You smile and think how much you’ve changed

Back in the day, I remember singing lyrics to, This is the Day, by The The?:

Well you didn’t wake up this morning ’cause you didn’t go to bed
You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red
The calendar on your wall was ticking the days off
You’ve been reading some old letters
You smile and think how much you’ve changed
All the money in the world couldn’t buy back those days was sweet.
…life was sweet.

Always loved the song, but many years ago, when I listened to that CD over and over again, I was so happy with the moment that I was in. I had no idea that I was changing, or ever would. I had a leather jacket that I swore I would probably go with me to my cremation. Everything seemed perfect … down to the leftover carry-out food that was in my refrigerator. I figured I would stay pretty much the same. Never a smile after reading old letters. Never feeling older. Always being me.

This week, after a half day of work, the photographer who I just wrapped the job with suggested we go have lunch. Neither of us were familiar with the area, so we relied on Yelp for suggestions. A name, “Fuel Cafe” popped out of the list.

I said, “Let’s go, I’ve heard good things about this place.”

So, he drove and we went through this really nasty hood. We saw Frankenstein houses with busted out windows and bad paint jobs. Gym shoes over wires. Ferocious looking dogs taking giant shits that super rats ate. I didn’t see any pretty little lap dogs, or white fences. We were just about to figure out plan B when the sign to the cafe came into our vantage point. There was a house a few away from the cafe that had a taxidermy  black bear in the branch of a tree. I was terrified. But it was also Wisconsin. What did I expect?

“Ummm, we can totally go someplace else,” I said.

“No, Let’s check this place out,” said my lunch buddy.

Great, I thought… I wasn’t wearing my bullet proof vest and the place looked gross. Inside, it was raw. Posters of motorcycles were everywhere. I am not a fan of “theme” based eateries. They remind me of something that should be at an amusement park. The clientele was indie-rock-style. The coffee sipping crowd was adorned with dreadlocks or hipster cropped hair. Everyone had a tattoo, smelled of cigarettes and obviously loved the obscure music that was cranked to eleven. I was self conscience in my dirty North Face coat and felt alone with my nothing-cool-about-me. Where was my hand knit scarf (that my mommy made me)? By trying so little, I stood out like an asshole yuppie. I was an impostor in a mecca of cool that I didn’t quite understand. At this place, the cashier could have worn a vintage swim cap with plastic flowers stuck to her head and been taken more seriously than me.

Ordering lunch was like a job interview where I had no idea about the right answer. The waitress burned a look into me and turned my head into a pink, glitter, Halloween skull. Telepathically she was saying, “You are so fired!”

I figured a veggie sandwich with a down and dirty latte would be the ticket. The food was good. Coffee “Fuel” worthy. My blood sugar level suggested I relax. Taking the whole experience in with a full belly, I realized that the reason I felt so uncomfortable was that I HAD CHANGED! Twenty years ago, this place called Fuel would have been my scene. I would have loved the place and brought my parents there for a veggie sandwich birthday dinner! What was going on???? Nowadays, birthday dinners are extra fancy fare like oysters and pork belly!

I looked over at the girl behind the coffee counter and realized that twenty something years ago, I WAS THAT GIRL. It was odd to remember that I worked at cafes, where I used to know how to make the fuck out of a cappuccino. I probably even wore a vintage  bathing cap to work. That wasn’t weird! Once upon a time, I had no idea what it was like shopping retail. I even bought soap at the Village Thrift.

My lunch friend and I had a lot of fun. We even bought t-shirts and I laughed to myself thinking we were such tourists. I had to leave with some trinket that I found from my trip to the way back time machine. So glad I had those days … yesterday. I loved that old me, but now I realize that I have grown and it just is. Still, it’s good to remember what it was like to be a little raw around the edges … an easy cool that just happened. Something about that foundation makes today very solid. Cause, I don’t want to go back to the past … well maybe for a another t-shirt and some coffee.

You could have done anything, if you wanted
And all your friends and family think that you’re lucky
But the side of you they’ll never see
Is when you’re left alone with your memories
That hold your life together, like glue


  • Andy Jordan

    Weird. I just Googled the lyrics ‘You’ve been reading some old letters, you smile and think how much you’ve changed. All the money in the world couldn’t buy back those days’ because I’ve recently re-discovered The The and find these particular lyrics remind me of being young, first love, irresponsibility and having no worries. As I fast approach 50 I realise that my 18 year old self was too fucking stupid to appreciate life. But at least I found this site. Which is nice.