In the northeast corner of the country, we have salty, wet, wooden America. The ocean. Evergreens. Boats. Lobsters for those who can afford them. The Red Sox. Islands big and small.
In the southwest corner, we have dry, air conditioned America. Cactii. Immigration laws. The Suns. Pizzeria Bianco. Those little misting devices outside of restaurants to keep you from becoming a sun-dried tomato.
In the last two weeks, I have bounced between and around these two Americas (John Edwards whut) like a pinball, but instead of leaving my normal trail of destruction, I’m actually cleaning up messes. I’ve left every place better than I’ve found it, in the maintenance I’ve done on my childhood home (Massachusetts), the paint I’ve slapped on my brother’s new home (Phoenix), or the economic stimulus I’ve provided to the U.S. economy (Las Vegas).
I returned to my apartment for more than 12 hours for the first time on Sunday night, fresh off the superlatively beautiful boat ride back from M.V. I was anxious. I had a leaky faucet, a stack of recyclables that have been long ignored, and a cluttered apartment setup. After all the arranging and rearranging I had done, did I have to live this way?
Of course I didn’t. Last night, I took upon the task of gutting my apartment. Bookshelf: gone. Books: in the closet for now. Trash: deposited. Bicycle: headed to Craigslist, or West Tisbury. Guitar I never learned to play or really cared to: eat me. Dresser: justify your existence, or go home.
This all sounds like boilerplate stuff, but there’s an underlying issue.
In performing maintenance on my childhood home, I’ve brushed up against the memories of some of its fellow former occupants. Okay, “brushed up” is the most delicate way of putting it. I have, with only a slight intention, jabbed at them completely and violently, like hundreds of razor-sharp needles. This has been difficult for some people, even if I’m striving to remind them that their memories are, if not the first thing on my mind (and they could be), darn close to it.
What it comes down to is the power of things, and how those things come to define us. Of course, it’s completely up to us how we let that happen, and there is no right or wrong way. There are differing philosophies, but other people could give a hoot about my philosophy. Their way works for them. That I initially tried to argue my way out of this shows a gap in my understanding that has been rectified, if not forgiven, by the people it bothered. I believe my grand plan for that house is 99% of what everyone else’s grand plan is, but it’s the 1% that’s important in this case.
So returning home (to New York this time), to a place that’s 100% my vision… it’s too grand an opportunity to pass it up. The thing is, I wouldn’t be able to do it had I not done it in Massachusetts or Phoenix. I learn by doing, watching, tinkering. In the end and in the future, my grand projects will be limited to what’s mine unless explicitly directed otherwise. Some people don’t even trust me anymore. That’s something I’ll have to live with. I suppose we all do.