Gold Dust Dreamers Never Warn You

When I was very small, I traded my time between three places, three parts of the world, each obvious and distinct in memory.

I went to kindergarten in suburban Milwaukee, with its mild summers, deep winters, with its wineblood leaved maples, its hard cement roads, its dapple light woods, its glacier moraine hills and its limestone enriched drinking water.

I spent summers with my grandparents in Florida, with its constant warmth, its high cresting sun, its flood plain flatness, its shoe seeping sandiness, its tropical rot flavored air and its constant warnings about gators and storms.

My earliest formative years, I spent in western England, with its hedge lined paths, its rolling mynds and towering marylins, its scent of dampness, its constantly shifting clouds, its fried food and its distinct accent.

I've spent these past few weeks on the opposite end of the continent, somewhere I've scarcely been before. And, like when I was a child, I can sense the differences here, the textures, the scents, the colors, the gait, the flow of the air, the angle of the sun and the modes of speech. I am distinctly aware that I am not at home.

But, I'm not quite sure where I am, either. This is not to say that I couldn't find this city on a map or that I couldn't give you directions. It's that this place seems indistinct, cobbled together from the effluvium of other places. It's that these textures, these scents and the angle of the sun tell me much more about where I am not than they tell about me where I am. This place has no sense of itself, no set of attributes that cry out "I am here, in this place and in no other!" I could be anywhere. I could be nowhere at all, really.

Is this a product of this place in particular? Is it that this city, in its sprawling, sundrenched, seaside-ness just doesn't have an essence of its own? Is it that the English-speaking world has become less variegated, that franchise eateries and ambient media have robbed regions of their distinctiveness? Or, is it me? Has my own experience with the world inured me to the subtleties of place? Am I immune to geography? Am I jaded about the experience of travel? Am I just not paying attention?

I fly home tomorrow. Likely, almost certainly, I will be back here, sooner than later. I've had quite the good time, even if I didn't quite know where was. Even if I don't quite know where I'm going.

1 comment:

peony said...

A little like Gertrude Stein's sentiments about Oakland..."There's no there, there."