Last night I was editing a story about the economic challenges of today's Internet startups and it mentioned layoffs at a number of them, including the real estate site Zillow.com. As is customary, I verified the URLs in the story and while on Zillow I decided to plug in the address of my childhood home on Dobson Ranch back in Mesa, Arizona. What happened next I was completely unprepared for. The house happens to be currently for sale, and within seconds -- and without warning -- an avalanche of high-tech bells and whistles popped up on my screen -- and I was suddenly on a virtual tour of the place I had once called home but hadn't set foot in for over 18 years. My childhood flashed before me, "walking" into my old kitchen (where I ate nothing but microwaved bacon for an entire year in junior high), bedroom (where I spent hours behind closed doors listening to my record collection), bathroom (where I dyed my hair just like Limahl's for the Pretenders concert) and living room (where my stepfather asked me if I was a "homosexual" on my 16th birthday). (I'd have preferred a car). Then down the hall into my parents' master suite (where I was interrogated by my mom about my role as the ringleader of a prank-phone-call syndicate), little sister's room (where her friend Shala lived in the closet for a month without our parents noticing) and through the family room into the backyard by the swimming pool and the slide (where I chipped my front tooth on my sister's head). I can only compare it to the feeling you get when you run into an ex-longtime love (think Katie and Hubbell in "The Way We Were"): part excitement, part anxiousness and part melancholy (cue The Smiths). I swear I had butterflies just looking at all the things that the new owners had changed -- and felt even sicker by the things that had remained the same.
2004: Just popping by to have a look on a visit home