Nov 5, 2008

Old Is New

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A few of the folks from my day job were heading down to Grant Park tonight for the big Obama rally. I chose not to go, mainly because I can't see well enough to enjoy it, and I have to put two different eye drops in every two hours. Stupid vision. I will watch the night on TV with friends instead (friends who don't mind my glasses), and this will be short as I am heading out to do so.

I voted this morning, and I was just in time to beat the lines. I went before work, and after I voted a long line was starting to form. Phew. I was only ten minutes late, and I thankfully did not need to rush to the polling place after working all day.

My polling place was a new one for me, as I just moved to this neighborhood. And I had an odd experience when I arrived. The location was called St. Augustine College (on Argyle Street between Glenwood and Broadway), although when I got there it looked more like an ancient middle-school than a college. I voted in what was referred to as the "auditorium," but it looked more like a big empty hall with tall ceilings and no chairs or stage, so I am not sure how the word "auditorium" came into play.

Anyway, when I walked back out after voting and headed back to my car which I parked on the street down the block, I noticed a doorway to my left. It was the front door to the building next to the college, and something made me stop and stare at the entrance. People, I can only describe what happened next as a deja-vu combined with an epiphany. Looking at the doorway brought on a flood of familiarity, nostalgia, and comfort. It was truly odd.

The doorway had some cool colored carving in the stone across the top, and flanking the corner of the entrance were two Indian chief head carvings, also in color. And the name carved into the building above the door said "Essanay." I think that's how it was spelled. I meant to look it up on the world wide web before I started typing this post, but I forgot. I will do so after signing off.

In any case, I cannot tell you how long I stood there and stared at that doorway and at that building. So much of it felt so familiar and pleasant, and yet I have never ever been on this block in the city before, let alone seen this building. The whole area leading up to the entrance made a lovely vibe wash over me. The building looks to be some sort of artists-in-residence or office type place now, but I cannot be sure. I did not see any modern signage to allude to it's purpose.

After I got in my car I drove past the address and slowed down to look at it again. I wanted to make sure I was not imagining the feeling. Nope, there it was again, full force. Finally I knew I had to drive away and get to work, so I did. Weird.

I have had this odd deja-vu/nostalgia-about-a-location experience a couple of times before, but not recently, and not so out of the blue as this. The last time it happened was in early 1993 when I'd been in Chicago about a year and did a show in a tiny theater space next to an old jazz club in the Wicker Park neighborhood on Division Street. The whole time I rehearsed the show, and especially the first day we performed there, I was overcome with such a feeling of familiarity and at-home-ness that I couldn't get over it.

I later found out that that space was very, very old, and had been around since the 1800's, and that in the 20's and 30's it had been a speakeasy, and then was converted to a coffee shop where beat poets hung out for a time. Then it had been boarded up for a while, until the jazz club owner got a business loan in the late 1980's and bought the three storefronts now deemed "The Bop Shop." Interesting. But that still did not explain why the joint felt so familiar and so comfortable.

I guess I will never know about any of this. Perhaps I should just enjoy the feeling whenever it happens.

Alright, time to put in some more damn eye drops, and then head out. I cannot wait to see The Daily Show/Colbert Report election night special on the Comedy Channel. I am laughing already at the idea alone. See you tomorrow, when we will know the name of a new US president.

Lemme know if you have ever heard of "Essanay." I will look it up as well.
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