Friday, January 21, 2011

Bitter Sweet Memories of My Years in a Highrise

I had an interesting experience yesterday. On my way to a meeting with a local artist and writer, I passed a place where my daughter and I lived twelve years ago. The building is a brick high rise built in the 1930's or 40's in an upscale Atlanta neighborhood. However, this building is the anomaly of this strip of Peachtree Road in Atlanta. Some of the most bizarre, colorful, and mentally unstable characters made the Darlington their residence. I often wondered if I was the only normal person that lived there, however, I now realize that perhaps I was giving myself too much credit. Downstairs there was a dry cleaner, travel agency, dentist office, convenience store, and Chinese restaurant. The building definitely had a quirky and nostalgic feel to it. However, it was also a disturbing experience to live there.

My daughter and I were quite popular, she was adorable and attracted a lot of attention. As introverted as I am, I find it surprising when I look back and remember that we visit neighbors often, and vice versa. It seems pretty out of character for me, but I am so glad to remember that I broke character in that way.

Odd occurrences took place at the Darlington. There were some things that I heard or saw during my three and a half year there that I would care not to remember, and definitely don't want to write about them.

I was completing my undergraduate degree, something that I had put on hold for a few years, and living on a shoestring. There was one summer when my student loan checks were messed up and we ended up living on $15 per week. Bad memories. I never want to go back there again.

There were there happy moments when I had enough money to buy a great looking futon and get cable. That was enough to make me feel like I had the world in the palm of my hand. Having easy access to great Chinese food was pretty wonderful as well. Then there was the spectacular view from my twelfth story window of the Peachtree Road race that took place every Fourth of July.

Yesterday I pulled into the back parking lot of the Darlington. I sat in my car and looked up at the fifteen story building; watching the odd characters emerge. I can't say that the experience of being back was depressing, it was really more unsettling. Even thinking back to yesterday I feel unsettled. I am glad that that time in my life is behind me. The remembrance of sitting in that parking lot yesterday and the memories that flooded me leaves a dark spot on my mind.

So, I think that I would like to end this post with the memory of my daughter and I walking down the street to a quaint French sandwich shop located next door to our apartment, enjoying our breakfast of waffles, toast, and tea; then walking to CVS to get the film developed from our disposable cameras; arriving home to change into our bathing suits and head to the pool for a couple of hours, and then upstairs for lunch and to put my daughter down for her nap. Yes, those are the memories that I want to be left with from my Darlington days. Sweet summer afternoons with my child.


  1. You have me intrigued about the Darlington. I find that as I write about my life, it is easier to leave the dark memories behind. Life should be the present with only the good of the past to remember. Dark memories are lessons in life, but once experienced I think they definitely need to be stored away into the deepest depth of one's mind. As always, with your writings, I loved reading this one.

  2. I am delighted and honoured to share in that memory with you( the happy one) and, actually, the sad ones too. You have come long way and going back to the place we came from, even with distance, can trigger all kinds of feelings.
    I, as a writer, tend to find inspiration in my dark memories. What I try and do is take them and make them accessible through humour. Something about rewriting them and finding the absurd and ridiculous in the past is a comfort to me. Something changes in me by writing about it and owning the story and changing the darkness into something meaningful.

  3. Thanks La Belette and Clipwings for the comments. Some of the memories about the Darlington that I did not wish to relive had to do with remembering some of the things that I saw and heard about while living there. It was really like living in a Scorcese film or Sam Shepherd play. At times a went to sleep listening to my neighbor beating his wife (I often called security for help), fights in the parking lot, the mysterious murder of someone on my floor, while he was at home. A lot of darkness, but great material for a story.