It Forgets You

This morning I stood in front of the house I grew up in, for the first time in seven years. It was different, and the same. Like me, I suppose.

I was surprised at how small it looked--how small the whole neighborhood looked, actually. And how graceless the lines were, how rough the walls. I didn't step onto the property, just stood on the gravel outside the driveway and looked in. The air smelled of oak and earth and river plants and cold, just the way I remembered. Familiar, but foreign now.

Everything about the old neighborhood was like that. The doghouse next door had the same names on it, though the people had moved away--and, come to think of it, those dogs are probably long since dead. The little stone mailbox down the street was gone and across from where it had stood someone had put up a mansion--with columns! But just past that was the thicket of cactus where my brother and I had hid and rained down with squirt guns on our friends. The big chalk shelf we used to swim next to was still there, but the river didn't cover it anymore. The same, but different.

Standing there looking at the house my parents sold seven years ago, I knew, finally, that I could never live in that town again. I've carried little bits and pieces of the place with me for all this time, leaves that I could press between the pages of my memory, or maybe old, worn photos that I could keep in my wallet and thumb the edges of every now and again. But I spent too long away; now these old photos are all I have, and coming back, they're all I can see. You can't build a new life around the ghosts of your old one.

I don't know exactly how long I stood there, my breath steaming in the cold of the morning, looking at that old house. Eventually, a man on a motorcycle rode up and parked in the driveway. "Hi there," he said, smiling.

"Morning," I replied. He tucked his helmet under his arm and pulled the keys out of the ignition. I blurted out, "I used to live here." I immediately felt pathetic, but continued on anyway. "Almost fifteen years ago now."

We chatted for a few minutes. I found out he'd been renting the place for four months. He was very polite; friendly, even. I felt awkward for interrupting his morning and quickly bid him good day.

I took a turn by my mom's old shop--empty now--and my old school. I took a moment to visit the tree we planted at my afterschool program to remember a friend who had died. I took a picture of it, then reached out and touched it's cool, rough bark. Some kids were playing at the playground next door while their moms complained about the school's plans to remove the sandboxes and replace them with wood chips. I'm not sure if they noticed me standing there, nor what they would have seen if they did. A strange man caressing a tree, I guess.

We like to think that when something or some place leaves its mark on us, it, too, retains some imprint from us. But it doesn't really work that way. You may not forget it, but eventually it forgets you.

I Wonder If My Brain Can Be Considered a Markov Chain

Apropos of nothing, the line "Jazz to Moonbase 2! A ginormous, weird-looking planet just showed up in the suburbs of Cybertron!" popped into my head this morning as I was shaving. For those of you under the age of 30, that is a line from the 1986 animated Transformers: The Movie, which I probably saw twenty times or more when I was in elementary school.

Thinking about that line, it occurred to me to wonder whether it might not be a little racist that Jazz's voice sounds black. And I wasn't sure whether the voice actor was black or not, and I didn't know if it would make it more racist or less if he were white. (It turns out that Jazz was voiced by Scatman Crothers, who was black, and who died shortly after the movie was released.)

But then, really, why did Jazz even have an accent? Why did Perceptor sound English? And, come to think of it, Shockwave and Starscream sounded vaguely English as well? What's up with that? All of them are robots from another planet. Why should any of them have regional accents?

That led me to think about Optimus Prime's voice, which made me wonder if Peter Cullen might not just have the best voice of all time. I could listen to that man read the phone book. I still get taken back to the excitement and amazement of childhood when I hear him say lines like "One shall stand, one shall fall, Megatron," or the "From days of long ago..." monologue from the opening of Voltron.

Thinking about voltron made me remember that live-action Voltron short that the AV Club linked back in October. I can't imagine that a movie like that could ever get made, or made well, but man, if it ever did I would watch the hell out of it.

I wondered, though, how a movie like that would go. Would King Zarkon really be the main antagonist? Because, really, Zarkon was a pretty ineffective villain. He pretty much had one go-to move--sending a Ro-Beast out to go destroy Voltron--and it always failed. Looking back, it's kind of baffling that he wasn't overthrown and someone more competent put in his place.

But, of course, none of the bad guy leaders in 80's cartoons really made much sense. Cobra Commander was supposed to be the leader of an international terrorist organization and he was a whiny loser. Even Destro, who wasn't as much of an out-and-out wiener, still made no sense as the head of a huge multinational corporation.

At this point I came back to myself enough to realize that I had spent nearly fifteen minutes pondering the minutia of some rather silly, extremely childish, and completely out-of-date pop culture items, and I had to marvel at just where my brain will go when I leave it unattended. But by then I was just about done with my shower and I had to start paying attention to real life again.

Just so you know, I am aware of the irony that this, of all things, would be the next thing I post after a rant about not being taken seriously as a mature adult. Maybe it's for the best that Juliette is the one to get the respect as a grown-up, after all.