You Can’t Go Home Again

I realized this once already in 2004 when I attempted to go back to college after taking a year off to be a ski bum and live in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.  I thought coming back to Maryland for my last semester would be a blast.  Wouldn’t it be great to see all those friends again?  To hang out at the old bar, to go to basketball games, to eat subs at Wawa at 2am?  It wasn’t.  It was like something had changed and the experience just wasn’t the same.  I was probably that something that had changed.  I learned to accept the fact that sometimes you have to close the chapter.  If you try to eek out another few pages, you could just ruin all the glory that good memories you did have.  Apparently I didn’t learn my lesson.

I watched the World Cup this morning with some friends in San Francisco.  I have been living in Berkeley now for about 9 months, and while I do miss being in the mix of the city, and my old neighborhood, North Beach, especially, it really was time I moved on.  However, I decided that this World Cup would be my homecoming of sorts.  My friends wanted to watch the game at an old haunt of mine (probably an ironic choice of words), some Irish pub in the North Beach district.  I figured this would be a great idea, to be among friends and in North Beach to watch the USA take on Ghana in the elimination round. 

Everything was amazing during the game.  But then the USA lost.  All of a sudden, it was like the rose-colored glasses came off.  The bar emptied out and we all went to another bar I used to go to a lot, in the same neighborhood (I guess I went to ALL the bars a lot.  I did live there for 5 years).  At this point, we lost some of the crowd and my friends had disappeared.  I was left to hang out with some friends of friends and felt a little out of place.  Then I started to think, yeah, I feel a little out of place here.  I learned my old Italian deli closed down (where are people getting their meatball subs?!).  I looked down and saw that my brand new TOMS shoes were dirty and gross from the bar.  I was tired, depressed from the futbol loss, and was a little lonely, and a little drunk.  

I decided to make my way back to the east bay when I passed by my old apartment.  I became very sentimental and nostalgic.  The new tenants had orchids in the window.  I started to cry.  The fog rolled in.  I was freezing cold, lonely and crying in my old neighborhood, thinking about how much things had changed in the past year (and not just the Italian deli), and started to wonder if they were for the better now.  An entire year since I broke up with my ex and I’m just as lonely at that moment, standing on the street corner, looking up at my old apartment that we used to share, as I was when I was with him, for all those years.  Ironic.

I came back to the east bay, and was greeted by my awesome dog, who napped with me for a few hours.  I woke up dehydrated and with a headache.  I was still shell shocked about being overwhelmed with emotion that afternoon over just visiting my old neighborhood.  So I started to think about soccer (naturally).

Dempsey, Donovan, Howard, Demerit.  These guys, among others are getting “old” in sports years.  Keep in mind, most are still younger than me (which is sad).  Soccer is a demanding sport, and there is a point in which your age works against you.  the USA was eliminated by Ghana, a team who’s average age is around 23 or 24.  They will all be around in 4 years to play again.  We can’t be sure about that for all of our superstars who really elevated USA soccer to a new status this year, being recognized now as an elite team.  Let’s say that they do return.  Dempsey is 27, Donovan, 28.  Howard and Demerit are even older.  IF they do return in 4 years to try to get the USA to advance again, they will do so with 4 years of age on them.  They might be at the World Cup, but it’s going to look and feel a lot different to them.  They might be slower, there might be younger, faster players on the USA and on the opposing team that will make them realize how much that 4 years has taken a toll on them.  

Now I hate talking like this because it’s not like early 30’s is the death of you.  I know plenty of people who are in top physical condition and in their 30’s (I know plenty who are not too).  And I am sure that they will still be great soccer players.  The point is, THEY are not going to feel as good out there as they did this year.  Going back to the World Cup in four years might be like eeking out another couple pages in that book.  Sometimes it works out and sometimes, it ruins it.  31 or 32 is not old.  But I think that when you have a 32 year old out on the field, running, competing and racing for the ball with a 23 year old, you’ve got a disadvantage.  Now, you have the benefit of wisdom and experience, which is important, but if your quickness has slowed and your sharpness has dulled, you’re going to feel like you’re trying to sprint through waist deep water.  And you aren’t going to feel like yourself, like you did the last time you were here, at the World Cup.

But here’s to hoping I’m wrong and we will see all our boys back in top form in 4 years.  I’ll be waiting, and I’ll be just a couple months shy of my 33rd birthday, and way too old to be playing soccer.

Experiences always seem to change and you can’t always predict it or control it.  I thought about soccer for a while, and how it might be sad for some players to come back in 4 years and it not to feel as glorious, as invincible as it did this year.  I thought about how it might feel to leave the Bay Area for good, if I would ever even want to come back to visit at all.  It might be one of those things that it’s best not to ruin by trying to relive something.  I think when I do leave, I will bow out gracefully, pour one out for the city by the bay and try to just remember the good times, and keep them where they belong.

January 2005: The first time I fell in love with the city, Chinese New Year, walking through Chinatown on a sunny winter day.  Bought some orchids.  It was the year of the Rooster (which is my sign), and I took that as a sign that this was going to be a great time in my life, here in the city by the bay.

February 2005: My Grandfather passed away, but My friend, Lo gave me yellow flowers, to cheer me up, and my friends took the fall for me in CivPro when they knew I hadn’t prepared for class.

World Cup/North Beach Festival, June 2006: hanging out on the rooftop with friends, Gnarls Barkley was big that summer.

May 2007: Law school graduation awards reception, speech from my former professor Cliff, about why I was receiving the Environmental Law Award, made me cry, but mostly, it made me proud to be able to receive it and happy that my mom was there to see it.

St. Patrick’s Day weekend 2008: hanging out on a sunny afternoon in Washington Square Park with my new puppy, Henry.  Met new friends that are now good friends.

Summer 2008: Heat wave in San Francisco and Jana and I (I was dressed in white pants, white tank top and white and gold nautical styled sandals) went looking for somewhere to sit outside and have a drink and enjoy the warm evening weather.  We went to Cafe Zoetrope and Jana had red wine and diet coke, I had champagne.

Summer 2009: Walked around the Mission with my boyfriend.  Sat outside the SPCA, went to Rainbow, got a burrito from the truck in the Best Buy parking lot.  

Because you may never be able to go home again, but you can be grateful for the time that you had.

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