Our lives in Google Maps

Inside Google Maps, there’s a past, but not all the past. There’s a future, but not all the future. There’s no present to speak of; no matter how recent the image, it will never be now. And yet the gaps heal themselves, and hide themselves. If you’re looking in New York, San Francisco, London, even Berlin where it will always be 2008, you are likely to find your destination. If its past is patchy, if its present is lost, will you notice? Will you care?

— Jess Zimmerman, “A Life in Google Maps”

I really love this Catapult essay on Google Maps, memory, place, and life’s ghosts.


We were in Paris the past five days. I’d not been there for 15 years, when I was studying abroad at 20. And yet we experienced Paris this past week like we had not aged: late nights and early mornings, beer and cigarettes, raving until 7 am, bread and butter and chocolate and nutella . . .

I had an incredible time, remembering the city I once knew, retracing steps as an adult, discovering new neighborhoods, and meeting new friends. I enjoyed it, although I know that my lifestyle has changed so much that I couldn’t possibly keep up with the pace any longer.

But the city brings out those habits — it awakens the night owl, the party deep within you.