November 22nd, 2012
“Want to see something cool?”
We took the elevator
The doors opened
And we were greeted with my greatest vice of all.
The story is this.
I was home for the holidays. Prepared for a week chock-full of on again off again reminiscing between family and old friends reciting conversation after conversation about “How much as changed!” “How have you been?! I’m good and how about YOU?”
“Do you remember when?
“Isn’t it crazy that – “
Seems just like yesterday we…”
“Do you remember that one place where – “
Unprepared for the interesting realization that lived right behind this forbidden door. My friend Alex and I grabbed a drink earlier that evening, and eventually after we exchanged banter about the high school days and a few sentences that started with ‘”Do you remember when – ” ,”Isn’t it crazy that – ” , “Seems like just yesterday we -” “Do you remember that one place where – “ the night eventually came to a neat end and we were on the verge of saying goodbyes when he said hey! That he knew of a place and would I per chance,
“Want to see something cool?”
We took the elevator
The doors opened
We pushed past the do not enter sign and to our subtle surprise found the alarms to be silent and door to be completely unlocked. We slowly opened the heavy door revealing yet another doorway on the other side with a glowing light kissing the perimeter of the entry way.
We slowly p-a-c-e-d our way through the entrance and into the next room and began to explore.
And the whole time
We were down there
I grazed my hands along the paint chipped walls
What in the hell
This used to be
And then I saw one more doorway
And Alex ran ahead
And I followed closely behind.
And watched as he turned around, glanced up and said
And so I did. And what I saw. Were the remnants of a ballroom. That I’m sure. Used to be magnificent. And that maybe.
A story happened here.
And so I asked him what he thought and we began fabricating guesses that we both knew were only half as good as the ones that really existed. And so that night, I did some research.
T-h-e C-o-m-m-o-d-o-r-e P-e-r-r-y H-o-t-el T-o-l-e-d-o O-h-i-o
And as it turns out. Many stories did happen there. In fact, the ballroom that I discovered? That I was just in? Well.
Turns out Elvis Presley was in that exact same room once.
But not just on any day.
But rather, on the exact same day that I was there.
Exactly 56 years ago.
He was there on November 22nd, 1956.
And I trailed in a little later on November 22nd, 2012.
And the story is this:
Elvis Presley was standing in the ballroom bar room unwinding after his very first performance in the grand city of Toledo.
And another man was there too. A man who in fact approached him and said that he was upset. He was upset that Elvis received so.much.attention and shortly after quoting “My wife carries your picture but doesn’t carry mine!”
Elvis threw a punch
And then another
And then 5 more.
And eventually the brawl got so big, Elvis didn’t return back to Toledo for another 21 years.
And what was so crazy.
Was that this very fight? And those words?
Were now just echoes. In this torn up room.
So then I got to thinking. About the places I used to know. And what they are now.
Like my childhood days.
When my sister and I used to sCaMpEr around our backyard down in Louisiana. Sporting sparkly bathing suits by the pool and chugging an obscene amount of homemade koolaid, whilst cannon-balling our childhood away. The mom would put watermelon on the table and I would water the palm trees in the back because I had “heard a rumor that they were thirsty, Mom!”
And how that pool. And that place. Wasn’t ours anymore. But rather that family’s after that. And then the old married couple after that. And how that very pool. Was now just a decoration in the backyard. And if they ever knew. That 2 really happy children used to play back there every day. With their sparkly bathing suits. And their homemade koolaid. All while cannon-balling their childhood away. And eating watermelon. And taking such good care of their now palm trees, because I gave them water every time they were thirsty.
And then there was high school.
And you’re in your car and you pass that one driveway. And you think back to that one time. The one time where you sat in that one car. With your one friend. Who told you about how they were adopted. And you knew that, but they had never really talked about it. And it was 3 A.M. But for some reason they wanted to talk about it right.now. And so they tell you that all they know is that their mom was a prostitute and had to give him away. A long time ago. Right at birth. So he was lucky if he really thought about it. But don’t get him wrong, he loves his adoptive family! And he thinks they’re great! And it doesn’t even matter to him if his real parents are still around or not. He wants to find them anyway. Or at least hear their story. Because he just feels a little less complete without knowing. And he can’t explain why. And he’s got this container, in the way back of his closet that’s slowly but surely collecting money, to pay for that ticket. To fly to his birthplace. And find them one day. And he’s going to do it, he says, really, he will.
And this conversation of promises, hopes and desires were encapsulated in his 2000 Jetta
That, you know, eventually had car problems, so he ended up getting it fixed and eventually giving it away. And I wondered if the new car owner. Had any idea. That such an incredible epiphany. Happened in the very passenger seat of their car.
And then there was college.
And you remember this one pathway in particular on your college campus. But only because you walked it every single day together. To class, I mean. And for the first year down this path she would be swinging her tote bag and would tell you almost every day about her boyfriend and how it’s going so well! And he’s just the best. And truth be told, there probably won’t be anyone else like him. He’s her best friend, you know?
And then the next year rolls around and you’re walking down the same path. And she’s swinging her purse and she’s telling you that actually they’re not together anymore. But they talk sometimes. And it’s still sad. But it is better this way. It was her decision after all.
And then the year after that? Well we’re walking down this path and she’s playing with her wristlet and she explains to you that actually, she found someone new. Someone incredible. Scary incredible. Like. Shit. Could this be the one? Incredible. They met at a wedding, you see. And she never even knew someone like him, could possibly exist. And so we make our final strides our last year down this path:
And we’re walking except this time she’s just swinging her hand – and it has an engagement ring on it – and she’s spilling her plans about her wedding. And telling you that she’s never quite been this happy.
And I wondered. If the other students who walked up this pathway. Who probably studied flashcards on this pathway, walk of shamed – on this pathway, threw up on this pathway, walked to class just.like.us. on this pathway, knew that an entire love story was narrated on it, almost every day, for 4 years.
And then you hit the “real world.”
And you’re sitting at your internship at Calvin Klein typing, filing, researching away for any glimpse of a hope of getting any sort of opportunity at all. And then your phone goes off. And it’s an unrecognizable number. But you’ve seen it before. In fact, you think you know exactly who it is. So you sneak out the back door and into the lobby and crevice yourself into the corner of the main room, so no one can see you. No one at all. And you say “Hello?” And the person on the other line is named Vanessa. And she asks you how you are and you say fine, and then she tells you that her company would like to offer you your very first full-time position. And they would love it if you would accept. And if you would accept, then they would be happy to send over the offer letter as soon as possible. And you’re standing there in this one corner of the lobby. Where no one can see you. No one at all. And you start to cry. On the phone. By yourself. Well, I guess Vanessa’s there too. But you cry anyway.
Because you finally did it.
And you wonder, if anyone else, in that lobby could hear you. And if they knew, that just a few feet away, a girl’s dream job just called her and turns out.
They wanted her too.
And it really wasn’t until that one night that I was standing in that abandoned ballroom where Elvis used to be that I realized that:
I was that other person.
The person who didn’t know.
And who would never really know.
What it looked like. Or what happened. Because I wasn’t there. And how that was the strangest part of all. How everyday I
Next to a thousand ghost of memories. And how none of them are mine. And how none of mine are theirs. That the platform next to the shuttle to Times Square was romantically mine once, and the corner of 47th street and 5th ave garnered memories of internship nightmares, the 1 square foot bathroom on the top floor of that bar in Ohio held in some of the bravest confessions I’d ever heard, and how that damn Tompkins square park turned into one of my most ridiculous memories of all. And if you asked me if it bothered me that my backyard isn’t’ mine anymore? Or how that car is no longer my friends? That the pathway I walked down was shared with thousands of other students everyday or if no one heard me in the lobby? I’d say no. Because the thing is, they all happened. And I could point to it one day and tell you that it did happen. And even if these places get
Those moments still exist anyway.
And how it sort of makes you feel like you’re living in a borderline vintage world. And maybe realizing that the things we say and do are worth the physical or mental snapshots because maybe people like you, and people like me really will wonder what memories lingered in the very place that we’re standing in right now. And that we should probably make a few more of these stories and moments while we can. You know, just so we can point to them one day and claim them as ours, and tell someone that they happened.
Even if that person is yourself.
And in the meantime, everyone else who is
Right by you? Are manufacturing these stories as well. And before you know it you’ll be standing in a vintage ballroom surrounded by millions of them and wondering what in the hell happened there.