20 Nov Saying Goodbye to Rock Hill
In a LiveJournal entry dated August 21, 2001, I made a list titled “What I Want.” (LiveJournal was the premier blogging website, back before blogging had a name.)
I was living in Rutland, Vermont, at the time. Among bullet points like “Making art,” “A cell phone (for emergencies)” and “To be happy,” was this:
To live in a place at least an hour away from here, with public transportation, a downtown scene, things going on, other people my age, not so much crime so I can take a walk at night without being scared, and lots of cafés.
How incredible is it that this imaginary place exists? My wish came true.
The first time I visited Glens Falls, I still lived in Rutland. My boyfriend at the time found the novelty of Aimie’s Dinner & Movie worth traveling for, and we brought my sister to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I remember stumbling out of the theatre onto Exchange Street, blinking in the brightness, and noticing the bricks in the pavement and the Molly McMaster mural.
Fast forward through me moving from Rutland to Plattsburgh to manage three branches of Aerus Electrolux stores, and then from Plattsburgh to Hudson Falls when that job fell apart and my supervisor became my boyfriend and brought me to live in his hometown, and then through that relationship to meeting Cory Avon in person for the first time.
Where else but Exchange Street?
Cory found me on MySpace through a mutual friend and said he liked my artwork. I told him he could join my mailing list. He kept the conversation going, and eventually talked me into coming to Open Mic at Rock Hill.
The first time I saw Cory in person was right by the four-top table near the bathroom. He was wearing a pink button-up shirt and asked if too much chest hair was showing. When his turn came up, he serenaded me with “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees. He knew I had a thing for Peter Tork (but that’s another story).
We went to Open Mic regularly together, and eventually he became host, taking over from CE Skidmore. I made fast friends with the other folks who liked to go out on Thursday nights, and we’d all go to Wallabee’s after Open Mic for a drink (where we’d also gather on Fridays, Saturdays, and any other day, too). My best friends are the ones I met on Exchange Street. And Exchange Street is where I proposed to Cory.
Meanwhile, many long (LONG!) conversations with Matt Funiciello shaped my life philosophies. It was during this time that I decided to boycott Walmart, quit smoking, become vegetarian, quit fast food and chain restaurants, and go off meds. My devotion to all things local was born. It was Matt who suggested that I apply to the Chronicle, and who explained to me what it even was.
Between those Matt talks in my formative young adult years, my social circle, and my eating habits (breakfast is Rock Hill toast or nothing for me) I would say that Kate Austin-Avon is made up of about 95% Rock Hill. How perfect that we both found our way to veganism, too.
When I took the entrepreneurial leap in 2010, Rock Hill was one of Advokate’s first clients, and it’s where all of my business meetings happened until I had my own office — directly across from Rock Hill, on Exchange Street, upstairs from Milk & Honey.
Rock Hill is where some of my first art shows happened, and where my kids’ first art show happened, where I take them one-on-one for dates, where Henry gets his after-school treats (soup!) and where they performed on stage for the first time singing their ABC’s and messing around on the piano.
I get a lump in my throat thinking that Danny and Ellie, my two youngest, won’t have any memory of the place.
Rock Hill is the center of the Austin-Avon family’s universe.
I’ve had good conversations with Beth Wadleigh, the face of Rock Hill who’s been holding the thing together, and Matt, and I know that pieces of this entity we so love will live on in anything they do. And in us, too. Rock Hill is the foundation of our family. When something or someone dies, you carry it in your heart to let it live on.
Photo: Cory playing next to my artwork, 2007