After my business was completed I called the airline and could not secure an earlier flight, so I spent the afternoon driving down memory lane. My initial reaction was that so much had changed. Then I realized that a portion of the change was attributable to my having a different perspective than I did thirty years ago.
Yes there were houses and malls where there had been dirt fields. But the distance from my old house to my elementary school was unchanged, though it now seemed so much shorter. My old house also looked small. The yard where I played catch with my dad seemed tiny compared to my memory.
I awoke early enough to squeeze a in a run from the hotel prior to my morning meetings. The air was dry and the smell of the dirt evoked long dormant memories. Though the hour was early, the sun cut through the haze and I took the opportunity to take off my shirt (revealing my troglodyte-esque vitamin D deficient form). The warm air and sun on my body, the fine dust of the dirt trail and the absence of eye contact with others all told me I was back in SoCal.
My brother was born in California but now lives in North Carolina. When I told him I was headed down he confessed his longing for a Tommy burger. At Tommy’s they put chili on everything they make particularly the burgers and fries (along with cheese). It was in his honor that I stopped and partook at Tommy’s right across from the Busch brewery.
One sensation I did not expect was that when driving a particular street that featured a long gradual downhill I recalled running it often, and running it fast. Without a thought the car I was driving began going faster and I was once again a rail thin lad with long bouncing hair. I was tan and fast, pushing myself with images of glory in my head. I imagined myself striding longer and faster.
One of the people I interfaced with down there confided they had spent several years working two jobs so they could stay in the area. I moved away and have never looked back. I wondered if their sacrifice was worth it. I am convinced it was not. They may feel different and I wish them peace. While it is true happiness can’t buy you money, money can’t buy back time. The investment of hours spent just to keep up with the neighbors seems to me a fool’s errand.
How much of the perceived changes were in my head and how much was tangible? It is not the place it once was. I’m not the person I was either.