29 August 2008

on City Lights

Last night Joe and I were driving down 281 through the new 410 interchange, and Joe said, "It's cool that they built that overpass, it looks like we live in an actual city now." Which got me thinking: we live in a city?
It's not that I don't love the traffic and the strip malls, but San Antonio doesn't really feel like a city to me anymore. Maybe it's because I'm going on my fifth year of living here--I feel like it's not just a city, it's where I live. It's the place that I sometimes call home. It's familiar, and it's routine. I suppose this happens to anyone who moves anywhere. I'm not special, I'm just saying.
So, in noticing these highway-brand City Lights, a phenomenon twinkled through my sights. It's happened to me quite a few times before, and I'm guessing that it will keep happening as long as I keep traveling. It's like this: I'm staring out the window of the 14th row of seats on yet another Greyhound bus, and I'm mesmerized. The Lights are just so, well, bright. They have that photo-lens twinkle that makes them shine in pointed rays. Even the lights on the Shell stations seem more friendly, more inviting. Red and blue and green and yellow lights entice me to visit downtown; white lights illuminate businesses and gas stations and strip malls that are almost invisible behind their bright and beautiful counterparts. Every single bulb in every single socket on every single fantastically-lit block of this city must have been freshly changed in anticipation of my arrival, and they're telling me I'm now passing through the best city ever.
...But Jeanna, you're in Tulsa.
It seems like no matter where I travel through, the Lights are always brighter. Shinier. More City-like. They're City Lights, and they guide me through this big strange place, beckoning me to come explore.
Of course, leaving the city, I watch the plethora of lights diminish down to the solitary lampposts overseeing the exit-off-the-interstate signs. And the next City's Lights do the exact same thing.

25 August 2008

on Going Home

While sitting at the stop light in La Grange on Saturday (yes, the stop light, and the only one of four that counts because you can actually sit at it), I realized that I had absolutely no reason to be there any more. See, Going Home for me has always meant at least one stop in La Grange to partake in certain childhood comforts the small town once provided me. 4 comforts, in fact: Chicken tenders from Golden Chick; Wonton soup from the Chinese place (for some reason, it's unlike any other); a mocha from Latte on the Square; a bean and egg breakfast taco from the Taco Shack.
Now, at this stop light, I wondered, "Left for a taco? Right for the soup? Straight for the chicken? Or U-turn for the mocha?" when it hit me: none of these things are any comfort at all to me any more.
Yep. Being a vegetarian eliminates the chicken and the soup, and I vaguely remembered from the last time I was on a Going Home journey that Latte had changed its brand of mocha syrup, replacing it with a bitter and far less delicious one. That leaves the bean and egg taco, but because I now call San Antonio the place that I live, and have an award-winning Mexican restraunt less than 100 yards from me, I can get a bean and egg taco any time I'd like.
So there I was, at this stop light, making the decision to turn left not for the taco, but because that was the quickest way to Go Home. It seems that now, the only things I really need from Going Home are the things I find there--a front porch, my family, and a really comfortable bed.

24 August 2008

on Last Days

It took me having a quite unremarkable Last Day to realize how often Last Days happen, and how often they're, well, unremarkable. Wednesday was my Last Day of summer at John Knox Ranch, marking the end of twelve and a half weeks spent on those 300 some-odd acres. 250 meals, 13,000 stairs, countless friends and memories and inside jokes, all to eventually be left in a big envelope labeled "Summer 2008".
Before last Wednesday, though, I had 2 other Last Days. There was the Last Day of summer camp--no more "Knox kids"--and there was the Last Day of camp camp--Braveheart came and went. But both of those Last Days didn't much come as Last Days to me because I knew I'd be back the next day or the next. And now I'm sitting here contemplating whether or not I should go back tomorrow, just to finish up some things I was working on. The fact that I have a choice as to whether or not I want to go back has made me realize that I have actually had my Last Day.
My Last Day passed without my best summer friend being there, without me saying goodbye to everyone I needed to, and without the sun to blind me as I drove home: it was just another year-round day at the ranch. Up until that point, I had thought that I'd have one more day to say goodbye to everyone and everything; I hadn't realized that everyone and everything had already said goodbye before me. Their Last Days had come already, while I blindly kept plugging through towards mine. I didn't even celebrate, really, except for an extra gin-and-tonic and sleeping an hour later the next morning.
A wise English co-worker told me, a couple of weeks before his Last Day, "But then, Jeanna, summer will be over, and you'll have to go back to where you were before your life here." I had shrugged him off: certainly, I couldn't just have a Last Day and then have it all disappear.
He was right--somehow, he always is. My Last Day became something to look back on, rather than something to look forward to. My Last Day became something to attach a label to, to learn from. My Last Day became a First Day and because of that, nothing really changed. There were no warnings, no Wet Floor signs, no bright orange notices on the front door. Only a landlord wondering where the rent was and friendships turning from best to too busy. Evidently, we all have our LastDay/FirstDay realities.
Tomorrow will be my Last Day of summer, I think. And hopefully some day soon, I'll have a Last Day of brief unemployment. They'll be Firsts, too, but I'm starting to think I've learned more from the Lasts than anything else: no matter how un-memorable, a Last Day means something memorable enough must have happened to make that Last Day matter.