Saturday, November 25, 2006

Gone home

Date: Nov. 25
Total mileage: 15.0
November mileage: 227.9
Temperature upon departure: 42

One of my favorite authors, Thomas Wolf, is given credit for coining the phrase "You can't go home again." I think about it every time I come home to Utah, when I struggle with the cognitive dissonance caused by the fact that I can, and all too easily.

I think this actually happens to a lot of people, because those who thrive on change can find the things that don't change slightly unnerving. So when I go to my grandparents' house on Thanksgiving Day, with the same early 70s cottage wallpaper I have always looked at, and the same mashed potatoes in the same bowl on the same table, and the same picture of me at 16 years old on the wall, and suddenly one of my cousins walks in and she's 10 years older than I remember her being, well ... it feels like ... unraveling.

But this is Thanksgiving for me. I easily become unraveled when the life that's my life now and the life that was my life sometime in the past collide. That's sort of what my week has been like so far. I thought I was starting to come out of it today - I helped my sister move into her new condo; then I borrowed a friend's mountain bike and tore through the singletrack that weaves between South Mountain neighborhoods. It felt like my life, only in this louder, sunnier place. But then I went to visit an old, good friend tonight. I had tracked down a rare CD on that I was going to give to her for an early Christmas gift. It's a 1996 release of a band we used to request ad nauseum on our favorite radio show, KRCL's Static Radio on Saturday nights, because we could never find it at music stores. It was a used CD, so I popped it into the stereo on my way over to her house. And suddenly, there I was again, driving down State Street on a Saturday night in the same 1994 Toyota Pickup I used to prowl streets in as a teenager, pumping Guv'ner and suddenly wondering if this whole Alaska thing, this whole adulthood thing, was really all just a strange dream.

Anyway, the involuntary melding of real and nostalgia isn't the only thing that happened to me since I flew to Utah. I played the Alaska card quite well last night, when a cop pulled me over after my friend Jen and I left a bar to head home. I was driving her truck because she had had a couple of drinks. I was trying to figure out a strange steering wheel and some intense blind spots when I spotted flashing red lights in the sideview mirror. I have to insert here that the truck is equipped with difference license plates than the ones actually registered to it, supposedly (Jen tells me) because the old ones are rusted on. Anyway, the cop of course asked me to get out of the car to take a field sobriety test. I thought for certain I was going to fail, because even though I was sober, that hasn't stopped me from failing field sobriety tests in the past (call me a bad driver with poor balance.) He was examining my driver's license when he asked me if I knew why he pulled me over. I shook my head. "You have a brake light out," he said, "and you were driving really slow."

"Slow?" I asked.

"About 15," he said.

I didn't know how to respond to that, but it all came spilling out anyway. "I'm from Alaska," I said, noting that he was still holding my license. "I don't do a lot of driving where I live and I'm not used to all these wide city streets and cars and lights and ..." I rolled my neck like gave him my best overwhelmed-wilderness-dweller smile.

He handed my license back to me. "You have a smart friend to let you drive," he said. "But just remember that here, you need to go at least 35."

Then he took off. No ticket for the illegal registration. Or the tail light. No field sobriety test. It was my best cop experience ever.

I guess I never even got around to talking about my bike ride today, but it's late and I should go to bed. Also, I don't think I'll have any pictures for the next few days. I'm pretty sure I've tried everything. Hope you all had a great holiday.