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"The Memory City"

You can tell the age of a city the way you do a tree, 
by rings growing outward from the center. 
At first a young city huddles around its downtown section, 
turning its back to the wilderness. 
As the city grows, rings of newness form around its perimeter, 
siphoning vitality from the town center. 
The seed, having served its purpose, 
is in the first stages of death.
Go back to a city after a few years, 
and the first thing you notice is that 
the best parts are being corrupted by construction. 
Your old neighborhood looks seedy. 
The homey tavern where the family used to go 
for roast beef sandwiches is lined with winos who stare at you 
until you choke down your long dreamed of sandwich and hurry away. 
By now you've figured out that this was my own experience.

Shopping plazas, fast food joints, strip malls, 
and other clutter disrupt your perspective. 
You study street signs, trying to pin down memories.

Up to now this has been about plain reality, 
but there are other phenomena here that can not be as easily explained. 
For instance: Shrinkage. 
The whole damn place is smaller! 
Streets have gotten narrow. 
At this rate, in a few years you won't be able to get a car down one.

Your old school was not preshrunk, either. 
They come in at about five-eighths scale. 
The halls are Alice-in-Wonderland small, 
and so are any of the old teachers. 
In the Boys Room the urinals are getting ready to slide into the floor.

The big house you used to live in is hard to find 
because of it's new dimensions. 
And it's in a strange, tough neighborhood. 
Your big back yard is now a postage stamp.

Another weird rule: 
"People who go away remember more than people who stay." 
If you meet somebody from the past, 
don't be surprised if this person has difficulty placing you. 
You've been away. 
He hasn't.

We traveling people cling to the delusion 
that everyone at home is waiting for our return. 
It's disillusioning to find that no one even noticed we've been gone. 
A cruel, inflexible law of nature.

Most of us displaced persons have TWO cities we call home: 
The real one as it is today, 
and the other MORE real one... 
the city we remember.

Copyright  April 10, 2001 by Jack Blanchard. All Rights Reserved.


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