11 January 2010

822 v2.0

I have three numbers tattooed on my wrist

next to the image of sickly green & yellow rose. I have these three numbers that I gaze at everyday, and I forget what they mean, sometimes. I forget why I put them on my skin permanently. I have this vague notion, this memory of a feeling, this fleeting air of excitement and sawdust and rancid beer and solvents that lingers in my brain. That is all that is really there on a daily basis; what I claim to be the daily reminder of why I am still putting forth my precious spare time, my short patience, my meager extra funds into something that everyone involved defines in their own terms.

822, those are the three digits that grace my left arm. "What does 822 mean?" asks every other Circle K clerk selling me a pack of Parliaments. "Uh, it's an address.. to a warehouse that I... used to squat in?" What kind of answer is that? It's the truth. I'm too rational at times, too logical, and far too goddamned serious for my own good. Yeah yeah, it's gotten me this far. I mean, how many 21 year olds do you know that have kept a 3.0 in full-time college, held down multiple steady jobs, run a bi-weekly newspaper, and still found the time and energy to found and maintain their own arts organization? Not to toot my own horn here, but seriousness hasn't done me too wrong.

I guess I just have to remember. Isn't that why we make memories? Isn't that why we try, in so many different ways, to document them? Isn't that why my walls are covered in cards, my flickr full of photos, my skin filled with ink? I have to remember the way I felt about a time and a place, even if I'll never experience it again. I forget to remember that far too often. My explanations need amending. 822 is an address to a warehouse that I used to squat in... with a group of the most motivated, interesting, and exciting people I had ever met, that I knew from the start would be my best friends.

I have to remember that. I have to remember the night that I got this tattoo; the way I felt. I knew that night if I thought about it too much, if I made it into something more serious, that I wouldn't go through with it. I have a bad habit of remembering why things fail, detail by detail, rather than hanging on to the memories of why I did it in the first place. Rozelle Artists Guild is this hip, city-renowned group of young progressives. Rozelle Artists Guild is 5 or 6 idiots still figuring life out under the guise of an entity. Rozelle Artists Guild is a failed business. Rozelle Artists Guild is a successful collective making a difference in Memphis. Rozelle Artists Guild is still figuring it out. Rozelle Artists Guild has it more figured out than you. These things are all true to someone.

822 is where it began. But 822 is not where it ended. Losing the warehouse was like breaking up with a boyfriend you've been with for years. It wasn't fun everyday. Sometimes it was difficult, sometimes it felt like more work than I was up for, sometimes I wondered why the fuck we had ever bothered, but at the end of the day, I just had to remind myself that it was worth it. That it was such a good beginning, I wasn't ready for it to die. I knew that night, standing in Studio 42, that if I didn't do something important, something permanent, something to always remember where this started, and how motivated and excited we all were, that the memories of bonfires, full studios, the workdays when everyone pitched in, the comraderie, the ideas, the thick atmosphere of creativity and naivete and determination would fade into the criticism of how 822 was lost.

I saw 822 yesterday for the first time in over a year. I remember crying when we lost it, thinking it would be low-income apartments, or boat storage, or condemned in twelve months. But it's none of those things. As Mark put it, there is yet another crazy asshole in there, trying to transform this old piece of shit building into something good. I'm glad to see that edifice standing, and vibrating, and improving, however slowly. I am glad that what little us 5 or 10 naive assholes did to that warehouse ended up being a few less steps for the next guy, rather than a waste.

And now? What does 822 mean to me? 822 is our roots, our history. And our future lies in a new address, a new building. And I'm terrified. What are these kids thinking? Do they really think they can take some old piece of shit building and turn it into some kind of arts hub? Do they really think they have what it takes? Well, I think we do. We did it before, we can do it again. Now, 822 means something different. It means mistakes we won't repeat. It means wisdom and knowledge. It means a full rolodex of contacts. It means half a city has heard our name, regardless of the association it carries. It means that this team, having grown from 2, to 3, to 5, to 8, to 30 and 40 and up, has finally settled into 5. Five people that are up for a challenge. Five people grown wiser and older and tougher through concrete and murals.

This quonset hut... It's an awful idea. It's a repeat. It's five young idiots who have the heart but no means. It's five idiots who will want it with everything they are, but will still get distracted trying to pay bills, find health insurance, put food in the fridge, and beg for recognition for the individual talents we all have. Separate, that's what we are. Just five dumbass twenty-somethings. But for some reason, when you put us in a room, or an abandoned building full of junk, all we see are possibilities. All of the sudden, we will work for free, we will blow off dates, we will sweat and toil and beg all for what?

That, my friend, is what you must wait for. We're not through yet. Chapter two is beginning. 822 is a ghost, but I am remembering what it felt like to think, This could really work. We could really do this. And it might be a longshot. We might be naive. We might fail miserably. But I recently came to the realization that letting the fear of failure dictate your decisions is a stupid philosophy for anything. And that even if we do, we're going to win anyway. Bankrupt us, overdraft us, evict us, cave rooves in on us, burn us, bake us, we just keep going. We always have, and we will until the end, whenever that may be.

822 means I'm not giving up just yet.