A Bouquet of Sharpened Pencils

This past weekend U-Haul trucks and trailers lined every street. Each apartment complex had a “Welcome Home” sign to assure parents that they’re paying for good, safe places for their college student children. Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Wal-mart all became crowded with young shoppers buying all the items they threw out at the end of last year but told their parents were lost or broken.

The week before the interns I manage all finished up their projects and packed up their stuff and said farewell. They seemed sorry to go but all were so excited to get back to school- to friends, to fun, to future.

I think it is living in North Carolina again that makes me abnormally nostalgic towards this. Possibly also that I have been fortunate enough to see several of my college roommates this summer (I’ve had quite a few).

This was the oldest college photo I could find. Sophomore year with my roommate at a party being wallflowers.

This was the oldest college photo I could find. Sophomore year with my roommate at a party being wallflowers.

Starting college had been so terrifying and so exciting. Opinions mattered. Structure didn’t. I took interesting classes and was apart of interesting discussions. It wasn’t teachers fighting to be heard and students fighting to stay awake (well, not all the time). There were free lectures to attend, parties to go to, people to meet.

Oh, the good ol’ days…Now if I only had an excuse to buy a pencil case and stickers for my Five Star notebook.

Nostalgia Epidemic

At Thanksgiving I heard one of my friends mention something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. The idea that our generation was born with nostalgia for things we never experienced. This is something that I have often thought about. We dream of being born in other decades. We try to recreate pasts we were never apart of.

When I was a child and obsessed with reading all the American Girl books and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, I wanted badly to a pioneer woman. Every day I put in my hair in two long braided pigtails and for Christmas I was ecstatic when I received the American Girls cookbook where I would learn how to make old fashioned recipes that maybe Kirsten or Felicity had made. In the fall my mother and I made strawberry jam to enter in the Dixie Classic County Fair (honorable mention- hell yeah!). Soon though I learned about the 1960s. Flower Power has very popular at Limited Too at the time and I had grown up on my parents Oldies music. I spent all my time listening to 93.1 Golden Oldies music and making posters that said Make Love Not War. My sister hated this. This stayed with me all through high school. I wanted to be a part of the sexual revolution and burn my bra! (Not really, bras are expensive! I didn’t wear one for several years though as a protest. This was not a popular decision in my family. ) I wanted to move to San Francisco and live in Haight-Ashbury. I dreamed of listening to great musicians and writing beatnik poetry.

It's hard to be cooler than Patti Smith.

It’s hard to be cooler than Patti Smith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a sentiment that I’ve seen repeated in many of my friends. We ignore the fact that sexual harassment and discrimination was rampant back then. We ignore the prejudices we ourselves would have had back then. Maybe it would have fun and maybe all the 1960s freedom and love would have terrified my suburban ass.

scarf

And yet, even today’s styles are nostalgic for the past. We also see fashion trends that repeat (if you wore it the first time, you don’t get it to do it the second time around) but so quickly and intensely? The whole hipster thing? I’ve seen the book cover, “Dad was the Original Hipster.” Oh no, my friend. Dad wasn’t the original hipster. You just dress like your dad. Like your weird, embarrassing (and probably cool, no offense Dad!) father and you don’t even have kids yet. Everywhere in Austin are styles of yesteryear. Boys wearing tight jeans, short shorts, mustaches and flannel are as common as rainbow sandals and popped up polos are in the Carolinas. Girls wearing high-waisted bell bottoms, ’90s army jackets, combat boots, and midriff tops surround me in every bar and ’40s style swimsuits are just as likely to be spotted as too-tiny string bikinis. And I love it! Many of things live in my closet too. But it’s a little strange right? Fashion didn’t always look to the past for inspiration.

 

Please note I searched really hard for hipster fashion that didn't resemble things I wear... Impossible. Damn, hypocrisy!

Please note I searched really hard for hipster fashion that didn’t resemble things I wear… Impossible. Damn, hypocrisy!

And it’s not just fashion. This idea of DIY, eating local, eating homemade foods that haven’t been processed is also a grasp at the past. Canning is the newest hobby. Everyone’s growing gardens as if Uncle Sam asked them too. This is also fantastic! I haven’t managed to kill my lemon tree, basil or chive plant and I find that pretty victorious. I love using things I’ve grown myself, but it all comes back to this idea that we’ve gotten too far away from our roots and we’re trying to find our way back. When did that happen? We repaint old furniture. I have a record collection and drink out of mason jars. I shop at vintage stores. Older is better. The more history you can associate with the object, the more success.

gardening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s also a nostalgia for times that have barely even passed. In addition to learning about the “21 things that Miley Cyrus and her bleached eyebrows look like”, on Buzzfeed.com you can also read about things like 31 Items of Clothing ’00s Teens Will Never Wear Again, 30 Signs You Were a Teenager in the Early 2000s, 29 Signs You’re Stuck in the ’90s,  and 25 Important Style Tips Rayanne Graff from “My So-Called Life” Taught You. I mean, really?And that’s barely a blip on the radar of all the blast from the past sort of stuff they have. And people love it! I read these too.

90s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it because we grew up with people always referring to better times? Things just aren’t like they used to be and all that? Is it because our generation is so wrapped up in technology and careers that we find ourselves searching for things that will tie us to something real? Or is this just the way it’s always been?

Anywhere But Here: Nostalgia City

Sometimes everything is fine. Life is good. You’re having a great day. The sun is out and the sky is blue. But you wish someone was with you to experience it. For example, I used to do a lot of driving. When I lived in North Carolina I would drive to from Asheville to Winston-Salem fairly regularly or when I moved back home from college, my mom’s house was about a 25-30 minute drive from anywhere I wanted to be. I’ve also driven across the country a couple times by myself. Some people talk on the phone. Others listen to books on tape (youngsters refer to these as audiobooks). I, on the other hand, talk to myself primarily.

It always starts like this: I’m in a fantastic mood. I’m full of energy. The music I’m listening to makes me want to dance. I wish someone was in the car with me so I could point to all sorts of things. This feeling is strongest when I’m driving through my hometown. I’m happily driving down a familiar road and I want to share this moment with someone. I want to show them my favorite spots and the places I always look at. I want to describe the people who live in these houses and the experiences I’ve had in this neighborhood or that one.

After college, some of the friends I studied abroad with came to visit. In the months that I was anticipating their visit I would pretend they were in the car with me and I was giving them a tour. “Here is my high school. Over here is where we used to go to music shows. This is where you want to get ice cream.” These are ridiculously small details about a place that aren’t actually good tourist destinations. They’re the little bits of my life. Things that made up my life experience.

Now, when I drive around Austin, I might pretend I’m driving with my mom to show her what neighborhoods are good for walking. Or I’ll show my sister some shops I think she’d like. Even when I went home to NC I pretended the Alaska boy was in the car with me, pretending to care as I pointed out places or things only of interest to me.

There’s something special about sharing your home (old or new): favorite spots, memories or bits of gossip. It’s so incredibly satisfying to me. It stems, I’m sure, from the same place that makes me create scrapbooks and frame photos. I’ve noticed fewer people have photos of their friends or family on their walls anymore. I assume, this is because they can get online at any time and see 700 pictures of their loved ones. But there’s something about having the faces of those I can’t regularly see on the walls of my home that makes it a home at all.

So, it may be silly but being nostalgic is one of my favorite places to be.

This is what you would see if you were in the car with me.

This is what you would see if you were in the car with me.

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This is Tyler and I when we went to visit our homes together for the first time.

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These are the sorts of photos that are made when Australians and Canadians come to visit me in NC. Yes, those attractive silly folks on the left are my parents.

Sushi Nostalgia

I really miss Sushi to go in Australia.  Order some Sushi for delivery, you say! No, it is not the same. This sushi was not cut into pieces. It’s just one kinda fat, kinda short roll for a couple of Aussie dollars. It’s dropped into a paper bag and tossed in your direction. This is not fine sushi. Not the kind of sushi you drool for, but it is convenient, delightful and cheap. Cheap sushi that’s worth eating is not something that really exists in Austin as far as I can tell.

And then this starts me on a serious sushi nostalgia kick. When I lived in North Carolina I worked at two great restaurants: Sushi Thai and Sakura. They’re both owned by the same people and often worked by the same staff. It’s delicious. The hibachi always comes out just right at Sakura. The Thai food is spicy and bursting with flavor at Sushi Thai. And both restaurants have fantastic sushi chefs. The fish is flown in, never frozen, and each sushi roll is a work of art. Prepare to wait a couple minutes for your rolls especially if you get several. When they arrive, you will be amazed at display. If you’re there, please get the Sexy Little Thing for me. I dream about it. The staff here is the kind that never forgets you. They remember what you’d like to drink and where you’d prefer to sit. They know if you like conversation or minimal service. When I first started, I was so insulted that people wouldn’t sit in my section but the experience just wasn’t the same without their regular server. And when I go back to visit them they welcome me with open arms, even though I only worked there a few months.

And now I’m spoiled. I long for fatty toro sashimi, fatty tuna, eel rolls, salmon with cream cheese, rolls that are tempura fried, spicy mayo, eel sauce, slices of perfectly green avocados, fresh strawberries and mangoes.

Sigh, today is just a sushi nostalgia kind of day.