You can never go home again. The line expresses a quintessential sorrow embedded in the American dream. You move up and out. You can’t go home again, because you left and became someone different. When you go back, no one will understand you, and the place you idealized can’t ever live up to the new tastes you’ve acquired. But is the message historical or progressive? Essential or didactic? Was it coined to communicate immigrant longing? Or as a warning to those who made the upwardly mobile journey from the provinces to the city? Or, more basically, does it say something about time and memory?
The Tom Tom Founders Festival was inaugurated last year somewhat breathlessly by founder Paul Beyer, who came home to Charlottesville to help run his father’s real estate business after a stint in New York City. The month-long local version of SXSW fell into place over a short timetable on a massive scale and ultimately couldn’t live up to its billing. What was actually a fairly impressive first showing at times felt like the yardstick by which to measure the gap between our town and Austin.
Beyer learned his lesson. This year he took a whole year to organize a program that took place over one long weekend. He dialed back the mission, putting aside the project of starting a new music festival capable of drawing national acts and focusing on a UVA-backed innovation program paired to a series of community-based showcases for local musicians, artists, and organizations.
If you were at McGuffey Friday night, or dug the farmer’s market on steroids Saturday morning, you tasted Beyer’s success. My moment was the concert at Lee Park . On a glorious Virginia spring day, families spread out over a public park on picnic blankets with their dogs, taking in the tunes emanating from The Garage (a church property turned into a music venue), within earshot of The Haven (a homeless day shelter cum community hub), where Tom Tom Talks covered media, faith, and creativity. It was soooo Charlottesville, and it felt good.
This week’s feature on cool places reflects the fact that the cool you’re looking for can be quaint, even bucolic, like the ‘50s superimposed on the now. Maybe you moved away, tasted the Big City, and came home. Or instead of moving up and out, you stayed put without letting go of your ambition. Or maybe you came here from somewhere else, thinking you finally found a place you could call home again.