Here’s a final photograph, and some thoughts about it, from the recent trip Dorette and I made to attend the jazz festival in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
Marcel Proust, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe all said you can’t go home again. Wolfe even used the expression as the title of one of his novels.
But I keep trying.
For example, at least once a year, I revisit the North Dakota town where I was born and attended high school. It’s much changed. The last house of my dead parents is dilapidated and apparently abandoned, with no connection now to my inner life.
And then there’s this house at 810 Colfax Street in Evanston, Ill., photographed just the other day. It was my home in the mid-1960s while I studied at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
Like myself, it shows the effects of more than half a century of time.
Back then I had traveled by rail to Chicago, arriving at Union Station and connecting to another train to Evanston. After checking my baggage, I walked to Northwestern’s off Camus housing office, hoping to find inexpensive lodging.
I didn’t make it to the long lines of waiting students. A guy with a big grin spoke to me.
“Looking for a room?” he asked. I nodded. “Come with me,” he replied.
In his car, I learned his name was Lester Welty. We retrieved my stuff at the station and drove to Colfax Street.
The house looked great. For $50 a month, I rented one of two rooms he had available (the other was soon taken by a Medill classmate).
Lester’s wife had died recently, and I sensed he was providing sleeping quarters to students so as not to live alone.
Later that year, Lester mentioned he was a retired life insurance agent, although he said his first goal had been to become a Methodist minister.
He showed me several filing cabinets in the basement packed with the records of insurance policies he’d sold over the years. He asserted with pride that he’d done more good as a life insurance agent than he ever would have as a pastor.
And so last week, after tipping my hat to Lester Welty’s memory, I walked from 810 Colfax St. to the Northwestern campus, as I had every day when I was a student.
The distance seemed longer than I remembered, and at one point, I had to consult my iPhone’s mapping application.
So I guess it’s true: at my advanced age, you REALLY can’t go home again