Empty restaurants and quiet streets

My life has changed considerably since the carefree days of my early 20s.. I am not saying that is a negative thing, but just instead a product of growing.. Interestingly, there are times I go back and see even what I posted on the HORROR REPORT about 10 years back, and really not much has changed in that regard.. It’s my personal life where the most has occurred..

When you’re a dad, and your wife is a mom, you’re tired by ten and rarely get the chance to get out of the house.. date nights are a dime a dozen, and even when they take place you’re mostly worried for the last half of it about how your child is doing at home with whoever is watching..

There are other times though where a simple act of driving can open the floodgates of memories.. Last night, a simple act like that did happen. Around 9, I got extremely hungry for food from a little place called Hollywood Pizza in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania–I name it because you should consider it if you’re ever in a zip code nearby, it’s some of the greatest pizza that is eaten on the crust of the planet.. Before I digress into a litany of food related statements, let me get back to my drive.. It was 9pm, cold as hell–if that’s possible–and the streets were empty. Only 9pm on a Friday night? Empty? It was so quiet I could hear the electricity surge through the lines above me, that faint and dull hum that comes with it filled the night air with some form of noise..

Bars were empty, it seemed..
Even the restaurant I picked my food up was without customers most of the night..
And my nostalgia hit.. I recalled very similar nights in my early 20s, with friends, walking on a cold street into a watering house or food establishment.. I remember the laughter and the strange things we’d do, trying to act as adults when we needed to but still refrain from adulthood when we could.. I was fond of those times, though nostalgia normally shields your memory from the boring nights or horrid times..

What confounds me is this: On Thanksgiving night, while driving home from a family dinner, I witnessed with my own eyes how busy malls and Walmarts were. But that seemed to change on Friday.. I doubt that Black Friday sales will be as good as what was expected..

Last night, I was further shocked to see so little of life outside at night. I understand that this could be a product of my area, perhaps just a little hole in a wall town without people outside.. I am sure cities had bars packed with patrons.. Right?

I am actually beginning to consider the possibility that people have evolved away from enjoying night life .. It seems that once nightfall comes, house doors and windows get locked and computers go on, people slip away from life to peruse Facebook for too many hours or play Farm Heroes way too long.  The watering house always has empty seats..  We are choosing virtual reality over reality..

I am 34 this year.. While some may consider that young, I feel old. Joints are aching and my body is aging. Then again, friends and family remind me often that I shared those same complaints with them at 24.  Things have changed greatly in ten years.. And with changes comes fond memories of times past.. Nostalgia..

But is nostalgia a good thing? And even more, what is it? Smell and touch can bring it back.. short little snippets of sayings may inspire it.. times of the year often hit you with it.. But it can also be deceptive.. people can be turn a dark past into a bright memory with a bit of falsehood in a brain.  I try to explain this to people, often without success, but I get very nostalgic on 9/11 each year.. Not because I enjoyed watching 3000 people die, but because I turned 21 and recall the immense patriotism after 9/11 in 2001. Nostalgia can trick you ..

There is a study I recall reading that nostalgia is more present when you are lonely or sad.  Last night, while I walked a lonely sidewalk under a street light to get my meal, perhaps that is exactly what I was feeling. After all, here it was, a Friday night, and I heard no music. No laughter.. nothing. Just dimly lit bars without customers.   And hell, even a crowded barroom is a lonely place.. Just picture a taproom void of people..

Perhaps this generation growing is the last that will encounter social life in the same way we know it to exist. . ? Maybe those virtual reality worlds will give us the sense of companionship we desire? Perhaps we can program it into us..? Maybe the future will come complete with an adroid robot sex doll for our love and a headset and computer for social experimentation.

And if that is the case, how will nostalgia work in the future? What will people reminiscent about ?

The good old days weren’t ever that good.
Tomorrow is not as bad as it seems. Billy Joel sang that long before we thought that..
And those two statements make sense now..

Crowded and smoky barrooms of my 20s weren’t great. They were repulsive many times, and by 2am a complete insult to humanity itself.
And tomorrow, the future, really won’t be as bad..


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