Right before I left Los Angeles, I went to Rocket Video for the last time. It was a smallish independent rental place that’d been there forever (or forever enough that I remember its mysterious, curtained-off porn section from childhood visits, from when people still rented porn instead of just streaming realtime videos of young horny c0ed sluts); it was staffed by an interchangeable roster of late twenties dudes with half-hearted facial hair and quietly brutal opinions about your taste in movies.
There’s something bizzarely intimate about the relationships you develop with people who work in the places you frequent; this is particularly true when what you come for is strangely revealing, shedding light on the hours you’ve spent on the couch, the stuff you’re in the mood to distract yourself with. It’s strange that strangers can see so much of you from these small doses. It didn’t hurt that Rocket had a particularly personal vibe, a ramshackle system-of-no-system shelving arrangement that meant you had to ask at the desk to find almost anything. It was like being inside someone else’s brain, cluttered and human, interesting stuff always poking out at you from some dark corner.
When I say that I went for the last time, I do not mean that my two year absence from the city is somehow cause for never-again boo-hooing; I mean that the day after I left, Rocket moved a couple of blocks down the street to a smaller, cheaper location. They sold off the VHS tapes because they didn’t get rented very often and they needed the cash and to free up some space. I tried to figure out what to do, having dropped the DVDs that needed returning, standing there thinking I should memorialize this but how. It wasn’t even a never again, exactly, but it wouldn’t be like it was: I could no longer picture my own return so exactly, the future a muzzily repeating reflection of the past.
Last night I was sitting on the Rudy’s patio with J, drinking Elm City Lager because it was on special, eating frites with horseradish mayo and samurai sauce, celebrating the solstice by watching the sun go down. I noticed that the Rudy’s sign was missing; I thought about the photographs of me on that patio with my family just about a year ago, taking a break from the endless graduation festivities to put our feet up for an hour or two. I wondered about it, sort of, but my mind was on other things.
It is a little bit silly to get so maudlin about losing the places you’ve loved; everyone has a favorite bar that’s closed, and that this one is so much a part of the history of Yale and New Haven (may be the only place, in fact, equally indebted to both) makes the sadness bigger but not worse. Soon, probably, I will have a beer at Rudy’s that is my last beer at Rudy’s; eventually I’ll have one at new Rudy’s, and I’ll probably be greatful for it. I suppose we try to move through whatever future is coming by imagining it will at least look like the past; we ourselves will alter as we move through the same rooms over and over, the world still and comforting all around us. It is shocking to be told this isn’t the case, startling, always abrupt. “You can’t go home again,” sure, but the Rudy’s patio isn’t home, it’s a fact of this place, of my mental landscape; to lose it is to lose something public that I considered very much my own. It comes down to this, for me anyway: I know it’s silly to be sad, but I am.