Change is hard. But sometimes it takes place without our notice. Most of the time, in fact. Tang's Imports, for example. A few nights ago, my wife was extolling the virtues of a salad dressing, describing it as "tangy." This fired a synapse in my brain that brought me to a place in my youth that had been all but forgotten: Tang's Imports. It was a little store wedged into the mix in the now defunct Crossroads Shopping Center in Boulder, Colorado. It was a couple doors down from Three Wishes Toy Store, and so it never received my full attention as a kid growing up with a vector to the Hot Wheels rack and the far aisle with its GI Joe display. In the late sixties and early seventies what I understood about Tang's was that it was a place that sold incense. Incense was smelly smoke, and I associated that with a counterculture that existed primarily on the University of Colorado campus and in the hill on the outskirts of town. These hairy interlopers were the same folks who were most certainly dropping by to look at the beaded curtains and statues of the Buddha visible from the front window. What else was for sale inside that dimly lit business?
I have a dim memory of going in once, on a Christmas errand, looking for something exotic for my parents instead of the oh-so-practical alternatives from JC Penny's just across the way. All the price tags were tiny handwritten jobs tied on with bits of string. Everything had the feel of being a relic or on its way, and it in the air hung that smelly smoke I had resigned myself to smelling as I looked for that gift for my parents that would make me feel grown up. "This? Oh, I got it at Tang's."
I didn't buy anything at Tang's that day, and I don't have any recollection of making it back there before it became another casualty of shifting tastes and rising rents. It didn't burn out. It just faded away. Now the whole of Crossroads is a new mass of corporate-sponsored storefronts. The hippy-dippy world of Boulder has made room for the mass-marketed merchandise of Home Depot and the California Pizza Kitchen. Good luck finding incense in one of those places.
Back home again, I went out for a run and found myself making a turn just a couple blocks from my house when I discovered that the Union 76 station had dropped its price on Regular thirty cents a gallon. Then I noticed that it was no longer a Union 76 station. The orange ball was gone. Mobil banners stretched out across the former signage. Somewhere in the last week, while I was trying to recall Tang's Imports, someone had sneaked in and altered my neighborhood. No noise. No fuss. No incense. Just change. It's a constant.