Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Trippy Nostalgia

By Daddy X

Last October, Momma X and I went back to our roots on the banks of the Delaware River. Bucks County Pa. & Trenton, (fucking) New Jersey. What a difference between the two, considering the rural charm of Upper Bucks and the stark reality of urban Trenton.

In 1955 my family moved from the city, right after the steel mill went up across the river in Morrisville Pa. (Maybe two miles as the crow flies) I was an outdoorsy eleven year-old, and quite happy to relocate to the suburbs with woods and fields all around. A lush creek ran behind our new house. Creeks bring life to an environment, and the reptiles, fish, birds and mammals that depend on the water’s life-giving properties became my new hobbies. I spent lots of time in that creek.

Currently, the woodlot downstream of our old house has somehow escaped the rampant development of the area, much of it looking surprisingly as it did sixty years ago.

For most of our recent visit we stayed with high school friends, folks who shared similar experiences both during school and after graduation. The hippie days. That pair have been a rare constant throughout our lives.  She lived with us before they got married, pregnant with her first child. We moved in with them when we were saving cash to move to California. They’ve visited us several times here on the west coast, and we visit them back east. We double-dated on a trip to Italy. He too, has a liver transplant, but his came well after mine. Could be we contracted Hep C at the same time. We were close friends. He’s on dialysis. She’s terribly overweight and suffers with a chronic cough. 

He is a talented drummer, a star of our high school jazz band. One of the best High School bands at the time—they played the Johnny Carson Show in ’63. He still plays gigs. On this trip we had the pleasure of watching him jam with friends at a restaurant in Trenton that featured a ‘jazz night’ every other Wednesday. Alas, restaurant has since been sold, and the new owners aren’t interested in music. Sigh…

 Back in the day our group was the voice, the personification of youth. We were the avant-garde. The music makers and drug takers, the dropouts, the risk takers. Now we’re lucky to get through an entire week without a doctor’s visit. Are we paying for past behavior? Probably, on some level. Was it worth it?

Definitely.

But as far as nostalgia goes, there wasn’t much to be found on our trip. Little had stayed the same. Road crossings, once marked by a simple stop sign, are now big, four-lane intersections with timed lights. Our favorite soda fountain at “Penn Drugs” is now a shopping mall. The fully grown trees on my old street make it appear a different setting than the picture in my mind’s eye. In fact, things that had stayed the same were not necessarily the most welcoming. Many of the changes had made life easier. It used to take three hours to drive from Philadelphia to New York. Today it would take an hour and a half.


Nostalgia is of our souls, of our memories. Memories of the times and how those times influenced our personal lives. Nostalgia is not something we can go back to. Nostalgia is in us, never to be repeated in its original form and circumstance. In spite of the need to wrap ourselves in its comforts, nostalgia is a fabric woven of threads which no longer exist. 

5 comments:

  1. Wow, your last paragraph is gorgeous and insightful and true!

    "Nostalgia is in us, never to be repeated in its original form and circumstance. In spite of the need to wrap ourselves in its comforts, nostalgia is a fabric woven of threads which no longer exist."

    This is one of the truest sentences I've ever read on the subject, and as someone who tends to soak in nostalgia, I deeply know it's a quality of my own, not something to do with particular places or situations.

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    1. Coming from someone with such mastery of the written word, this is truly a compliment, Annabeth. Thanks so much!

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  2. I suppose what we're really nostalgic for is our own youth, with the good parts magnified and the not-so-good parts muffled. Remembering the bad times is more like PTSD than nostalgia. (More LIKE.I said. Not entirely equivalent. )

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  3. Our memories offer edited versions of what we actually experienced. Nostalgia conveniently ignores the pain, the confusion and the anxiety of youth, painting it as a golden time. So it's not just that the things we miss no longer exist...in a sense, they never did, not as we recall them.

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