Saturday, August 21, 2010
Good-Old-Days Syndrome: I Has It
Or perhaps worse; maybe it's even the beginnings of Old-Man Syndrome. Zoinks. Either way, I got a potent dose of just how much things have changed in my hometown of Midland, Texas over the past twenty years when I went on a late-night ride tonight to meet some fellow motorcycling friends.
It all started earlier this evening when my wife, who's been sick with a stomach virus all weekend, told me to get out of the house (i.e., out of her hair) and go for a ride. No problem there. Next, I checked the local riding forum to find that some guys I know were gonna meet at 11:30 on the northwest side of town. But I figured I'd leave early for a little "me" time, riding alone before meeting the group.
So, just for the sheer nostalgia of it, I started thinking about where I would go if it was two decades or so earlier and I was a 17-year-old kid, cruising around town on my Rebel 250, looking for fun. The preferred choice back then would've been a simple one to make for a kid growing up in Midland: the "strip" on Midkiff Road between Cuthbert Avenue and Andrews Highway.
In the late '80s and early '90s, the strip would've been alive with activity on most any summer Saturday night. Hundreds of kids in hot rods and on motorcycles would've been lining the street for blocks, hanging out and having fun under the streetlights in the many shopping center parking lots on both sides of the road. They'd have been packed like sardines into the Sonic Drive-In, jockeying for the best parking spots from which to be seen and ordering cherry Cokes and chili dogs by the sackload. There would've been some pimply-faced guy with a mullet sitting at the supermarket, blasting Cheap Trick from the stereo of his '79 Camaro to the woots and hollars of big-haired rocker chicks who'd be banging their Aqua-Netted heads to 'Surrender' or 'I Want You To Want Me'. There would've been the occasional drag race, the occasional fight, the occasional flagrant make-out session between hormone-charged lovebirds. In short, it would've been great.
Twenty years later, the strip itself is surprisingly unchanged in its general appearance. The same buildings are still there. The same parking lots are still there. Even the Sonic is still there, which is where I stopped in tonight on my ZX-7R for an obligatory cherry Coke. Despite the similarities, though, one thing's very different: nobody hangs out on the poor old strip anymore. I mean nobody.
The pic above (taken from my crappy, outdated flip phone -- sorry) is what it looked like tonight. What was once a bustling scene is now like a ghost town; no more hot chicks, no more loud music, no more cool cars, no more life at all. Sadly, after decades of concern by the property owners along Midkiff, all the hangers-out have been run off and pushed away by police and private security, apparently for good. Now all that remains of those days are the memories of those of us who remember what it once was.
That's neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It is what it is. But in that moment (and this has been happening to me a lot lately), it really hit home that I am getting older. The only thing I'm disappointed about in life so far is that it apparently goes by so damn quickly. Twenty years ago was yesterday.
In the song 'Subdivisions' by Rush, Neil Peart talks about the discontentment of suburban youth, alluding to "lighted streets on quiet nights". That lyric popped into my head as I drank-in the silence which accompanied my now overpriced soda. The thought then led itself to yet another Peart lyric from a different song: "Changes aren't permanent, but change is."