“Did you ever go somewhere and realize it used to be a different place? And it dawns on you that some things are not there anymore. Of course, some other things are not here yet. And nothing seems to be where it used to be; everything’s been moved. Sometimes I think if we could just put everything back where it originally was, we might be all right.”
I like having a regular bar, waiters who know my order, and friends and family who are not confused by my Jersey Housewife impression (new friends are always welcome, however, so long as they find it mildly amusing). I am, likewise, a traveler of habit. I like to re-visit places. I like to see how they’ve changed, to remember how I felt in them then and appreciate (or lament) the now. Location is powerful. If it weren’t, we’d have no opinions on going or staying.
There are ghosts on every corner, I wrote of an impending return to Pittsburgh in 2011. That was during my Sylvia Plath stage, so I was really into writing stuff like that and, as much I didn’t want to, back indeed I had to go. One does not accrue student debt in order to leave without a diploma, I am told. So I returned. I made new memories in the old places and they all started to look a little bit different, even though they weren’t.
Two summers ago, my father dropped me off at the bus station. He waited in line with me. The faces change but the people stay mostly the same, he commented. It’s true, especially of bus passengers. I traveled that route at least a dozen times during my four years of university. In 2014, the same characters were riding it, and in nearly equal proportions: college students, overprotective mothers, people who say “Pixburgh,” the guy who raps to himself at rest stops, and that woman telling a story that only she can hear.
While the weather and the graffiti may change (or not, after all), I like to think that a little bit of my ‘burgh will always remain. I’ve re-visited a handful of Spanish and American cities, and there’s always something, however slight, that feels familiar. An autumn ago my father returned to his hometown in Ireland and had his hair cut by the same (now old) man who gave him his very first hair cut more than 50 years ago. Isn’t that somethin’?
That’s the stuff I live for.
“There’s no harm reviewing the past from time to time; knowing where you’ve been is part of knowing where you are, and all that happy horseshit.” —both quotes are from George Carlin, Brain Droppings and, knowing these two, you can skip everything in the middle.