Another Good Weekend Spent on the Beach [Caladesi]
"Colfax has always been Colfax"
A few months back, I was wandering through a vitamin store on a whim. I had had a sore throat for weeks, and I was searching for a natural cure-all that might finally make me feel better. While scanning the aisles, I spotted a canister of loose leaf tea that looked strangely familiar. It was on the bottom shelf, so I took a seat on the floor to get a better look. The tea was some blueberry awesomeness that smelled like God. I searched the canister to see where it was made and found a picture of my beloved flatirons above the words “Boulder, Colorado” printed in small, delicate letters.
And just like that, I was silently crying on the floor of a vitamin store in Clearwater, Florida. The misery of being sick, combined with the frustration of being sick and away from home, had created a sudden, overwhelming ache. Why was I in Florida of all places? Hot, sticky, swampy, buggy Florida. I could be on a forested trail deep in the Rockies, breathing fresh, dry, high-altitude air. Sure, that wouldn’t necessarily help my sore throat situation, but it would be better overall because it was something I knew. It was home.
I realized, then, that I had become one of those people. We all know the ones - the folks who come from other states only to complain about everything that is different - everything that is “not as good” - as the home they left behind.
You have the food critic from Illinois: “You call that deep dish? No way - you’ve obviously never been to Chicago.”
The weather snob from California: “It’s so cold here. You know, in SoCal, it’s like 75 degrees today. I could be at the beach.”
And, of course, the landscape aficionado from Colorado: “That was a hill? Oh, dear. Come to Denver and look west - I’ll show you ‘hills.’”
(That last one was me, if you didn’t catch the reference.)
These people, for lack of a better description, are mostly just annoying. You often want to ask them, “If home is so much better, then why did you come here in the first place?” What I’ve begun to understand in becoming one such individual, however, is that we don’t say these things to be annoying or offensive - we say them because we’re homesick, and these are the familiar things we hold onto.
There is a benefit in this. After all, traveling is not only a good opportunity to discover something new, but also to appreciate where we come from and what we’ve left behind. That appreciation can become problematic, though, if it prevents us from fully investing in the “here and now,” and truly experiencing a different place.
A little more recently, I was on a plane flying into Tampa from a business trip to Chicago. As we began our descent, I looked out the window at the world below and was surprised to find that I knew exactly where I was. I could make out the distinct shapes of Honeymoon and Caladesi Islands. My eyes traced the coastline to Clearwater Beach, and when we came to the bay, I could easily recognize the Courtney Campbell Causeway stretching across the water. It was the first time since moving to Florida nearly a year ago that the thought involuntarily popped into my head: I was home.
It was different than the home I had built for myself in Yellowstone. And it was different than the home I had grown up with in Colorado. Instead of bison and lodge pole pines, Florida had alligators and old oaks with swaying Spanish moss. It didn’t have the nation’s largest concentration of craft beers, but it had enough. Its hiking trails led to breathtaking views over the Gulf of Mexico in place of serene mountain lakes. Florida was different, but it had become familiar. And, for now at least, it had become my home.
We never really leave the places we leave behind - we take pieces of them with us wherever we go, sharing our experiences and perceptions with the people we meet along the way. This is an amazing and valuable phenomenon. But it is just as important to remain open to new places - to be willing to build another home.
Seized Up [Downtown Detroit 09.20.2014]
I can’t pretend to understand Detroit. I don’t know that anyone can unless they call it home - unless they truly know it. I explored Detroit for one day, and I do not know it. But I was fascinated by it.
This is a city that appears to be in shambles. Its streets are strangely empty, its buildings in disrepair. Eerily similar to a post-apocalyptic novel, Detroit in many ways accurately fits the label of a ghost town - once great and now seemingly forgotten.
What I loved about Detroit, though, is that - despite its struggles - it hasn’t been left behind. It hasn’t been forgotten by the people who live there, by those who continue to survive and claim the city as their own. I loved the sense of community at Eastern Market, with local vendors and fresh produce and bright bouquets of flowers. I loved the artwork, sprawling across buildings from block to block, big, vibrant and loud. And I loved the pride - the faith that this is a city that can and will be great again.
Selected Poems [The Gaslight Anthem at the Fillmore in Detroit, September 20, 2014]
The lights flash and the music fills your soul. The whole place smells like beer and sweat and memories. You close your eyes and smile, tapping your foot to the beat of a song you’ve listened to a hundred times in a dozen places, but that you’ve never really heard like this. Because this is the culmination of everything. It is the time you drank cheap beer in college as music drifted in and out over a crackling stereo. It is the time you contemplated friendship and the stars from the passenger seat as a song filled the silence of a mountain road. It is the time you drove across the country, seeking adventure and finding comfort in familiar lyrics. And it is now, standing in an auditorium packed with people and reveling in the knowledge that everything changes - that everything has changed - but there is still this. And with a sigh, you smile even wider. Because this is pretty great.
A Brief Summary of Chicago