Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Vague Sketch of Somewhere in Particular

I recently took a three-day excursion to my parent’s house in Fairfax, Virginia in order to pick up a television I had left behind and play the role of "good son" and visit with Mom and Dad. I haven't properly lived in Fairfax since I was 16 years old—my "homes" being a smattering of rural Virginia barracks' rooms, college dormitories, dilapidated punk rock houses in central North Carolina, an enormous downtown abode in Richmond, Virginia, and a humble and unassuming apartment in Queens. Throughout these forays I've always made the occasional trip back to Fairfax, and with each passing visit it becomes more apparent that the house I grew up in is no longer my home. I don't mean this in the dramatic "Garden State" pool scene dialogue sense of the "idea of home," but more in a casually "it's-getting-weirder-and-weirder-to-come-home" kind of a concept. While holed up in my basement--a barely recognizable shell of where I used to furiously pass my time as a teenager—I wrote the following bit of something as the cable television hummed on in the background.

A Vague Sketch of Somewhere in Particular.

Fairfax is a series of unromantic realities. Fairfax is an endless sprawl of strip malls with banking chains seemingly changing with each visit and casually situated in the corner of their parking lots. Fairfax is all-too traversable roads named Backlick, Rolling, Braddock, Burke Lake, Ox, and Lake Braddock Drive. These roads carried my friends and I aimlessly through nights without destination. These 45 mph stretches eventually led us to places like Waco, Austin, Mexico, Tallahassee, Emory, Blacksburg, Greensboro, Richmond, New York, Norman, Chicago, and Seattle; to colleges, jobs, the military, the arms of fiancés, and the bottom of bottles. Fairfax is Twinbrooke Music where I learned how to play guitar, Main Street which has now been re-routed, Yesterday's Rose thrift store, and Record Convergence which is now a dry cleaners. Fairfax is the stale smell of cigarette smoke in Dan Kline's basement where we effortlessly wrote bad songs that meant the world to us.

Fairfax is Jon Clough's Ford Aerostar barreling down the County Parkway towards the Franconia-Springfield stop on the Blue Line. It is the barbed wire fencing around the perimeter of Lake Braddock Secondary School, the endless parade of County vehicles from 8am to 3:30pm Monday through Friday, the Taco Bell at Burke Center with its' brutal fluorescent lighting. It's make shift rafts on Burke Lake at midnight, homemade crosses adorned with flowers and pictures on the side of Lee Chapel Road. It's 7-11 coffee and under aged cigarette purchases, it's Saturday Night Live after NBC's nightly news in a King's Park basement, it's bad marijuana that you didn't want to smoke anyway. It's the bulb-lit burning of the Capitol line from I-395, it's "Living on a Prayer" at 2am hurdling along Constitution Avenue, and Friday nights at the Black Cat on 14th street NW. It's Best Buy's yellow awning eyeing you from Old Keene Mill Road, and MVC Late Night Video's hesitant clientele. It's night shifts at Pizza Hut for $4.25 an hour, and falling asleep listening to the Violent Femmes for two years. It's dinners at 5pm, and plastic-packaged deli slices of ham and turkey in the refrigerator. It's alarm clocks set for far too early with nothing pressing to do with your day. It's high performance mutterings of Honda Accords and SUVs, walking to the seldom-visited public libraries, and skateboarding in neighborhood cold a sacs.

It's planes delicately aligning themselves for the runway at Dulles International Airport, the smell of cut grass in the summer, and a smoky burning enveloping your nose and tongue throughout the winter. It's the marching band practicing within earshot of your driveway, and bike rides that take you nowhere. It's kids huddling in patches of woods smoking first cigarettes, police cars hiding in darkened recesses, and radio-favorites performing at George Mason's Patriot Center. It’s a medicine cabinet full of acne treatments that don’t work, a complimentary toothbrush from the dentist’s office, and rubber bands for your braces. It’s shooting basketball in front of the house even though you don’t like basketball, your neighbor’s infatuation with gardening, and pretending to pick up your dogs’ poop in clear bags when someone is watching from their kitchen window. Its overheard conversations about sending you and your brother to military school, and coming home a year later with less hair and even fewer acquaintances. It’s parties in townhouses you weren’t invited to, 94.7 “The Capitol of Classic Rock,” DC 101, and WHFS. It’s John Madden’s voice on Sunday afternoons while your father sleeps in front of the television, sneaking sips from your Mother’s boxed wine, and taping movies off of HBO.

It’s Boy Scout meetings in elementary school cafeterias, the occasional broken bone, allergy shots, and the suffocating smell of your mom’s perfume in a Ford Taurus while the oldies station plays The Supremes. It’s mailboxes standing watch along curbs, and four digit addresses affixed to front doors that are seldom used. It’s Maryland seeming like a foreign land, and anything below Woodbridge being the “south.” It’s another day to hail the mailman, and military kids whose parents wear Pentagon badges to and from work. It’s deliveries of mulch from local nurseries, the friend who likes The Doors a little too much, and open flannel shirts. It’s parking stickers for local colleges on rear windows of automobiles, and Giant Foods’ epic competition with Safeway. It’s little kids taking karate classes at Wakefield Recreation Center, and softball tournaments sponsored by area sporting good stores. It's reading the City Paper in front of Tower Records at 10pm, and helping Susan roll silverware into napkins in exchange for free cheese fries at Lone Star.

Fairfax is the clattering of dogs' paws on the floor above your room at 6am, a subtle interest in God, and learning Nirvana guitar parts at 2am. It's your father's record collection, and a banjo sitting in a case that has seen more days and nights than you have. It's a growing fear of the future in an already fearful present. It's a sense of alienation, and a burning desire for acceptance from the people you've been told you'll one day meet. It's concerned voices asking after you from other floors of the house, and a mini-fridge full of Coca-Cola. It's posters of people you would rather be, and the unyielding feeling that one day you'll prove something to them all. It's self-doubt seen through other people's eyes, a summer spent listening to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and waiting for a phone call from a girl you met in Europe who lives in South Dakota. It's nights spent being the third wheel, and panic attacks alone in the dark. It's months that passed with seeming immobility, which added up to nothing of consequence. It's faked sick days, new phone books left on your porch, and naps when you're painfully awake.

It’s the urgency you once felt manifesting itself into your now daily life. It’s four walls with small windows that let a glimpse of suburban sprawl rap at your conscience—knowing that this is all a part of you no matter how hard you try to deny it. And the faces that once made up this scenery can never come home again.



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