here’s to lynchburg

The world of Lynchburg, Virginia cannot be tasted in its fullness by simply dipping a ladle into its hot, dark depths and drawing out what we will.

To capture it, truly, we’d have to eat the whole thing.

But where to begin?

A Christian college resides there. And the college named after the city itself. There are also a great many churches, one once attached to the Christian college like an extra arm.  Or the original rib that sprouted a whole new creature. Lots of residential neighborhoods sprinkle the outskirts of the city, and it is lined in blue mountains, but the core… that is music.

Downtown, past L. Oppleman’s thrift store windows stuffed with gold-gilded silverware and eyeless manikins…past leather-chair restaurants with hurricane lamps…past spouting fountains near a children’s art museum and giant metal rainbow bugs that college kids climb…past the Depot Grille exhaling good greasy smells that trains whip away… there. Right there. A breathing underbelly of culture rages in the black night.

It pulses with a heartbeat formed of toms and chains, tambos and cymbals shattered by wooden sticks. If you place your feet just right, you’ll move with the bass to some ethereal low region of your gut and of the world. It is dark there too, warm and red. I am alive with the bass, you say, and you soak the spicy smells of craft brew and hand-tossed pizza into your clothes for tasting later. Later: in a dream or a regret or a wish that you tie to a star, for the wish may last as long as your eternity or someone else’s, just as the star wraps you to yourself, your dancing friends who pulse with the bass like you, your long-lost sibling once over seas, now below the earth, and some soul you’ve never met.  You are never to be satisfied except in the God you believe in, but somehow not like many others believe, the angry others, the foggy-eyed others, the others with frozen smiles. God isn’t everywhere in all unhallowed earth things, but right now he must be here, hearing this, you think. And drop by drop, your soul fills up, glassfuls within you collecting bass in blood.

Here, we hike. Here, we canoe and jump bridges. Here, we wear holey jeans bought in Goodwill raids. Here, we rock sock buns, pierce left nostrils. Here, we symbolize ourselves in Bible languages and, somewhere skinward, hide the words in ink. Here, we eat so-so food until you Get Downtown. And there, the hipsters formerly known as hipsters live.

Here, we slave over books with broken spines and sigh with enlightened minds. We line literary blogs with pixelated 1950s photos and quote Plathean platitudes. We wear Toms smelling of train tracks and red clay. We beat paths to coffeeshops, weep when they close their doors, and then fundraise them back to life again. We spraypaint cement with song and salvation and solutions and bury our fingers in good dirty earth on urban riverbanks. We cry ourselves awake in words fit to madden a poet’s mind and write about it in mini Moleskines. We love, laugh, listen.

And then we dance.

Will we, children of the ‘burg so to speak, ever quite capture it? Lynchburg, our generation, the world as it is now? Perhaps not. Perhaps never. Perhaps only from far far away can we trace our city’s face with feeble fingers and begin to feel it truly.

It feels

lonesome, enmeshed, thwarted.

Like it’s breathing.

It feels

full of itself, radiant, young.

Like it’s about to sing.

on writing

goodwill wins again (the public doesn’t)

Books gasp for air on the rickety wire shelves and wail, bruised and busted-up like concrete-kissed knees, on the dusty tile floor. Some sprawl scattered and violated on plastic food carts, severed from the main body of books and forced to roommate with glazed duck statues and mystery electronics.

I cannot believe the classics people have thrown away.

After a few minutes of intent, book-by-book, shelf-by-shelf scouring, I pile pepperminty-smelling, greasy texts with brutalized bindings, pristine hardcovers without dust jackets, and glossy “acceptable” paperbacks along my forearm and mentally delete at least three books from my eternal Amazon Wishlist.

Today’s finds include

–       Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

–       Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster

–       One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty

–       If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

–       Confessions by St. Augustine

–       One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

–       Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke [… I actually found this one about two weeks ago, but it was the same Goodwill, so that counts, right?]

–       For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway [also a previous find]

–       Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld

–       The Poems of Marianne Moore

–       Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

–       And finally… On Writing by Stephen King

 (I urge you, kind readers: give your shelves a facelift and go rescue a book or two.)

Photo on 8-29-13 at 2.24 AM #2