I wanted a plant. I’ve been away from home for over a year, living and working in the big, little West Texas town of San Angelo. While I was gone, my husband killed all of my plants. Ok. He didn’t kill them. He let them die. I actually killed most of them before I left. However, as it states in the marriage contract, “If something goes wrong, it’s the husband’s fault,” I must place the blame squarely where it belongs, on him. Being plantless and needing a few other essentials – lotion, carpet cleaner, disposable gloves, (as I said, I’ve been gone for a year), I ventured out to Target. That’s where I was going. My car, Mercedes, had other ideas.
Mercedes is a black, 2011 Honda Accord. She thinks she’s a Mercedes, though. So, that’s what I call her. Makes her feel good. Pumps up her ego. Cars need that. Especially, this one. Mercedes wanted to go downtown. She said I owed it to her to show her around since she’s driven me forth and back and forth again across the desert from San Angelo to Phoenix and she didn’t even get a stupid shirt. Of course, I relented. She was driving and she was right.
We cruised south on the 101 to the 10 and headed east. I was listening to Beanie Sigel‘s “Feel it in the Air” over and over and over again. Mercedes doesn’t care how many times I listen to the same song, or how loud I listen to it. It’s one of the things I like about her. Besides, the song makes us both feel a little gangstA-ish. She’s a much better gangsta than me. I’m a 50 year-old, white woman and Mercedes . . . well, she’s sick. (In a good way.) Neither one of us has a hankering for prison or hurting anybody. So, feeling gangstA-ish is about as far as we’ll go. I put on my sunglasses and leaned a little into the center console. Not too much. Enough to maintain my middle-aged, white lady position of deniability while still feeling just a little bit cool.
The real estate boom rubbed most of the rough edges off the piece of Roosevelt between 7th Avenue and Central. Now, I’d call it Retro-Chic. Sort of. It’s got a ways to go to be truly chic and since it didn’t quite make it to full chicness before the real estate bust, I have a feeling it will backslide over the next few years. I could be wrong, as I often am, but I don’t think so. We shall see. It looks nice, though. Old trees, red-brick. You don’t see a lot of that in Phoenix. We seem to take the whole Phoenix idea almost literally – knock down the old and raise something new in the ashes.
Heading north on Central, I found myself passing the church where I got married, the art museum where I wanted to get married, the office buildings I used to work in, and the new central library that sits on land where an old apartment building I used to live in stood. If we’d of turned south, we would have passed near the jails I used to work in, too. “I’ve got a lot of memories here,” I said. Lot’s of memories in a few square miles of a giant megalopolis we call “The Valley of the Sun.” And, while the memories remain in my head and maybe ghosts of my former selves may still wander in the buildings that remain, Central Avenue is different. There’s a train that runs down the center of it that didn’t used to be there and there are big, new, old-looking and very expensive condominiums and apartment houses lining the street. People actually ride their bikes around down there. Preppy people. The chic ones. The New Urbanites. I felt like a tourist. So, I pulled into the church parking lot and took some pictures.
Why not? “Why can’t I be a tourist in my own town?” I thought. Mercedes said she is a tourist, being plated in Texas and all. It hit me how many times I’ve driven down that street and never really looked. Always wrapped up in whatever mess was in my head. Tourists look at things like they will never see them again. Just because I live here, doesn’t mean I’ll ever see anything again, much less my own home, or hometown.
I remembered Pema Chodron writing about becoming aware and how, if we could put aside our opinions, we might see the world with new eyes and new ears. Yesterday, I took out my old eyes and discovered a new world. I also discovered they no longer carry plants at the Target by my house. Everything changes.