Monday, April 03, 2006

Sunday Drive Down Memory Lane


"You know, more and more I think that for many years I looked at life like a case at law, a series of proofs. When you're young you prove how brave you are, how smart; then, what a good lover; then a good father; finally, how wise, or powerful, or what-the-hell-ever. But underlying it all, I see now, there was a presumption. That I was moving on an upward path toward some elevation, where - God knows what - I would be justified, or even condemned - a verdict anyway. I think now that my disaster really began when I looked up one day - and the bench was empty. No judge in sight. And all that remained was this endless argument with oneself - this pointless litigation of existence before an empty bench. Which, of course, is another way of saying - despair."
- The Fall, Albert Camus 1913-1960

Today T and I drove to Johnson to see my old hometown. Last Sunday we used our one shared day off to drive out to T's hometown of Highgate. Last weekend was dark and dismal which made for perfect driving weather. Today was sunny with a bit of a chill in the air and we opened the sunroof and soaked up the rays. We listened to old indie rock mix tapes and sang along with Yo Lo Tengo, Stereolab, Guided by Voices, Daniel Johnston and Sebadoh.

You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.
Albert Camus


I lived in Johnson, VT for about 8 years from age 7 to age 15. We left Manhattan when I was 7 because my mom wanted to raise us in the country. We traded the swanky Upper East Side and a liberal Montessori school for a remote apartment at Johnson State College and the tiny Johnson Elementary School. It was a tough transition at first but I spent most of my time outside running around with the other kids in the apartment complex, staying out from morning until dark most summer days. We became country kids and the city seemed like a distant memory. Someplace we visited occasionally to see our father.

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
Albert Camus

It was harder living out in the middle of nowhere once we got to be teenagers. Johnson had one restaurant, which closed at 6pm. No movie theater, bowling alley, bar or pizza parlor. Main St consisted on one blinking stoplight, a hardware store (still there today!) and a Grand Union. I was bored out of my skull with a bad attitude and nothing to do with it. My best friend and I would roam the streets at night just looking for trouble. All the lights in the town were usually out by 9pm and we spent lots of our time up at the college getting into any trouble that we could, looking for excitement, an escape from the everyday.

We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking. In that race which daily hastens us towards death, the body maintains its irreparable lead.
Albert Camus

Occasionally mom would drive us the 1 hour to Burlington (this entailed much begging on our part) and we would get to spend luxurious hours in the "big city" eating at McDonalds (such a treat!) and wandering around the mall and Church St. The drive to Burlington has such sweet memories for me because it meant we were finally getting out of the doldrums, we were headed toward the "big city" where anything might happen!

We continue to shape our personality all our life. If we knew ourselves perfectly, we should die.
Albert Camus

I used to visit Johnson every time I came back to Vermont on my bi-yearly visits from California. We'd walk in the woods at Married Student Housing and visit all our old haunts. But since I moved back to VT for good, I've been avoiding Johnson. There are too many ghosts there, too many memories, and now that I live in this state for good, they seem almost inescapable. A part of me feels like I betrayed my teenage Johnson-self. The girl who was bored stiff and dying to get the hell outta Dodge, get to the big city to lead a life of glamour and adventure, hat girl would be SO pissed at me! Pissed at me for making it to the big city and then LEAVING IT to come back to VT.

She'd be like, "Ewwww, are you, like, crazy or something? You got the hell out of this rat hole and then you came BACK??!! What is your problem?"

Then again, the younger version of me loved Johnson. Loved catching tadpoles and fireflies on hot summer nights. Loved digging in the dirt and making mud pies. So perhaps she would not be as angry with me for this return to VT, this return to the country and a slower, nature-filled life.

At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures - be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.
Albert Camus

In Johnson, T And I stopped at The Bad Girl's Café for coffee, chai and a turkey sandwich. Obviously, none of this cool stuff was in Johnson when we lived there 15 yrs ago. Now there are art galleries, an art school, yoga studios, a bookstore (!!) and a bad girl's café. It is a whole new town and even though there is still just one blinking stoplight in the center of town, you know there is more action round those parts these days. We visited the college, drove past my old ratty apartments, and the stretch of woods we used to roam. I rattled off the names of all the families whose houses I used to hang out at as we drove past them. "There is the Coles' house (her aunt's farm is down below), the Seymour's farm (she went to prom with my best friend), the Lehouiller's farm, the Manchesters (a house of boys that we were all in love with), the Bedfords, the Sladycks, the Paris' (her father taught Biology), the Mehrten twins live up that hill (only I could tell them apart), the Sullivan's (his grandma was my 2nd grade teacher)….etc…"

All these names still rattle around in my head but I haven’t gotten aournd to calling these old friends from childhood and high school to see if they still live in the area. What they are today and who they grew up to become is a great mystery to me. I left when I was 15 years old and we kept in touch for a couple of years and then, well, time happened and the ties faded. Sometimes this wears on me - all these memories from the past and no updated memories from the present to match them with. Maybe that is why I was in a thoughtful, introspective mood most of the day, despite the bright, bright sunlight, the beautiful mountains whizzing past, the peppy indie pop tunes and the swell company.

"Don't wait for the Last Judgment. It takes place every day."
(Albert Camus / 1913-1960 / The Fall / 1956)

The mountains rose high above us as we drove back home to Burlington. Once again, I felt the old familiar thrill of knowing I was headed to the big glamorous city where there would be McDonald's fries, a stop at the mall, a glimpse of a cobblestone street lit up by lights and people and places to be seen with and around. So maybe I haven’t dealt with all the ghosts that still reside in my small "hometown" but perhaps I can deal with what is happening tomorrow and the day after that, and next week, well, maybe I can handle that too.

"If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life."
(Albert Camus / 1913-1960 / The Myth of Sisyphus)

6 comments:

Tmoore said...

lovely post baby - stiring up old ghosts takes alot out of a person it seems.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

'specially when they are mutant BLOOD SUCKING ghosts! moooowooo haw haw! but seriously, thanks for coming along for the ride, made complete with ghosts, ciggies and indie rock trance...

Q_Monroe said...

i love the bad girls cafe! such cozy couches. my job last summer led me to driving around some pretty obscure out there mini towns, and i was envious of the people who got to grow up there. the grass is always greener my dear!

Tmoore said...

i want more evablog action

The Le Duo said...

yeah, I'm with Tanner- when I said at Eastergiving 'boy, you sure write a lot!' I didn't mean STOP writing!!! and scene

JB

Eva the Deadbeat said...

thanks mr JB, i had a momentary break for teeth recovery but then there were too many blog posts built up inside me and i was gonna explode - you know!? but now i am back and gonna seriously try (eventually) to do shorter posts. quick and sweet and frequent - this blogging is hard to get the hang of. did you have a nice easter in highgate? nice day for easter. cold and stormy...there were no swans in swanton, i know cause i looked!!