Eleven years ago when I was 21 years old and a student at UC San Diego, I was running an R.E.M. fan site (Murmurs.com). Some friends in Athens one day posted that the city had started dismantling the train trestle that was on the back cover of R.E.M.’s first record Murmur. I posted the e-mail address for the mayor, made a t-shirt and ultimately the trestle was saved and over $2,500 dollars was donated by R.E.M. fans for the cause. In November of 2000 I went down to Athens, GA to present the city with a huge check.
The night before, the band called me to thank me and the community for what we had done.
So it is of some dismay that the band was misquoted in a story in the Wall Street Journal today about the train trestle. The story is that the city doesn’t know what to do with the trestle now. When I was interviewed for this story, I told them that while I stepped in back in 2000, I wouldn’t do so now. Politics wasn’t my thing, R.E.M. isn’t a band any longer and the city has more means of self-rallying than an R.E.M. fan site can or should provide. I gave it my best when I was 21, and the community did as well.
The quote in the story made it sound like the band couldn’t care less. They could and did and still do. While R.E.M. isn’t a band any longer, they still all as individuals and a remaining company support the town that calls them sons and they call home.
Bertis’ full quote that should have been printed:
The trestle was a very important part of the imagery of the first R.E.M. album MURMUR back in 1983. Wehave always loved that image and it represented something essential about our band and our town at thetime. Over time, people have attached significance to the trestle, partly due to the association of it with ourfirst record and partly because it is a damned fine piece of design and execution, reminiscent of a bygonetime we all think we remember. We have never been on the Save The Trestle bandwagon, so to speak,figuring it might be a bit unseemly to advocate for a monument to ourselves and preferring to spend ourcharitable impulses in smaller chunks spread around a lot of places. Many have held out hope that theMurmur Trestle would become a part of a rail/trail greenway and we have certainly supported that on groundsof preservation and good alternative transportation planning. But if it is not to be, due to logistical, budgetaryand safety concerns, okay, so be it. Hope that clarifies our considered position. The people in charge of ourtown’s main historical protector, the Athen-Clarke Heritage Foundation, say it most clearly in their opinion piecelast Sunday in the local paper:
meanwhile, a massive Big Box strip mall on a parking deck downtown . . .? HELL NO!
I’ll be sad to see this trestle fall, if it must. I visited it when I went down to Athens to send off the band, and I have been to it many times in the years between now and 1999 when I first went to Athens. But time goes on, and the tradition of the south is for time to be visible rather than be continuously replaced by the present. I had hoped one day to go to Athens with my family and show them this trestle that their dad had helped keep up. I may not get the chance, but as the band who exposed this piece of history to the world says: “time, I can not abide.”