Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sorta Homecoming

I have to note that I am writing this on the flight from Atlanta back to New York. As such, this is an unexpectedly retrospective perspective on the past few days, mainly because, um, I’ve had a welcome respite from the internet out of necessity.

Arriving in Athens, GA to find a lack of internet’s not necessarily what I expected from this trip south, but honestly it’s not something that’s found me bothered, either.

I KNOW WEIRD RIGHT?

The past 24 hours have found me strangely removed from what’s become, in recent years, my chosen forms of communication-email, Facebook, Twitter (I’d say Myspace but really who the fuck goes on Myspace anymore?), with even my phone refusing to hold a charge, and as such able to focus on that which is what I came back to Georgia for:

Face-to-face communication.
I mean, I have TRIED to hack the wi-fi signals available here from Zach’s apartment in Athens. I have. I have tried accessing this one account, “Rena”, with the following passwords:
Rena
Rena123

Renarena

Arenafranklin
Renamacentire
Boobookittyfuck
(what, it’s fucking ATHENS GA. I assure you at least 65% of households with password-protected wifi have this as their password. Try it for yourself.)

But to no avail. And, at some point, when my phone won’t charge on K’s blackberry charger and there’s no internet? It’s time to live without any of it. And that? That, combined with seeing so many people I’ve missed, has made for one hell of an escape.

That said, I’m sure once I do finally figure out what the fuck is wrong with my phone, my voicemail is going to be overflowing with messages from those threatening to
a) kill me/my children/my family
b) never again send me their book/manuscript/cd/collection of hangable photographic prints of vegetables masquerading as theater patrons
c) wreck a piece of chicken for real

because I’ve been completely unable to access it since early yesterday.


The past day has been filled with a warm, weird sort of nostalgia, walking around Decatur-the city I spent so much time in fighting what felt like an uphill battle for a sense of place and purpose-and finding in it a new sense of charm and peace I had never seen before, but also being struck, really really definitively, by the fact that, sooner or later, I’d have moved north anyway, regardless of timing/job market/relationship status.

That’s a weird realization for me to make, as it was accompanied by the suddenly acknowledgment that, in a way, I’ve been blaming New York a lot, assigning it a place in my heart as a sole alternative to Decatur only realized as a result of the worst possible situation occurring, like a parent losing a child to Social Services as a result of a drug habit.

Ok, that’s actually the worst possible analogy ever, but…wait, no, I have a worse one.

When my friend, who I’ll refer to henceforth as “K” (for the fact that it’s close enough to her real name to not be a cheap veil but also far away enough so that her legal team won’t every be able to file a cease-and-desist on this blog should anything…go astray. You know what I mean. We’ve been through this before, dear readers.) and I got to La Guardia (in a cab, naturally), after having, independent of one another, incredibly difficult and pressure-filled days (inner…city….pressure), we immediately, after navigating our way through a surprisingly uneventful security check given the mad amount of electronics we were carrying, we made our way immediately to the La Guardia B Terminal bar.

For those of you who’ve never flown from La Guardia, simple fact 1: the “b” gate stands for broke-ass traveling. It’s mainly the Air Tran gate, known formerly as “Valu-Jet”, and it’s basically the cheapest way to get in the air and somewhere else and back, as long as “back” doesn’t include going through Hartsfield because that fucking hellhole is like a curse on humanity. As such, the “B” terminal bar, “New York Sports Bar”, everything that its name implies I assure you, struck me as way less desirable than what I began to imagine lay in other concourses for those travelers lucky enough to gain access to them: “Jimmy Ray’s Free Vodka Emporium”, “The Lush Lounge Bar and Vegetarian Grille”, “An Airport Bar That Doesn’t Suck and Hey Also Has Awesome and Inexpensive Drinks”. Regardless, K and I grabbed beers-a Sam Adams Light for her (wtf, those exist?) and a Corona Light for me (wtf, I drink that?). Seated at the bar directly to our right-ok, my right her left whatever-was a perfect example of the saddest form of bro-dude: that too-oft spotted Post Collegiate Broseph, decked out in the attire of his Alma Mater (based on his behavior I’m guessing it was Guna Roofie U)who was attempting to impress the girls at the bar by discussing his time playing college sports and his current job “in sales”, and by throwing out incredible pick-up lines like “do you girls like athletes?” I mean, come ON, girls, that’s a mating call on par with the Beastie Boys’ Ad Rock calling out his is ultra-nasal voice “HEEEEY LAAAADIIIIIIES”-what self-respecting woman ISN’T going to drop panty at that?

The clincher, though, the ultimate win, was when Mr Athlete BroDude (Jr.) was attempting to explain to the bar(while doing the absolutely opposite of holding court, mind you) his perspective on dating. “Women in NY only like jerks,” he said disdainfully, “so I’ve had to become a jerk.”

Right, like that’s been a difficult change, braphistopheles .

(Sorry, temporary break-pilot just announced that “thanks to a nice lil’ tail wind” we’re going to be landing in NY about 30-40 minutes early. This basically means I have to pick up the pace writing this because, let’s face it, if I don’t finish this on the plane and post it tonight it’s never going to get written. See also: my memoir. See also: my novel. See also: everything else ever.)

Continuing on with his anti-NY women rant and his attempt at explaining his shitty fucking attitude, Airport Bar Bro (III) said, and I quote here: “let me give you an analogy, ladies: fish don’t like steak.”

See, that? THAT IS A BAD ANALOGY. ALSO NOT A FUCKING ANALOGY.

Anyway.

So, my sort-of homecoming. My Labor Day weekend excursion with K. My past few days.:

Relaxing. Exhilarating. Drunk. Happy.

Saturday was spent entirely at the Decatur Book Fest. After thinking momentarily about possibly hopping in to join the lecture by Charlaine “True Blood” Harris, the sight of the line, to get in, a couple of blocks long, shut that idea down.

As such, after seeing Zach read from Anointed to a decently-sized crowd (as he told me later he almost said: “It’s really nice to read to a group of people who haven’t already heard this.”), I took K on a walking tour of the Decatur Square-which, truth be told, has slowly gone downhill in the time since I’ve seen it. Things had been shaky with businesses coming and going since before Wordsmiths opened, but in the time since the bookstore closed it seems a few central focal points, including Saba and the Wordsmiths building itself, have emptied and remained so.

(The new Atlas Sound album, Logos, is playing in my Ipod right now. I think I’m falling in love with the sun-kissed bubbly goodness, but I worry about this album as winter approaches New York. I wonder if I’ll have the time and the mood to love it as I begin switching stuff like it out for Julian Plenti and other darker, more ominous sounds.)

The prevailing mood of the Square and of the entire book fest was one of merriment, and so, despite the tightness in my chest that arose from seeing the building that once house Wordsmiths still empty, I let myself get swept up in it. And in the alcohol. Jesus Christ. We. Fucking. Drank. A. LOT.

(Shock.)

Twain’s Pub, a Decatur mainstay/the sight of my going away party was a major part of Saturday and Sunday, as both night friends came and went and beers (I KNOW WTF I DRANK BEER Y’ALL)came and went and I have never felt more grateful for the family I’ve assembled of my own choosing.

Sunday, after finally visiting Athens vegetarian standard The Grit for the first time ever, my friends, K and I went to the GA town of my birth-Marietta-to accomplish a few things.

One: to see the Big Chicken.

Two: to visit the trailer park I grew up in.

I keep getting my Big Chicken history twisted. For the longest time, apparently, I’ve been operating under the misapprehension that the Big Chicken itself (actually a giant landmark atop an operating Kentucky Fried Chicken “quickserve” food establishment…to, uh, put it nicely) was erected as a grotesque monument to a lynching.

Um…I was wrong. Sorry, y’all.

The trip from the Big Chicken to the trailer park I grew up in-on, as one of my friends so conveniently put it, on the “aptly-named” Powder Springs Road-was one of constant pressure on my throat. Having not been back there, having not gone to what I guess normal human beings are supposed to consider “home”, in many, many years, seeing the area remain basically unchanged, a fucked-up dreamless time capsule of unrest and apathetic lethargy-snapped me to attention and snapped my nerve endings, too.

There are pictures and they are here and that is all I have to say other than they are courtesy of K:

(The Big Chicken)

(what is now in the space of the trailer I grew up in)

(...)



So, on the flight back-an incredible, relaxed, amazing weekend, seeing the loved ones I’ve come to consider my real family again, eating far too much wonderful food and drinking far too much and exposing K to southern culture the proper way-you know, like the fact that you can’t ask a Waffle House waitress to seat you and your "party of 4"-made for an absolutely perfect trip.

But also…also…something I came to realize very, very early Saturday:

I think...I think…I know…I know now. I now know. That I would have eventually left the south anyway. There’s something about the pace, the pull the constant fucking challenge of New York that’s been racing throughout my heart and my brain since K and I left Friday evening. And I love my friends (who, as I’ve said, are my family), and I love the work I did, we did, in the city of Decatur. I love what’s still going on. But I also know that the amount I’ve fallen in love with New York can’t be competed with.

It took seeing Decatur again, in and for all that is, for that to register fully.

And so now I return, and in about half an hour K and I will touch the tarmac of La Guardia. I have work to do: I owe Collin Kelley and Karen Head book reviews and interview questions. I have a lot of emails to catch up on. I have unpacking to do, and tshirts-purchased from the Book Fest and from my beloved Little Shop of Stories, honestly the best kids book store anywhere-to wash/wear.

"I have unpacking to do." I wish that sounded poetic enough for a last line here. It doesn’t, though, does it? I had hoped that, on this flight, I'd end up with some sort of emotionally wrecking revelations from the past four days-instead, I find a happy, sleepy, tired sort of peace. Or maybe that's the onset of the worst fucking hangover I've ever had.

So hey-thanks, Decatur, for the evenings and the stumbling and the picking back up and the laughs and for being everything you are. And I will, in fact, see you again.

6 comments:

drzachary said...

Y'ALL COME BACK NOW Y'HEAR

drzachary said...

But seriously, inasmuch as I am ever serious, when I see you finding peace when you unpack your bags, maybe what's happening is that NYC lets you unpack your baggage. So glad you're happy, even though I miss you all the time!

Mike Cane said...

>>>and finding in it a new sense of charm and peace I had never seen before

Because you knew you now had a Place of Escape!

>>>a fucked-up dreamless time capsule of unrest and apathetic lethargy

Beautiful. You now qualify as a New Yorker. Welcome Home!

luxelife said...

i'mma second drzachary and say that the unpacking bags/baggage metaphor might be an apt one. THINK ABOUT THAT FOR YOUR MEMOIR.

also, this:
http://www.intent.com/drallanhunter/blog/memoir-and-memoir-writing-way-find-truth
and
http://www.intent.com/drallanhunter/blog/memoir-and-soul-work-again-0

that is all.

another good thing said...

Russ,
We met a few times at Wordsmiths events- I placed in your eat- alone-food essay contest and have been loyal twitter follower and blog reader- of course whenever I passed you in Decatur, I simply passed you- thinking you were busy- talking, drinking, laughing... as I was, but now i'm sorry I didn't stop and re-introduce myself and say thanks for the times you make me laugh at your word choice, at our common frustrations...
at the very least i could have shared this DEFAULT WIFI PASSWORD code list with you:
http://www.phenoelit-us.org/dpl/dpl.html
it might have helped, even though most people use kid, dog, personal nick names, anniversary dates and the words sex, god, and showmethemoney.
Enjoy NYC and next time when you're in GA and miss it-- head to Dragon Con. They had enough freaks on board to make you feel right at home.

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