Posts filed under ‘Cities’
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.
April 11, 2012
LORAIN, OH, April 10 – I was in the area, so I directed my chauffer / manservant John Michaels to drive us to my old house in Lorain, OH. I lived here from 1969 to 1973, longer than I lived in New York City. I haven’t been back since. Although I’d heard that the last four decades had been unkind to Lorain, I found my old street bordered by large, pleasant residences. The address listed on my birth certificate led us to the lone dumpy house, a green and beige home with an untended lawn. Nothing looked familiar.
Was I expecting something more spectacular? Maybe. When I visited my old house in Troy, NY eight years ago, I found the place small, and charmless, its side wall vandalized with large graffiti reading SICK OF IT ALL and HARDCORE IS BACK *. The Lorain house was merely run down and kind of sad. It was clearly the least kept up residence on the block.
As I studied the layout of the street, a single memory of the house snapped into place with jarring force. I was standing in my crib, at night, peering out of the second story window, down to the corner. As I watched, a pair of black gloves floated down the street towards my house. When the gloves reached our walkway, they turned in towards the house, clearly on their way up to my bedroom. I wasn’t yet accustomed to my dream world so closely approximating the real world, so I presumably woke up at that point.
We drove around Lorain. The town has taken a beating. John swerved around several gaping, axle-killer potholes born of years of civic indifference. Furtive men entered and exited storefronts with painted plywood windows. At one intersection, a high billboard urged residents not to kill themselves. It all reminded me of the part in Back To The Future II where Marty and Doc Brown go to the wrong 1985.
I ran into a supermarket. In the bathroom, the laminated, professionally made sanitation sign showed a cartoon bar of soap pleading that it’d been off drugs for 6 months. My iPhone couldn’t photograph something that small, so when I told John he went back in with one of his nice cameras to document it.
It was cold and drizzly. I thought about the floating black gloves, out there, somewhere, lurking about Lorain, still searching for me, and when John returned, I commanded him to drive us out of this city as quickly as possible.
* true story.