that was absolutely terrific. I sat in that place with my dad, ordering samosas and curry to take home.

Looking out the window, I was very sad that I could never recreate those memories in that neighboring restaurant. As greatly as I wished to go back in there, remember where I sat with my mom and relive the experience again, I knew it wasn't possible.

But in retrospect, I realize I found something else. Instead of reliving old memories, I was making a new memory. The thought of sitting in the Indian restaurant waiting for my food with my dad stands as another step on the timeline of my life, adjacent in location to an event several years before.

So maybe, even though the places we've seen are gone and the events that we've experienced feel like they've faded along with them, this is just an excuse for new experience. New steps along the timeline of life.

If I went back to Sacred Heart, maybe I'd find an all new building to visit. And maybe that could have significance. Or if I returned to New York for another Yankee game, maybe the New Yankee Stadium could inspire nostalgia in me somewhere down the line.

Places may hold significance, and losing those places can make those memories feel like they've been lost too. But really, all that holds memories in place is you. You are where they happened. You are the purveyor of nostalgia.

And fleeting architecture has no right to bring you down.

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