You Can Go Home Again— Virtually

I got sucked into the parallel universe of Google this morning, which is way too easy to do. I’m working on The Los Alamos Years, a sequel to The Albuquerque Years, and wanted to check the elevation of Walnut Street relative to Villa Street on the other side of the mesa top our house stood on. Google Earth answered that, but then another question arose about where someone else’s house was, and that led me into GoogleMaps, and that led me to Street View, and I ended up virtually walking home from high school. The virtual walk went a little bit faster than the actual one would, but not much, by the time I swung around to look at things, and eventually made it “home.”

During the time I lived in Los Alamos, we always lived on Walnut Street, but we lived in two different houses. I have been back in person, but not since 2000, and I’d vowed not to go again, because it was too heart-breaking to see seared mountainsides where a lush ponderosa and aspen covered panorama towered above the town, before the devastating Cerro Grande fire in 2000. Today I had a chance to view those stark slopes in a fresh light. They are skinhead mountains now. They look like they survived chemo, but survive they have, and they exude strength. Their contours are clean and far more dramatic than they ever were when covered with flora. I can bear to look. I respect their strength and tenacity at the same time I grieve for the ignorance that devastated yet another portion of the planet.

Getting my virtual feet back in gear, I hit the corner of Walnut Street and 32nd and visually slammed into the second house we lived in. I already knew about the bizarre alterations that were made more than twenty years ago. Someone added a third level to the house, and did not tie it in well. They have now removed the doorway that opened into space, nearly twenty feet above the ground, but the chimney still tops out several feet below the roof, with a pipe stuck in the top to extend it. Oh, what a mess! I didn’t dawdle there.

Our first house, a long block down the street, still looks good, as you can see from this screen shot I grabbed. That huge tree on the left was not there, nor were the trees on the right end. The windows are new; originally all but the living room windows had panels on each end that opened with a crank gizmo. Otherwise, it looks the same. It is a duplex, and from my seventh birthday until I was twelve we lived in the right end. My sister and I sledded down that hill. We walked our bikes up and down that hill. I slid down the railing by those seventeen stairs.

That’s my bedroom window on the right center, second floor. Mine and my sister’s, until our brother arrived and we were moved to the back right corner. I liked that better. I could climb out the window on the end and hang out on the roof of the back porch. Not that there was anything to do there, but I liked being able to do it. Seeing that house brings back way more memories, and I need to get back to my writing.

Yes, it is satisfying to take a look and see how much some things have changed and how little others have. Why not take a virtual trip of your own? The price is right!

Write now: spend half and hour on GoogleEarth or GoogleMaps. Wander around an old neighborhood with StreetView if it’s available and check things out. Write about what you see, how it’s the same, how it’s different, and what you remember.


Pat's Place said...

Hey! I did that and saw those cracked sidewalks that I skated on. They are still cracked! No repair there. But the old neighborhood has changed a bit!

Ritergal said...

Doesn't that just blow your mind that we can do that? Now if we could just smell the pine rosin on a hot summer day ... and feel the heat of the sun on our once-again youthful brunette hair ... Memory will still have to serve in some respects.

Linda said...

Very cool! I just went home again too. It's an amazing world we live in, isn't it.

ybonesy said...

I drove through that part of the forest this past summer, and you describe it well. Yep, little pines sprouting here and there. Now the charred poles look almost beautiful...nature's art installment. Well, burns can ultimately be beneficial to forests, although I'm trying to recall if this one was man-made.

Tara said...

I bet sledding down that hill was a blast! :)

Jane said...

I use Google Earth all the time in the video biographies that I make. And if you upgrade on Google Earth, and use a PC, it is even possible to create a video recording of a "flight" from one place to another (the video option is not yet available for Macs). Very cool.