Monday, October 20, 2014

Always something there to remind me

I walk along the city streets, you used to walk along with me
And every step I take reminds me of just how we used to be
Oh, how can I forget you, girl, when there is
Always something there to remind me
Always something there to remind me

-Naked Eyes (Or Engleburt Humperdinck if you prefer)

“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.”

-Virgina Woolf

 I have a small confession to make.

I have a thing about towers.

My whole life I’ve had profound experiences on the top of a tower somewhere.  I’m not sure what it is exactly. Maybe it’s the view, or the sense of perspective, or the idea that you are on top of life, watching it all go on from up above. I’m not really sure actually.

It all started in 7th grade.

I was still a young kid in my salad days, and hadn’t traveled much of anywhere yet. Our class got to take a trip to the Oregon coast that year, and it might as well have been a trip to the moon. I took it in, every second of it. I remember hustling up the stairs of the tower when we arrived in Astoria in my home state of Washington, wanting to be the first one to the top. Here is a snapshot of the place.

It’s 125 feet tall. At the time it felt like the top of the world. I remember the moment so vividly. “Always something there to remind me” was popular on the radio at the time, and I remember hearing it when I was up there looking at the Colombia River from up above. It was the perfect song in that moment, and at that time I made a deal with myself. I would take a mental snapshot of this time and this place and I would never forget this memory.

And I never did…

There were a lot more moments on towers like that in my life, and it’s fun to connect the dots. 

The Space needle in 1992 as a young man at the cusp of a huge adventure. It felt like anything was possible.

The Hancock tower in 1996 when I first moved to Chicago to be a comedian. I felt like I was about to conquer the world.

Dublin Castle in 2008 when I was just about to become a psychologist. I finally made it to Ireland, the culmination of a lifelong dream!

So it was again on a tower that I found myself contemplating my destiny this weekend in Auckland, the biggest city in my new home of New Zealand. As I hiked up a large hill to get to the tower to take the elevator I was huffing and puffing and feeling pretty old. What the hell happened to me? I used to attack a new city with incredible zeal. Hell I practically ran up hills like this. I was sure of it.

Then I looked at some old pictures of myself.

A chubby guy in a red flannel shirt. Decade after decade.

Time can play tricks on us like that..

So up I went, older, maybe marginally wiser, in a  completely different incarnation in my life. I felt a sudden surge of inspiration and reached down for my phone to find a song.

Always something there to remind me

In the end it was wonderful to take another mental snapshot. As much as my life has changed, I'm still that kid on the top of that little tower in Astoria, craving adventure and excited about what is going to happen next. I looked down at all of the little people down below and felt that old familiar feeling. 

Life folding in on itself. 

I spent a couple hours up there watching the people and looking out at the horizon at places I've never been and people I've never met. Not yet anyway.

There was still a lot of time left. More places to go. More towers to climb. It was nice to be up there though and listen to my song again. It reminded me to look back a little while also taking the time to look ahead. 

Always something there to remind me.