It’s been a while, I realize. The last month has been a living, breathing transition for me. Time seems to have come alive over the last few weeks, donned unfamiliar clothing, and laughed at me in tones that range from tender and parental to hysterical and maniacal. It’s definitely laughing at me, not with me.
As many of you know, I’ve recently moved out of state. My family and I packed up and left our home with nothing more than what we could carry in our suit cases. Amidst a tumultuous backdrop of friends caught in tornadoes and loved ones in the hospital, we entered what has seriously amounted to a “whole ‘nother world.”
I realize now that though I was more or less born under a wandering star, for the last decade, I’ve lived a relatively sheltered life. Everything is relative. There is a lot to be said for being able to drive to the grocery store, stock up on everything you’ll need for the entire month, drive back home, park in your own garage, and unload said groceries.
In the big city, humanity tends to revert to its more primitive state. We have no vehicle, so we have to walk or take public transportation everywhere we choose to go. What this means is that when it comes to shopping (read, hunting and gathering), we must trek across a twisted metal and concrete jungle, the threat of predators very real and alive at every street corner (read, behind every tree and over every hill.) When we find our food, we are forced to purchase (gather or kill) only what we can carry back with us.
Effectively, if we want to survive, we have to work for it. And that’s the physical kind of work, not the sitting behind a desk kind of work.
It’s a different world.
If you want to witness the human race in all of its multi-faceted splendor, take the train in San Francisco. Ride the BART. Catch a bus. Open your eyes and ears, keep your guard up, and whatever you do, wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap before you eat anything with them.
There is a value system alive in the big city that is unheard of in “smaller” parts of the world. You think you know what is important, what’s worth what, and then you pound the pavement of downtown Frisco and unwittingly sign up for a lesson in Priorities 101:
That flimsy piece of plastic with the blue triangles on it that it cost someone half a penny to create a hundred of in Honduras? It’s worth a fortune because it gets you on an overly crowded street car at midnight and off of the dark avenue corner where three shirt-less men have already fallen asleep and the crows are picking at a dead sea gull.
That trash bag with the hole in it? Worth more than suede because it’s water proof and when it begins to pour at four in the afternoon, you’ll want to make like the wizened homeless man is doing and drape it over yourself just to stay dry until you can make it to the train station.
The cigarette butt the woman in Prada tosses into the gutter is the one that the chain smoker who has learned to beat the system will pick up, light off of the one he’s finished with, and take down the street to the next street corner, where he’ll pick up another tiny treasure with enough nicotine and tar in it to get him yet another city block.
Trash cans stink, but they become windbreakers on the pier when the temperature drops and the Pacific’s icy fingers claw at your skin and bones.
Like I said, it’s a different world.
And then there’s the yellow end of the spectrum, far from the indigo hardness that makes up the unsettling aspects of making this kind of move…. If you’re standing at the top of a hill in San Francisco and looking back at the bulk of the country in the early morning, the sun rises over the bay with a promise unrivaled and paints the water in colors no artist’s palette has ever possessed. The roar of the crowd in the Giants stadium after a home run is like a freight train of happiness barreling through the hearts and minds of anyone lucky enough to be within earshot. And the steady, International Red metal majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge welcomes home a weary world with quiet and constant magnificence.
So this is home. For better and for worse, this is home.