Saturday, April 17

A journey that made me smile

I took a few days off last week and went back home. Sometimes you need to write how happy you are. And the journey back home was great.

On an April evening masquerading as a summer night, a dirty Somerville cab, driven by a glove wearing brother sped me through traffic, with the windows down, as we listened to white guy FM hits from the 80s.

A passport, an iPod and a benadryl were all I needed to get to England (I'll save a few stories for later).

On the other side, the Heathrow Express takes you through some shittier parts of outer London, but on a sunny day surrounded by familiar accents I don't care.

After 10 years in the US I get the privilege of seeing my country of birth through the eyes of an outsider. It's like finding a favorite old jacket. You forgot how cool it was, but you remember why you threw it in the back of the closet.

Lazily I took a cab from Paddington to Kings Cross. I chatted with a typical chirpy taxi driver, but I people watched as we (relatively) sped along the Marylebone/Euston Rd. It's still easy to divide tourists from Londoners.

I realized that I now view ads and billboards like those in mainland Europe. The models look so different, typography much cleaner, and the £ and € signs look like a foreign language to me.

Some things don't change. Kings X is still an absolute fucking dump, but even that plucked at me with nostalgia.

I took the train to Wakefield. Went First Class. Bigger seat, and you get a fairly OK coffee in a ceramic cup. Once you are out of London, the scenery is mostly countryside. Lambs and calves stick close to their elders, and life seems much simpler. In a carriage of business men I felt happy to be free of work and responsibility, reclined in my chair, music playing and a packet of Cheese & Onion crisps to keep me company.

Tom Waits wrote "Never missed my home town until I stayed away too long", and as the train approached my station it stopped for a minute. This was my chance to view a town I grew up in, but the photo in my brain is missing a bunch of new buildings and roads. In an instant you determine what they pulled down, the memories you associate, and for me the local history lessons I sat through that now seem strangely redundant.

And as I stepped off the train, there was my mum, waiting for me. A hug and a kiss later we crossed the platform and there was dad, illegally parked waiting to whisk me home again.

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