The Hitchhiker in the Rearview Mirror
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The Hitchhiker in the Rearview Mirror<br>By Marc Porter Zasada<p>Maybe like me, you find that here in the metropolis, new models of yourself come and go a little too quickly. Just like cell phones, software, and recording formats, you seem to go obsolete almost every year. There was the cheerful you who did that political internship. The serious you who studied film at UCLA. The pale you who wrote 2 a.m. poetry over apple pie at Ships. The enthusiastic you who proposed to his second wife while strolling Venice Beach.<p>What version of you was that? 2.2? 3.0? Was version 3.5 actually an improvement?<p>Really, over the years, it gets hard to keep up. And more importantly, what happened to all those interesting people who once were you? Did they leave town? Are they working in the office building next door?<p>For example, you sir, do you remember the you who once occupied a third floor apartment overlooking Palms Boulevard? That poster from La Dolce Vita you taped up in the kitchen? The hiss of traffic on rainy nights?<p>Surely you recall the girlfriend -- what was her name? -- who liked to paint a green pentangle on her left cheek. Surely you remember your own long soliloquies about the superiority of the European Mind and the many pots of coffee you brewed as she lay on your lumpy couch, fast-forwarding through a tape of Satyricon...<p>Never mind what happened to her. The question is, what happened to that version of you? I mean, you're pretty sure he existed. You recently found the Fellini poster rolled up in the back of the garage, right behind your cross-country skis and those five cardboard boxes full of pirated videotapes, one of them labeled, in bold magic marker, as ---Second-rate Scorcese.--- <p>Wasn't it you who wrote that?<p>Surely there were passions you had in those days, things you would have died for, that you can't even recall. You'd like to think you've turned those passions into some greater wisdom -- and surely somewhere else, where things move a little slower and people hold onto themselves a little longer, they probably do get a chance to mature.<p>But here?<p>The other day I was standing in line at Target -- always a disorienting experience -- when I found myself staring with interest at the back of a woman ahead of me. She turned her head a little, and I recognized her as a person I once hated deeply. She had been my colleague at a place I worked some 13 years ago -- and yes, I'm sure I once hated her, although I couldn't quite call up the exact wrongs she had committed, the precise way she had undercut my authority.<p>At last she looked me in the eye, but it took her a few seconds to recognize me. And when she did, her face did not cloud. Her jaw did not drop. No, she merely nodded vaguely, and said, ---Oh hi, how are you doing.--- And then she turned away, and paid for her 15 rolls of paper towels.And I have to report, I found myself... disappointed. <p>I mean, I read many self-help books which encourage me to learn from my past, and like those people who live in slower places, I want to evolve a deep, experienced view. But as I stood there, it seemed like I had simply left some interesting version 4.7 of myself behind -- like a hitchhiker I had dropped somewhere along the Pacific Coast Highway, and who was now staring forlornly back at me in my rearview mirror.<p>Here in the big city, the Urban Man has been an entrepreneur, a highly-paid marketing consultant, a typesetter, a nonprofit administrator, a tech-support guy.<p>Once you were a patient businessman. An impatient broker. An activist. A proud young woman battling dragons. A would-be songwriter wandering the Palisades.<p>I ask you, where did all those people go?<p>-- 2005 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.<br>
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