Monday, December 25, 2006

You Can't Go Home Again

In Thomas Wolfe’s famous book “You can’t go home again” his character George Webber really cannot go home.

There have been a lot of smart people think about the issue of “going home again.” Generally it is not considered possible or at least not advisable, because the home and friends you remember are no longer there. They have changed. And so have you.

I’m really not in any way attempting to go home again. Rather, I’m moving to a place where I can live a satisfactory lifestyle on a modest income. I have grown and changed so much over the years that it really is like going to live in a completely new place.

Not only that, the part of town that I’ll probably end up living in, the modern suburbia out on the East side, is the one part of town that I really don’t know all that well.

In general I think it will be just like most other suburbs in America. Most folks are pretty anonymous and probably don’t even know their next door neighbor’s full name, certainly not the people two doors away. Less than five miles away there will be a Wal-Mart Superstore, a Home Depot, and probably two McDonalds. And a big supermarket that is open 24 hours a day, a Walgreen’s drug store, a bank or two, and several strip malls all within less than a ten minute drive.

More than half the people will be a little too fat for their own good, and they will hate themselves because of it. But they will continue taking their car to go to the convenience store that is only a block or two away.

A lot of people will be Hispanic. Their credit card debt will be so big that it is just right on the verge of being too much for them to handle. They work really long hours and get almost no vacation. Even when they do have a little time off work they don’t have enough money to go anywhere nice. They are buying their car on at least a 48 month loan, they drink more than they should, and they may even be addicted to prescription tranquilizers or other physician-prescribed mood enhancers. Their kids do not respect them, and the kids are this much short of being totally out of control. Their spouse at best sort of sullenly tolerates their existence.

Viewed in this context it really doesn’t matter that much what city I live in. Far more important is to make sure that the structure I live in is quiet, well insulated from outside noise and temperature swings, and that I can be very happy living on the inside of it. Its kind of like now. I don’t view myself as living in Holland. I really see myself at the moment as living in Europe. Same with where I am going.

I am moving to America, and whether my house is located in Tucson, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Fabens, Horizon City, or El Paso is just almost irrelevant. Its not like I’m hoping to develop close friendships with any of my neighbors. Frankly if they will smile vaguely and sort or nod, that is as close as I want to get.

And its not like I can afford to buy a million dollar apartment near Central Park in New York City, or have a place that looks out over the bay in San Francisco. Or live in London or Paris or Berlin.

No, El Paso is just fine. Really. 40% of the adults there don’t even have health insurance it is such a poor place. A great many drivers are completely uninsured due to poverty. The situation in El Paso is much closer to the reality of most of the world than in many other places in America or Europe. And if you are really poor in El Paso you can always go over to Juarez and buy your food and medication (like I intend to).

And if you have half way decent broadband internet service, physically the location of where you live becomes much less important.

The climate does matter. If you live in Northern Sweden or Norway it sucks. Big time. Or North Dakota. But other than the wind and the dust storms in the spring, El Paso really has pretty decent weather. Its kind of hot in the summer but at least the humidity is low. People used to move there to try and cure their tuberculosis because of the pleasant and healthy climate.

El Paso is just the place I will be based out of. Kind of like now South Limburg is where I generally return at night to sleep.

I showed a friend of mine a map of the cellular phone coverage around El Paso the other day. He was amazed at how much of the area did not have service. Here in Europe almost 95% of the terrain has cell phone coverage. It is really amazing how much land there is near to El Paso that is really wild. So wild there are no people and you do not even have cell phone service.

Ok, it is very very dry indeed, but if you can’t see the beauty of the high Chihuahua desert this is your problem. Not mine. I found it beautiful as a young man, and now that I have seen some of the rest of the world I know that in fact I was right. It is a beautiful place.

My friend knows me pretty well and knows what a gadget monkey I am. He said I probably would end up buying a satellite phone. I hadn’t thought about it before his suggestion, but sure enough today I did some research and it really may be practical.

In one week and three days I will say goodbye to this wonderful place that I have lived in for the last 15 years, and I will begin the journey on to another wonderful new place. Living out of a suitcase for the next few months. How utterly exciting!