Movin’ On

“I watch the ripples change their size

But never leave the stream

Of warm impermanence

And so the days float through my eyes

But still the days seem the same…” — David Bowie

I have loved this portion of David Bowie’s song, “Changes” for practically as long as I can remember…anything.  This song was released before I turned 9 years of age, and my earliest memories of life are around 3 years of age, so it is not off by much.  I couldn’t tell you much about change at that age.  I could tell you about moving from one classroom to the next, or one teacher to the next.  Our principal had changed from the frightening Mrs. Greene, who never smiled, to the approachable Mr. Buchanan, who seemed very friendly.  By that time, I had already uttered phrases like, “when I was little”, in family discussions, and amused family members, not with the substance of what I was trying to compare, but by the mere fact that I had said, “when I was little.”  Whatever meant so much to me to try to express at that time, it was always overlooked by the fact that I used that phrase.  It was quite some time before I realized that they were not just asking me to repeat something not heard, but rather fascinated by my notion about time and change, where, to them, none had happened.

“Strange fascinations fascinate me 

Ah, changes are taking

The pace I’m goin’ through” — David Bowie

Eventually I left the first floor of my elementary school for the second floor.  Then eventually I left for another school, and then another one.  Soon, my dad died, and I was off to college in another city.  Soon, college was over, then I was in the Marines and traveling the country and the world.  Then, after about the time I use one spark plug on my lawnmower, I was out of the Marines and in California in the LAPD.  Change was flowing like a fast, deep river, but it seemed steady and understandable.  I thought I was gaining knowledge about my country, and my society through experience.  Time would tell.


Turn and face the strange


Ooh, look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers


Turn and face the strange


Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older

Time may change me

But I can’t trace time

I said that time may change me

But I can’t trace time…” — David Bowie

Change arrived at our door this Winter with a fantastic opportunity.  After 21 years in our home, my wife and I are moving to Washington, DC.  And, since we don’t know a great deal about ‘the DMV’, we made a trip there a couple of weeks ago to, not only find a new house, but also find a new area to live.  We have spent a few months getting familiar with DC, and the various styles of life in the many different neighborhoods.  

This time, we thought, the changes would be easier.  We have bought homes before.  We have moved across country before.  We have more money than before.  It would seem that things should go smoothly.  But, all the while we thought we were gaining knowledge about the country that we live in, the country was changing faster than we were learning.

We live in a turbulent, dare I say, angry country now.  The neighborhood you choose does not quite insulate you from all of the anger, or so it seems.  The first time I drove across country to California in 1984, one of my biggest worries was not being able to find water.  I carried a gallon of drinking water behind each front seat just in case.  Today, one of my biggest worries would be ringing someone’s door for directions, or pulling into the wrong driveway and needing to turn around.  Those simple acts got two young people shot this past week.  The young man is now home recovering from his physical wounds, but the young woman was killed.  

While we were in Washington, DC a couple of weekends ago, our realtor was driving us around to various prospective homes.  I sat in the front seat next to the realtor, and my wife sat in the back.  I watched a strange and fascinating style of driving through traffic that differs from most places I have been.  A simple explanation of this style is that of a low speed, aggressive, competitive style.  The speeds on the surface streets and the freeways rarely become excessive.  (There are speed cameras everywhere). But, the aggressive acceleration, lane changing, and honking are damned near comical.  In fact, while riding with our realtor, at one point, a late model BMW came up behind us.  The driver in the BMW hit his horn and stayed there for some time.  Traffic was thick, and there was nowhere to go.  I wondered aloud what he could possibly be complaining about.  Our realtor who was originally from the NYC area, but had lived in DC with her family for over 20 years, was unconcerned.  We were moving North toward Chevy Chase around this time.  Eventually the guy in the BMW found a space and moved into a lane beside us on the driver’s side.  I looked across the driver to his car to see if his expression matched his driving.  It did.  He shot an angry glare at the realtor, who never looked over at him.  The anger was so out of proportion to the situation that I began laughing.  I did not intend to.  I wasn’t mocking the driver of the BMW.  I was just shocked.  When I laughed, he started laughing.  That was pretty much the end of it.  But, it was the short fuse anger that stuck with me.  This dude went off about absolutely nothing.  

And that is the “change” that I see in this country that makes it unrecognizable to me.  Yes, there has always been anger, but a 16 year old kid was shot while ringing a doorbell, looking for his twin little brothers, in a neighborhood that he lived.  My parents had warnings for me about where I went, and with whom, and my conduct, etc.  We are all familiar with such.  But, this seems like a change to me.  The young woman riding in a car that was merely turning around, is gone for good.  This is beyond what I ever thought my country was.

Soon, my wife and I will finally select a house, and move to a new city.  We are excited about it.  I was excited back in the 1980’s too, but there is a different sort of unknown to go along with the excitement this time.  New horizons can be lots of fun, but this time, I confess, I am a little afraid to ask for directions.