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#15 Ode to Freeway Exits
I'm nostalgic about American freeway exits the same way I'm nostalgic about New Order songs. When I drive past familiar exits at 70mph, I'm reminded of how I felt when I used to take each exit. Eldridge Parkway in Houston reminds me of the first apartment I lived in the US and the anxious ball I used to feel in my stomach when I took it on the way back home from work, ruminating on how little money I had. Holly Hall st, again in Houston, reminds me of my ex and the anticipation I felt when I knew I was really close to getting to her place.
Sometimes, I avoid certain exits for a couple of months because they bring back memories I'd rather not relive at that time. 234D to Caesar Chavez st in Austin is one such exit I've avoided for the last two and half months. But each time I pass it, I can feel the hold it has on me weakening as the contours of my memories become softer and smoother. Maybe I'll finally take that damn exit next week.
Freeway exits feel like a uniquely American way that my mind has found to make memories legible. It would be strange if I discover ten years from now that my mind palace is just a six lane highway with a lot of exits and the nature of what I remember changes with the passage of time. Perhaps part of the reason my nostalgia is attached to exits is that that seems like one of the few liminal moments in my days where I'm not on the internet or distracted by 5 things I need to get done.
I still vaguely remember a time when my nostalgia was connected to more human-scale things in nature. The big tree in the little side street near my high school where I kissed a girl for the first time, the dirty walls on the last left turn before my childhood home e me of the sadness of returning home after hanging out with friends. The older I've got the fewer such human scale anchor points have become. I've met some of my closest friends online, and I wonder what my nostalgia would anchor on five or six years later - the Twitter DMs UI? the iMessage ding?
Paul Schrader, who wrote Taxi Driver, described the metaphor of the cab as a person in an iron box, a coffin, floating around the city, but seemingly alone. It represents some kind of post-modern illness of the mid-70s. I find this a comical and ironical contrast to how I feel nostalgic and alive when I drive past exits at 70mph.