I’m on the 139 (NJ Transit) heading back to my childhood home for Labor Day BBQ, pool party and some golf with a whole bunch of friends. As I sit in the front passenger seat (I’m a bit neurotic when it comes to riding on buses, I need to be in the first seat so I can see what’s in front of me), hometown favorite Bruce Springsteen (he grew up next town over) comes on Pandora (incidentally, I’m listening, of course, to the Phish radio station). All the while, I’m on the surprisingly open road we call The Turnpike, which is usually a parking lot on the Friday of a major holiday, or any Friday in the summer, really.
I’m having an existential NJ moment right now.
I depart the bus, thank the driver for his hard work and set up shop in the pizzeria I used to hang out at when I was younger. Only it’s a different pizzeria now. I started talking with the owner, asking questions, he tells me, he gets quite often: how long have you been here? how’s business? etc. His answer to how long he’s been here is a bit shocking, mainly since this is not the first time I’ve come back to my home town after a long stretch (I was probably here a few months ago). He told me he’s been at this location for close to 10 years. So this means 2 things: 1, the obvious, I’m getting older. 2, the more subtle, I don’t really pay attention to my surroundings.
As a New Yorker now, I’d like to think I walk with my eyes open. Definitely not my ears, as I listen to music as I navigate the concrete jungle. But I see. I watch. And that this pizzeria has been at the same location right off the bus stop for 10 years, well, it’s a bit troubling to me. On the way from NYC, I did notice new buildings, new restaurants, new megastores that have eliminated the mom and pop hardware store (really, NJ? Do you really need to have a Lowe’s on one side of Rt 9 and a Home Depot on the other?). But not noticing this pizzeria shames me, as I’ve passed it every time I’ve come back to visit since 1996.
So I come home to a realization that life moves forward, no matter how hard you don’t want it to (although, there are definitely times when I wish time would move a bit faster). Oh, and when I pulled into my driveway, it appears as if my car, the one that’s been sitting there for over 5 years, has magically disappeared – which means the only way someone could have taken it is if they put it on a flatbed, as there’s no engine, battery or even tires with air.
Ah, to be home.