Thursday, July 14, 2011

Running into my ghost on a Salt Lake street corner

Posted By on July 14, 2011, 12:17 PM

The other morning walking to City Weekly's offices from a nearby car park, I met myself 30 years younger. It was a disconcerting experience.---

Now that the streets are drenched in sun and shadow and the heat hovers over the sidewalk, inevitably you expect to be panhandled. So when a young man holding a coffee approached me on the corner of 300 South and 300 West, I assumed he was in search of spare change. Instead, he asked where there was a nearby supermarket or electrical goods store. He spoke with the type of British accent I associate - being British myself - with, shall we say, the moneyed classes.

He was tall, thin and good looking, with a shaggy mane of hair and a relaxed, self-effacing demeanor I vaguely recognized but could not quite place. I pointed him in the direction of The Gateway and he said he hadn't explored that part of downtown yet. With a "Cheers," he headed off toward the Depot.

It was only as I reached City Weekly that it struck me who the unnamed youth had reminded me of - myself at age 19, taking a Trailways bus across these United States in search of a better understanding of all things Americana.

I had worked in a British hospital for a year cleaning floors of blood, vomit and dust to pay for the trip and what came back to me of that trip as I turned on to Main Street, were those wonderful twilight hours when I would get off the bus at 5 a.m. and watch the sun rise over a mid west town, or the conversations I had, as if in a Denis Johnson novel, with passengers traveling to Los Angeles in search of better fortune.

The young man reminded me, finally, of the simplicity of my aspirations that trip. I wanted to marinate myself in the eternal landscape of Kerouac, O'Connor and Dos Passos. Perhaps I was trying to catch who I was in the endless flashing reflection of my pale, unlined features in the dirty bus window.

Thirty years on, after this faintest of brushes with my past, as I caught my reflection in Sam Weller's bookstore front window before going up to the paper's offices, I wondered if, after all this time, I could say with any more definitive conviction than I could all those years who exactly the blurred image was.

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