April 22, 2012
TOUR, April 22 – On Friday, I returned to Richmond, VA. I had some bad times when I lived there 15 years ago. If you were to make a PowerPoint presentation of my bad times, you’d have to devote a good part of that presentation to my own, private mental bad times. Some of the blame, however, was Richmond’s. It was a scary town in the 1990’s. I heard a lot of shootings and dealt with a lot of crazies in the half decade I lived there. One friend died, and several other friends had some nasty things happen to them.
Panic attacks were a regular thing for me in Richmond. For years, I was scared I’d have a grand mal panic attack meltdown if I ever returned. Only after a regimen of hypnotherapy cured me of acute arachnophobia, last year, was I able to reassess all the other limitations I’d accrued over the decades. Many of these self-restraints, including Richmond, suddenly seemed trivial, and no longer worth maintaining.
The city looks great now. I saw lots of old friends, and they seemed healthy and happy. Many of them have refused to age. I did a reading at Chop Suey books, and a comedy set at Marty Key’s record store, Steady Sounds. One old friend arrived very pregnant. It was her due date, but instead of giving birth to a human being, she chose to see me tell jokes and read from my new novel. It was a nice night. Later, John Michaels drove us through brightly lit streets and I caught just a few, fleeting glimpses of the alleys and buildings that bordered my old life.
In the last three weeks, I’ve been through five cities I once lived in. I’ve inhabited California far longer than any of those cities—longer than anywhere I’ve ever lived—and yet I don’t think of myself as a Californian. I definitely didn’t expect to be so homesick for a state I still view as a novelty. Last week, in Kentucky, I grew glum at the sight of two decorative, waist-high, plastic palm trees. In Richmond, the indifferent store cat at Chop Suey books made me acutely aware of my own animals, far away. I’m looking forward to being home tomorrow night.