The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Wednesday, May 16, 2001

The Light Was Lovely

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: Being forced to move from a home you love is a painful thing. A few weeks ago, a friend of a friend — an artist — told me she and her husband were going to have to vacate the apartment where they had lived for many, many years. It's an old building, an historic Sonoma building just off the square. Apparently some kind of structural improvements have to be made to it, and thus all the tenants must leave. My friend's friend asked if I would photograph the apartment. She wasn't exactly sure what she wanted. A documentation of the now-empty rooms where so much had happened over the years? Something more tangible than memory? It's an historic building, she told me. Perhaps there could be an exhibit of the photographs. This place mattered, she seemed to be saying. This wasn't just an apartment. It wasn't just rooms. This was a place of life and spirit, of love and joy, pain and confusion, where successes were celebrated and failures suffered. Anyway, she was going to call me when the apartment was empty and the time was right. There would only be a day, maybe two, when their belongings had been moved out but they would still have access. The call came yesterday, and so today I drove over to the building, which is essentially across the street from the old Sonoma Mission. It looks like something you'd find in Mexico. I had walked by it many times, under the wood porch that extends above the sidewalk. There was an iron gate; you passed the right side of the building and walked around the back, where the garden was a bit overgrown, and up the wooden stairs. "How are you doing?" I asked. "Well...." she said. "But thanks for asking." Leaving your home is hard. There were still a few odds and ends, mostly out on the back porch. At one point, my new friends — the artist and her husband — sat in some chairs on that back porch, talking, looking down on the garden and at a pickup truck one of the other tenants was loading with his belongings. The apartment was fairly small, but it was beautiful. It felt like time had stood still in there. I don't know what decade, just old, old California. I could imagine what the place must have been like in, say, 1967. I could see a couple of hippie artists freaking over the place. Then it would have had that old-time feeling the Charlatans and their friends found in Nevada City. Folks wanted to retreat a bit then, wanted the comfort of old things, even as they tried to invent new ways of living and thinking and being. The apartment still has that feeling, like it could be the coolest place to live, like you could write great things here, or make beautiful art. But now, of course, it's 2001, and the world has changed so much that it's really hard to be an artist. It costs a lot of money to live, and most artists don't earn a lot of money. Anyway. Decades-old hardwood floors, big windows looking out to the front porch. There was a bedroom, the walls painted a faint pink, with the smallest bathroom off it. Two more rooms that I imagined had served as a living room and a study. And one of those chute-like kitchens with an ancient four-burner gas stove against one wall, and a counter with the sink that looked out on the back yard. A door led from the living room to a narrow front porch — the one I had walked under — that ran the length of the building; other residents' apartments opened onto it as well. You could sit and look down on East Spain Street, or out and up at the Sonoma hills, which are always beautiful. "We watched the 4th of July parade from here," she explained. I took photographs. I tried not to think about how sad this was. I tried to just take photographs. Get lost in the composition. And the light. 'Cause the light was lovely in the apartment.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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