while falling down the internet rabbit-hole, i come across an image of the old drive in off national avenue (about a mile or two from where i grew up in new berlin, wisconsin):
what i remember:
•how it sat that way, in its unhinged state, for quite a while. and once the screen itself was taken down, how the lot sat there longer.
•a playground with a metal merry go round (traction tread) underneath the huge screen, for the kids to run around on while everyone else waits for dusk to dim.
•the A & W down the road (metal trays with yellow rubber-coated hooks attached to rolled down windows. thick glass mugs freezerfrosted and filled cold with rootbeer sweetness.)
•(not sure if this one is imagined or actually happened) adventuring one night (with friends? with family? on a family bike ride?). dried muddirt and stones under our tennis shoes. the sound of summer crickets and the illumination of actors on the screen. feeling like we were getting away with something because we could see the movie, even though we couldn’t hear it. what a secret (a good one) feels like.
what it is today:
a medical center (of the suburban, grayred brick variety) and its parking lot.
this phenomena is a map waiting to be made. the drive-in being only one site of many:
1. the two story farmhouse looming on the southwest corner (i remember blues and grays. perhaps wooden siding. yellowed shades pulled down in the windows) of the intersection of national avenue and moorland road. rooms abandoned. except for the ghosts i imagined that lived there. the building may have come down around the same time as the drive-in. what sprouted in its place: a bank whose tellers sent dum-dum lollipos through the pnuematic tube when i was in the car with mom as she pulled through the drive-through and the site of the first ATM (tyme) machine i ever witnessed. a bank (and its parking lot) that used to be named first wisconsin which is now associated bank ad which might have been something else entirely in between.
2. the hardees across the street from what was once the ghost-house that is now a starbucks, noodles and company, sprint store, etcetera.
3. the pharmacy that was not a far bike ride but a treacherous one involving several major intersecions- totally worth it because it sold single laffy taffys for 25 cents and single now and laters for 10 cents, maybe even 5. what took its place: anonymous office buildings that might also come off as a small apartment building. blonde-reddish brick built sometime in the late 80’s. the anonymity lending itself to an unnoticed rotation of businesses that may as well be invisible because as long as i’ve never had to go into those buildings [and in fact, i think i did, for family counseling], it made no difference to me who inhabited them.
4. the cornfields further south off moorland. the ones the bus passed on the way to middle/high school. the ones i dreamt of running away to (surely the busted brick shack was vacant and could provide enough shelter) cut down and paved over in the past 10 years to make way for a spill-sprawling parking lot for spill-sprawling box stores (michaels, office max, target with an eatery and pharmacy and grocery section) .
to name a few.
there is a wonder of growing up in a world that, when reflected back to us, looked like that… actual halftone newsprint. whose aura still comes through in digital scans of its pages. there is the wonder that some newspapers are accessible online (see page 3). and there is the wonder that some newspapers have gone unarchived, will go unarchived. (it’s as if new berlin’s accessible history is only old-old (new berlin historical society, early 1900’s) or in the archives of an online-only newspaper (early 2000’s). the local new berlin newspaper that i grew up flipping through at the kitchen table- first looking only at the pictures and later, paging through in hopes of finding something bigger to connect to- no longer exists. anywhere. what that does, then, to those who want to see their past reflected back to them (me) but can’t find it. can’t find it or only find it in singular photos of lightning-struck drive-ins from major newspapers that thought what was happening in my suburb was interesting enough to post a picture of. there is a kind of comfort when typing a search question into google only to find that dozens of other people have posted the same questions. there is the sting of erasure, when i type defunct new berlin wisconsin newspaper or new berlin wisconsin newspaper 1980s and nothing comes up, not even another person searching for or writing about it. (the suburb i grew up in itself perpetuating a living state of erasure.)
perhaps there is some kind of beauty in the unarchived (that only those who had been there then know about it, a kind of undergroundness/off-the-radarness), but i think the larger thing really, is thinking about who holds onto histories unattached to document, or attached to document but not archived document? will it ever become searchable? what does it mean that there are certain documents and accounts that will show up on the internet that validate my history but, there is also a lack of document that blots it out entirely. what happens when the archive itself goes? (the internet can’t live forever i recall a comrade saying while walking the city at night.)
i’m sure there is a word for this, this thing about how when our worlds, our histories, our selves are reflected back to us, the reflection validates and reifies us and our histories.
even though we sang and acted on their stages, even though we wrote articles for their newspapers, even though we made their honor roll, our high schools forget about us. even though we remember the busted drive through screen and the cornfields before they were taken, our suburbs forget about us. even though we know the coordinates and the colors and what replaced what, the internet doesn’t always uphold our histories.