Away from Home are some and I…

That looks nothing like my house.  I don’t think that looks anything like anyone’s house. It looks a little structurally unsound to me and there is an entire lack of curb appeal, probably due to the lack of curb.  You can’t blame the artists though, no one tells first graders to be more realistic during art class. Here is my actual house:

Thanks google maps!

That is the only picture I can find of my house.  I have never taken a picture of it, and until now I have never felt that I was lacking.  I see this picture and I know it is my house: It was my address in google maps, the house, the driveway, the detached garage, and the backyard patio are all mine, too.  I recognize these things as being parts of my house but I’ve never looked at them like this.  This way, this birds-eye, property view is not the place I recognize.  This picture looks like my house, but this picture does not look like my home.  My memory of home has nothing to do with the property lines or floor plans.  To me my home looks like this:

Come to think of it my home looks like this too:

What? You don’t think there’s a beach in central New Jersey?

You caught me.  There isn’t a beach in Morristown and that picture wasn’t taken there.  Actually, none of the places in the second crop of pictures are actually at the house depicted in the google map – but they are all still home to me, although they don’t take place at my actual home.

When others look at the pictures the only constants are the familiar faces that carry over from photograph to photograph.  While you can see these faces, and hairstyles and heights change over time, the pictures all have the same basic formula:  it’s me and some of the people who are important to me beaming (and sometimes blinking) at a camera.  They are obligatory pictures, but we are all happy to oblige.  The truth is I have been taking these same photographs for years and years.  Every part of the year has a specific place for me- and that is my home for that time and event.

Over the summer we take the picture of all my cousins on the beach.  Later, just my sister and I go back to the beach to take pictures for our holiday card.  Before the first day of school or before going to temple on the high holy days my sister and I take pictures by the bush in front of my garage.  On the first night of Hanukah we take a picture of my sister standing in front of me while lighting the menorah in the dining room.  At Christmas we take a group picture of everyone in our living room with my grandpa in the middle.  On St. Patrick’s day we are at my Aunt Patty’s house in Florida and take a picture by their pool of everyone wearing their resounding green.  At Easter we take a picture of the cousin on my Aunt Gina’s front steps right before the egg hunt. By spring the bush in front of my garage has leaves again and I can take more pictures in front of it – just in time for prom.  The cycle repeats itself over and over.

My life is a series of repeated photographs.  Most people’s are.  Who doesn’t have first day of school photos? Holiday photos? Vacation photos? Birthday photos?  This process repeats and all of the sudden you feel like that guy who took a picture of himself every day for 8 years (  You may do this with more time in between your pictures but you do it for about 18 years.  I did, at least.

Then it was time for this picture:

And by August I was off to a new place that I only new as this:

or this:

I recognized Vanderbilt, like I recognized an aerial picture of my Morristown house – I knew it was where I would live, but it did not look like my home. I couldn’t even imagine being inside, the way I can imagine my own house.  I didn’t know what the inside of the building would look like and more importantly I didn’t know how I would look on the inside of the buildings.

The first thing that started to make me feel at home was actually a photograph.  Before I got to my future room, my future roommate put this picture on facebook:

She captioned it “our own little hall”

She tagged me in that picture and thus the picture of the door technically became the first picture of me at Vanderbilt.  One little picture kicked off four-years of living and taking pictures in my new home.  It clicked that here is where I’d be instead of in NJ.

Because I go to school so far away from New Jersey I cannot be in all of the pictures that I used to – there is no first day of school picture of me in my driveway, or pre-egg hunt in my pajamas, and a few others I am missing from as well – but that hasn’t stopped me from taking new pictures of my new experiences with new friends.  Every one of the iconic photographs that I perpetually take with my family started with a single picture.  Then we decided we liked it, all of it – the day, the moment, the people, and the picture – so we decided to do it again.  Over time, these moments and these people are no longer just a snapshot in time, but the repeated experience makes it our home.  Home is the place where the things happen that you want to repeat.

Some people get caught up thinking that home is simply where you start from, but home is really the places you establish as you go throughout your life.  There’s no limit on the places that you can make your home, it is only a matter of finding places and people that you keep wanting to come back to.

On the pin board in my kitchen there is a picture of my mother and her friends on their graduation day from nursing school, and here they are at Judy’s son’s wedding many years later.

They have a reunion every year, wedding or not, and have always found a way to come back to one another.  Now that I have embarked on my own college experience they are my inspiration for finding people who I want to surround myself with, who I want to see year after year.  I look forward to turning new places and people into my home away from home.  There is no limit on the place that you can call home, but it is not a matter of just finding them, it is a matter of keeping them and making them a part of your tradition.  Live. Smile. Photograph. And repeat.

a bit homier now

The Chilling Past of the Columbia Residences

          When I think of where I live, I think first of the cold. I’ll often walk my dog down 25th Street late at night, when you can walk around in the heart of Washington, DC and not see a single trace of other people except for a light on in one of the dozen or so apartment buildings across the street. I’ll dig my left hand deep down in my pocket, and clutch at the leash the small dog pulls, anxious to get out of the blustery December air. After I walk past the darkened windows of Trader Joe’s, I’ll turn left and see the dark, looming, shapeless building. Skirted by small lights illumining the sidewalk that leads to the front door, the nine-story building fades into the black sky, its slanted roof crowned by a single beacon of light.


         The building that was once the Columbia Hospital for Women has occupied the site that is now located at the corner of 24th Street and L Street since 1870. In response to the influx of women entering the city in search of missing relatives, the Secretary of War E. N. Stanton designated funds to establish the fifty-bed hospital, specifying that twenty beds be held for widows of Civil War soldiers. Health care facilities in the metropolitan city were laden with injured soldiers, and the women entering the city often faced adversity in pursuit of care. The Columbia Hospital for Women and Lying-in Asylum originally opened in the Hill Mansion at Thomas Circle, but quickly relocated and expanded in 1914 to its current location. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill over to its board of directors, and it became a private, non-profit hospital. Breaking ground in obstetric and gynecology techniques, the Columbia Hospital for Women was the birth site for more than 250,000 babies since its founding in 1866.1


          The Columbia Residences, a luxury 225-unit, $140 million development of the historic Columbia Hospital for Women, an Italianate building dating from the late 19th century, has several units for sale!2 With the recent addition of two wings on the west and east sides, the building sits on the corner of 24th and L Street, smack dab between bustling downtown and trendy-chic Georgetown – what more could you ask for? How about access to the building’s private rooftop swimming pool, full gym, covered garage, and round-the-clock security service? Still not sold? You’ll have stunning views of the National Cathedral, Georgetown University, and the Potomac River to the East, and K Street, the White House, and the Washington Mall to the West! Steps away from the Foggy Bottom Metro Station, the Columbia Residences is the quintessential location for everything Washington – call to make your appointment to tour TODAY!


         The cold, white hallway to the gym on the west side of the apartment building feels like a hospital. Halfheartedly decorated with nondescript floral paintings, identical to the hallway upstairs, I rarely pass anyone else as I walk through the least-populated floor of the building. Even at the heart of the Nation’s Capital, the only sound I hear are my keys jingling as they hang off of one finger, and the soft, muffled sound of my feet hitting the drab, olive green carpet. I walk down the hallway further, down a handicapped ramp, and wave the censor on my keychain. A piercing beep indicates my permission to enter the gym. The stark white, sterile walls and overhead florescent lights are almost blinding. A large fan stands on the far side of the room, plugged in, and turned on full speed. The elliptical machines, treadmills, and weights are lined up orderly against the walls, and I feel a chill up my spine when I remember the history my father shared with me about the room: I am standing in the Columbia Hospital for Women’s morgue.


            After my parents agreed to separate in 2007, my father moved from our family home into a two-bedroom floor unit in the Columbia Residences. Having worked for the company that developed the old hospital, he knew the history of each room before he decided where he wanted to live, and chose the floor unit despite its close proximity to the former morgue. The building’s history is marked by deaths and births, by ends and beginnings. It remains to this day a place for lost spouses, seeking refuge, and looking for answers. The place that represents the end of one chapter of my father’s life is not represented by the new life of the building, but rather the cold, eerie history seeps through the walls and hangs in the air, undeniable and unavoidable. 




Today, when I was flying into Washington, D.C., I could see the Pentagon from above. It is strange how the mere sight of this building made me think of what happened in 2001.

Back then, I didn’t know what the Pentagon was or what it stood for or what it meant that a plane had crashed into the building.

In 2001, I was eleven years old. I don’t remember much about that day, September 11, but I do recall sitting in front of the television and watching German news coverage that showed how these planes crashed into the towers. I don’t remember what I felt or thought about what I saw, but I know that I did not understand the significance of the events until many years later. After all, this was happening in America, not where I was; I was not personally affected by what was going on. There must have been a minute of silence held in my school, and I am sure that – just like everywhere in the world – the attacks were on the news every day for weeks. I just don’t remember any of that.

Early in January this year, I visited the National September 11 Memorial in New York City.

Visiting the memorial was very moving, but it also made me feel strangely alienated. Being reminded of all these lives that were lost, of all these people who had lost loved ones made me incredibly sad. I went there with a friend from Boston who shared his own memory of that day with me, which was touching and also gave me a better understanding of the meaning and impact of what happened. At the same time, even though I now know a lot more about the impact that these attacks had both literally and in a figurative sense, I am still only an observer who is watching from the outside, who feels a little out of place at this site which symbolizes national grief. I can feel with the people who were affected, but I cannot feel what they feel.




It has been said that the Germans are tired of talking about WWII. I understand this tiredness: every other year the topic is part of compulsory history classes in school, all students make a trip to a concentration camp, and there are constant reminders all over the media, be it allusions in newspaper articles or on occasions of commemoration. The constant lessons and reminders of what happened – of what we did – fulfill their purpose for the most part: at least among reasonably educated people racist or extremist sentiments are rare and uttering opinions like that is frowned upon. My generation is tired of being cast as the culprit. After all, we were born half a century after Hitler came to power; our parents were born after this happened; most of our grandparents were little children at that point. Why should the holocaust be our fault? We refuse to take the blame for the atrocities which the mistakes of our misguided ancestors brought forth. We know better, or at least we believe that we do. This cannot happen to us. This will not happen to us.

But isn’t this what we all want to think? This cannot happen to us? This cannot happen to me?

I am sure that that’s what many Germans thought in 1945.




Drawing parallels between World War II and the 9/11 attacks is problematic. But I would like to point to the difficulties of talking about what happened and about the aftermath.

In today’s Germany it is impossible to criticize Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism. The public has difficulties distinguishing between what is appropriate with regard to collective guilt towards Jews, which still needs to be perpetuated, and potentially justified critique of contemporary politics of the country of Israel. In a very recent case, author and poet Günter Grass published a controversial poem which caused an uproar. In short, he accused Israel of being a danger to world peace and suggested that, if they follow through with their threats of starting a preemptive war against Iran, they could become guilty of wiping out a people based on the unproven assumption that the country is developing a nuclear bomb. Yes, the poem is provocative. Yes, some of the content may be inappropriate. Yes, Grass plays down the aggressions of Iranian leaders. But that is not the point. The point is that journalists, in discussing and slamming Grass’s claims, brought up his past as a teenager in the SS. Germany has yet a long way to go before it can start talking about today’s Israel without having to be overly considerate of its special responsibility for the nation.

Something similar happened in the United States after the 9/11 attacks and the government’s decision to start the war on Iraq, which at that time was presented as the right thing to do. Opposition was discredited: critique of the government’s action concerning intervention in Iraq easily resulted in the critic being accused of being “unpatriotic.” Fortunately, this has changed since lies about the operation have been uncovered.

In both of these cases, a national memory, or nationally prescribed way of thinking, the only socially acceptable way, created limitations on what can be said about what happened.




My friend told me about the feeling of unity and of nation-wide grief and confusion that shaped the days and weeks after the attacks.

The booklet that was given to visitors says that the National September 11 Memorial “commemorates the lives lost, recognizes the thousands who survived, and allows visitors to come together again in the spirit of unity that emerged in the wake of 9/11.” I think it is remarkable that this memorial is meant to evoke not only the memory of the victims but also something as intangible as “the spirit of unity,” which is “only” an emotion. I personally don’t remember feeling the spirit of unity, just like I don’t remember anything else that I felt in 2001. Maybe other people will be reminded of what they felt on that day in 2001; what the memorial does for me is create an idea of what it must have been like, and reading the names of all the people who died evokes compassion and sadness.

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is there to “remind the world of up to six million Jewish victims of the holocaust and honor them.” One thing that strikes me about the Field of Steles, the main part,  is its anonymity. The Steles are plain, there are no names written on them, and they all look alike except that they differ in height. There is an exhibit underneath the Field of Steles, and one part of this is the Room of Names, whose goal is to present as many biographies of the three million known victims as possible. This task hasn’t been finished yet; research is elaborate. But the most visible part of the memorial is the nameless Field of Steles.

Both of these memorials have been erected with the explicit purpose of commemorating the victims. If the 9/11 Memorial is also there to conjure up the spirit of unity, then what else is the Holocaust Memorial supposed to do? The spirit of unity of the 9/11 Memorial implies something or someone who we are to unite against. Who should we unite against when it comes to the Holocaust? Should Germans unite against Germans?

I am not sure which is easier: coming to term with the past and national memory when you’re the victim or the initiator.

The Bridge

Everyday I walk across the bridge connecting the main campus and the Peabody campus. Most of the time I think of what will be discussed in the class I am going to, or some random event that is approaching, but I am always thinking of something. When I pass someone I know, I try to acknowledge them with a look or a nod, and usually think much to deeply about what it means when someone does not acknowledge me back. I realized that this connection between the two campus’ was a microcosm for the integration of Peabody college into Vanderbilt. Consequently, I thought of my integration into my new school in the seventh grade and how much it affected me. This made me wonder how the acquisition of the Peabody campus affected Vanderbilt. In trying to describe the effect of joining a new school, I will use Pamuk’s style of integrating photos in the text to help demonstrate the feelings associated with an event.

When I was in the seventh grade, I began at a new school. I had apprehensions about making new friends, and the increase in workload. I would be taking classes with girls for the first time, and did not know what to expect. My old school lacked any discipline, and most of the time was spent chastising misbehaving students. Would it be the same at my new school? All of these relatively trivial questions would soon be answered. I did not know it yet, but in reality this switch would raise more important questions and would become a formidable moment of my adolescence.

In 1979 Vanderbilt obtained Peabody college. Did they know how much it would affect the University? Did they ever think that it would one day become the best education school in the country? All of these questions would eventually be answered, but the most important aspect of the change was how much it shifted the university. The Peabody campus really made its mark when the Freshman Commons was built and when Peabody College became the best education school in the country. These events helped shape the reputation of the university on both a national and international level. In 1979 no one could have known just how much the merging of the two campuses would affect the school. Just as the acquisition of the campus shaped the school in unexpected ways, my change in schools shaped me in unexpected ways.

Before I switched schools, I was truly naïve. I know that twelve year-olds are supposed to be a little naïve, but the switch open my eyes to how people really act. Looking back on it, I find this moment in my life to be of the utmost importance, and treasure everyday of this transformation for its significance in shaping who I have become. It is this feeling which the use of a photo helps portray.

Pamuk uses photos to help show the emotions attached to a memory. He talks about Istanbul in a romantic way, and uses both beautiful description and actual imagery to describe this feeling he has for the city. A great example is when he lists samples of columns from Istanbul newspapers. On page 144 he displays an image of people walking in the rain with umbrellas.  While there is no description by Pamuk of this exact scene, his feelings for the city are well represented by this photo. He loves the dreariness that to him, defines Istanbul, and this picture displays that emotion perfectly. It demonstrates the dullness and darkness of the street life, but also the odd charm of the people. The reflections in the water are almost artistic and the feeling of moving onward even in the weather shows the perseverance of the citizens.

Just as that photo allowed Pamuk to demonstrate his feelings for the city, the photo I have chosen is my attempt at showing the feeling I have when I think about my switch of schools. It was a lonely time, for many reasons. It took a few weeks for me to make friends and I distinctly remember looking at the clock every five minutes waiting for the weekend to come. The limited people on the bridge, as well as the overbearing look of the sides of the bridge, portray the sometimes lonesome transition in a difficult situation. The arching design and green surroundings bring color and hope to the photo. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, as it were. These positive attributes should evoke a contrast in feelings. It represents both the negative emotions of the switch, as well as the positive changes that shaped who I would become. While it may not be the best photo to show the emotions that went along with my transition, it does get across some of the feelings, and the fact that it is a bridge between to eras speaks for itself metaphorically.

We all can interpret any photograph in any way we want. But how we interpret it depends on our experiences. Our past defines how we perceive things, and while this photo may mean something completely different to everyone who sees it, including meaning nothing, it is special to me. Not because it is a great artistic photo, but because of what it reminds me of. That is something that photography is great at, the ability remind people of something that they had forgotten. You can tell people about an event, and remind them of a different time, but getting to that memory on your own by looking at a picture is something special, and whatever memories you come up, are usually important ones, because those are the ones that you want to be reminded of. 

The Honor of the Ryman

February 27, 2010 (Sophomore year) – Help Haiti Benefit Concert: Alison Krausse & Union Station, Amy Grant, Big Kenny, Mat Kearney, Jars of Clay, Rebecca St. James, NEEDTOBREATHE, Brandon Heath 

“I’m so glad everyone could make it to the show tonight to help out all of the victims from the earthquake in Haiti. You know, this place has housed such amazing talent on this stage that I’m so honored simply to be here and especially to have the opportunity to play here to help raise money for all of those in need….”

October 8, 2010 (Junior year) – Sara Bareilles

“So I’m going to play one of the songs off of my new album and if you know the words feel free to sing along. Although this being Nashville, don’t sing too well or everyone is going to start wondering how it is that managed to wind up on this stage where so many incredible people have played before me…”  (crowd laughs)

October 17, 2011 (Senior year) – Goo Goo Dolls

“Hello!” (crowd screams) “How is everyone doing out there tonight?” (more screams) You know, even though we’ve played here before, there is just always something about playing here at the Ryman. It’s so good to be back. Walking on this stage, you get this crazy feeling thinking about all the other people that have played here before. Plus, I really have to watch what I say because I’m pretty sure this building actually used to be a church.” (crowd laughs)

As a kid growing up in Texas, it felt like everyone around me listened to and appreciated country music. It was part of the culture where I lived and seemed to make its way into my life in a variety of different ways. When I was in fourth grade, our entire class was taught to square dance and then forced to perform our elementary renditions of traditional country dances to our parents. By age fifteen it was a social requirement that everyone owned a pair of cowboy boots and for two weeks every March it seemed like all of Houston would walk into work or school each morning looking more haggard than usual, as they had been out late listening to country stars at the rodeo the night before.

It wasn’t until I moved to Nashville, however, that I learned that Texas was, in fact, not the birthplace of country music. Nashville was. And as I now know, with very good reason. Home to many stars, both past and present, Nashville is also the location of one of the most incredible music venues complete with some of the finest acoustics in the world. Since my sophomore year, I have attended one concert each year at this historical site known as the Ryman Auditorium. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every concert I have attended at the Ryman, something interesting always struck me about it: I never understand why everyone I had ever heard play on that stage felt that having the opportunity to play there topped nearly all of their greatest accomplishments as a performer. Having now taken the History of Country Music and recently toured the Ryman Auditorium, I now understand the history behind the great honor so many musicians feel the moment they step on that stage.

The building now known as the Ryman Auditorium was built in 1892 as a tabernacle for a man named Reverand Sam Jones. Originally named the Union Gospel Tabernacle, Thomas G. Ryman wished to construct this building as a way to thank Reverand Jones for leading him to salvation. Tom Ryman wanted a building that was capable of projecting Rev. Jones’s voice clearly for all to hear and after Ryman’s death in1904, the building was renamed in honor of him for establishing such a Nashville landmark. As the largest structure in the area, the building soon became a popular site for community events, entertainment, and political rallies. A stage was installed for the Metropolitan opera and over time the stage was graced by greats such as Ignacy Paderewski, Roy Rogers, Harry Houdini, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Mae West, president Theodore Roosevelt, and many others. Because of these performers, it eventually began to be called the “Carnegie Hall of the South.”

In 1943 the Ryman also became home to a radio show created by George D. Hay that would become an international phenomenon known as the Grand Ole Opry. Over the next thirty-one years, legends such as Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline, and Roy Acuff performed on the Ryman’s stage. Eventually dubbed, “The Mother Church of Country Music” by Nashvillians, the Ryman also became the birthplace of Bluegrass music in 1945 with Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe. Even after the opry relocated in 1974, the Ryman continued to attract fans from around the world, simply to hear people play in a place so hallowed and famous. In 1994, $8.5 million were spent in order to renovate the Ryman and bring it back to its former glory days as well as update it with the latest technology and modern comforts, such as air conditioning and dressing rooms. Since then, the Ryman has continued to host incredible talent such as Aretha Franklin, Neil Young, and Robert Earl Keen.

Now, much more aware of the history the walls of this place bare, I too feel honored simply to sit in one of its wooden church pews and look towards a stage that I know once hosted Johnny Cash and Roy Acuff, among so many others. It is interesting, but knowledge of the memories of this place seems to cast a new light on my own memories and experiences within the Ryman. With these in mind, I finally understand why it is that even some of the most talented musicians feel honored to step onto such a historical stage. Now when I think back to the times I have stood within these walls and walked along the hallways to view the hatch show prints, I will likely recall these memories with greater reverence. For what I know now about the Ryman is not likely to be separated from past memories within this place. In this way, new memories compound old memories as a sense of fondness is added with the knowledge of the great history it carries.


Duke, Jan. “History of the Ryman Auditorium.” Nashville. Web. 10 April 2012.

“Timeline.” Ryman Auditorium. Web. 11 April 2012.

Hunting for Time

History: a dream we make up to comfort ourselves, which we blanket over the reality of our lives.

I floated around campus, ghost-like. No one was around; or if they were there, I was not. I stepped back into a historical jetlag, which I had felt before, displaced by the modern campus as I left my research session in the library. With my newly inherited memory, and a camera, I sought to rebuild the legacy of the old Garland Oak that once stood on campus. The task proved frustrating as I realized that modernity obstructed my photographs. I became a medium stuck between disconnected identities of past and present. In the memoir Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk suggests that “we might call this confused, hazy state melancholy” (Pamuk 1114-1117). I felt “a melancholy that is communal rather than private” (Pamuk 1117). For the satisfaction of this feeling, I researched the most probable location of the Garland Oak. With the use of scenes from the modern campus as substitutions for what existed before, I attempt to express the communal sentiments that once surrounded the Garland Oak.

The impact of the Garland Oak--"History centered about the Garland oak to a degree not equaled in the case of any other tree on campus" (“The Garland Oak”).

I imagine the role of the once famous Oak to parallel that of today’s largest and oldest tree on campus. The immensity of the tree drew me to the school during my first campus tour at Vanderbilt. I stood next to it and realized my own inferiority and my mistake in underestimating its size. It stands at the heart of main campus as students pass it by every day, preoccupied by priorities that came long after the tree. The past Vanderbilt community seemed more dedicated to the recognition of their beloved tree. “Many parties have called our attention to the fact that the oak in question is no longer in existence” (“The Garland Oak”). The author of the article laments, “once such a landmark no longer stands” (“The Garland Oak”). The old news article, discovered and revived in the Vanderbilt Alumnus Magazine, establishes a sense of community beyond the boundaries of its time period. I felt the loss as I read the disappointment in the past Vanderbilt community’s response to the old photo of the Garland Oak. Though written in 1917, I felt like a part of that community and immediately pondered what happened to the tree. The article provides an answer as if it was a funeral speech, and in doing so it highlights the significance of the tree.

The tree encased much of the campus within its being. Not only was the tree a landmark, but it also served importance in the development of the campus grounds. It was referred to in certain deeds of real estate to explain and locate property location (“The Garland Oak”). The tree also connects with Vanderbilt’s first Chancellor, Professor Garland, a forefather of its development and beliefs, down to the preservation of the squirrels and birds (Vanderbilt) that now run rampant on campus. Symbolically the tree’s location indicated its importance, situated top and center of the hilly campus as prominent sight from any of the main roads that ran through the campus. Entranced by the now mythical tree that seemed to be at the heart of the University’s foundation, I joined the old Vanderbilt community. Through this information, the article builds a community between past and present, the living and the dead.

The crossroads of West Avenue, Central Avenue and University Avenue --"Forty years ago a road led westwards from Broad Street right through the campus towards the Garland Oak" (“The Garland Oak”).

Yet, this connection distanced me from the present. The modern campus became unfamiliar as I used maps to navigate the Vanderbilt of the past. When I would raise my camera to shoot locations, I could not escape the present that I attempted to ignore. Fences annoyed me, the excessive black steel posts angered me, the existence of cars disgusted me, and I loathed any people that stepped into my frame. Modernity imposed itself, obstructing my recreation and disrupting my past connection. Upon later attempting to edit these photos, the technology only sucked away the essence. Change in coloring made the photos less real, and cropping was unsatisfactory. I desired to edit the present, not my photos. Modernity added to the “melancholy” I inherited by reminding me that the inheritance was not real.

the first of the residences on the road from West End through to the tennis courts after passing Kissam Hall […and] guarded the approach to his home" (“The Garland Oak”).”]the first of the residences on the road from West End through to the tennis courts after passing Kissam Hall […and] guarded the approach to his home” (“The Garland Oak”).”]The communal sense of pride and loss from the legacy of the Oak in turn subjected me to private melancholy. I experienced a past connection that never belonged to me, and my intrigue separated me from the community to which I belonged. Pamuk believes that his melancholy “is ultimately as life-affirming as it is negating” (Pamuk 1152). I believe that this applies to the haze of history. I discovered the history of the tree, which was the history of the old Vanderbilt community, which is the history of current Vanderbilt, to reassure me that I continue something important. However, the fact that the tree is history affirms its nonexistence in modern life. Its burial site that has now become Tolman Hall no longer preserves its tangibility, leaving me with the fables and hypotheses that I nestle around photographs of imagination.

and the remains piled up in state along with the bones of many another outworn hero just back of Kissam Hall" (“The Garland Oak”).”]and the remains piled up in state along with the bones of many another outworn hero just back of Kissam Hall” (“The Garland Oak”).”]           

Works Cited

“The Garland Oak.” Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Vanderbilt University Special Collections, 10 Oct. 2011. Web. 12 Apr. 2012.            <;.

Pamuk, Orhan (2006-12-05). Istanbul (Kindle Locations 1114-1152). Random House, Inc..Kindle Edition.

Vanderbilt University. “Landon C. Garland 1875-1873.” The Chancellor Search. Vanderbilt University, 2008. Web. 7 Apr. 2012.            <;.

Place Assignment: Fisk University


The above photograph somewhat resembles a photograph I took of Kirkland Hall at Vanderbilt University – so much so that it could very well be the same campus. However, this is a photograph of Cravath Hall at Fisk University. Both photographs feature the main administrative building on campus. Trees obstruct both of these important buildings. Though these photographs look similar, they belong to two different universities with very different histories. That these photographs look similar masks the very different histories of these two universities.

Both schools were founded in Nashville around the same time – Fisk University in 1867 and Vanderbilt University in 1873. The similarities in their missions – to provide excellent education and produce exemplary citizens – were overshadowed by the differences in the constituents the schools’ services were offered to. Where Vanderbilt University catered to society’s elites, Fisk University addressed the needs of some of those most disenfranchised in the antebellum south – former slaves.

Fisk, a historically black university, played a very different role in the civil rights movement than did Vanderbilt. Where Fisk students, staff, and faculty made up a large part of those involved in the Nashville sit-ins, Vanderbilt as a whole was in favor of segregation. Vanderbilt Divinity student James Lawson was famously expelled from the university for actively leading Nashville sit-ins.

As a student at Vanderbilt University, the photograph taken on Vanderbilt’s campus holds more personal significance for me than the one taken on Fisk University’s campus. The Vanderbilt photograph features an area of campus that I often walk through, and the trees in particular are tied to my experiences here. But though the Vanderbilt photo is more personal, I still feel connected to the Fisk photo, perhaps because Cravath Hall looks so much like it could be a Vanderbilt building (I think it looks particularly like Central Library on Vanderbilt’s main campus.) The tree obstructing the view of Cravath Hall further enhances the photo’s familiarity to me.

Knowing the often contrasting histories of these two collegiate institutions, the familiarity I feel from the Fisk University photograph comes across as deceptive. How can such different institutions appear so similar? I could easily tell someone that the photo of Cravath Hall is a building on Vanderbilt’s campus, and have him or her believe me. Presented together, these photos make me question how to use photography as evidence. Neither of these photographs are doctored in any way, but they send an inaccurate message concerning the connection between the two schools.

I believe that these photographs shown together are deceiving in that they conceal the extreme differences in the universities’ histories. However, the similarities in the photographs hint that the similarities in the universities are strong, despite historical disagreements. As mentioned before, the two schools were founded around the same time and the same place. With these similarities came similarities for building the institution in the first place. Today, the goals of the universities are strikingly similar. The Fisk University official website states the university’s mission:  “Fisk University produces graduates from diverse backgrounds with the integrity and intellect required for substantive contributions to society. Our curriculum is grounded in the liberal arts. Our faculty and administrators emphasize the discovery and advancement of knowledge through research in the natural and social sciences, business and the humanities. We are committed to the success of scholars and leaders with global perspective.” Vanderbilt University’s mission statement reads, “Vanderbilt University is a center for scholarly research, informed and creative teaching, and service to the community and society at large. Vanderbilt will uphold the highest standards and be a leader in the quest for new knowledge through scholarship, dissemination of knowledge through teaching and outreach, creative experimentation of ideas and concepts. In pursuit of these goals, Vanderbilt values most highly, intellectual freedom that supports open inquiry and equality, compassion, and excellence in all endeavors.” It is clear that the goals of the two seemingly very different universities are quite similar.

Looking at the similarities between the two schools and seeing how similar the photographs of the two places can look, I recall the artist’s project in which he presented similar photographs of very different people – for example showing Nazi family photos next to European Jewish family photos and realizing that they are very similar photographs. The similarities in the photographs present a deception but also show a commonality in humanity.

While the two Nashville schools have conflicted in the past, the future may hold more unity for these two private universities in Nashville. As the photographs show, despite the universities’ differing histories, they share common values.

Food for Thought: An Introductory Look at Memory Through Place

I don’t trust memory. When I was younger, I believed that Nona, my great grandmother on my father’s side, died after getting stuck in a vintage elevator that connected the study to a bedroom in her house, which happens to be the very same house that I grew up in, and still live in today. I thought that I remembered my parents telling me this harrowing story, and it haunted me, in all its fantastical glory, throughout my childhood (however, I was always reassured by the fact that the elevator let out in my sisters room, and not my own…). Yet, as it turns out, this was not the story that my parents had originally told me, despite my vivid recollection of it. In actuality, they had related to me that it was my great grandfather, on my mother’s side, who died in a freak accident, after slipping down the stairs that led to the basement of his house (Oddly enough, my mother’s grandparents lived down the street from my father’s—a connection that was never made until after my parent’s marriage).

Nona remembered our house being built in 1921, and thus she relayed that date to my father, who relayed it to me. This house, at 307 Bushnell Ave, was built by a developer by the name of Shook. Shook lived in the house until 1946, when my great grandparents bought the property after deciding, like the rest of their fellow San Antonians, that the end of the war meant that a new start was necessary—and so they moved in, along with my then 18-year-old grandmother, Frances. And then, in 1993, a year after my birth, it was our turn. My parents and I, and later my sister, made our way from our house on Rosewood to the Bushnell, and like my grandmother, it became the second place that I would call home.

However, according to the Monte Vista (my neighborhood) Historical Association, the Bushnell was built in 1924, which makes Nona’s memory of its 1921 conception seem obsolete. And yet, is her memory really less real, less accurate, then that official documentation? When do we simply have to override the doubt of memory and begin to trust simple remembrance—is it always so unreliable?

Some would argue no, however, I wonder if the truth is an unfortunate yes? As I stated previously, I do not trust memory. It is too easily morphed. Too often what we believe to be true remembrance is simply a story—a fabricated reality masked by the synthetic form of a memory, as was the case with my “memory” of hearing about my grandmothers supposed death. Because I incorrectly remembered the story that my parents recalled to me, I spent my entire adolescence believing in a falsity. In realizing my mistaken memory a few years ago, when I was retold the real story, it only made me wonder how many of my supposed “memories” are really these unknowingly fictitious recollections.

This is my house. Or rather, this is the Bushnell according to the Monte Vista Historical Association website. Formed in 1975 by a group of stubborn architectural enthusiasts, these MVHA members, in an attempt to prevent the annihilation of these “architecturally diverse” houses, unwaveringly petitioned until San Antonio recognized the area as a historic district (3). It was these very efforts that transformed Monte Vista into the largest, and additionally one of the oldest, historical districts in the country.

They say that Monte Vista was created during San Antonio’s “Gilded Age,” which is defined as the supposed period of progression and transformation in the city that lasted from1860 to 1930 (4). Yet, in this photograph, the Bushnell does not strike me as an enlightened and progressive structure. Behind the mangled and confused trees, you can see but a glimpse of her—bits of a white stone body coupled with a few murky roof tiles. The MVHA categorizes her as “French eclectic,” but I do not see the romance of French décor in this picture. Instead, I am disturbed by this image of my own home. It seems not romantic, but eerie, and distant, as if something dark consumes the house, and those inside.

This is my Bushnell. To me, this is a proper representation of the house that I have lived in for almost two decades, my family for almost seven. Although this photograph does not reveal her characteristic cracked paint, creaking wooden floors, and the broken tiles of the patio that no one has bothered to replace, it does reveal the Bushnell’s hospitality, her charm.

And yet, this is an inside view—you cannot take this photograph from outside of our gates, as the MVHA historians were forced to. From the outside, oaks, pecan trees, and heavy bushes that never ceased growing skyward once Nona planted them, veil nearly the entirety of the structure. Consequently, Bushnell’s representation in the outside world is morphed, like only too many memories. I am frustrated by my inability to present our house, my modest slice of history, as it truly should be portrayed. However, despite my frustration, this is the mere matter-of-fact of history—it preserves by its own accord, the way it sees fit. Because the MVHA, the technical historical database of my neighborhood, has publicly portrayed the Bushnell in such a way, with their own photograph, structure birth date, and architectural style definition, my family’s memory is belittled. Now, the true Bushnell exists only within the memories of four people, as the rest of the family is now deceased, and with our future passing, so too goes Bushnell.


“ I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I then experience a micro-version of death (of parenthesis): I am truly becoming a specter” (Barthes 14).

This is another reason why memory unsettles me. Simply speaking, I fear it. That we have no real control over how we are remembered is disquieting. Although Barthes, in all his melodrama, is describing photography, his statement is in line with the workings of memory. Like my family, most Monte Vista houses are inhabited by the descendants of the so-called pioneers, oilmen, ranchers, etc, that first built or lived in the houses (3). We cling to these defenseless structures because we are fearful of what they will be transformed into—we fear the possibility of a public memory claiming them. Like Barthes sitting before a camera, we are subjects becoming objects through memory. Progression brings with it transference, for, in time, we all transfer into these specters, into ghosts, into, memories. And thus, we must begin to trust the unreliable, as fearsome as it is, because, it is simply what we become—it is how we survive…

 ***Discussion to be continued***

Works Cited

1)    Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. New York: Hill and Wang, 2010. Print.

2)    “Homes By Street Bushnell Ave.” Monte Vista Historical Association. 2008. Web. 11 April, 2012.

3)    “The Association.” Monte Vista Historical Association. 2008. Web. 11 April, 2012.

4)    “The District.” Monte Vista Historical Association. 2008. Web. 11 April, 2012.

The Exit/In: A Place Personified

The first time I went to Exit/In, I was alone. Perhaps the strangeness of my attending an event so social as a concert alone is why I remember it so well, although, when I really think about it, I’m not entirely sure if I can trust my memories of that first experience at all. It was a concert that I went to for a class assignment, actually. I was to attend any concert of my choice and write a review of the concert. Being a busy, naive freshman who had a knack for procrastination, I found myself standing in line outside the venue feeling rather vulnerable, anxious, and, frankly, stupid. At the same time, I was eager to hear what kind of Nashville acts would be playing inside and was also utterly transfixed by that wall.

Many of you probably know the wall I’m talking about, that black and white graffiti of now famous acts that–once just beginning their careers– took the stage at Exit/In. I’ve always wondered about that wall, especially how recently it must have been erected since I could easily recognize some bands that only began touring around ten years ago. Were their names listed one by one as act after act came through? Either way, there all these different bands were, on the same plane, brought to my present. It is a plaque– a sign of success, esteem and pride, but with a punk-rock, graphic bravado.

That bravado, that courage has been partly the reason why Exit/In has survived the ever-changing neighborhood of Nashville and even a bankruptcy in July of 2002 (Murray). Many people note that concert “dumps” like Exit/In seem to instill a sense in the audience that a good concert venue is about the people, not the place: music historian Robert Oermann notes,

“The Troubadour’s a dump. The Bottom Line is a dump.And the Exit/In to a certain extent was a dump. It was who was there and the music that was made. It wasn’t the club itself, although it was a good room. The Exit felt like a hundred-seat room even with 300 people in it.”

And the Exit/In is very open to any kind of music being made inside its walls. I am aware of this openness myself because of that battle of the bands event I attended. Or at least I think so–I don’t trust my memories, and I really barely remember the other acts that were involved except for a wildly energetic ska band. But at this battle of the bands concert, my memories tell me that I witnessed a group playing power pop in bunny suits. I can’t have constructed that in my own memory–its too strange. If for no other reason, that is why I still think that I may have seen a group wearing bunny suits. It seems like a rather strange memory to hold onto as well, but I think that that night made it clear to me that Exit/In did not discriminate in terms of acts that might bring more or less success to the venue. So really, there are only two things that I remember about that night: the wall and the bunny suit. First an indication of pride and esteem, and then an attitude of indifference and spunk, maintaining that through changes in the club, the original idea is there.

I also agree with Oermann’s statement that a place like Exit/In is about the people. For me, Exit/In became about the people I went to see shows with over my years at Vanderbilt.  It became about the bands and people I saw play, or who made it onto the wall: Josh Rouse, The Donnas, G. Love, Linda Ronstadt, Dinosaur Jr. In that same way, I realize that the history of Exit/In is more about the people than the actual place, and any place that transcends the mere space it inhabits is worth saving. It has bounced from owner to owner, transforming its niche in Nashville with each change(a hippie hideout in the 70’s, a disco in the 80’s), but these changes have culminated in turning Exit/In into a rather rare type of rock club that remains open to all types of music. Finally, it became, I’ve realized more recently, a place of importance because of my family history–A place where my mother and father would go during their years as Law Students in the early 80s, just at the beginning of their relationship, and then a place where I would go almost half a decade later.

And when I asked my mother about their memories of Exit/In, she struggled to recall any memory but the company she kept when she went there:

We would go see bluegrass bands there all the time in the 80s. Actually–that was the Wind in the Willows. Or was it? I can’t remember. I definitely remember going to see a show at Exit/In with your father.”

My mother called me back later that day and suggested I write about another place, one that she remembers a little better, because her memories of Exit/In are so fuzzy. But I couldn’t get past that initial moment of excitement and recognition when I told her I was going to write about this place: Oh yeah! What a great place, we went there all the time!Even thought this turned out not to be true, it simply proves that the Exit/In has a permanent and significant role in Nashville’s landscape, as well as a distinctive look and feel that infiltrates its shows.

After that first night, I spent my nights at Exit/In far from alone. I was surrounded by my friends, friends from school, home, and friends that I made while witnessing each show. Do I remember what I heard, or what my friends and I talked about or did before and after? No. But I remember the people, and I remember the feeling. If there’s one thing everyone can agree on about Exit/In, its that when one goes to a show at the Exit/In, there is a feeling that one is bearing witness to a special moment of rock n’ roll in Nashville: “Despite all the great stories, despite all the history, the Exit/In is quite simply one, old, dark, loud piece of Nashville rock stuck right in the middle of the Music City.” ( When I try to remember my experiences at the Exit/In 30 years from now, just as my mom did, I will at least remember that. Although, I’ll probably remember the wall and the bunny suits, too.

Works Cited

Murray, Noel. “Our Story.” Review. Nashville Scene 5 Dec. 2002. Exit / In. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <;.