‘Is it heaven or Las Vegas?’


Ad for vintage propoganda posters, Prague

On Mondays I’d play Miles Davis driving in to work, “Kind of Blue.” I liked the wordplay and the solemn start to the album that matched the start of the work week, and seemed to be saying you’re fucked, but only kind of — and by the end of the day, everything’s going to be OK. By the time I was heading home and the album was over I was back in the groove with no memory of the morning or whatever relaxation I’d imagined Sunday, now whisked away by the reality of work, like rush hour traffic, something you just have to get over.

And it was an especially bad Monday in November at work that started with me throwing my back out from stress and yanking the dog leash the night before, then stepping in dog crap on the carpet, catching one of our cats puking — and in my first meeting I learned they were putting me on a plan, which is like so many corporate words or phrases that sounds like one thing but means something else, and you have to be on the inside to understand what it really means, where information is shared like power in thin slices and there’s never enough to go around, but what little you’re given still makes you feel better than those with less.

Dawn and I are still waking on European time in the middle of the night in the bed forgetting where we are, imagining I can hear Eberhard at the end of the hallway snoring, or thinking the bedroom door is on the other side of the room. But we’ve gotten out for long walks before sunrise, to the nearby horse farms and meadows where I came the end of the day that Monday in November to try to get my head straight, and couldn’t.

When I take the kids to the park and the playground where we used to come they say the climbing rock looks so much smaller and it does, and they want to start there but they’re disinterested, it’s not the same, and at the playground they toy around with a few things but you can see it doesn’t fit them now, and they ask if we can just take a walk to the upper meadows, and Lily remarks how it feels strange, how everything’s familiar but not the same, the setting suggests nothing’s changed but everything has, and it can’t be undone or forgotten — like stepping out of your body for a time and stepping back in, I say — but the analogy doesn’t hold, and it freaks them out a bit. It feels like waking from a dream that probably means something profound but you’re at risk of losing or forgetting it if you don’t write it down.

When we were in Germany getting ready to come back I pictured our friends and neighbors and how we all felt alike in our busy lives, how things seemed to go by too fast and I wondered how it happened, from school to college to work and home-buying, to kids, thinking we had more control over things. The fact we had to start hiring people to clean our house and take care of our yard, and it wasn’t the look of the grass after it was cut that made me feel good as much as the knowledge I didn’t have to do it, and now we had the girth to hire others to do it instead.

Dawn runs into our old neighbor at the Petco, who lost her house to auction before we left, and asks if we’ve seen how much the grass has grown up there next to our old house, the one we’re still renting to friends — the fact the new owners are trying to subdivide so they can put up two homes.

When I met the new owners, a single mom with a couple infants and her brother, maybe in their late 20s, the guy smiled and said it’s always been their dream to live right next to each other but in two separate houses — and there was nothing I could say to that, other than nice meeting you.

On Sunday, I sat most of the afternoon on Beth’s deck watching the cottonwood blooms fall, writing bad things about how pretty it looked, like snow flakes or feathers falling. And I looked through a coupon mailer from Costco, advertising bundle deals with the purchase of a cell phone and contract, a free 32″ flat screen — five packs of Lysol disinfectant (limit 5), rechargeable toothbrushes (whitening edition), and remembered the set of kayaks we bought on impulse one Saturday, the fact I only took them out once, it was a lifestyle I must have imagined when I bought them.

And the cottonwood blooms drift and gather in bunches in the corners of the deck, it looks unnatural like snow falling when the sun’s out, the village lamp posts left on in the day. The blooms move in flocks like they know where they’re going, they move with such purpose — they could be fairies, a transmigration of souls, how they all look the same: salmon going upstream, worker bees. Maybe this life of abundance is our reward for working as hard as we do, how much of it we need or want we can’t tell the difference, we only know we need more.

Note, if you’re just visiting my blog for the first time, welcome: this is a good place to start, for background on the last year and where we’re going next. — William Pearse



Categories: musings, writing

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19 replies

  1. I used to love that feeling as a kid of being away for three weeks (three!) at our rented cottage and coming home to this strange house. The freakiness never lasted but it was a quick thrill of disorientation.


  2. it is always weird to come home again, no matter the time away.


  3. This one mixes me all up inside, reminds me of how I felt coming back. Like a stranger with strange friends I no longer understood. You have the added oddness of being home but not home home. Sounds like the girls are looking at things with new eyes, which is good. Maybe as much as they missed it and wanted to be back, now that they’re back they’re finding it a little dull by comparison? Or I could just be layering on my own feelings and memories. Whatever they case they’ll be back in the swing of it all soon enough. Or too soon, maybe.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, too soon maybe. I’m trying to go slow but it’s a push-pull thing, a bit hurky-jerky. I’m glad the post mixed you up inside as that’s how it’s feeling. I love the States and it’s my home here, but you do notice differences being gone so long. I’m glad I do notice them, and it feels they mainly map back to the influence of capitalism. I think we’re just younger as a people here too, which has its plus and minuses. I don’t think I could live abroad permanently though; I’m too rooted to this place as home, and it’s a good place regardless of all the problems. And you can’t solve the problems by escaping.


      • Yes, capitalism is the biggest influence. I hadn’t considered us being younger as a people, that’s interesting. We all came from somewhere else, uprooted, and the roots here aren’t as deep relatively speaking even though the ratio of old souls to new might be similar. Something to have thinks about, while I’m escaping mentally if not physically. I’m in avoidance of lots of things right now. And you’re right, it’s not a terribly effective strategy.

        In other news, take at look at Trent’s latest post – I am black – when you have a sec and are so inclined. It’s awesome.


      • Thanks for that I’ll have a look. Avoidance has this creeping insidious quality that eats you from the insides. I’m squirming in it right now.


  4. Kind of reminds me of visiting the town in Minnesota where I spent much of my childhood. It’s changed so much over the years, but yet it’s still the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It seems everyone I know from Minnesota is nice — or is it just everyone who’s left and moved to Washington? Pleasant times here now, back in the PNW. My taste buds are aglow with the local hops, and it’s nice to see how many brewers have gone to cans now.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Something so sad about the shrinking rock, and I only hope/imagine this restlessness is temporary. I remember going through homesickness when I got back from 6 mos abroad once, though I still feel it too. I hope your girls settle back in. Of course they will. They’re kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Kristen, yeah they’re settling in just fine. It’s a total weird trip coming back, especially for them since it’s so much more of their lives proportionally than ours, we’ve been away. Will be good when we settle back into our house in a couple months, when our renter friends end their lease and we can get sorted out again, all in due course. I’m glad you liked the sad, shrinking rock. No bad metaphors on wind erosion, promise.


  6. Welcome home, amigo! You have now entered the Twilight Zone …

    I remember going back to St. Louis one year and doing a nostalgia tour. One house I wanted to see again, where a girlfriend of mine lived, wasn’t there anymore. Just a vacant lot. Man, was that a spooky experience!

    Seems like time and space are made of something like Jell-O.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You probably read that first book by Dave Eggers, where he goes back to his childhood home at the end. I like how he handled that without any real sentimentality, it was nice and unexpected. I had that vacant lot experience with my first apartment in Allentown, PA — taken out like a tooth. Bill


      • You know, I never read that book, though I’ve been tempted a few times. Maybe I’ll have to pick it up now …

        Just on this last trip to St. Louis I saw one of my first apartment buildings and it looked much better than it did in my day. Gentrification, I guess.

        Hope you’re settling back in to U.S. life easily, Bill!


  7. I always wished work would be more than something you had to get over but that’s not how it worked out. Many are called but few are chosen.

    Las Vegas IS heaven. To me.


    • I’m glad it’s heaven to you. I won’t judge, even though I often speak in snooty, contemptuous tones about that place. And have spent a fair amount of time there for work. Can you imagine being there for like eight days (in a row)? I was. When I left, I was a broken man. And I found out about that Arturo Fuente smoking bar too late into my stint there. I think I had a series of blog posts from there before you started following me and it was titled “Going Back to Hell.”


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