There is something about seeing the Manhattan skyline from a plane (or a car for that matter) that has always made me smile with a sense of possibility and more recently that is mixed with a strong sense of home. I am thrilled to be back. Now to attack all the new projects that are awaiting me: two proposals, a report, ongoing client work and two new website projects. I feel very blessed to have as much work as I do with the great clients I have. At the same time, I have finally arrived at a point in my professional life where I no longer get overly stressed about it. If someone would have told me this was possible several years ago, I would have nodded that it was probably doable in theory, but never in practice. I really believed that lots of work meant lots of stress, and there was nothing really to be done about it but take a vacation from time to time to recharge. Now as a freelancer, I feel a lot more in control of my work and schedule, and I would not trade it for anything. I mix work with vacation and travel and feel more even keeled about it across the board. This large trip I just got back from is a good example. It was mostly vacation, but also a little work, especially in Hamburg and Marrakech. And I also managed to keep up to date with a few other clients that needed minor information or changes.
There is always a slight disconnect when returning from a long vacation. Things seem so familiar and so foreign at the same time, and one needs time to re-adjust. The first couple of days for me are always rather low on productivity, between the jet lag and the sorting through mail and catching up on news, both personal and national. And it probably didn’t help that I just got a new iPhone that was waiting for me when I arrived. Geek that I am, I have been playing with it quite a lot (speaking of which, I feel a longish blog post coming up soon on the laughable shortcomings of Siri, stay tuned). It is nice to be back though, there are some things that I miss when I am away from home. My bed, the view from my window, the energy of New York City, and of course my friends.
After several days of camping out in my apartment, I finally bid farewell to my guests late last night and early this morning as they took off to JFK and LaGuardia, respectively. Cinzia and Carla are on their way to Miami and Victoria to San Francisco. We all shared a great meal last night at my favorite local Italian restaurant, Mercato, where Josh and Jonathan joined us for dinner. I loved the animated switching back and forth between three languages so that everyone could understand each other. And inevitably, as the wine kicked in, we descended into matching slang in various languages for their respective body parts, trying to get an idea of whose language had the most varied terms for various pubic regions, always a fun game. We then headed back to my apartment to pack things up and get ready to go. Although I was happy to help out and it was lovely to get to know them, I was ready to have my apartment and life back. There is a kind of funny, almost untouchable presence that one’s home has that can disappear when things are not in order. And there is a smell that belongs to us in this order that we find familiar and comforting. I was noticing the other day that my place smelled unfamiliar, with the combination of three other people, their open suitcases, shower soaps and wet towels, and just the way that people smell differently from each other. This slight whiff of combination was unsettling after a few days, more so than the general chaos of three strangers camping out in my living room. Today I will clean and do laundry and reconnect with my own aura. Still it was nice to make new friends, and I have a feeling that our paths will cross again, perhaps in Italy (where I will be next summer) or Spain (where I will probably return one day) or New York, or someplace entirely unexpected.
Josh and I took the same plane back to see our families in Indianapolis last night. We were picked up at the airport by my aunt and uncle, then whisked off to a huge family dinner at a restaurant downtown. It was great seeing the whole gang, if a little overwhelming for all the competing, loving attentions of everyone. I will be here for the next week and am looking forward to hanging out with everyone and catching up. I have fortunately finished up most of the huge amount of work I had over the past couple of weeks, so I should be able to relax most of the time while here.
On the train to the airport, Josh and I had an interesting little conversation about the idea of going back “home”. Although my family is here and I love them dearly, I haven’t had the feeling that this place was “home” for me in a very long time. Josh still does feel it, and he surmised that perhaps because his parents still live in the same house he grew up in, the collected memories through all those years remain somewhat more tangible. In my family, even while growing up here we moved houses four times, and they have moved three more times since I left over twenty years ago. That probably does have an effect on my memories of this place, and thus vague feelings of familiarity from childhood that might impart that feeling. Then again, I have no longing for childhood, it wasn’t an especially graceful time in my life. I am much happier as an adult, for so many reasons, and have always felt that “home” was more a place in one’s heart than a specific location in the world. And on that score, I am always at home, everywhere that there are people I love and who love me.
It was a pretty damn nice day yesterday. Beautiful weather, a bbq in a lovely courtyard down in the Village, a walk back home and finally out dancing at a place that had amazing energy, a fantastic and diverse crowd, and music you really wanted to move to. It didn’t hurt that I was with friends old and new, the laughter coming quickly and easily. I think settling into life in a particular place, and feeling your place in it, happens in stages. And the feeling of rightness of place just comes into focus in bits and pieces. In the cab on the way home last night, with my window rolled down and the definite summer breeze hitting my face, it felt right to be here in this city. It felt like home.
Although I am still taking multiple trips to Bed Bath and Beyond, IKEA and the like for the necessities, I am now at least moved into my new apartment and it is starting to feel like home. There are a number of things about this living situation that are new to me. I have never lived in a building with a doorman before. I haven’t lived alone (for longer than 2 months) in some 18 years. I have never lived above the 6th floor. I have never lived in a building with this many apartments (almost 900 in two towers). And outside of when I was young and living with my parents, I have never moved into a brand new building before. I am amazed by how modern all the systems are: the laundry room with cards, the building website for reporting and tracking repairs and requests and shipments, as well as the fact that they email me when any of these events happens. I am getting to know the names of the staff, and they all seem really nice (I guess I should start saving now). There are a number of really nice common spaces, club rooms and terraces for enjoying some quite fantastic views. It is funny, the building is so new that there is almost no one living here yet. I estimate that I am perhaps the 30th tenant out of an eventual 900. And really, they are still finishing construction on a number of areas, which I expect will take another couple of months. All in all, I am loving it. This feels like a milestone, a turning point in my life somehow. I have lived in too many places to count really. More than one for each year of my life, if you can believe that. The shortest one being a month or so (I don’t count ones that were even less or part of traveling) and the longest one being the 4.5 years I spent in one apartment in Los Angeles. This has an air of greater permanence for a number of reasons (although that is a relative concept that good buddhists don’t really believe in). Of course only time will tell. Stay tuned, I will try to post some photos soon.
I was invited to one of the loveliest weddings I have ever been to this weekend. My friends Pete and Kevin, who have been together for over ten years had a ceremony to celebrate their wedding. (They actually got married last year while it was still legal, which turned out to be a wise move on their part since the right was soon taken away by the voters in their infinite lack of wisdom.) I have known Pete for close to 15 years, since the days when we were working together at Apple. We have been through a lot together and were roommates for a time when I came back to San Francisco from Paris in 1999. I was there the night Pete and Kevin met, in a SOMA club in San Francisco in July 1999. Over the years, I have watched their relationship go through many twists and turns, and have marveled at the warmth and love they have grown into with each other. We have shared many experiences, from the ridiculous to the scary to the loving to the peaceful to the mundane. Although I moved away from San Francisco many years ago, I come back often and spend time with them. They are the kind of people I will always want in my life, filled with generosity and warmth and humor. I was really thinking a lot this weekend about weddings and public commitment ceremonies, and what they mean and why they are important. As we form communities around our friends and families, we interweave all of our lives and life stories with one another. Each piece and part adds to the whole, and these connections are a big part of what gives meaning to our existence. When we celebrate a wedding or a public commitment, we are reinforcing these bonds, and recognizing their importance in our lives. I was honored to be present to witness Pete and Kevin declare their love and support for one another, and the ceremony and their words to each other in front of all of us made me all teary eyed. As I looked around the assembly, I remembered fondly so many people and so many stories that have made me, made all of us, what and who we are today. To be able to share these disparate threads, and to bring them together in a cloth that wraps around all of us and gives us warmth was a special gift. I may be a wanderer, but there are some places and contexts that will always have a hold over me, and that give me great strength. These people and this part of my life is such a context. I will always feel connected to it and to them, and no matter how far away from here, always feel at home somehow when I am in their company.
…being back in the US (and LA in particular), but then…isn’t it always? I have noticed that I don’t feel particularly “at home” anywhere. Or rather I feel equally “at home” anywhere.
I believe this is the longest time I have spent in Indianapolis since I first left in 1985. It has been great seeing the family and getting reacquainted with the city. It is a far different place than the one that I left over 20 years ago. The city has grown up a bit (as have I). It is a lot more culturally diverse and interesting than it seemed to me so long ago. It still doesn’t feel like “home” to me, but then what place does? When people ask me where “home” is, I reply with a blank stare. If it is just a question of scale, I could say the Earth. Earth definitely feels like home.
Then again, home is a feeling and not a place at all. I feel “home” at the Thanksgiving table. I feel “home” when talking politics with my family. I feel “home” when giggling with my nieces and nephews. I feel “home” when I am with friends sharing a great dinner. I feel “home” when I am walking on a beautiful day in a remote or familiar place. I feel “home” when I am confronted with a new idea. I feel “home” when I am laughing. There are many physical locations that I have this feeling, although I am not bound to any of them. Mostly I feel “home” when I am in the present.