You can’t go home again
Posted by keithosaunders on November 25, 2010
I’m writing from Las Vegas where I am visiting my Dad. I was happy to able to avoid humiliation at the hands of the TSA by driving down instead of flying. The road is where I thrive and if I never had to fly again it would be OK with me.
Funny thing about driving from San Francisco to Las Vegas; there is no direct route. You have to drive miles out of your way because there isn’t a road that cuts through southeast through the San Gabriel Mountains. You end up driving around the horn and it is a 10 hour trip. On my way, in order to break up the driving, I stopped off in my hometown of Los Angeles and had dinner with some old friends at a restaurant in Sherman Oaks. (I couldn’t believe that Hamburger Hamlet is still there right around the corner on Van Nuys blvd!)
I could not resist stopping off at the house on Runnymede street where I grew up in Van Nuys. It was my first time seeing it since my folks sold it in 1993. Driving down Sherman Way was jarring and sad. Almost every store is different. I don’t know why I would have expected otherwise. In New York I lived on Broadway and 108th street from 1987-90. Ten years later almost every store had turned over.
The first thing that struck me about my old block was how wide it seemed. Isn’t that odd? Things are supposed to appear smaller to you once you’ve grown up. This was probably due to having lived in the east for so long where streets are narrow. The street itself was still pretty with lots of large, leafy trees and plenty of flower gardens. The upkeep of the houses were hit and miss. Some were surprisingly nice looking. Mine wasn’t. In the front yard, where once had been a rose-bush, were overgrown weeds. The house had been painted an ugly shade of dark brown. Brown! Once, during a storm, a tree fell on the side of the house. We had replaced it with a baby tree which had thrived and tripled in size by the time we moved out. That tree had been cut down.
The ivy at the neighbor’s house across the street, where we lost dozens, if not hundreds of baseballs, was gone as was the ivy next door. I guess the California ivy craze is officially over. I went to the back where our basketball court had been, where once I had listened to Vin Scully announce June Dodger games while shooting free throws. I still remember the radio sponsors — the Olympia beer jingle and the Farmer John slogan are forever embedded in my psyche. There was a cement wall which still exists but it looked pretty run down back there. No one was home so I didn’t get to see the inside.
Then I went two houses down to see if our neighbor still lived there. It looked like nobody was home but all of a sudden a car pulled up and there she was! She didn’t recognize me at first but she was surprised and happy to see me. She invited me in and made me breakfast. Her house looked much as I remembered it — the back yard almost exactly. The best part was that even though she must be 80 she appears to be vibrant and in good health.
Here at my Dad’s we have been looking at tons of old photos. I have seen several of old school friends, as well as family photos taken years before I was born. Some even go back to the turn of the century. How amazing to see old New York addresses on the photo paper — addresses I knew well from my years in that city.
There was a photo of my 6th grade class at Hazeltine Elementary School with Mrs Willet. I couldn’t remember the names of most of the people but I recognized, Nancy Weiss, Peter Martin, Jim Ararian, and Richard Docherty. My Dad, though he is 83 and cannot remember what he ate for dinner last night, puts me to shame in the memory department. When we looked at the photos of his boyhood Camp Mohaph he remembered almost every name.
So it’s been somewhat of a melancholy trip for me. It’s great to see old friends, as well as my father, but sad to think of the time that has elapsed and all the people who aren’t in our lives any more.
No matter, it’s time for turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!