This Is Not My Beautiful House:  A Meditation on Home

Wales. Besides the large sea mammals, what comes to mind when I hear the word Wales are three things:  Welsh rarebit, Welsh cyclist and one-time Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, and Welsh Corgi dogs. I’ve never had the first one, I’ve never met the second, but I’m looking at one of the third. I’m pet and housesitting while the owner is away. And what comes to mind from that is the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime”:  “This is not my beautiful house.” Maybe you know the song, which was a big hit on the radio, and it was on first day MTV appeared on the airwaves back in 1981. It makes me think of that time, Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, Wall Street excess (“greed is good”), the American Dream of owning a home, among other things. So, behold a brief blog ’bout… all that jazz.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack 
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

And you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?”
And you may ask yourself, “Where is that large automobile?”
And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful house”
And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful wife”

--Copyright Talking Heads thinks the song is about the passage of time, the middle class’s (increasingly fruitless) search for the American Dream, settling down, and middle age. I think David Byrne, genius that he is, probably was reflecting on all those themes and more. A Dude can dig it, being closer to living in a shotgun shack than he would like, thanks to high Austin rents.  He also wrote a book about bicycling I’ve long meant to read, called Bicycle Diaries. Byrne biked around New York City, and in his travels around the globe, he began to take a folding bike. He then collected photos and journaled thoughts about what he saw.

Of course I’m not an internationally acclaimed artist and rock star (yet). On a much smaller scale, I suppose I’ve tried to do something similar here in this blog and my memoir, thenñatter of which is being perpetually revised. And after bicycling every single day for three years, three months and bit — that’s 1,200 days in a row, if you’re keeping score (I haven’t biked yet today) — I suppose I’m still searching for something. “And I may ask myself, ‘Well, how did I get here?'”

Well, I’m not sure. I lived here before. Moved away twice. Returned twice. Made choices I did and had the luck I had which hasn’t let me strike it rich (yet), so I don’t own a house. Through no fault of my own, I have to move yet again. The small family built and run apartment complex where I’ve lived for 20 months sold to a big wealthy corporation who is kicking us out. It will be demolished for another ugly, overpriced, oversized rental complex. And communicating that I’m fixin’ ta be homeless to people I know led to an invitation to pet and housesit, and maybe to live here.

There are really only two places I ever felt that were home. One was my parental units’ then my mother’s house in North Texas. The other was my grandparents’ house in the Mojave desert, which was a mobile home they moved from Texas. I was at the former recently for the third month in a row, this time on an unexpected brief trip. Getting to visit has been really nice. But it’s true what they say, “you can never go home again,” and also “home is where the heart is.” One can definitely miss home, ornthe idea or memory of it, which we call “homesick.” (Which has a different meaning during the P.C.E. — the Pandemic COVID Era.)

I don’t feel at home here because it’s my first night pet- and housesitting, but also because “I may tell myself, This is not my beautiful house.” Although it may become “a place I say at” for a time, it won’t really be home. Maybe I’ll find somewhere better, because there will be a lot of noise:  the dog, planes, trains, and automobiles, plus buses, and the roommate watching TV news a lot. Oh, and a big construction project of another ugly, overpriced, oversized apartment complex is about to start right across the street.

What is one’s place when one has no place of their own?

As a wandering Jew (a person, not the plant) without a travel budget, I’ve moved around Austin countless times. Maybe on average once a year for a total of quarter century. In The Wizard of Oz, Glenda the Good Witch said, and then Dorothy repeated, “There’s no place like home.” For we renters of the world, that is literally true. I guess the best one can hope for, short of moving home, or somehow becoming able to have one of your own, is that we take a slice of home with us, and find or create it wherever and with whomever we can.

The American Dream isn’t attainable for most people, if it ever was. The excellent four-hour documentary about George Carlin — aptly titled George Carlin’s American Dream — was done by Judd Apatow and is on HBO. It won an Emmy, is that good enough for ya’? Carlin once said about this topic:

“The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

-George Carlin

So, with sky high rents, inflation, and other economic stressors, where does that leave most of us? Struggling to make it. Me particularly? Probably living here, until I can cobble together the reources to find the next place. Which is hopefully not my Japanese two-door car by night and libraries, coffeeshops, and the YMCA by day.

How does any of this relate to bicycling? I’m not sure, but I’m going to go ride my bike and think about it. Maybe remember a few images from Geraint’s win on the Champs Elysees in Paris in 2018. Though of course he won it in the mountains, thanks to his team working for him, and being the strongest rider that year. I’ll consider if I could make Welsh rarebit over rice cakes, since I gave up bread that same year G won. And I’ll let the Welsh Corgi out for her pre-bedtime pee.

Then to sleep, perchance to have that American Dream, or nightmare, such as it is. Speaking of the Austin Public Library, I’ll go borrow a still free copy (ain’t that amazing!) of the prequel to a book my brother recommended. Fubu founder and Shark Tank personality Daymond John called it The Power of Broke. Then I’ll read Rise and Grind. Work hard, but do not grind your gears on your bicycle. As in life, when facing an uphill challenge, here’s another A Dude Rules: Change gears.

Copyright 2023. A Dude Abikes.

2 thoughts on “This Is Not My Beautiful House:  A Meditation on Home

  1. And you may ask yourself, “My God! What have I done?!” And thanks, you just gave me the push I needed to put “Bicycle Diaries” on hold at the library. I once had a dream, when moving to a new city that wasn’t “home”. If you’ve ever had a bird, they need to sharpen their beaks and you provide then with a cuttle bone that hangs on the side of the cage. In my dream, I received the message: “Anywhere you hang your cuttle bone is home.” I bought one to move with me and hung it in the new house. (P.S. It didn’t really work but it reminded me to keep trying.)

    Liked by 1 person

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