Tuesday, July 21, 2015

You can't go home again

I went back to my old home town over the weekend, and suffered the usual bouts of discombobulating nostalgia. Driving around the streets I grew up on, every street and ever corner is infused with meaning and experience, and it's almost overwhelming.

I drove past old houses I lived in, and past the park where I first kissed a girl, and along roads I staggered along as a drunk youth, but I keep coming back to the comics. They're my first love amongst all of the entertainment mediums, and the places where I bought and read specific issues are burned into the memory, whether I like it or not.

It's the comics. It's always the bloody comics.

I just can't help remembering the hundreds of individual comics I bought over the years growing up. I can't remember what I had for breakfast last Tuesday, but I can instantly tell you where I bought the first Eagle Comics issue of the Judge Child Quest in 1984, or where I found the Inferno tie-in issues of Nocenti and Romita Jnr's Daredevil. That information is locked in for life.

But I'm not sure this is always such a good thing. Wallowing in nostalgia is fun and easy and often quite rewarding, but it can really also fuck you up sometimes, and I came back from the weekend away with a head swimming in pointless history and a hunger for the new.

It's not exaggeration to say that every damn street is infused with a particular comic-related memory, because I've read thousands of comics on those streets over decades and decades, and these incidents stick like nothing else.

It's not even the big stuff, like literally jaw-dropping twists in 2000ad, it's the most innocuous stuff. Look over there and it's a stretch of the shoreline where I can remember reading Avengers #303 in 1989, and Galactic Guardians #1 in 1994, and While Portacio's first X-Factor in 1991, over years, but all within metres of each other. I don't even own any of those comics any more – they got purged out of the collection years and years ago – and I can't even remember much about the comics themselves, (the only thing I remember about the Avengers comic is that I ate the world's best chocolate bar while reading it). But I can still remember where I was in space and time when I first read them

And just along the coast a bit, there is a stretch of weather-blasted beach where I accidentally dropped an issue of Hot Stuff into the ocean when I was seven – 33 years later, I'm still mourning the loss – and where I would later get totally fuckin' wasted and read Invisibles comics in the light of late 1990s sunsets.

And there are a thousand more such associations, a thousand different comics, and the places where I found them on bookshop shelves, and where I read them in the car on the way home, and where I kept them and read them and read them till they fell apart. All those memories bleeding into the geography and staying there, waiting to be unlocked.

It's not just the comics – I get weird associations with my movies and music and games as well, just like anybody else. Christchurch will always be a Tarantino city for me, because that's just where I always saw his films, and I just mourned the closure of the Dunedin video store where I hired Eraserhead, and I can still tell you where I saw my first ever video tape for rent (it was Star Wars, up on that shop on the Bay Hill).

And I'll always associate roads across the very Northern tip of Scotland with some bangin' Skrillex tunes, the blank road north-east out of San Francisco will always sound like the soundtrack to Travis Bickle on the Riveria to me, and the driveway into the fat factory I used to work at still sounds like A Day In the Life from Sergeant Pepper.

I was even attacked by a huge dose of 1996 the other day, when I annihilated my mate Nick on the N64 Goldeneye game, and when I remembered exactly where all the body armour was hidden, I swear I could taste the nineties in the back of the throat. I might as well have been watching bloody Trainspotting or listening to Pulp.

But it's always the bloody comics. And walking down the same roads and driving the streets where I spent the first 20 years of my life (and a fair few later on), I remember the Superman and Batman comics of those day. I ado che for those easy days of youth and the comics that are imprinted on those times, and it becomes clear I can't go back again.

I don't want to go back. I love my home town, and I love that I have so much weird history with particular places, and I'll keep coming back to visit, because that's where most of my family and friends still are. But I want to be somewhere new, making a new story and making new weird associations, reading new comics in new places.

That isn't too much to ask for, it it?

I can't stop myself from dredging these things up when I'm wandering around, and sometimes, I really wish I could, because they're taking me out of the now, out of the current moment, which is the only one that really matters.

I really don't know if this is normal or not, but it would have left me really bummed out on the flight home, if it wasn't for one thing.  At one point while I was driving around, thirsty as hell after all this miserable musing, I stopped at the same dairy where I used to buy Scream! comics more than 30 years ago.

I only stopped at that particular shop because of that association, and I couldn't stop myself from checking out the magazine stand, even though I hadn't bought any comics from that shop in 30 years, and drokk me, they have an issue of 2000ad I thought I'd missed from a few weeks ago. Without that desperate nostalgia, I would have missed it completely.

I'm fucked if I know what the moral of all this is, but shit, at least I got to see how that first Enceladus story in Dredd finished.

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