Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hovering History

Today is the last day of my 51st year of free-breathing on God's green earth. I got to thinking last night about all the places my life has taken me, and with the the help of Google Earth I went back and visited some of them. I started with some easy ones--places in the US and not as deeply recessed in the wrinkly grey matter of my pea-sized brain. I found satellite pictures of my quarters at Parris Island, SC (or, where my quarters used to be--they tore it down right after I left and built a new house--a coincidence of course), our student housing in Newport, RI for the Navy War College, and our $50,000 house on a $5,000,000 lot at Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii.

When I tried to zoom in on our place aboard Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, Korea, the picture got too fuzzy to make out anything--we don't want to give the North Koreans too easy of a targeting solution.

I found satellite views of our Alabama abode, and the three places in Georgia (in three years) in which we arranged our worldly goods. The house in Jacksonville, NC was relatively easy to find, as well as the two sets of base quarters we occupied during our first tour at Camp Lejeune. Our two different sets of quarters at Quantico, VA seemed tinier than I remembered, even for a satellite view. Our efficiency apartment's building on the campus of Ole Miss is a small rectangle that hardly seems big enough to hold one residence, let alone ten.

The houses Miss Brenda's family and mine occupied on Howard Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone are still there and look to be in good shape, but the streets of the abandoned base are eerily devoid of cars. England Air Force Base in Alexandria, LA is also defunct, but the house on Royce Drive is still there; as well as the house on Horseshoe Drive out in town, where we lived for several months waiting for base quarters. Our quarters on Oklahoma Avenue aboard Little Rock Air Force Base can be easily found with a satellite view, along with the Little League ball diamond on whose outfield I dawdled and daydreamed.

Perhaps the most amazing find last night was the house in which we lived on another defunct US Air Force Base in Morocco. I found it by scanning the desert outside of Marrakesh for a runway and then traced the long road through nothing to the base housing. I was only 5 and 6 when we lived there, but I can still remember details from that place more sharply than others in my vagabond life. I remembered that the housing was arranged around a central empty square, and when I found that more memories came creeping back into my consciousness like little lost children looking for attention. I traced the road from the housing area back up past the "big kids" school, by which I have a indelible memory of frantic bike pedalling. As I remember it, the kindergarten and first grade classes I attended were in a building at the top of a small rise past the bigger school. At the end of the day we were normally let out a few minutes before the other school and those of us with tiny bikes scrambled to make it down the hill past that place before the "big kids" got out and filled the road with their bullying.

I wonder what if there is some "big kid" out there who has a fond Moroccan memory of racing from class to stand in the middle of the road and try to knock kamikaze kindergartners off of their bikes.
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