When I got my Bachelors degree at 50, one of my final projects was a photo essay called: “story-telling itself.” I believe that stories tell themselves when we get out of the way and let them flow.
Recently, I have been keeping track of this particular story that is telling itself. It’s calledAnchors Away. The story line seems to be about how the familiar anchors or touchstones in our lives and culture are changing places or disappearing entirely. We don’t need to worry about 2012, the changes are all happening right now.
As I have retold this story people ask me what I mean by anchors. In the way the story is telling itself, the anchors are those cultural icons and – or touchstones that are familiar to us. The anchors are those dependable icons that have been in our culture and lives for years. Some we listen to and some are what seem like permanent fixtures; transparent and ever present.
In the fall of 2009, I started to notice that some of our major cultural icons (anchors, for lack of a better word) were leaving the “life-stage.” Oprah announced that her show which has been running for almost 25 years, would go off the air sometime in 2011 and Alton Brown, the Food Network’s nutty food scientist (who had recently lost 55 lbs) was moving on too. Brown never said why he lost weight or what he will be doing in his next life chapter. My suspicion is that Alton Brown joined the ranks of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman and is heading on to other foodie trails.
Then, in December of 2009, Charles Gibson retired and almost all of the news anchors at ABC switched places: Diane Sawyer left Good Morning America (GMA) and moved to Gibson’s spot on the evening news, Chris Cuomo left GMA and moved to 20/20, George Stephanopoulos left This Week and joined GMA, someone would eventually take George’s place at This Week and Juju Chang came to GMA. Only one anchor remained steady: Robin Roberts. This switching event got my attention and I remember talking with friends about “all the anchors moving around.” As I retold the story about the news anchors changing places that it was a reflection of the way our lives were changing.
Then, in the pre-show for the 2010 Academy Awards in March, Barbara Walters announced that she was retiring. She wanted to go out at the top of her game, she said. I had worked with Walters on the Today show when she was an “anchor.” In my first career, I worked in the entertainment industry. When I worked with Walters, I was on staff in the NBC wardrobe department. I had a big lump in my throat as I watched her last pre-Academy Awards show interviews. There went another anchor, I remember thinking.
Then there’s Arlo Guthrie. I’m a long time fan of Arlo and when he comes to where ever I am living I make a point to go see him. He came to Asheville in March of 2010 and I went to see both shows. I spent two wonderful evenings with the Guthrie Family. Four generations of Guthries’ singing and dancing…Woody’s songs, Arlo singing and telling stories…Arlo’s 4 children, all accomplished musicians in their own right and their children all singing and dancing…the youngest Guthries’ were about 3…just dancing and twirling to their great grandfathers songs.
So…30 years ago Arlo bought the church that he wrote about in the very long song and subsequent movie: Alice’s Restaurant. Arlo has performed at the church for the past 30 years I believe. This year is the first year that he is not playing at the Church during the summer. His career has changed and as he said on his web site, “we’re playing at a larger venue” in town at that time…and they will also be on tour in the UK around that time. Another anchor in my life changing places.
Of course during all this time we had the earthquakes in Haiti and China as well as what seems like more frequent earthquakes all over the world, and the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Now those events are not necessarily anchors like the others in the story, but they sure seem to be shaking things up.
As I post this story today, May 2nd, we have one more familiar “anchor” gone away…The Mississippi Delta in the Gulf of Mexico is most likely not going to be the same for a long time.
And then there’s the laundromat. I have a condo in Asheville, NC and we have shared washers and dryers for the owners. It’s a vintage building so we have to share. The washers and dryers had not been working well so I went down the hill to use the local laundromat. They had wonderful BIG washers and great dryers. Came time to do my laundry about 2 weeks later and the machines at the condo were still not working well so I went down the hill again. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the laundromat was closed. It had just closed…not moved…just closed. Friends of mine who have lived in Asheville for all of their lives were amazed. That laundromat had been around for at least 25 years. I took a deep breath and exhaled…Another anchor gone away.
I don’t know if there’s any mystical meaning to all this, and I generally make a concerted effort not to apply too much meaning to events like these. However, I do have to say, it seems that there are a lot of anchors moving and change seems to be a foot. So, now I am collecting stories and keeping track of the changing and shifting anchors.