This is but one of the many ways I shuffle between my home bases of São Paulo and Berlin. Catch me if you can. 😉
Sometimes, when you stop just for a second and take stock of the people in your life, you really do have to quietly thank the cosmos for what truly is the blessing of friendship. Many people have a set of good friends that they’ve built over the years through shared experiences in high school or college, on sports teams, in church or at work. Sometimes, these friendships last for many years, sometimes not so many—reason, season, lifetime and whatnot. Mostly, though, they’re established based on geography, which makes sense, since frequent personal interaction is what facilitates the friendship in the first place. In my case, geography is even more of a factor in the friendships I’ve forged over time, specifically because of its frequently changing nature in my life.
I’ve lived in six cities and traveled to three-dozen countries in my 34 years, and I’m actually kind of humbled when I think about the number of quality friends that I’ve made in that time. Some are people I’ve worked with or worked for, or traveled with or hosted or CouchSurfed with. Some I met on the beach in Rio, on the seafront promenade in Havana, on the subway in Paris. A few are from college; fewer from high school (I was an unpopular nerd…oh, but times done changed).
And who are these people? Telenovela and film stars in Bogotá, DJs and journalists in São Paulo, teachers and lawyers in Tallahassee, bloggers and nightclub coat-check clerks in Berlin, special-needs educators in Stockholm, die-hard road dogs in Miami and NY and DC and Jacksonville who can remember each and every one of my previous incarnations and still put up with me anyway. And my actual family’s pretty damn great, too.
Thanks to Skype and cheap airfares, I’m able to maintain and even expand my set beyond physical boundaries. And even when circumstances and logistics call for long pauses between interaction, it only takes a second to fall back into the familiar rhythm and easy laughs (or arguments) that drew us together in the first place. My set isn’t bound by geography or circumstance, but by respect, admiration, affection, and kinship.
So to all my fly peeps the world over, I love you folks and am forever grateful for the $50 that you never pressed me about paying back! 😉
When was the last time you got a postcard in the mail? You know, one of those rectangular snapshots of places and times that invariably tease you about not being there. I got one recently from fellow blogger and traveler extraordinaire Pam Mandel of Nerd’s Eye View, who’d been hanging-ten in the lovely florid archipelago of Hawaii. Well, I think it’s time to help resurrect a tradition waning in the wake of social media. I’ll be doing some major traveling in the coming months—São Paulo, Madrid, Washington, Berlin, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Miami—so shoot me an email with your mailing address and I’ll shoot ya back with a postie par avion.
They used to say you can’t go home again—I don’t know what the youngins are saying these days—but for me, that’s only partly true. With all of the back and forth traveling and living abroad that I’ve done since leaving the nest at 17, I’ve always had a pretty decent time visiting my family. In fact, aside from occasional head-butting amongst the males in the household, there’s nothing unpleasant about going home. Going to my hometown, not so much.
Someone once said to me that she considered Jacksonville to be Detroit with better weather. Before anyone takes that too personally, realize that both places have some great people, but both places are also paeans to bad municipal management in the face of serious historic economic shifts, and have high crime rates as a result. What Detroit has on Jville is an unbeatable musical heritage, dynamic redevelopment effort, and a highly successful airline hub. We’ve got a decent-sized port, some decent beaches, a couple of decent golf courses, and great weather (which, sad to say, is the only thing the place has going for it).
Sometimes I bite my tongue before criticizing “the Bold New City of the South” in front of my parents because they were born and raised here, but it’s not even the same city I grew up in, let alone them. Throughout the middle 20th century, despite segregation and serious racial unrest from time to time, the black community in Jacksonville thrived with commerce and industry, even spawning a little beach enclave in neighboring Nassau County (as the local beaches were off-limits to culluds; see the movie Sunshine State). People graduated from high school, went off to college in Tallahassee or Daytona Beach, then came back home to Jacksonville to raise their children amongst a broad, but close-knit community. Today, my parents still get together with twenty or thirty friends they’ve known for almost seven decades. I get together with maybe seven people, if that.
Some of it has to do with the more divergent paths young black folks take in an integrated society. Some of it has to do with a comfortable complacency that takes root in a place shackled by low expectations and a low cost of living. Some of it has to do with the misguided consolidation of city and county government, leading to sprawling suburban development at the cost of a vibrant urban core and missed opportunities for the city as a whole. Some of it has to do with Jim Crow-era laws, corrupt police, inept officials, greedy businesses, and religious zealots in government (Good Ol’ Boys, allovem). Some of it has to do with willful ignorance on both sides of the color line. All of it is reason enough for me to minimize interaction with my hometown.
Only when I think of the values I learned as a Southerner, a Floridian, and a black man reared by parents who were both educators, am I certain that I wouldn’t want to have been raised anywhere else.
Well…except Hawaii, maybe.