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east coast travels, october 2011 :: mostly words

end of trip.
airport. layover in LA, from new york back to seattle. 5:30ish p.

everything started out... just grey. oppressive. new york felt angry. old stomping grounds seemed desolate. the same people doing the same things to the same soundtrack. I started to feel, and did more some notebook writing about, how I'd wondered a bit why I came out in the first place -- that it was fun and lovely and all but that I felt more and more how I didn't think I'd be hankering to return anytime soon. I'd resigned to myself that the CMJ daytimes at KEXP were fun and worth it, but that I'd mostly just learned how to travel back east and that this one was the learning curve. and that one of the things I thought I'd learned was probably not to come back for a few years.

and then something changed.

it had rained the first day in new york, my second day east. things were just... glum. and the next day, it broke: the sun was shining on the fruitstands, all that hustle and bustle that had seemed so scowl-tinged the day before began to shift. getting to shoot bands with brittney and my new friend lauren started to feel more gelled. I was in a creative commune of sorts, for parts of the day at least -- a creativity-bathed rapid-fire digital output bootcamp. and I liked it. shooting shooting shooting, processing on the spot, scavenging for food between takes and train trip after train trip. the city started to feel more like an unfolding than a weight. it got into my veins, as it's prone to do each time I visit -- and by the time the third day in rolled around, I didn't want to leave.

the nights started to shift as well. I'd booked my evenings to the brim so as to spend as much time as possible with my short list -- which made for the most non-downtime vacation in the history of ever, and strangely enough, the best one. what had begun as a chore almost, of "catching up" and rehearsed soundbytes moved fluidly into shared tables and the breaking of bread, and lit candles and story-swapping. sushi with jay. sushi with my sister. surprise drop-ins to vegan enclaves where the very food itself got us high and giddy, all strung out on the macrobioticness. the irreplaceable "I've loved you since the very beginning" kinds of hugs and interlaced fingers. I realized that I was, in fact, learning about what it meant to be traveling east, and how it needed to change -- to more. not less.

I managed to cram in a whopping twenty-three hours on the vineyard over the weekend, which took everything over the top to a near-catastrophic degree -- if catastrophes were gorgeous and inspiring and exploding with the best kind of chaotic love. there was the two-fold beauty of martha's vineyard: first as a place, with it's endless views and building held together by weathered shingles... I like it best off-season, when it's still warm enough in september / october to kick off your shoes and stroll beachside in the sun without the overwhelming swell of the tourists, and cool enough at night for a hoodie and socks. but the perfectly presevered new englandness of it all would be nothing wihtout the second fold: the extended family I have there, that now spends all year calling it home and not just the sunny summer seasons.

what was once a summer cottage trip, where they'd all pile in and where I came to visit with it's sparse, perfectly tiny bedrooms has unfolded into real home life. babies and living rooms and bright corners and something pretty close to pure actual joy. I've never been intimately close to people with children, and so to be plunged into the life of one of my forever-besties with her husband and their four year-old and eighteen month-old was like nothing I'd ever experienced. there's joy and screaming and a constant dissolution of anything 'yours' as the time and management of these kids takes center stage, even during seemingly non-kid activities. but the moments where they'd sealed a deal on my active avoidance of motherhood completely evaporated the moment one of them would reach out to me, to take my hand crossing the street, asking one of their parents if I was moving in forever, or to show me something they wanted to share. bacon included.

in a seeming flash I was back on the boat bound for mainland and in the midst of a perfect concluding chapter to the six days prior. the last of the short list, a front row seat to a family rebuilding from infidelity and turn for the worse economically, was somehow still beautiful to take in. a perfect dose of last nights with friends, where everything is what's shaped you for the best: that moment where a familiar hall with it's measured pace and lightswitch a half-step through the door that's looked and smelled and been lit exactly the same way for the better part of a decade is most righteous kind of familiar, the comfort you didn't know you needed.

I'm headed home now, layed-over in the virgin wing of LAX, grateful, reset, restored, and happy. a little wistful that there's no way to keep a great trip going and to go home at the same time, with the exception of metaphorically. new york city charmed my pants off this morning, and the final few hours of travel are nigh -- I'm headed back to good people, a steady job and endless possibilities. to a chapter of change in my home life, a whittled-away to-do list and a near-empty bank account. and the knowing deep down in my gut of guts that I've literally never had it so good -- things exactly as they are, in this very moment, I might just be the luckiest girl alive.

day two.
wednesday, 10:28p EST. same bat channel.

bands. rain. people in love, walking umbrellaless in the city -- they make me angry, but then not. fell very asleep on the train and wound up knee-to-knee with an angry woman with a wet umbrella. whoops. stumptown on the east coast, yes. good bands in proper lighting, yes. early train back, pizza with old friends.

as good of a time as I'm having here -- I keep thinking that it kind of feels like skydiving: I'm glad I went, I'm glad I did it and got the experience, but I'm not in any rush to do it again. the reasoning is different, but... just like skydiving makes you glad to live your life on the ground, being back east is making me glad to be living the live I'm living the pacific northwest. this is a good experience, but... I don't see myself coming back here anytime in the next five years without there being some type of major event happening.

maybe it's all stained with being sad about the cat. maybe I'm just different now. maybe we're all older. but whatever the case is, however I get there logically, it's nice to be reminded that I'm in the right place.

day one.
tuesday, 9:49p EST. jay's modified adult-style flip-and-fuck. cat present.

there was a strange air to the day today -- starting off at JFK, managing to stay asleep through the bulk of the second leg of my flight, the morning felt... oppressive? suppressed? I don't quite know what the word is for it. it was cool out, but still a humid kind of grey, and there were two women just in from / trying to get to the right terminal for / hong kong. another man on the airtrain was audibly angry with them, just for asking which way we were headed -- "pssht"ing and fussing and storming, swearing and practically pushing in front of them to get off the train. I didn't bother with any of it, as they were gone almost before they started, and went to the car rental desk. thinking about how the differences between here and the pacific northwest were so immediate. I couldn't tell if I was being passive or just minding my own business, and whether it was good or bad that I'd changed.

changes. costume change. subcompact fiat 500. a mini mini, if you will. there was standstill traffic, familiar signs: 687, the hutch, 95. I finally glided into a rest area around stamford and slept reclined in the front seat, and close to two hours passed. I'd had nothing but snacks and disco naps since sunday. cat-day. sighs and cryings and a cat-shaped space, a kitten-shaped hole in my heart. sleep always makes everything better, so I slept. me, heavy hearted. hole-hearted. catless.

I woke a few times and realized the car was warm, not quite at the sweaty nap place, but just warm and secure in the blanketlessness (catlessness). I finally got back on the road to see erin for coffee, where close to ninety minutes passed in what felt like ten. she looked lit up. good. clean. pure. happy. her cat had died too. her mom has stage 4 reoccuring ovarian cancer too. she knows I know what it's like during that time when you're just not right, when so much bandwidth is taken up with addressing the mortality of a parent that sometimes even making dinner is hard, even boiling water is hard. sometimes the relationship strains with your other. sometimes you have to move six times in as many years. sometimes it just takes what it takes.

another jaunt on the highway, off to see lori. lori with the MS who fostered (and now mothers) buddy. framed photos on the mantel, duplicates for me. a slight hand tremble from her medication. she'd finally gotten her own place again, away from her jehovah's witness parents. a fully grown woman, under their thumb, struggling to reclaim her own lines and then to decide whether she wanted to color in them or outside of them. she seemed happy too. that oppressive, weighty grey of the day seemed a bit lifted. maybe it was just needing a nap. maybe it was just needing the sun. maybe things are just harder two days after you put your cat to sleep. and day blended to night, car returns and sushi with jay and stopping at the space that's really the outer space that's different than the old outer space, currently across from "the space" that isn't the space at all. a trail runs by the actual space now, and freddy neon who had once taken up one side now dealt with the whole unit. so many things happened inside those walls, and on those steps, and in the gravel driveway -- for better and for worse: hearts broken and mended, virginities stolen and offered up willingly, the great anthems of our generation penned. endless notebooks filled with aching insides. jay looks good. steve looks good. microcosm communities have developed. life flourishes, with and without me. the people here I've chosen as family have made me proud.

more disconaps and a trip to new york in the morning. coffee with other steve. bands and my new umbrella, if the weather warrants. photos to follow.

Victoria Uhl