I’ve been thinking a lot lately about change. Hey now, don’t go calling the police.
Maybe it’s sparked by the beginning of my 30th year, or knowing that there’s no longer any birthdays as a buffer between me and that milestone of adulthood.
Or perhaps it stems from the realization that the months are changing faster than I can keep up with them, the cold weather is coming and I’m approaching both the anniversary of my immigration and starting work in Maine.
Either way, it’s an unstoppable force, and it’s been on my mind. Fair warning: this is an idea I’ve been kicking around for a future column, and you’re about to be the lucky* guinea pig.
One of the triggers for this thought process, I’m pretty sure, was this house that’s under construction down the street from me.
For months, ever since I moved house, I’ve walked past it on the way to the bar on a Friday night (or Saturday night, or Sunday afternoon, or Sunday night) and wondered whether they were actually making any headway on the job. Obviously I’m not a builder, so what the hell would I know? I can only manage to get myself hammered.
In the echoing cavern of my empty brain, this thought rattled around for awhile with the tumbleweeds. I started to wonder if, after getting a new job in another city in another state, I returned to Augusta after a year or two to visit, would the house be done?
Would the construction at the top of Western Avenue be finished, smoothing all those canyon-like potholes on a more permanent basis?
Would Chipotle finally have arrived, bringing cheap burritos to the starving capital city masses?
What would the two main streets I frequent – Augusta’s and Hallowell’s – look like in terms of tenants? Would my favorites still be there?
I brought this up over a drink last week with someone who was born and raised in Hallowell and who has plenty of family in this area.
Since the inception of the book (which I really should get my finger out and work on), I’ve been fascinated with hearing the stories of the people who did grow up here, and in the same vein what it was like to watch here grow up.
The other party in the conversation had also gone to college out of state, and had spent the two years following that living in Boston, which I figured would make for an interesting perspective on the whole “coming home” front.
So when I asked whether Augusta and Hallowell have changed over the years, as she came home at different stages, I got a more succinct response than I had anticipated.
Well, shit. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. Changes to infrastructure and businesses can be slow as it is, and then once you factor in the four-plus months of winter, the older target demographic and the relatively low levels of income in this part of the world, it’s probably a bit much to expect a Sushi Train or brand-new apartment buildings to be popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm.
Every time I read a story at work about how a developer has agreed on plans with the city to re-fit a historic building (such as the former Cony High School on Augusta’s eastside) as a residential space, I get a little excited thinking about how cool it would be to rent a brand-new apartment in that sort of space.
But then I remember that the target market here isn’t young professionals, it’s the elderly and low-income residents needing housing assistance, and that the changes I imagine probably aren’t happening in a way that’s ever going to be outwardly visible to me, a single 29-year-old idiot who spends 20 percent of his paycheck on booze.
Development is a funny thing, though. This is obviously the longest period of time I’ve been away from Australia, but before disappearing in August last year, my lengthiest stint outside of Brisbane was about eight weeks over August and September 2012.
Even in that short span, while I was overseas burning my disposable income, my neighborhood of Toowong was evolving. A famous old pub that had been damaged by flooding a year and a half earlier underwent its final renovations and was officially opened once I got back.
Before that trip I’d driven to the other side of town to a shopping mall I hadn’t been to in a couple of years, and took a route I similarly hadn’t been on for awhile. I was amazed to find a huge interchange/overpass reminiscent of Los Angeles freeways had sprung up on a roadway I used to travel multiple times per week.
I’d spent the first month of that year in Europe and the U.S., and while I was gone my job had up and relocated to a new office downtown, in a site that was still a construction zone when I departed.
I feel pretty confident that if I went home for a visit today, I’d have no problem getting myself around and remembering where everything is. Readjusting to driving on the left side of the road would be frightening, but in a navigational sense I think I’d be alright.
But what about in two years? Five? How different is the place I grew up going to look? I know my friend Nate, who’s been living in the U.S. since 2008, marvels at the new things Brisbane has when he goes home every couple of years to renew his work visa. Is my hometown going to be unrecognizable to me one day?
All big philosophical questions, I guess.
But one thing’s probably for certain: change is inevitable, but if I ever feel the need to see a place that’s exactly as I remembered it being, I can always hop a flight (and a train, and a bus) back to Augusta. I feel like it’ll be just the way I left it.
And that’s not a bad thing.