Friday, August 15, 2008

A Related Memory #1: Last Spring Break

In a related memory to Spring Break, just last year I drove along the beach in Daytona by myself (after camping in the Ocala national Forest for two nights). It was early morning and I had spent the night at the Whale Watch Motel in Flagler Beach. It was December and a cold front had come in the day before (which ran me out of the woods), leaving everything crisp and clear and near freezing. So I drove on down to Daytona Beach--had not really been there since the 1980s.
It was way off-season, not yet even mid-morning, and the beachfront was essentially deserted. The strip's multiple and tall-storied hotels were empty, shabby in the hard sunlight and cold air. But I remembered them. I--we--had always camped at Tomaka State Park, just outside of town, but we spent our days in town, driving and parking right on the beach, crashing the hotel parties and special events, using their pools, mingling with their guests. And as I drove slowly through the stretch of tourist hotels, with glimpses of sand, shore, water, a strange feeling came over me.
It was memory and nostalgia, but not just direct memory of times spent in that town, rather it was almost a wholesale recollection of who I was, how I used to feel and think. It was like recapturing my limited worldview from my early twenties. It was intense and real and discombobulating. It was also wonderful and exciting. Such true memory is so rare to me these days. I used to thrive on it--the emotion and re-conjuring of places and thought patterns, of people and small events and landscapes of places I had been--I used to disappear into my ability to recapture my past. Wallow in it--which wasn't always a healthy thing to do. But I had not done it--had not even been able to do it--for twenty years or more. And here it came to me in full force. Very odd. It lasted but a few fleeting minutes, maybe only seconds, yet it was strong and powerful and made me feel alive, made me feel like my own life was a long and unending stretch into the future . . . And perhaps that's also what made it sad: that feeling of youth compared to how I feel now. And it was triggered by driving down Daytona Beach.
But what good is it all? What purpose or gain does it serve to remember and feel, to reconnect to times past? I don't know. Yet for those seconds, I was lost. Transcendently deep into my own old self. 
It's good to get lost sometimes.

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