By: Zach Chitwood
I sit at the circle table on the second floor of Espresso News, a coffee shop I’ve spent countless hours writing papers and drinking an excessive amount of Sumatran coffee. My table is next to a window overlooking west side campus of Appalachian State University, a place that shaped much of my identity and passions over the course of four… five years of undergrad. It is January, and I’m six months removed from college life. I watch snow fall slow and straight through the misty gray afternoon sky. Smoke spirals upwards from my coffee, and I breathe over the cup before taking a sip. At the table sits my brother, Tyler, adorned in a lime-green and yellow sweater covered by overalls, a ballcap with the old Marlboro logo, and a pair of Nike Air Max 97’s. Across the table, Will, one of my best friends and college roommates, flips through a chess book, trying to map out the opening moves to the Ruy Lopez. He runs his hand through his hair, which cascades down to his lower back, focusing intently on the wooden chessboard that lays between us. To my left is Bonnie, who lives with Tyler and me, and he is every bit of a modern-day Deadhead, clothed in a George Harrison t-shirt and ripped khakis. Most mornings, we meet up at the coffee shop and play chess, read books, and enjoy each other’s company. We are happy.
These three men have played a key role in my life, not only as friends, but as introducers to several bands, artists, and television shows that I may have otherwise missed out on. I still remember Tyler playing Brockhampton’s Saturation II on the sound bar positioned along our fireplace mantel. I remember Will showing me The Foreign Exchange’s Connected when we were both eight beers deep sitting in the backyard of our college house on a summer Friday night. I remember watching Dazed & Confused for the first time because of Bonnie’s recommendation, and it is now, by far, my favorite movie. They have introduced me to much of the music, art, and entertainment that I consider seminal to my engagement with popular culture.
In the way that they introduced me to some of my favorite artists, I want to try and cultivate a “refuge” for the up and coming artists. I want to find and share the incredible content that is being produced every day. I want to make people smile. I want to actively enjoy and delight in what others have made.
In an age saturated with copious amounts of all sorts of criticism, I believe it is paramount to be still and witness the incredible art, works, and ideas being generated by the young creatives that roam our university hallways, bar counters, and cafes. There needs to be spaces to promote the young artisans who work diligently to hone their crafts and voices. We need to fight to to appreciate the arts.
When I was a sophomore Exercise Science major, I took my first creative writing class to fulfill a general education requirement, and I have never enjoyed a class more. I was not a very engaged student at the time, but that class showed me that value and importance of dedicating time and energy to understanding art, not only in the final product, but in the process. I wrote my final story based on a friend of mine who had skin cancer on her face and the emotional struggle of seeing the scar run across her left cheek every time she looked at a mirror. I spent more time writing that eight-page story than I have any other academic project. I switched to an English major halfway through the semester. I spent the rest of undergraduate, or at least the moments I wasn’t drunk or stoned, writing fervently: short stories, poems, articles, whatever. I loved the process of creating something based on my own vision, the process of shaping an arch, a narrative, a perspective.
I want to appreciate the arts, to be fascinated by the works of others, and to write about dope shit. This is the vision of the Basement Testimonies.