2003-04-14 - 11:37 a.m.
There is the place that you live, and then there is your home. I have three homes in the Atlanta area, really, each alternatingly familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. I stayed for a few days with my sister, where I felt at home because of the furniture and the pictures on the walls and her dogs. Then it was onto my dad and stepmom's house, to play with Emma and watch my dad work in the yard. He loves to work in the yard. Then to my mom and stepdad's place, the official homestead, as it is the house where I grew up. There is now a screened-in back porch, and new carpet on the floors, and unfamiliar furniture, the merging of two households. But I can still navigate it in the dark, better than any place I've lived in since then, and I can't help but wonder how many times I've walked up those stairs and turned those corners. Countless, countless times. * * * * *
Ed from Austin came to visit me in Atlanta. We had been playing email tag for weeks, it seemed, trying to find a time to hang out. But after running into each other at a party, I found out that he was planning a road trip from Austin to Pennsylvania, and would be going through Atlanta the same weekend that I was there. He showed up at my mom's house early Sunday evening - he's my only Austin friend to see where I come from. My Atlanta life and my Austin life are very separated in my mind, but this was a happy confluence. We ate dinner with my sister and her roommate, and Danielle and Ed were able to geek out on Whole Foods shop talk. The next morning, we ate a hurried breakfast at Waffle House with my mom and stepdad, before Ed left to drive up to Pennsylvania, and my mom and I left to pick up my cousin Maureen from the airport, driving straight onto Beaufort from there.* * * * *
I wish it were easy to explain the Carolina lowcountry to one who has never been there - how you know you're getting close when the land starts to flatten out, and you cross bridges, and Spanish moss is hanging out of every tree, like misplaced telephone cords. I was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, in a hospital overlooking the bay, and although I only lived there for a few days, something about it feels so much like home to me. I went running the first morning that I was there, along the bay and past the big houses overlooking the water, my mother's memorized litany running through my head as I ran through the streets - this is where I took piano lessons and this is where I took ballet lessons and this is where they filmed The Big Chill. Whenever we go to Beaufort, no matter the weather (and it was gray and cold and rainy for our whole trip), we always drive out to Hunting Island, past the Shrimp Shack, and out to the beach. There is a lighthouse there, and my mother tells the same story every time of her older sisters threatening to throw her off it when she was a girl - the cause for her fear of heights, or so she claims. She never climbs it, but my cousin Maureen and I went up to the top, sneaking cigarettes and watching the shrimp boats out in the distance. * * * * *
I not quite but almost planned this trip around the Postal Service show in Atlanta on Saturday night. I neglected to buy advanced tickets through the web site, trying to avoid the $1 service charge per ticket, and spent the drive there worrying that we wouldn't get in. As Danielle and Maureen and I walked up to the entrance, the door person was writing out a sign: Sold Out. We were the last people they let in. We walked in to the strains of I Am the World Trade Center, and I was so happy that all I wanted to do was dance. The Postal Service was great, even though it was hot and crowded and smokey and there was a boy standing directly behind me who felt the need to shout out "Judas Fucking Priest" in a hign-pitched voice throughout the show. After the encore (a cover of a Phil Collins song), I felt the need to shoulder punch him on my way out. Perhaps I am too old to have much of a tolerance at shows like this anymore. * * * * *
I am in Washington, DC, and all is well. The sky is blue and the sun is shining and I think I want to live here forever and ever, or maybe I just want to live in my aunt and uncle's house, with its hardwood floors and photos on the wall and Satie playing on the cd player and books in every room and amazing food. They live the life I have always wanted to live, the life I aspire to even now. Tomorrow, I fly to Buenos Aires, and though Jim is leaving today for New Zealand, Francis is still there, and soon I will meet up with the Swiss boy in Salta.