Friday, January 23, 2009

The Hyperreality of Home

My father moved around a lot when I was growing up. I lose track when counting all of the homes that we lived in, but there must have been at least 12 that I can remember before the age of 12 when I went to live with my mom; the house in Lake Havasu, the house on Terrace, the house on Brown... Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oregon, Missouri, back to Arizona, back to Missouri, and back to Arizona again. It was all very exhausting and annoying for a pre-teen.

Whenever we found ourselves in Phoenix, my dad would drive by our old house on Terrace. I'm not exactly sure why, maybe because my sisters and I pleaded with him to do so, because it seemed like our home that never was. I don't know what was so special to us about that house. When we moved I must have been just six years old, but I always wanted to drive by it.

This was my first experience with the disemboweling feeling of nostalgia and the useless grasping at a fleeting sense of home.

I inherited both habits from my father, the aimless moving around and the drive-by nostalgic self-torturing. I've lived in fourteen homes since I left my parents house at 18, the average time spent at each place being one year.

It turns out there is one house, my current house, that I moved into accepting its status of infra-home, with the intention of staying just until our lease was up and moving somewhere else. It was a temporary move, a stepping stone. This just so happens to be the house I've lived in the longest (3.5 years) second only to the house I graduated from high school in (6 years).

This is as home as home gets.

But it isn't.

The most authentic, vivid feeling of home that is able to tug at my heartstrings is only present in its residual form. It only really happens once I have left a place.

Yes, I know home should be wherever Luigi and kitty are. In theory it is. But inside I'm in some sort of home-purgatory. It isn't that home is unreal. It's hyperreal. My own misrepresentational memories of it have filtered and recreated an unrealistic expectation in my mind of what home is supposed to feel like.

I'm the idiot tourist described by Baudrillard walking through Disneyland nostalgic for the Main Street America depicted there that was never real to begin with.

Do you know what this means?

It only means that I'm horribly, pathetically ungrateful. Believe me, I realize this. No need to point it out.

I can see myself though, in the future, driving or walking passed my street, and not being able to turn my head away from looking down it, thinking about the people that are occupying the ossuary of my home, sleeping in my room and larcenously taking a shit in my toilet. The nerve.

- Bluestreak

Tea with the Mad Hatter by fd from Flickr.

Welcome to Disneyland and Main Street, USA by andy castro from Flickr


J and J Acres said...

I always wondered what it would've been like moving around so much. We only moved once and that was enough for me. I've even told Mr. C that once we buy our acreage and house, I'd be fine with never moving. I'm not very nomadic I guess!

~Mountain Lover~ said...

And you quote Baudrillard? Shit, I'm speechless. Well, not really. I'm trying to restrain my inner-geek.

First: I can't imagine moving around so much- especially as a child.

Second: I think, much like your expectations of home and homesickness, that I only truly experience something when it's over. During the experience I feel more like a spectator and it's dull. I find myself trying to force reality into my brain- a sense of living in the moment. After my experience I can adjust the brightness/contrast and color and end up with an intense memory.

Maybe I am living in the moment and reality can't be any more vivid than it is- more main street or Disneyland, and it's the expectation that needs to change.

Great post!!!

Rassles said...

Here's a lame question: Living in your current house, have you painted the walls?

I lived in my apartment for two years, and once I painted the walls, I flipped. It was mine.

mongoliangirl said...

Oh Bluestreak. I do this all the time. I do not live where I live, but somewhere else that I would, in reality, not live either. Are we really ungrateful? I've wondered that about myself. Or am I just not yet on board with the idea of me having a 'home'. Maybe I never will be.

Bluestreak said...

Whew, you guys are still there.

J and J - I don't want to be nomadic, I just am. I would love to never move. Well, that is, if I could afford to have multiple homes around the world.

Mountainlover - thanks for the compliment. Don't let me fool you though, I think the only part of Baudrillard that I actually understood was the Disneyland bit.

rassles - good point, but it took me ages to bring myself to hang pictures. I just can't see myself going through the trouble of painting. But I'm sure you're right. I think if I had known how long I would be here i would have done that from the beginning. Then I think, well, who knows, maybe I'll be here another 4 years, let's get paintin'.

Mongoliangirl - I'm too on board, that's the problem. Although, I'd probably get itchy feet even if I had THE home.

Rassles said...

Never underestimate the power of painting the walls. I can't live in white and cream. It's an impossibility. I mean, I don't want to live in my apartment forever, but wall-painting made it go from "I want to go back to my apartment" to "I want to go home."

I know that's nowhere near the concept of "home" that you're struggling with right now, but it's the best I got.

And hang up those pictures, bitch! How can you expect to call it home if you don't create one?

Rassles said...

And painting is so much fun. I love painting walls, I don't know why, there's just something about getting drunk and climbing on ladders that appeals to my safety.

Rassles said...

I'm leaving one more comment so I can completely dominate the comment section. Suckah MC's ain't got nothin' on me.

Gypsy said...

Gorgeously written.

I lived in the same house until I was 18 and went to college, and then my mom lived in that same house for another 4 years, so *that* place was always home.

Now it seems like wherever my mom lives, her house is home. Lancelot and I have lived in our house for 4 years now -- and we lived in this house back in college -- and it's home, too. But Mom's house? Can't top it.

Clarissa said...

I'm always asked if my dad was in the military. He wasn't ... he was a banker ... I don't normally go into the details of out-of-state banking regulations but the consequence was a whole lot of moving. The longest I lived in any one house - 6 years. Strangely, London, a place we kind of chanced into has been the longest I've lived in any city. I think I used to have unsettled feelings that might have been a variation to yours ... but they're gone now. I don't know why or how. Maybe you need to get a pig. :)

Bluestreak said...

Rassles - I love it when you dominate my comments section. I did finally hang the pictures up but I still can't bring myself to buy anything for the house. I guess that is good but I'm going minimalism big time here, completely empty shelves, a house with no character whatsoever. A hotel almost. The house was furnished when we rented it so nothing here belongs to us except the clothes and the few pictures we managed to hang after a couple of years here. While I can't get rid of this furniture that doesn't belong to me, there are some things in my power that I could do, like, I don't know, buy a vase or some shit. But I just don't have it in me. It's so hard to explain. Please stay off ladders while you are drinking. Christ.

Gypsy - thanks. It's weird but I feel completely unattached to my parents new home. It has all the things I grew up with in it but it's in a weird place. It still feels more like home though than this place.

Clarissa - my dad wasn't in the military either. He just had itchy feet and had to keep moving, something better was always around the corner, in another place.

Anonymous said...

I never moved until college and only a few times since then. I don't like it. I'm not big on decorating...would much rather spend those $$ on a trip. Disney's Main Street could be the one here in Franklin--it's so frigging charming that people see it an immediately want to move here. But I liked it better a few decades ago when you knew everyone in the stores and they knew you. That was home. A couple of pool halls, a hardware store, drug store with soda fountain. Main Street today is for tourists with too much money. I guess my point is, sometimes home isn't even home.

Bluestreak said...

Hereinfranklin - yes, exactly. Disneyland fetishized Main Street and then Main Street was redone to look more like the copy, the Disneyland version.

A Free Man said...

Fantastic post. I'm with you all the way. The moving all over the damn country as a boy, the displaced feeling as an adult. I try really hard to make home where I am. Most of the time it works. But sometimes I wonder what the hell I'm doing here. I don't know if it ever gets better. It's a cheesy one, but do you know that Soul Asylum song "Homesick"? If not, shoot me a mail and I'll send you an MP3.

formerly fun said...

My mom moved several times while I was growing up. I had to get to know new people all the time. I think that's why I'm an 'extroverted introvert', I'm really an introvert but I was forced to learn to be outgoing so I wasn't always eating lunch alone.

I loved this piece, very evocative.

Bluestreak said...

Freeman - thanks. It seems you do manage to make it work, and I think having a kid makes you reevaluate the meaning of home, no?. I'll be emailing you for that.

FF - I think I'm an extroverted introvert too. Lunch alone sucks. Not every once in awhile. But day after day blows.

Rachel said...

I hate moving! Im doing it RIGHT NOW and it fucking sucks my ass!!

Can you tell Im a little stressed out?

Not Afraid to Use It said...

I hear you loud and clear. I've gotten so into the habit of "temporary" that I don't know that I would feel settled if we actually did.