My favorite type of travel is the long, lingering kind. The kind that sees the best of somewhere as well as the not so best. The kind that lets me sit, study and hang.
It’s how I ended up in Staunton, Bristol and Fredericksburg. Their one main attraction, aside from a guaranteed paycheck, was that they weren’t Richmond.
When you stay in one place too long, the awesome becomes the norm. I remember arriving in San Francisco a few weeks ago and marveling at the big blue sky. “Oh yeah,” Franco said. “I guess it is pretty blue.”
It’s strange to think you can get used to this. But you do.
You develop a routine. You find your favorite coffee shop. Your Chinese restaurant. Your greasy breakfast place. It’s inevitable and yet deceptively satisfying.
Look at those tourists, you tell yourself. You’re not one of them.
Because they don’t stay in one place long enough to look past the big blue sky. They don’t know you don’t walk until the light tells you to walk. Or to order first before finding a table. Or to know the difference among what’s trash, what’s recyclable and what’s compostable.
You notice the absurdity in finding system and order in a place the ‘60s became the ‘60s, where cyclists wear helmets and nothing else, where nudist communes are just around the corner.
But you suppose when you’re free in most aspects of life, you can afford some structure.
Back East, there’s nothing but that.
You live to work. You know the endless grind that frustrates and disappoints, so much so that you take it out on people you’ll never see again. You push and you shove, fighting to be first to sit on the train, to walk 4 seconds faster, that your line is better than theirs so they should get behind yours.
You know it’s never really about the dude slowly crossing the street so much as it is about that shitty thing your boss said or that shitty thing your landlord pulled or that shitty thing that happened on the subway.
Just a year ago, I was that person. I remember visiting law firms in San Francisco and being more dressed up than the lawyers. Lawyers who did things. Who went home to their kids.
Who had lives.
It fascinated me so much I decided to go back this summer as a jobless wandering wanderer.
Because here, a late night means dancing past midnight. A commute means walking under the big blue sky. And a hectic afternoon means having to go to three coffee shops on the same block before settling on one.
It’s a glorious existence because it isn’t forever. Soon, school will start, the days will run together, the nights will blur, the end will come.
And so will the grind.