The Power of Place

I’m looking at a building.

It used to be a Family Video.

I didn’t live here then. I didn’t even know it existed. Truth be told - in my hometown we had a Movie Gallery. So I don’t even have a relationship with the establishment that is Family Video at all. But I know the concept. I understand the idea. And I have a relationship with that idea in my childhood.

I can recall renting many video games from the rental shop. I rarely had any interest in the movie selection - movies were short and shallow for me. I wanted experience. I would go and pick out the latest addition to the collection - likely a three-to-four year-old game at that point. The games that the well-to-do had received on Christmas years prior. It didn’t matter to me. I was happy to be playing them at any time. I never considered myself late to the party.

I would shuffle down the aisles, taking too long. Then I would pick the top three games I wanted and try my best to limit it down to just one to take home. It was an awful decision. Probably the hardest one I would make in a week.

Looking back, the decision wasn’t worth much. Most of the rentals were 48-72 hours in length. We’d drive the copy back to the shop and drop it inside the return slot before church. But a lot could happen in those couple of days. It was an important decision to the Nathan of back-then.

I wonder how many Nathans might have frequented this Family Video.

I wonder if they loved this place. I wonder how long they took to pick their game selections. I wonder if they chose a top three first.

I’ll never know. Partly because time travel hasn’t been discovered yet. Partly because the Family Video is closed now.

When I first started discerning a place to plant a church, this building was one of the first in my mind.

What a rich history! I thought. This community must’ve loved this spot!

Of course, none of that is too true. There is at least one Blockbuster that can claim the top spot of being the most loved by its community.

Planting a church for nerds, geeks, and gamers - a Family Video just made sense. This was a spot that was often visited by the members of this community who met that demographic.

I dreamed about the people who might visit the church and say, “I remember coming here as a kid.” Or the parent who might proudly bring their children to the place that formulated much of their childhood.

And yet - I would choose to pass on the building. In part because of the lack of the ‘For Sale’ sign’ and because of my general ignorance of how to track down the previous owner to offer a bid. The other part because it was dirty. Beaten up and broken down from years of negligence and vacancy.

It was the right decision - or so I tell myself.

It could have been a great spot. It could have been a nightmare. It’s impossible to know the unknown.

And it is indeed an impossibility now. Because the sign has been removed and replaced with another. A new name has been given and the building has been gutted. Its halls are no longer filled with the history of pop culture and video gaming. No upstart arcade has entered the void where childhoods were once lived. It’s a different sort of place now.

I look at this building and remember its history and the possibility we had together.

I’m looking at a building.

Yolo! Says the neon sign, like an ironic jab at the Surgeon General and their warning. Shop here for your vaping products and latest tobacco-based paraphernalia.

Indeed. I think to myself. Much like the Family Video, you do indeed only live once.


March 21st, 2022