“No.” I said. Sounded final. On purpose. I rolled away as she started to chatter about going back and seeing the old haunts. I rolled to my room and stopped in the doorway, a blockade and she took the hint. She sighed and went off to the kitchen. I’d been talking about hot dogs. The kind bought from street vendors in New York. Sworn to be kosher, heaped with sauerkraut and slathered with yellow mustard. Roast beef sandwiches from Jewish delis, cut paper thin and melts in the mouth. Seasoned with Swiss cheese and horseradish mustard and some mayo. On a hoagie roll. Sub my foot. A hoagie.
I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to see what time and people have done to my memories. Street vendors with microwaved dogs, likely from the A&P –Safeway, whatever they have now. Google earth has already made me sick, looking at what’s happened to Butler’s Island, the Five Mile River and Rowayton. Smeared with affluence, the old stately colonials replaced with gargantuan boxes designed by some psychotic experimenting with belladonna. No more neighborhood, an infliction of painful change that made mincemeat of my recollections. My personal treasured memories soiled like a diaper and held up as art. Effing’ nouveau riche. More money than brains. Used to be they hung out in Greenwich, now they’re everywhere, turning coastal Connecticut into something unrecognizable and alien and just plain wrong. Gorgeous hardwoods with ivy wrapping them in a loving blanket, clear cut so someone has the sense of space. Bite me.
Yeah, I’m angry about it.
These are my memories and how dare anyone, how dare time …reach into my head and stir the pot, screwing up thoughts that used to soothe like comfort food. Now I think of that aerial view, compliments of Google, turning my foundations, my base into rabbit pellets gathered beneath rusting cages. Time, my friend, doesn’t necessarily make things better. Cripes, even the channel buoys are gone, no doubt their bells too much an annoyance to someone with a distasteful ear for buoys and the ear of government. The pier that used to moor the Antiope, a PT boat converted to family cruiser, gone like the raked leaves of fall. As if there were any oaks and maples to drop them now. I look at the image on my computer screen and my eyes become marbles, poking up through shallow water. You can’t go home again. Yeah, I see that. It makes me more misanthropic –yet understanding of the generation before me that looked with horror at what we wrought. Except that it’s MY generation, we baby boomers, who have seemingly screwed the pooch. Tradition. That’s what’s been lost I think. Maybe it’s just me. Who knows? I sure don’t.
So no. I don’t want to go back there. Had I stayed there… had I stayed there I would have assimilated the change, likely without notice. But fifty years spans then and now and it’s just all wrong because nothing looks right. Like waking up from a 50 year coma and wondering what that crap on the radio is. Where’s Perry Como and Mantovani? Not as if I LIKED Perry and company. No, I’m a rocker. Except now it’s not called music, they call what I grew up on Classic Rock. Classic, like Coke without sugar. Instead it’s fructose or glucose or perhaps just morose. Cripes. Put me back to sleep and don’t wake me till time ends, starts over, and we come full circle to that place fifty years ago.
No, honey. I don’t want to go back and see. Just leave me alone to sit in my room and quietly recall the way it used to be. To hear the laughter of friends merging with the whisk broom waves quietly lapping the sands. To feel the winds and inspect the chop as I get ready to take my boat out to meet distant whitecaps, my friends loaded with soda pop in returnable bottles we’ll trade for nickels to buy a Look bar. The thump of water skis and coiled tow ropes and the squeak of bare feet on fiberglass, a rainbow of harmless oil slick behind a burbling outboard. The air thick with humidity, the smells of history and ageless salt, decomposing kelp and seaweed. The warmth of the sun or the practical joke of overcast sneaking a sunburn on youthful backs and little noses.
Perhaps a touch of parental affluence –but not wealth. We kids worked little kid jobs to earn our way in gas and oil and the accoutrements of water play. Today the kids living there would look down their sculpted noses. No way we could afford to live in the imported rarefied air pumped in by dollars so far beyond even my parent’s dreams it’s not funny. Actually, I probably couldn’t get near the old homestead. Diverted by stern faced cops who don’t care who you were, it’s all about who you are. No, it’s not my place anymore. Google was bad enough. I think seeing it in person would be like a knife to the heart. Of course, I see a parallel here; where I live I have watched the change inflicted by passing decades. Did you know that when I got here I looked at a house for sale. They wanted sixty-eight thousand for it. I note the same house sold a few weeks ago for just over two hundred thou. The quiet neighborhood now bracketed by a couple of convenience stores, the nearby elementary school is converted to condos. No place is exempt. I wonder if someone sits in Stamford and looks at Spokane on Google earth and has the same sickening sensations I have looking eastward. Probably. Newman lake a smelly pit of algae, the crystal waters of a lake fed only by rain runoff long turned to an ineffectual algae-clogged trickle –yet the lakeside houses still amplified in price. I can just hear the lament –sounding a lot like my own, tinged with the same senseless anger at the changes. Ravaged by time. Ravaged by change.
They’re saying it too. “Hell no, I can’t bear to see it.”