Monday, October 21, 2019

From Russia To Home

It's late. I'm tired.

It's not as late as some of the hours I land. It's before midnight, barely scraping the end of what science might refer to as 20:00 although maybe UTC would make more sense if we think about it that way.

This doesn't really matter. It's flying from the west coast after a two hour 5 a.m. bus. It's 4 hours in the air and ages of man on the ground. I depart my metal tube without making out with a young lady, much to my own shagrin, though the memory does make me smile. It's up the plank and down the bend and to home. All I want to do is to be home.

I order a car, because this is how we live now. Using our devices, our tethers, our joymakers, the infinite us that we are building from our own data to ensure we will live on forever. I call the car and I ascend to the platform and I look out over a sea of cars in wall to wall traffic backed up as far as the eye can see in all directions.

It's late.

I seriously consider taking the train.

In the end I manage to hold out the more than 40 minute wait for the car that was desperately trying to get to me. I called and got a full voicemail, which only added to my frustration, and my anger, and my annoyance. At least the beverage in my travel cup was not water.

When the car finally does get close enough I find it by walking, and hope in muttering under my breath in anger about the full voicemail. The driver doesn't really acknowledge me, further fouling my mood. So I sit back, silent and sulking, sullen and annoy and watch as Terminal 2 mocks me.

"Here you leave and here you return and here you always shall be."

I want my dogs.

The driver is fiddling with his phone and it occurs to me that he's trying to find a way out of the traffic. In the thirty odd minutes we have been sitting there we have managed to move to terminal three, thankfully the last terminal on this particular drive, the final terminal before we can hopefully get some speed. I see what he is doing, and I actually happen to know the route to my place from Touhy, so I tell him so.

He stares at me blankly.

I recall reading his name in the app, but I don't remember it. It's not a native English name, so there is a good guess he doesn't speak English.

"What's your first language?" I ask. I've been trying to figure out polite ways to ask, because asking where are you from makes me angry these days. It seems to have landed, though, as he smiled with no malice and answered, "Russian."

"Russian, is not one of my languages."

I don't know why, but suddenly all my anger is a puddle and in its place is something other. Something very important here. This space. This time. Or maybe it was this particular action. I tell my new friend that I know how to get home as soon as we can turn off at Touhy and in response he turns to his phone.

And I watch a thing.

I do this thing when I travel now. I embrace and engage. I have decided language or no, that will experience the world. Quiero el mundo. Es mio y lo quiero. My head is already awash in language. I have come from so many languages. So many wonderful and amazing and beautiful languages.

"Russian, is not one of my languages, but that doesn't have to be a problem."

Our fingers do the talking for a moment. I watch as he types and then pushes play. He tells me through his female interpreter that he is from Russia, and that he has lived here for two years, and he has just had a daughter and he really wants to learn English. He plans to start school in the winter. It's the last bit when I put my headphones back on.

It's not that I didn't want to listen, but now, I am inside a deep, peaceful place. Here is something I know so well and it is me, and all of me, and this is the moment I live for, all week talking around communication and understanding the implications of what I do and the impact has for all of, I put on my headphones.

"I want to learn English, but I'm afraid to talk." she tells me.

I respond back. "Я не боюсь."

He stares a full minute at me. The luxury of the wall to wall traffic. I show him how I am doing what I am doing, my magic language trick, and I encourage him to do the same. By the time we get to the edge of traffic we have really gotten going and it is hard to remember that without cars in front of you it's no longer safe to turn around to make eye contact to talk. So much talk.

We talk about his fear of language.

I talk about why it is important.

Расскажи историю. Какая у тебя история? Что вы хотите, чтобы люди знали. Запиши это. Как и сейчас. Используйте свой телефон. Переведите и попрактикуйтесь в истории. Запомни это. Выскажи это громко. Снова и снова. Вы будете говорить в кратчайшие сроки.

"I don't know what to talk about."

So I told him my story in Russian. But it is a story I work for myself.

Los idiomas son importantes para ti. Para mi. Por su identidad, lo sé porque mi abuelo hablaba español, pero yo no. O no me criaron hablando español.

¿Por qué? A mi abuelo le costaba tanto aprender inglés que no dejaba que sus hijos aprendieran a
hablar español. Quería que sus hijos fueran estadounidenses.

When we pulled up on my street, I had just finished. He helped me out with tears in his eyes. I knew right than I had done the thing I do. The thing that I am trying to become comfortable with doing. The thing I have long been uncomfortable with doing.

I changed his life. I changed mine.

A veces, el cambio es todo lo que tenemos.

Sunday, October 20, 2019


I feel like I am on the cusp of an impossible moment.

I have more hope than I have had in years. I don't know exactly what it is that I am doing, or where it is that I want to go, anymore. I am content somehow, and I feel like I've already put into place all the appropriate pieces to take me wherever it is that I aspire to go.

I think that my goal is now more aspirational than anything else. There is no more destination.

There is only the weird in between.

It is so weird.

It is so wonderful.

Saturday night, light night, halfway to the airport a the edge of the city, driving roads I know like the back of my hand now, after years and years of flights away, and away and up there I see those planes landing without me because tonight I'm on the ground in this car and -

We are parking. The lot is empty. I don't think this is it. We walk, random, arm in arm, talking in the quite air and sneaking up on buildings.

"It's a school."

"Yeah, they play these wherever they can."

"But, it's a catholic school."

"Heh. Yeah." His head nods and I catch a toothy smile in the breeze, and I smile as we corner the building looking for an old gym and a bunch of smokers, finding our success after several minutes of meandering in the cool fall evening.

There, under the gym lights, I sit fascinated, I sit paralyzed, I sit in silence, I sit in wonder and I look at the men, so many men, hunched and chunked up over a table, in their hoodies, and coats, and caps, and hats, and jackets with their music and conversations and random lives spilling on the table as fast and chips and as fast as cards turning over.

I sit hand after hand, folding and folding, and amused by this life. These bright lights in this old gym, this venue I know in so many lights and now, here a new one, with popup plastic picnic tables, folding chairs, ancient chips and greasy cards.

The mend around the table try to shock me with stories of strip clubs in the Middle East. Of course, there are stories, and of course they are blue, and I sit and smile and think about the lips of the pretty young blonde girl I kissed a few weeks back, while flying over the Georgia.

Life has become a symphony of caviler amusements. Of bizarre excitements and wild moods. It is unpredictable and spinning like a wheel with no point, except that the point of the spinning should be to keep going, to keep it steady, and to get better if at all possible.

Like I said, it's aspirational.

Tomorrow I pave a future of unpredictable wonder and hope. I feel hope like I never have before.