… That I like it here. The strangest part is just liking something, anything. It’s strange to like things when the news is very bad. It seems sort of wrong. So sometimes I just have to say, “We are going to see my friend’s band.” Or, for my birthday, “We are going to all sit in a the back garden of a dive bar and talk about plans to hike the wilderness, and the ways that the gardens are beautiful in New Jersey, and I’ll have a pineapple and ham sandwich called The Hawaiian and someone will buy me a drink.”
It’s strange to like a place with fewer people that I know and love. Just looking at the numbers. But then, some of my Chicago people have visited. And then hanging out is a vacation.
I went on a long hike for two days, an overnight camping thing on the Appalachian Trail, and nearly gave up halfway through and my left big toenail is still black and blue from boots that didn’t quite fit. It’s amazing how something not fitting just the tiniest amount can really get you. My friend Manon, who was the guide on the trip is French–and she says in her elegant French accent when we co-tell our adventures, at the bar for my birthday, “Remember, we have to say it was one of the toughest parts of the Appalachian Trail.” Which is true. We climbed and climbed and climbed and I thought I might perhaps rather lay down in the poison oak and save the trouble of ever getting up or down another mountain. But we did it.
In the van on the way back from the end of the trail, still in our hiking clothes and grubby beyond grubby, a song came on the radio, with the chorus, “That’s what I like, that’s what I like,” and Manon sang along only to this part, above the rushing wind from the rolled-down windows, and our disgruntled driver glared in the rearview mirror.
It’s ok to like things. I don’t like everything. But I like enough things. How people leave little unwanted items on the front steps of their brownstones — children’s clothes, books, snow boots, dolls, cassettes. Anything and everything. How the golden fall sun looks coming in through the trees in the back, just beyond our fire escape. It looks like a jungle back there. How there are like six bakeries within five blocks, and all of them have good Italian bread. One has cannoli which are completely acceptable, and sometimes I stop in and buy one and tuck it into my backpack for later. Another is mostly chocolate things, and no bread, but it does have dark hot chocolate, which is perfect for dreary days when everything seems unmanageable.
Which, still, is some days. Because our routines aren’t quite right. The food cupboard forgets how to stay full. The dish soap runs out when we’re not looking. The dog wants to eat dinner earlier and earlier, and now he’s nudging my hands off my keyboard at 1:30pm.
But these things are small, and nothing compared to what the world looks like on my screen(s) every day. It is strange to have knowledge of and care for such a large geographic area that you don’t even get the same weather. I’m not sure many generations of humans have ever had to feel this way. By the time they got the letters from their sailors or pirates at sea, the storm was already over.