Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sometimes you can't go back home.

This has been a week of reflection for me, a look back at the past. Places of precious memories stained by time. It started by going to a funeral in deep South Georgia for the death of my closest friend's father.  Valdosta was a long drive for my wife and me and offered plenty of time for me to reflect. I have lived from one end of this state to the other and there I was driving that trek twice in one day. I grew up in Middle Georgia. Dublin, Perry and Warner Robins are where I spent my youth. Valdosta came about as I went there for college. I adore it all and miss many things that simply are not here in Northwest Georgia.

I thought about the Georgia coast as well. I didn't actually live there but my father did and it is probably one of my favorite places with so much natural beauty. I love those live oaks that stretch out more than they do up. I loved being underneath the canopy of a live oak, curtained with Spanish moss as my bare feet dug into the black sand and a warm breeze blew off the salt marsh. That breeze carried a sweet stench from the marsh that I would say is an acquired taste, or smell if you will. I think about the friendly folks at Shellman's Bluff. Most of the people there were not from there at all but spent the weekends there. It was as if it were a place where people went to be friendly. Time certainly slows down there and there is a sense of peace. The local restaurant at the Bluff was ironically called "Speeds", named after the family that started it many years ago. The placemats and menus, from what I remember read, "we move slow here" as a reminder of where you are and that the food was cooked fresh to order. As I thought of all this I couldn't help but wonder if I would ever go there again. I certainly hope so.

Nevertheless, I traveled the same stretch of interstate I did as a young buck in college going back to school after a weekend at home with family. I had to look hard for the things from my youthful memories. Time had covered many of these memories as trees grew taller and the general terrain changed. That's easy enough to accept because things change in time. Some of the change however is not so easy to swallow.

There have always been quite a number of billboard advertisements along I -75. Many of these served as landmarks as I journeyed up and down this highway in my youth. Stuckey's, Disney, Silver Springs and their glass bottom boats, even adds for farmers markets and fruit stands where fresh Florida oranges were always available. Although those billboards still exist, they are rare and for the most part have been replaced by something very disturbing. The have been replaced by "Strippers", "Intimate massage", the "Love Store" and an endless array of sexually themed advertisements that I can only assume are targeting lonely truck drivers that must truly be lost. However, although the trucker may be the target, it just as often misses its mark. I grew up knowing that when I saw the "King Frog" billboard, I was almost to Valdosta, or Florida if that was where I was headed. Now it is the "Lions Den" adult novelty store. The logo features two lion's silhouette in an intimate position with a gold sun backdrop. That's the memories for the kids today. There isn't just a few of these type advertisements, the highway is littered with them and it seems the further south I went, the worse it got.

It certainly had a "life in the fast lane" feel to it as if it were a road straight to hell. It is certainly a different place and far from the likeness of Speeds Kitchen where no one is in a hurry to get anywhere, particularly hell. Nevertheless, it's a different place this state I live in. At the same time, I have to ask myself  "How much of this change is because I am looking at it though different eyes?" Thank you Jesus. The last time "the devil went down to Georgia" as I remember it, old Johnny sent his butt back to hell whipped and defeated. Of course this isn't factual but does hold truth because we used to give him resistance. Now it seems he owns the largest advertisement network on I-75. Why isn't this a big deal?

Sometimes you can't go back home. Sometimes it's because it isn't another place but another time. In addition, there is certainly something to "home is where you make it". Ultimately, home is where I want to go, and although it is not of this earth, I bet it will have live oaks and black sand.

1 comment:

Vic Webb said...

I certainly didn't forget to mention the game this weekend did I? Georgia faces Tennessee in Neyland Stadium Saturday. First time in my memory that both teams are unranked. However both teams are very capable of making incredible things happen. As much as I would love to say that we will smash them, the truth is it should be a good match up that in a game that is dear to me. I am in the trenches of the Georgia/Tennessee border wars.