Saturday, September 29, 2012
My Vacation as Parallax, Pt. 1
I’m on vacation. Shawnee to Omaha to Chicago to Kansas City to Shawnee.
The goal of my trip- apart from the obvious “not-working” and “spending-money-
I-don’t-have”- is to visit some significant places I’ve been and observe how they’ve
changed. I have hopes this will give me some insight as to how I’ve changed too.
I’m retracing my steps so I can maybe find the joy I’ve lost along the way.
I visit these cities and it is as if a massive projection of each city is playing across the
city itself, an overlaid transparency of the buildings gently overlapping those same
The places and the people are exactly as they were before. Except they aren’t.
The differences aren’t something my eyes are keen to see. They are differences only
slightly perceived by my mind, consciously felt but just barely so.
I’ve got it.
Each site I visit delivers a hastily sketched simulacrum of my previous experience
I am living a biopic of my last ten years.
The soundtrack is fantastic.
My vacation began, as all vacations do, with a haircut in my sister’s south OKC home.
As I sat still and made small talk I watched her four-year-old play. She is not a baby
anymore. She’ll be five soon. I moved from Chicago to Oklahoma in time for her
birth. Contemplating the swift movement of that time was the perfect set-up for an
emotionally bereft drive through some of the most soul-crushingly boring terrain in
out fair nation: Kansas.
Kansas wishes you to fall asleep at the wheel.
The only radio stations with consistent reception are dreadful arch-conservative
talk and equally dreadful 3-chord Christian pop music.
I discovered to my horror that I had only one CD in the car.
Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird’s 2007 album, is a CD my wife and I picked up
shortly into our marriage. We lived in Portland, OR at the time and were classically
I listened to this godforsaken reminder of my past for probably four and a half of my
I could now happily choke Mr. Bird.
It’s a lovely album, really. Bird’s voice is self-aware and quite pleased with itself. His
arrangements are interesting enough to keep one’s attention. He whistles a lot and
plays the saw.
Charmed, I’m sure.
There is no single lyric on this album that speaks to some deeply pained or needy
part of my spirit.
Driving through the torture that is central Kansas the songs became the only texture
on the plains. The solitude and boredom of the drive teamed with the music to
assault me with images of the early days of my marriage.
It was quite painful.
I leaned into it.
I, like you and everybody else, am a rock star while driving alone. I sing along with
every song- even those with unfamiliar lyrics- and I do it in full voice.
There were times when I could almost hear her in the passenger seat harmonizing
perfectly just like a few years ago.
I broke from Andrew Bird infrequently to listen to the shrill invective of talk radio
for a couple of minutes at a time, just to hear another human voice speaking.
By the time I was near enough to Omaha to tune in NPR, the afternoon programming
was instrumental music.