I spent the last three months time traveling. It is not unlike deep sea diving in that, if you come up too fast, you get the bends.
In preparing for my father’s memorial service, I sort through four score and more years’ worth of family photos and six hours of home movies, unearthing Kodachrome slides that looked like they were taken yesterday, and damaged, dreamlike 8mm footage. —> We are in the large church I grew up in, in a small town in Pennsylvania, greeting friends, neighbors, parishioners. It is as if we never left 40 years ago, even if everything seems to have shrunk a little. <— After the service, my brother and I take his daughters on a tour of the old Sunday School building. Little has been altered since it was built in the 1950s; the steps to the second floor still retain the exact same rubber tread, with its same institutional echo. For just a second, as I run down the stairwell to catch up, I am 10 years old. —> My father served many churches. We are approached by the pastor who now lives in the last parsonage our family occupied. He tells us our dad’s darkroom is still intact in his basement, and we are welcome to salvage it. How can this be? We thought it had been placed in storage when my dad retired, but he apparently left it behind. It is like finding King Tut’s tomb. Still carefully covered in plastic, the phot o enlarger has remained untouched for 20 years. My dad’s crudely drawn instructions are still taped to the wall. I find a note scrawled in black marker, in my handwriting. What year is this? 1988? I wonder if I still have time to call my girlfriend, the one who moved to Paris. <— I am on the campus of a Big Ten university for an academic symposium on cartooning, a few weeks later. It is a bright, bitter fall morning and I am hungover after a night out with fellow artists. At breakfast, the cafeteria’s speakers pump out songs by Simple Minds and The Romantics. I can’t tell if it’s 1984 or not. —> Back in Durham, I start packing in earnest for the move to the new Indy office. Sifting through towers of back issues on my desk, I reduce years of work to a thin wafer of tearsheets, compressing the last decade of my career into a fleet flipbook. We uncover and discard the bones of dozens of failed and forgotten projects and bundle walls of plaques and awards the staff has won in bubblewrap. Didn’t we just do this at the old house on Hillsborough Street? <— The concurrent weekend-long remembrance of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination and the debut of Dr. Who tells me I’m getting close. “OK,” I think, “This is where I came in.” If I can just close the loop, I’ll be back in the present. — JP Trostle
This is the original version of the column I submitted to Indy Week for the Dec. 11th issue. The editor decided to go with a far more conventional edit of my piece — it’s OK; you can read it here — but I wanted to get my dreamlike take out there..