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Thomas Wolfe Was Right

March 3, 2020

I once read an extremely well-written short story by the name of “You Can’t Go Home Again.”  The author, Thomas Wolfe, in well-written prose, spoke about the challenges of returning to a place where you once were.  In that article, he made it clear that “home” is often a place that resides in your mind only.  Since you left, “home” has changed and often your return only reveals how much home has changed.

Such was my discovery today.

I went to a favorite hamburger place in Kansas City today.  I won’t name the name, but those who are familiar with hamburgers in Kansas City will probably be able to guess the name of it (hint:  it starts with “W” and it’s not Wendy’s).

As a relatively young professional, I would often go to “W” for a great burger:  well-seasoned, good sized, and enough there to fill the cavernous space just about my waist quite well.  So today, in a fit of nostalgia, I returned to this place of hallowed culinary memories–much to my disappointment.

Although the outside of the building looked all-too-familiar, the rest of the experience was new.  The servers, never known for their charm, had seemed to grow even more surly with the years.  But one never went to “W” for scintillating conversation with the servers.  One went for the food.  “Bring it!” I thought.

When it arrived, it appeared that it had suffered from whatever the opposite of “supersize me” is.  The burger appeared to be at least 25% smaller than my memory.  The fries, likewise, appeared to have gone to Jenny Craig, and my small root beer was really small.  It looked like a kid-sized drink (who does that?).

Diving in, there was only a small hint of what I had once enjoyed.  Rather than being a full meal, it felt like an aggravating appetizer.  Oh well.  I did say that I wanted cut down on some calories.  I just didn’t realize that I would get institutional help in that regard.

Which takes me back to Thomas Wolfe:  it’s nearly impossible to go home again.  Whether home is a literal home, a work “home” or a food “home.”  Things have changed; and so have we.  Perhaps good memories should be cherished as places we return to only in our minds, while we build the futures we desire in reality.

Here’s to a new day.  Cheers!