26 April 2010

You CAN Go Home Again

Over the years, I'd received numerous invitations to Binghamton University (nee SUNY) alumni events that had yet to draw me out. But a few months back, I was intrigued to discover that Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo was a fellow Bingaling, and that there was to be a gallery reception in his honor in Williamsburg. This caught my attention, and off I went to reconnect with some old friends from school who I'd only seen of late on Facebook. One of these was Andy Stevens, who it turns out is now part of a cooperative art space in Binghamton called Spool Mfg. The wine was flowing, the stroll down memory lane was in full force, and the natural progression to "we should show your film in Binghamton" emerged. And thus, just last weekend, I found myself on the road (Rte. 17W to be exact), courtesy of the good people of Spool and the Binghamton Alumni Association, to show the film in my old stomping ground in the Southern Tier.

And stomp I did. First around the campus where I got pretty lost in the car trying to get around all the new construction - Binghamton's a poppin'! Good news was that some touchstones were still intact: the newt ramps in the nature preserve were still going (the road to hell is paved with newt carcasses that can't migrate properly when roads are built), the Suck-A-Banana (um, er, I
mean Susquehanna) Room was still serving up coffee in the OLD union, and the gnarly tree that I wrote a poem about when that boy stomped on my heart still twists its sinewy self outside Smith Hall. And there was my Shakespeare professor, Al Vos, still outstanding in his field, this time literally on the Hinman Quad (tho' I'm still miffed there was no underwear tye-dyeing as promised). Here I was in the place that first fed my little hungry mind, and set the course of this thing called my life. What a befitting day to lead into an evening presentation of a film about the radical notion of educating women.

Spool Mfg is a seemingly endless expanse of space (and I didn't even see all of it),
filled with great art and huge potential, and showing my film there was a particular treat. I've dreamed of being part of such an endeavor all my life - the one where my friends and I take over an abandoned factory and I run the cinema, my painter friend runs the gallery, my writer friend runs the bar/open mic poetry venue, and so on. Perhaps this is why, for the first time in a long time, I found myself wanting to sit in with the audience and watch the film. This is usually a process I skip - there are just so many times you can be dazzled by your own work (wink). Seriously, there's just a point where you can't watch a piece anymore because every time you do, you want to get back in there and keep working on it. But something about the whole day landed me in my chair as a spectator. And, as usually happens when I subject myself to that experience, I saw the film with new eyes. But this time not ones of judgment but of clarity. I was blown open and filled up again by the kindness of Lama Norlha Rinpoche and the choice he offered to the women of Nangchen. The discussion/reception after the film offered the chance to commune with very smart locals, including fellow alum Andy Horowitz about his latest dance project Galumpha. Here's how that went: "Oh, you're a dancer, I guess you've heard of the company that's based up here, Second Hand Dance?" "I founded Second Hand Dance." "Andy, is that you?!" I guess people can look different after 20-something years.

The next morning, it was time for a drive around downtown Binghamton, which in fact doesn't look different after 20-something years. For every missing establishment (RIP Drummer's) there was another still proudly (and surprisingly) standing. Belmar Lounge, I'm talking to you. And then it was up to the "scenic" Park Diner for breakfast.

Maybe it was the pollen the size of golf balls floating around in the upstate air. Maybe it was my companion Andrew's quest for the perfect spaghetti sauce north of the 212. Maybe it was the ghost of native son Rod Serling himself. Likely it was a combination of all these forces swirling around in the ether that landed smack dab on the RECORD button of my cell phone camera and conspired to bring about the little video morsel below.

When I uploaded it to YouTube this morning, I was horrified to discover that it's been two years since my previous contributions to the "What in the World..." series (and not much more recent since I've blogged). Apparently, though I've still been traveling far and wide bringing Daughters of Wisdom to museums and universities near you, the impetus to create has just not been quite there. But it's back, my friends, it's back.

And so, dear Binghamton, I say in your honor... You not only can go home again...sometimes you really must go back to move forward.