I Went Back, Baby


We gave speeches at student assemblies.

I managed to get through all, save one, without cursing. Students who heard me say “Hell,” thought it was pretty great.

They were in an assembly, behaving themselves, when in barges some crazed cane-toting mutant cryptid with a bushy head of hair styled like President Jackson, introduces himself as a “Proflawthor,” (WTF), then ranted for 10 min. on how the best things that will happen to them in life are probably going to be accidents, how nobody knows anything, now late-stage corpofascism will sooner than later mean massive civil unrest, and anyway they should all probably read Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance sometime.

I think I like little kids. Before their guile-spurt kicks in, at about age 9 or so, they’re not so bad.

I saw teachers, old friends (my first love! Tracy — 3rd grade, alas.) Pictures were taken. As an honored Homecoming Paraded dignitary, I waved nobly to the adoring throngs from the back of a Mustang drop-top, well-chauffeured by my 6th Grade Social Studies teacher. There was a posh banquet thrown in our honor.

When asked to give remarks, I held forth at length on a new Neils Bohr-infused psychometanarrative I fashioned to resolve the conceptual limitations people suffer attempting to make sense of the ambivalence, contradiction, and profound bittersweetness many young people feel upon embarking upon their lives.

Often the journey begins amid complex feelings of affection, love, regret, anger, loyalty and relief, and loathing. Turns out, that’s because we get our space-time so wrapped up in our feelings we forget which of the damn things are which.

Delivered at Northridge 16 October 2015:

Look Homeward, Angel

Readers best remember Thomas Wolfe (of Look Homeward, Angel fame, not the Tom Wolfe of Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test infamy) for the line,

“…you can never go home again.”

A superficial interpretation of the quote says Wolfe meant that once you leave the orbit of those you love, they never treat you the same. That’s true, of course, but like most of our best literature, Wolfe’s observation is shaded with nuance. I suspect he meant two other things.

Once embarked, upon return it is we who regard those from home with new eyes; also, as years pass, home changes so that eventually the observant suffer a bittersweet revelation: home is a time, not a place.

Rev. Sharon Amos; fellow 2015 Inductee

This was apparent as I cruised North Dixie Drive the past few days. Since I left, Reverend Amos has spread balm on our town’s open wounds of abuse, poverty, exploitation, addiction, disease, hunger, and human-trafficking.

Her work has helped cut by half the number of Dixie Strip “businesses” trading in the sexual exploitation of women (and men).

Dixie Drive has sidewalks. Apparently, Pastime Lanes is not a bowling alley anymore — it seems to have been converted into some sort of food pantry. Benchwood Road, once a wooded, rural trail, has become stepchild to Branson, Missouri.

Grafton Kennedy Elementary is a biker gang’s clubhouse? I kid, I kid.

Grafton Kennedy’s not a biker gang’s clubhouse. It’s home to my pal Brian Smith’s revolutionary congregation, The First Heavy Metal Church of Christ, which could only have been founded here, in Northridge, by a Northridge graduate. Rev. Smith even performed my cousin’s wedding ceremony last week, and she assures me it was lovely.

Rev. Brian Smith, friend and founder of the First Heavy Metal Church of Christ

Still, these changes isolate memory, cleave chronologies from place, and the contrast reveal artifacts that, considered thoughtfully, cannot help but reorder time and space.

The honors in which you have invited us to partake this night raise those distinctions to high relief and, ironically, underscore what qualities define this, our deliberate community: curated carefully by distinguished groups like the Optimists, the Kiwanis, and the Hall of Fame Committee; devoted to its children, no matter what age; tending to joy and fellowship; quick to trumpet its sons’ and daughters’ triumphs.

Since my nomination, I’ve reflected on this, and I’ve realized (especially as regards the committee’s generous labors) that, as I am Northridge’s son, its highest values are surely braided to the better parts of my soul — in aspiration, at least, if not execution.

That is why I amend Thomas Wolfe’s remarks, humbly, to note that while home is a time clothed in place by memory, nostalgia, and yearning it is still a dynamic, vibrant space beckoning us to many returns. Even more so when conjured by intentions as gentle as those that drew us home this evening, together.

Home, like a truly warm heart, is boundless, unplotted, an evolving thing, and though just beyond clutch, it’s always with us, near as the heart, standing ready to receive.

Originally published at stevemarlowe.net on October 17, 2015.