Philly Journal, 3/9/14

In this itinerant sort of life I live, moving from place to place every few years, it becomes easy to put the specificity of places out of mind quickly.  What I mean is this: I spend a few years getting to know an area, its history, landmarks, my favorite restaurants and stores and the quickest routes from point A to point B, and generally becoming a familiar citizen of these places.  And then, some would say quite suddenly, poof!, I’m gone, off to a whole new existence (I’m aware I’m not the only person to have ever moved to a new area).  It’s odd: once I’m in the new place, while some of the specifics of the former place may swirl on my periphery for a few days, they are largely completely tossed aside.  Now, please mind this next sentence: I am not suggesting I forget the lovely people or experiences from these places.  I’m thinking more about my favorite Chinese buffet in Erie, PA, a real shithole that I fell in love with when I visited it at first on a balmy summer day just a month or so after I moved there.  I’d just visited the Erie Art Museum for the first time (my first trip to an art museum by myself) and I was laden with pamphlets I had picked up there.  I sat at this shithole buffet for an hour, gorging on fried rice and realizing I loved art.  I went to this buffet roughly one million times over the next year.  It saw me get the fattest I’d ever been, and then slowly became an occasional guilty pleasure in the months before I moved away from Erie, as I was becoming slender and trying to avoid buffets.  That Chinese buffet was one of just about 100 unique places I evolved for myself in the 2 years I lived in Erie; the places we choose to frequent and spend time in outside the house become an extension of our personalities and identities.  I had places I liked to ride my bike, and stop my bike.  Places I rented movies, and bought books, and places I read books.  And then, in a decision made over the course of just a few weeks—I was gone, living with my mother in South Jersey.  Now I haven’t thought of those places–places that made up bits of my identity–for months or a year.

When I landed in South Jersey, for a week or two, I felt like I inhabited many worlds.  My new home was New Jersey, and I was excited to explore it.  But my identity in Erie was a good one, and it was fading like a seen ghost.  At the same time, I was working in Philadelphia—another aspect of identity.  In all three places at once, I was developing, forgetting, or remembering the places I loved that were special to me.

Eventually, I made quite a few special places in South Jersey.  A few antique shops that I liked to stop by all alone, browsing the musty wares, thumbing through the hundred-year-old postcards and selecting a few to buy each time.  The record store, Tunes, out on the absolutely horrid Black Horse Pike, where I secreted away to about every two weeks, where I once found and bought a vinyl copy of Bruce Willis’ blues album, and where I rebuilt my collection of Radiohead CDs.  I can still remember the taste of the incredibly overpriced cheesesteaks at King of Steaks on the main drag in Woodbury—with their three booths and cans of soda.

And then, in a decision again seemingly out of nowhere, I suddenly found myself living in Philadelphia.  I was immediately in love with my new situation, and often still find myself chuckling as I walk along the street to my house in the afternoon, all alone listening to Death Cab for Cutie on my iPhone, and I look over my shoulder and see the skyline.  What an adventure is my life, I think to myself.  And although South Jersey and my identity there hung over my life like a disappearing ring of smoke for a few days, it didn’t take long for me to forget the Barnes and Noble out on Almonesson, despite having gone there 50 times in the last year and a half.  I had new places replacing that one, and a new kind of identity forming with them, and down the road, these new ones will soon enough be replaced and forgotten, too.

This evening, as I was showering, I tasted one of those Woodbury cheesesteaks—I’m not sure why, but there it was—and I suddenly missed everything all at once.

What are your current places? What are some you’ve almost forgotten?

One Response to “Philly Journal, 3/9/14”

  1. Having just moved to a new house in the same geographic area over the weekend, I can appreciate this concept on a micro-level. There are aspects of the former house that I am already forgetting as we get settled into this new space. Also, we only moved 1.5miles down the road, but I think I will start going to Saylor’s Market more often than I did before.

    But more importantly… Bruce Willis sings the blues?

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