May 10, 2011

Road Trip Philosophy - You Can't Go Home Again

This past week, I took a road trip back to my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma to see my sister graduate from college. It was an event I wouldn’t miss for the world, although it didn’t come at a particularly good time – the middle of finals week to be exact. So while my family went to a little soiree for my sister and her best friend, I drove around our hotel looking for somewhere I could eat and study for a few hours.

I was immediately struck by how different things are. I recognized the street signs and I knew where I was, but it was like trying to remember a dream. Everything had a vague sense of familiarity, but I couldn’t be sure about anything. I would look for an old landmark, like the decrepit Camelot Hotel (an awesome castle-themed building that had been around as long as I could remember and been abandoned just as long). But it was torn down and replaced by a Best Western. It was like looking at a jumble of puzzle pieces from two different boxes of puzzles – some pieces I recognized while others were there but felt out of place in my memory of what Tulsa is.

I started thinking about when I left this place six years ago. I was so ready to leave. Actually, I had been ready for years. I always thought that Tulsa was a place where you were “from”. It was never the place you went or wanted to end up. But driving through town today I started seeing bits of my life everywhere. That was the park where my friends and I had a picnic in the summer. That was the dollar movie theater where we went to see “The Emperor’s New Groove” at the 50-cent matinees every day for a week. Memories – good, bad, and banal – were around me. Even though the landscape had changed, Tulsa still felt like my home. I may be “from” Tulsa, but part of me will never leave.

Out of reflex or perhaps some sort of nostalgia, I drove towards my old neighborhood. I kept playing the same three songs on my stereo: “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Carry on My Wayward Son” by Kansas, and “Free Bird” by Lynard Skynard. I don’t know what it says about me that the best of mullet rock makes me feel at home, but it does.

Not everything had changed, of course. I found comforting little memories everywhere. But the greatest was the giant orange sign and the teal roof – the most comfortingly garish colors I know. Village Inn. Nothing makes me feel more at home in Tulsa, than I trip to Village Inn.

But more about that tomorrow.

Total Time Traveled: 9 hours
Total Distance Traveled: 522 miles
Soundtrack: "Cue the Theme Music" Playlist


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