Thursday, November 29, 2012

Between Old Memories and Me

From the mid-1970s until I left Spokane, Washington for Anchorage, Alaska in 1978, I lived in Browne’s Addition, one of the community’s first residential neighborhoods.  It was heavily wooded and filled with former mansions dating to the 1880s which had been converted back then into apartments.

At the time, Browne’s Addition was just earning a distinction as a National Historic District.  Adjacent to downtown, the neighborhood was a short walk along a deep gorge of the Spokane River to my first job as a community-destination marketing executive.

However, on most days I drove so that at the end of the workday I could dash across the spectacular Spokane Falls for evening law school classes at Gonzaga University.

Browne’s Addition is where I gleaned my initial awareness of the pivotal contribution of historic preservation to what makes a community distinctive enough to be mined for visitor-centric economic and cultural development.Browne's Addition

This was also a period in life when I was dealing with a series of deep personal losses and, in hindsight, I am able to recognize it was one of maybe four times in my life when, if only for a few days or weeks, I personally experienced true depression.

Tom Lucas, a close friend from law school with whom I still have a connection through these many decades, and I used to take long walks not only through Browne’s Addition but over a bluff into a deep ravine along what was then known as Hangman Creek where it flows into the Spokane River, another part of the community’s narrative.

Resisting attempts over more than 100 years to revert the name of the creek to Latah, meaning “fish,” maps still show the creek named Hangman after an episode when up to 17 Palouse Native Americans were hung along that ravine following back-to-back battles with US Cavalry known as Four Lakes between what is now nearby Cheney and Spokane and Spokane Plains which took place between what is now the city and the area around the airport and Fairchild Air Force Base.

The battles took place with bands the Yakama, Palouse, Spokane, Colville, Lower Pend d’Oreille, and Coeur d'Alene tribes of Native Americans in retribution for the humiliation suffered by troopers in defeat a few months earlier.  This time the battle turned on a new rifle technology.

Not far from where I rendezvous with family on a lake each summer,  Cavalry had also pursued Indians down the Spokane River Valley, to a point between Newman and Liberty lakes along the border with my native Idaho, where they executed a herd of 700 Indian horses after culling 100 to keep.

Many communities like to date the places where they are located to a time significant only because it is when European-Americans first created settlements there.  This disregards the deeper significance of almost temporal place-based cultural, environmental and built assets and events so central to community-destination marketing.

When I transitioned in the late 1980s from marketing Anchorage to marketing Durham, North Carolina, where I now still live in retirement, many here were trying to bury any sign of the community’s past including its legacy brand as the Bull City, which I use today in the name of this blog.

I took some heat when the organization I led fully embraced the long-view of Durham’s heritage including using “bull” in marketing tools such as subtly forming a bull’s head inside the “D” of the community's first marketing logo and incorporating the word “bull” into tools such as the Bulls Eye Newsletter, the Bull Horn voice information system and even the name of the weekly staff meeting, “Remarkabulls.”

Eventually, a much more overarching but incorporating brand and slogan was distilled, but reconnecting with the community’s rich heritage back then had helped give voice to Durham’s unique sense of place without taking anything away from more recent attributes and events.  There is also evidence it played a role in fostering Durham’s signature adaptive reuse of historic buildings.

During my time living in Spokane’s historic Browne’s Addition during the 1970s,  I also reconnected during that time of deep introspection, to parts of my personal brand.  I returned to the country music of my roots adding a love of The Eagles to an earlier rediscovery via Gram Parsons (before and after The Byrds,) especially in duets with Emmylou, as well as Kris Kristofferson and outlaws such as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.

Knowing my fondness, friends gave the lyrics for the song Desperado rendered in calligraphy to hang on the wall of my office.  The song, started by Don Henley in the late 1960s and completed in collaboration with Glenn Frey is a flawless description of not only depression but many of the lessons I’ve had to learn during my life.

However, the country music artist that most symbolizes that reconnection to my roots coincided with relocation to my now-hometown Durham in mid-1989.

Though he died tragically just weeks before that move, one can still sense Keith Whitely’s enduring influence over the subsequent decades by using his name to create a station on Pandora, one of my favorites.

His inspiration is often acknowledged by Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, George Strait, John Berry, Doug Stone and many others popular today such as Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Daryle Singletary and Joe Nichols.

In 1973, Whitely was just striking out from his teenage collaboration with Ricky Skaggs.  Up through my early years in Anchorage, you could still hear Whitely’s mark on bluegrass groups such as the Clinch Mountain Boys and The New South.

Striking out on his own, during the time I was in Anchorage made him more mainstream but Whitely wasn’t entirely comfortable with over-produced hits such as Miami My Amy.  Then, just as I turned 40, in the months before I arrived in Durham, Keith Whitely rebelled. He shelved one just completed and cut a ground-breaking album his way just a few months before he would be found dead at age 34.

It spawned three number one hits, one of which was co-written by Don Schlitz, “When You Say Nothing At All.”  Coincidentally, Schlitz is a Durham native and graduate of Duke University here, who had left his job as manager for a Roses store, during my time of intense introspection and epiphany in the early-to-mid-1970s, to pursue a hall-of-fame career as a country songwriter in Nashville.

Posthumously, Whitely continued to have hits well into the 2000s including Somewhere Between, Between An Old Memory and Me and two for which he had only cut demo tapes such as Tell Lorrie I Love Her an ode to his wife Lorrie Morgan on their wedding day and a duet she cut after his death entirely ‘Till A Tear Becomes A Rose.

I am fortunate that my four brushes with depression, occurring between 1967 and 1987, lasted only a few days to several weeks and compared to many who suffer much more frequent and lasting episodes, I feel blessed.

Introspective melodies such as Whitely’s continue to resonate deep inside me, maybe synchronizing to my internal metronome.  Never bringing me down, instead they are an uplifting and reassuring reminder of how fortunate I’ve been in life, but also as an empathetic reminder of those who aren’t.

Maybe music, such as his, also serves as a soundtrack for much of my life including my now-concluded career.

1 comment:

Johnston County Visitors Bureau said...

Desperado is also my all-time favorite song -- I didn't know that about you. Or that you battled depression...I do too. Sometimes I wonder if it's depression or just deep sadness over life's difficult moments. Love and hugs, Donna