Rather than lamenting the difficulties and inconveniences of flying these days, I want to give thanks for the amazing fact that I can fly home, that planes and airports even exist to transport us in three hours distances that used to take three months to traverse. What a gift! How lucky are we? We don't deserve airplanes.
Why are rituals such a blessing? Why are they so comforting? Why—after spending 10 days seeing amazing things on another continent—was I so excited to return to the routine rhythms and rituals of my "normal" life back home? Why am I confident that some day, I will go to bed at the same time every night, have the same breakfast cereal every day while watching the same morning show, and love every minute of it?
I just returned from 10 days in China (Shanghai and Beijing), which definitely isn't near enough time to get any sort of grasp on this astoundingly large, complicated country. But over the course of my time there I definitely observed certain things, which I'll summarize below in the form of somewhat fragmentary, just-me-and-my-initial-thoughts bullet points:
I don't mean to say soccer isn't a good sport or that Americans shouldn't pay attention to it. I personally don't find it all that exciting, and clearly most other Americans agree with me. But the rest of the world finds it VERY exciting, and I'm happy for them. America doesn't have to win at everything.
Perhaps moreso than other cities, New York has that peculiar combination of crowded connectedness and desolate urban isolation. On one hand the city cares and accepts all people and all dreams; on the other, it is an impenetrable, callous machine of industry and ambition. On 9/11 both faces merged as the city in all of its seething terror and magnificence forever changed. Before that day, NYC was the incomprehensible nexus of the world. But after that day, NYC was forced to consider the truth of its mythos: that it is still just a city, vulnerable and imperfect as anything else.
The start of every summer is always so full of excitement—the promise of endless free time, lazy mornings, late nights, swimming in pools and oceans, climbing trees and mountains, reading books. Every year around late May, the summer looms so large. It seems so immense. Those endless days! Those boozy low-pressure thunderstorm nights! And so little that must be done!
The idea of home has been on my mind lately. I've suddenly and acutely become aware of the fact that I have no blood relatives within an 800 mile radius, and that the various "homes" I've had over the years are so widely disparate in spirit and geography that my head spins whenever I take nostalgic stock of them.
Two years ago, I was in Hiroshima. It was a short stop during a long trip to Japan, but it was one of the most meaningful travel experiences I’ve ever had.
When I was in New York City earlier this year, I took some pictures of a person lying on a couch on a sidewalk in the East Village. I wasn’t sure if he was a hipster or a homeless person. This question has come up numerous times in my hipster field research over the last couple years, and it’s definitely becoming harder to tell the difference. Apparently the homeless look is hotter than ever. Actually, I first noticed the trend a few years ago in L.A. and wrote a post on my blog entitled “Derelict Chic” back in 2007.
I’ve been thinking back to “early summer” memories like Vacation Bible School, camping trips, mowing the grass twice a week, Memorial Day barbecues, the cold water of early summer pool swimming, seeing Coldplay at Red Rocks in 2003, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway with my parents last June, seeing Jurassic Park one humid afternoon in 1993 after a morning at Bill Self’s basketball camp. And the list goes on.
Traveling is a funny thing. Those who do a lot of it know how addictive and essential it is, and how equally it pulls you with such force away from your mundane, everyday existence but then thrusts you back with sling-like vigor at the end. You always feel like you must “get away” from home when you venture out on some trip, but by the end it is “home” that beckons you, normalcy that grabs you, and a humdrum schedule that enlivens you with its familiar scent of mom’s cookies and newly washed sheets.
It’s amazing what a week of focus, peace, quiet and no distractions can do for a writer. Being at the Kilns this past week has been that for me, and it’s paid off. I wrote two whole chapters in my book (I am now two chapters away from the end!), plus the preface. Being in C.S. Lewis’ house has been quite an inspiration, and I’m so blessed to have had the chance to come here.
I’m writing this on the bed of C.S. Lewis, in his second floor room in his beautiful home—The Kilns—just outside of Oxford. There’s a little brick fireplace in the room, a creaky wood floor, and an adjacent study where he did a lot of writing after his wife Joy died.
“Only connect.” That is the epigraph to E.M. Forster’s Howards End—a book I have not actually read, but which I have on my list. “Only connect” is a sort of life mantra for a friend I had dinner with in Brooklyn last night, and in thinking about what I could say about my NYC experiences over the past few days, the phrase kept coming up. “Only connect.”
I’m leaving on Saturday on a “research”/“writing” trip to New York City, London, Oxford and Paris. The reason I’m going is threefold
I went home for Easter weekend. Home to Kansas City, where my family lives. I'm writing this in my old bedroom, where most of the stuff I've collected over the years but since forgotten about still resides. It's always a little weird coming home--such a flood of memories. Looking through old yearbooks, scrapbooks, and faded photo albums of almost forgotten family trips, birthdays and azalea festivals. So much has changed since Easter '89. Relatives have passed away, I have two college degrees, 9/11 happened, etc.
I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a number of reasons this weekend — including the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Music. It was an overwhelming weekend in many respects—and I probably should not be blogging about it so soon. Things need time to digest, ya know? But because I have to write something on here today and because all I can really think about right now is what I experienced this weekend, I might as well attempt some observations about it now.
I had a very disparate, fragmented, over-mediated, maybe-a-bit-too-breakneck weekend. In L.A., these seem to be the norm rather than the exception, but this weekend struck me as a particularly postmodern pastiche of way too much that any one mind should encounter in a 60-hour period. To my horror, one of the ways I coped with the weekend was to think in status updates. But since I don’t Twitter and only occasionally update my Facebook status via my phone, I could not publicize my disjointed weekend narrative to the world.