You can get close, but you really can't ever quite go home again.

Being back in a place that has been home, after living for some time overseas, is a largely surreal feeling. And I don't just mean the "wow, I have toilet paper and heat that works all the time" surreal. One gets used to convenience awfully quickly, and the clash between the meat market in the bazaar that advertised freshness by hanging out the freshly-hewn head and lower legs of the cow it was serving and the infinitely stretching isles of fluorescent light stocked with five hundred brands of Lima beans fades quickly.

But walking the streets of Madison, it's like being in one of those movies where the dashing scientist goes to an alternate reality where everything is the same, except red is purple. Things are just a tiny bit off.

The students are still the same -- the sorority sisters and the hipsters, the meat head jocks and those about to rock. I had breakfast in the Sunroom Cafe today, and coffee at Espresso Royale. But I'm still conscious of that slight shift -- the not-quite-sameness of stuff that's almost the same way it was. Pel'meni, which I used to live across from, has morphed into some hotdog stand. The grungy funk of Steve and Barry's is being replaced by something that will surely be newer and shinier. The Catacombs is long dead -- no more indie shows and coffee, no more eavesdropping on the kids doing Bible study while I'm supposed to be reading something slightly more blasphemous. I can no longer get a nice side of cholera with my massive portions of cheap Chinese food.

Maybe it shouldn't get me down, all this bright shiny newness; the squeaky-clean, glassed-in apartment buildings; the chain stores. And I'm sure my parents, seeing the changes since they were here, had a similar feeling. But there are days that Madison, too, freaks me out.

Music video by LCD Soundsystem, via Stereogum.