My Virtual Road Trip

small town2

Okay it’s January and too cold to play outside.  So what did I do today?  I went on a Virtual Road Trip.  Out of total curiosity, I typed in the address of where I lived when I was four years old into Google Maps.  To my surprise, I was given a “street view” of a home I scantily remember, but had significant “neighborhood memories.”  It was in Phoenix, Arizona and all I remember about that time was how hot it was and how I just couldn’t wait to go to the pool with my older siblings every day.  Except for the fact that there was no longer any grass in the front yard, this home looked pretty much the same, right down to the Chinaberry tree in the back yard.  I remember being 4 yrs old and a kid from down the street had pushed me on my tricycle too hard and I crashed into the asphalt, breaking my collar bone.  My dad chased that kid down the street.  There was a confrontation with his parents… My dad was “not so nice” and rightly so.  It was surreal to find that the small two room dwelling that this kid and his family had lived in was still standing and down the street on Google Maps.  I never understood the “politics of poverty” when I was young.  As far as I was concerned, having enough to eat and drink and a warm bed at night was all I needed.  My siblings and I were our own entertainment and teachers….I think I only began to think of “social standing” maybe in second grade….As in, whoever got the job of “feeding the fish” in our classroom.  That was the most important job and you were considered very responsible and liked by the teacher to get that job.

When I realized I could actually take a “VIRTUAL DRIVE” down the streets of any neighborhood in the United States as long as I typed in a specific address as an anchor point, I was “Off and Runnin.”  From there I felt the intense need to go and explore every neighborhood I’d ever lived in my whole life.  Not like I’d lived in a million places on different continents.  Just three states and a handful of homes….Whew!  What a trip!

By and large, with the exception of only one, most neighborhoods hadn’t changed much, even 40+ years later—only the trees were larger.  It was only in Lodi, California, where my family lived from 1966 to 68 that things had changed dramatically.  Our house on the corner of Central and Kettleman was no longer there, replaced by Commercial Real Estate. Gone was our homestead, one of the greatest places we ever lived.  Gone were the five Almond trees, two Walnut trees and a large fig tree on the  east side of the house.  In the front, a grapefruit and orange tree; on the North side of the house, extensive honeysuckle and 2 plum trees.  Across the highway was the most expansive grape vineyard I had ever known, stretching out into infinity (as least in my small childhood brain).  We spent many hours across that “major fair” playing “hide & seek” and all the while eating as many grapes and we could stuff in our mouths….(yes, we did learn the hard way that this would have consequences).  Cherry trees were also in abundance in many yards,  but not for us.  This of course, did not keep us from sneaking into back yards every now and then to grab a few.   It was sad to see that all the grape vineyards were gone, taken over by commercial property.   “Virtualizing” in the neighborhood, I was so happy to find  “BLAKELY PARK” and to see with its infamous Summer Community Pool looked almost untouched from 1968.

Our home on Marina Street in Prescott has become a bed and breakfast andthey expanded the Police Dept. down the street, but most of the homes still look the same.  I still have memories of meeting Steve McQueen on that street when he was shooting scenes for the movie “Junior Bonner.”

The old homestead we rented from our neighbor, Mr Burgess in Eagar, AZ at Burke and 8th St. looks as if it has been neglected for many years.  The apple trees, the well groomed yard, the garden, all gone.  And they erected a hideous looking fence!  I have so many memories of that house were asparagus grew wild along the irrigation ditch out front and I learned to make anything and everything out of apples who which we always had an abundance in the fall.  This is where I lived during all my years in high school, where I lived with my father and four of my siblings after he and my mother separated and we didn’t see him for seven years.  In this house I learned some of the most important of life’s lessons.

What a walk down memory lane!  The homes I lived in, the schools I went to, the route in which I walked home from school….such rich memories came flooding came back to me of a childhood full of adventure and discovery; heartbreak and happenstance.

So I guess what I’m wondering now is “What else is Google or Microsoft or some other behemoth of the Internet going to be able to do for us?”   And shouldn’t we start being a little concerned?  If they can show you where you lived when you were four, is everything we do now being monitored, videotaped, recorded, etc.  Has BIG BROTHER really been “watching us all along?”…..

My Virtual Road Trip was definitely surreal… could almost call it sublime (it a cyber sort of way).  I truly did enjoy seeing what things look like now, after all these years.  But I think my memories are much safer in my head where they belong, available when I choose to bring them out……in storytelling with family and friends, in sharing photographs I’ve been taking since I got my first camera at age 12; and definitely with me at the wheel driving the car……                         ~  Mick E  ~


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