This strange beast called nostalgia, it’s a difficult enemy to avoid. Out in the middle of the country I’m bombarded with its presence. It starts with the memories of having traveled these places before. If anything has changed, it might be the asphalt I drove over, everything else looks the same. After hours of hauling over the arid landscape and finally finding my mind empty, I turn on the radio. Big mistake, but for whatever reason, not easily rectified. I leave it on. Hit after hit from my youth drills into old memories giving life to sleeping giants that should remain dormant.
While I was aware of these 70’s classics as a boy and a teen, I was running away from them as a kid. Now a man of 50 I listen in to hear what I never wanted to. They conjure images of men and women in their 60’s and 70’s portrayed by their roadside billboard portraits where I see the announcements of their imminent return on the casino circuit scattered across America. In those places are the nostalgic, those who are whittling away their time, spending their few remaining days in memories of an age perceived to have been perfect – and these songs are their faithful soundtrack. For me they are bitter reminders that some peoples lives get stuck in a time.
For the foreigner and out of state traveler this is a journey into novelty. They are building new memories from new experiences. They are not sheep. I only hope the soundtrack is new too, else this adventure might blur into a continuation of the familiar, albeit with shades of the hitherto unseen.
The place across from me is empty. It is made emptier by the fact that I’m the only person here who is alone. A couple of conversations are happening in my tongue, German, Chinese, and Navajo are all within earshot. Caroline is missing, this road trip is solo, at least the first half anyway. Without ceremony my dinner is wolfed and only a gratuity and signature stand between me and my departure from the Twin Rocks Cafe here in Bluff, Utah; a place of great nostalgia, not because of the music though, this time it is the memory of my missing wife.