So Uncle Mike drove me 100 miles North to Battle Creek, Michigan. I wanted to return to this place to see how much it had changed. I lived here when I was three to eight years old. Now I was 20 years older than when I left.
Some things were unchanged. Goguac Lake was still crystal clear. Little Caesars was still selling pre-made pizza on Capital Ave. Our favorite comic book store was still there. Downtown still smelled like fresh cereal. Everything was still all about Kellogg's. Battle Creek was still Battle Creek.
Maybe a few things were different. There was a Hill Billy standing on the side of Capital Ave holding two boxes of Little Ceasars. That might have been different, or maybe I never noticed it. Lakeview Mall was well on its way out of business. There was a great bike lane spanning the full five miles of Capital Ave. There was also this awesome bike store, Team Active, downtown that had in indoor track for test rides. Battle Creek had some encouraging developments.
I also noticed an odd new store called the Otter's Oasis. The store seemed to be doing pretty well. I wondered what the business was all about. I looked closer. It was a self-titled "Detox Depot". Hmm, that's not the kind of store you hope would be thriving. It seemed to be consistent with a trend I had been noticing in a lot of these rust belt cities: drug abuse was rampant. It was so bad that local economies were being founded around rehabilitation. I doubt that drug abuse is new to Battle Creek. Nonetheless, it was sad to see that it was a force in the community.
I retired to the America's Best Value Inn. What can I say. It was the kind of place where you feel dirtier after taking a shower than before you got in. Whatever, I had privacy and a roof over my head, so it was all good. Plus I only paid $40 for the night. I guess I got what I paid for.
That night I went to sleep puzzled. I couldn't answer the question I had come to resolve. It wasn't clear which had changed more, Battle Creek or myself.