The little dials that adjusted the airflow in my dad’s old Volvo always reminded me of Oreo cookies. I seriously hope that at least one of you knows what I’m talking about. If you look at an Oreo from the side so you can see both of the brown-black cookies and the white cream filing, it looks exactly like the dial you’d use to open or close the dashboard air vents in an old Volvo. It’s strange; as a child, those little dials always made me want cookies, and now that I’m grown, Oreos always make me want to buy a Swedish vehicle.
Anyway, my dad and I logged thousands of miles in that old Volvo during our many treks to and from Anchorage from our home in the Mat-Su Valley of Alaska. On one of the commutes, that song “Once in a Lifetime” came on and my dad turned it up because like most of the rebels at the time, he loved The Talking Heads. I only remember catching snippets of the song like “days go by” or “water flowing under” or “same as it ever was” but the rhythm was captivating so I asked what the song was about. He tried to explain but I missed it; it had something to do with “not knowing how you got where you are”. Whatever; it was just a song and that’s how I pigeonholed it for about twenty years.
Back before I quit drinking, I had a six-pack or so and ended up on my back in my living room here in New Mexico. My iPod was screwed into my head as my eclectic playlist shuffled. I was looking up at the flood lights pocketed into the ceiling and squinting which made weird rays of light shoot through my vision that reminded me of the Zia Sun on the New Mexico state flag. I imagined a Zia laying on his back in the sand looking up at the sun thousands of years ago and seeing the same thing before running to a rock wall and drawing the first Zia sun.
And then I thought about how strange it was that I had a beautiful wife and a huge white fence and an expansive open floor plan living room and a corporate job that’d scare the shit out of Jesse from fifteen years ago and then that song started playing through my ear buds. Epiphanies blossom at the strangest times but this one was forced by the Talking Heads. I knew exactly what that song was about, almost as if I had written it. Everything in life up to that point was incremental. Bit by bit this suburban lifestyle crept up like a hunting house cat until boom. Here I was tucking in my collared shirt and spending my days glued to a smart phone which is nothing like the lifestyle I planned to hack out in the shadow of some Alaskan glacier.
Had I gotten to that tipping point wherein the change had become palpable? Had I or my priorities changed so much that my vision was no longer so myopic and now, all of a sudden, everything came into focus? Well, no, not really. Hell, even ten years ago when I was a drool-faced zombie working seventy hours a week for a new bride and baby I probably could’ve caught the feeling of confusion if I had tried. Maybe I was just too tired to think about it. That life would’ve been just as foreign to the old Jesse as this one is. This is not my beautiful house! That wasn’t my beautiful house either! I guess it’s always been this way. A weird little moment in time that I had never foreseen or planned, a strange existence that I knew was mine but I could never quite explain how I got there. The water had always been flowing under. The days had just gone by. It really is the same as it ever was.