Things are Different Now, But They Didn’t Used to be

The old saying is, “You can’t go home again.” But why not? Did you offend someone? Did you break something? Personally, I am comforted to know that I CAN go home, even if all my parents have for me to sleep on is a futon, which means I’d be just as comfortable sleeping on the driveway. But hey, at least I’m home.

I don’t know who invented the futon, but it was obviously someone who has never slept and who hates people. An insomniac Nazi, maybe. The futon that sits in the guest bedroom at my parents’ house has a gridwork of steel bars for a foundation, with a paper-thin mattress on top of it. It is a poor idea to begin with, and it is poorly executed. Bed : futon :: La-Z-Boy recliner : electric chair.

But I should not complain about the sleeping arrangements, because the Snider manor in Lake Elsinore, Calif., is a warm, inviting place that I enjoy visiting. I also should not complain about the sleeping arrangements because I need to complain about the shower for a while instead. I might come back to complaining about the sleeping arrangements later.

I have two sisters living at home, and they both have very long hair, almost down to their respective butts. I regard their hair as beautiful; however, I have discovered that its beauty is limited to the time that it is affixed to their heads. Once it has been jettisoned, the individual hair strands become ghastly and terrifying, and a den of them occupies the upstairs shower. They are willful, eel-like creatures that lurk quietly on the wall of the shower, waiting to attach themselves to any passing object. I find myself showering gingerly, trying not to disturb the hairs’ slumber, similar to how one would tiptoe through a cave full of bats. But inevitably I arouse their fury and become entangled, lost in the grip of two-foot strands of discarded hair.

Two feet is not an appropriate length for something that has been cast off from one’s body anyway. Most things that long need to be kept, not thrown away in bunches, much less strategically placed to attack innocent bystanders as they shower.

But I should not complain about the hairful showers, because goodness knows there are starving children in Africa who don’t have showers at all, nor food. My point is, any time you attempt to return to the past, you will find things are not as you left them. When I lived at home, I had my own room with an actual, honest-to-goodness BED in it, and I don’t recall ever being victimized by someone else’s hair while showering. But circumstances change, people alter their habits, and life evolves.

While in California recently, I went to Six Flags Magic Mountain with my friend Rob. I had been to this amusement park only once before, in high school, and found the rides very fun and the general ambiance, if not exactly Disney-esque, at least well-maintained and clean.

That was then. Now, Magic Mountain is a dump, just an absolute ghetto. There’s graffiti on the walls, and most of the TV monitors that are supposed to keep you entertained when you’re in line don’t work, and the ones that do work are covered in dirt. The employees are not courteous or friendly, like Disney folk; instead, they’re just typical teen-age laborers, i.e., surly, unhelpful and apathetic. The park is brimming with trash and debris, and gangs roam it freely, like bison in the Old West. The whole place looks post-apocalyptic, like the neighborhood Adrian Brody hides in near the end of “The Pianist.”

The rides themselves are enjoyable, though they’re all just roller coasters, which means they’re all sort of the same. They call one “Batman: The Ride,” but it has nothing to do with Batman. It’s just a roller coaster that they named after Batman. I could call my car “Batman: The Ride,” but that doesn’t make it Batman-related. In fact, I AM going to call my car “Batman: The Ride.” Let’s see if people want to pay $40 to ride in it.

Batman: The Ride

Batman: The Ride

Anyway, the good thing is, the important things never change. Home is still home, no matter what, and a beautiful summer day spent in Southern California with a friend is still that, even if it’s spent at a thrashed amusement park. It’s the people who make our memories special, not the things. Even if my parents and sisters lived in a shack with beds made of broken glass, they’d still want me to visit, and I’d still want to visit them. Hey, anything would be better than the futon.

This column is full-to-bursting with similes and comparisons. I like writing descriptively (when the situation calls for it), and if you've seen "The Pianist," for example, you know exactly what I'm talking about when I compare Magic Mountain to the neighborhood Adrian Brody hides in.

By the way, the comparison at the end of the second paragraph is SAT-style and should be read like this: "Bed is to futon as La-Z-Boy recliner is to electric chair." Why didn't I just write it that way? Because SAT style is funnier, at least to me.

At long last, my car has a name. I used to drive a 1987 Hyundai Excel named Pedro, of course, back in the old days. Then Pedro died, and I replaced him with a newer Hyundai, which never did get a name and which I smashed into a wall. I replaced that car with yet another nameless Hyundai, which I subsequently traded in on the Kia that I was driving at this point. That Kia was now known as Batman: The Ride, and that name held until I jettisoned the car in 2005.