I just got back from the National Main Street Conference in Baltimore where hundreds of managers and fans of historic preservation and revitalization gathered to pump each other up to continue doing what they do. There were many examples of success and lots of suggestions for making cities all over America better PLACES to live. The following comment in the closing speech from sociologist and writer Robyn Ryle summed it up for me:
“…external landscapes… shape the very ground of our consciousness, the way we see ourselves, the wider world, and our relationship to it.”
Then you can imagine my dismay when upon returning home to my beloved small town of Staunton, VA–an artsy, quirky and truly unique PLACE, I discovered a strong rumor that one of its most unusual destinations, Marino’s Lunch was going to close down.
Now there are lots of ways to describe this iconic local joint, but nothing really captures being squeezed like sardines into a dive (term most definitely affectionate) full of musicians and characters who are crazy about playing music except the word PLACE. Marino’s Lunch is one of those defining pieces of history and community that is infectious and authentic. The spirit of “we are all in this together” flows through every person that plops down on a bar stool. No matter who you are or what you like, if you are an observant person you can’t help but feel it, breathe it, let it the vibrations of stringed instruments and raspy voices and clanking plates and bottles connect you to the deep roots of the human soul. For nearly 100 years, this little hole in the wall has been a remarkable mediation on who we are, where we’ve been and where we choose to live.
Saving places like Marino’s Lunch may not always be possible, but finding ways to continually remember and revisit why place matters IS possible. I’m often reminded of Wendell Berry’s quote “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are,” when I describe my own passion for what Robyn Ryle calls being a “place-ist.” She says: ” I am a feminist. An environmentalist. An anti-racist. A place-ist. I am unapologetically committed to places.” Me too Robyn.
Staunton Virginia is a Great American Main Street Community that has a terrific culture of preservation. I hope we will band together to remember and revisit the enormous legacy of PLACES like Marino’s Lunch hold. In the very least, let’s archive what it has meant to our town. Photo sets & articles about Marino’s that I could find online are posted below. Got more? Drop me a comment and I’ll link them here.