"You've been reading
some old letters,
You smile and think
how much you've changed,
All the money in the world
couldn't buy back those days..."-The The
Long ago now, when my siblings and I helped my father put his mother in the ground, we ended up at the wake. It was a grand southern affair with casseroles and libations. Having lived at higher elevations for so long, we felt we were drinking alcohol-flavored water whilst the southern relatives got hammered and mourned. One remarked out of all of my part of the family, I was the one who'd changed the most.
To be fair, some of these cats hadn't seen me since I was fourteen or fifteen. I'd not started growing my hair long, and certainly was unable to sprout facial hair yet. It was before the braces fixed that overbite I had through childhood and the idea of a tattoo had not entered into the mathematics of my thoughts.
That summer was when Sabina and I decided we must move to the mountains. I have mentioned more than once how that shocked my city friends. Even Jezebel was a little gobsmacked. Recently, as I mentioned hating crowds and flat places, she reminded me of how I once wanted to be so urban. I thanked her for the call-out, but reminded her of where we were living when we first became pals; the badlands of eastern Colorado. Flat and khaki with fuck all to do.
See, I knew I'd one day leave the greater metroplex. It just seemed to be the way of it. However, as I told another acquaintance who, when I first spoke of Kashmir, I had no intention of going back to the badlands, or even North Carolina. Fuck that noise.
Never back. Forward. Ever forward.
In a sense, I've only gone back twice in my life. The first was when my family moved back to Colorado. My seventeen year old delusion was it'd be back to the very first farmstead on the very western edge of the metroplex, just a few miles east of the hogbacks and Front Range foothills-I like to call them wuss hills these days-by Morrison, when that was still the countryside. My friends, some of whom were my friends only when in that one neighborhood, would pick up where we left off three and a half years before.
What a fool I used to be...
The new farmstead was seven miles east of Parker, on the county line. The very edge of the badlands. Over the years my parents would move even further into those flat wastes. It was a new landscape, new people, new rules. Three and a half years is forever and a day when you're in junior high and high school. Those friends had moved on, despite efforts I made to stay in touch. Their memory effigies have since faded into obscure places within the walls of my skull I only inspect on the rarest of occasions.
The old cliché holds true; you can never go home again...
The second time was moving back in with my parents, to that first new Colorado farmstead, right after my divorce. That was a tense and depressive eighteen months. My father and I were ready to go after one another with knives. My adolescent urge to escape the badlands was trumped my adult one. When Jezebel said she needed a roommate, I was gone so quick, my pants had to catch the next bus out.
Once upon a time, my way of thinking and being was built upon the foundations of The Art of War, The Book of Five Rings, The Analects of Confucius, The Tao te Ching, and pretty well any Buddhist sutra. A friend once remarked I was the smartest cat he'd ever met, because anyone can read Sun Tzu and Confucius and regurgitate quotes to sound cool in conversation, but it takes real intellect to apply that knowledge and live it. I have not spoken to him in years. Sometimes, it makes me sad.
These days the foundations have a another layer of which is more of a go-to; Desert Solitaire, A Sand County Almanac, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Lonely Planets; The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life, and pretty well anything from John Muir. Instead of mala beads and Thai prayer stones to occupy my hands, I carry fossils and smoothed river stones. No one I hang around these days would be surprised by this, given I speak of being outside as holy sacrament.
Five years back, Lee came to stay with us to pull his head together whilst he contemplated leaving the Sons of Silence. I chided him on being a joiner, a fucking lemming. Back then, I had a subscription to National Geographic, making me a society member by default, and that was almost too much fucking effort.
A year later, I found myself on the board of our historical society. To this day, I say I did it to shut a couple of people up. From there, I've found myself getting involved with a few other things within my community. Senpai will remark how established I am. How I have become the Man, to which I mention, like Old Blue Eyes, I did it my way.
The occasions I have had to speak from someone from the distant past of high school, or, nowadays, even the city, they seem blown away by who I am now versus their rose-tinted recollections. I am saddened by their apparent stagnation and descent into a reality, which is a blur of Republicans and meat. We are far-flung aliens to one another and that probably explains why bonds are never reestablished.
Never back. Forward. Ever forward.
I too get amazed and twists and turns my life has gone along. The adventures, the mentalities, the landscapes. Even some of the things I've done for money, though, I think it is banal to measure the sum and substance of your existence against what you do to pay the bills. Cats like that should be peeled, salted, driven around on spiked planks by near-catatonic mental patients, used as a jizz-catcher for rabid baboons in heat, and left to hang in the town square for necrophile boys to play with. At best.
Although, any time I get too impressed with my own intelligence and how much personal evolution I've accomplished, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Inevitably, I am wearing a t-shirt and an unbuttoned, untucked flannel. An image of me through the ages. It's then I catch myself wondering what really has changed, if anything at all.