New York, New York. John F Kennedy airport 1 am date unknown, sleepy looking customs guard stamps a passport without hardly looking at, without even checking to see where I had been. A light drizzle is falling outside and the subways extension to the terminal never looked so good. Concrete hiss of tires, parabolic freeway ramps, a moth trapped inside an airport bus, the sodium yellow glow of subway lights, the gentle rocking of a train car, the green boarded fronts of a sixth avenue newsstand, shoes still leaking, still tired and still not looking back.
Just off Bleeker, around the corner from Minetta where I once lived for a few weeks, there is a small coffee shop totally unremarkable in nearly every way save one distinguishing characteristic that drew me to it initially and draws me to it still — it doesn’t close. Faced with a thirty six hour layover and nowhere near the cash to pay for a hotel (don’t even ask about the credit cards) I figured good old Esperanta cafe was the ideal sort of place to spend the night.
I would like to say that I got off the plane ready to kiss the ground and mumble something about home at last, thank god home at last, but that isn’t how I felt and isn’t what I did. soon after I arrived in Los Angeles to see my family, friends started to email and call, which was wonderful, except that nearly everyone asked what it was like to be back.
I’ve had three months to ponder that question now and I still don’t have a definitive answer, which is at least partly my own fault because I’ve never asked exactly what you mean when you ask that question. Sometimes people ask that as a sort of loaded question, some people seemed to be waiting for me to bad mouth America.
So let’s start there. I could say a million bad things about America, but the truth is people, things are no better anywhere else, like Tom Wait’s said “I know I know, things is tough all over.” There are things America does better than the rest of the world and there are things we could do so much better.
I could be critical of America’s corrupt, inept and lying politicians, but I could just as easily be critical of France’s politicians, Cambodia’s politicians, India’s politicians, Laos, Thailand ad nauseam. We are no better and no worse.
Then there’s the other side of that coin, some seem to expect that I would be overjoyed to finally be back in the U.S., but the truth is I didn’t miss it. I missed a lot of people here in the States, but the country itself never much crossed my mind.
So what is it like to be home? I don’t know, I’ll tell you when I get there.