Oh, East Coast. Home before Seattle was home; the place where everybody knew my name once upon a time. The place where the city's streetcorners and back pockets remind me of both who I am, and how far I've come. As much as I loved visiting this time around, I'm definitely several degrees of once-removed from life on the Atlantic -- I've only visited twice in the last decade, once about two years after I moved to visit family and to shoot at CMJ, and last year, for about thirty-six hours to attend my sister's funeral. So, even with all those well-worn memories, it's a new place now every time I go.
This time around, I planned my trip for early June, and matched my schedule to overlap with my husband's tour itinerary for a few days before sticking around to spend some time with my aunt and uncle in Connecticut. Day one bled in from day zero, arriving on the redeye, a whirlwind of airports and rental cars and getting changed in public bathrooms. I timed out my drive to intercept the van on a random highway, somewhere between Toronto and Brooklyn, and it worked out perfectly, all sunshine and reuniting and big smiles.
We hit the venue and the band went into soundcheck per usual, but after a brief meeting, we found out that the remainder of the tour was being cancelled due to exhaustion and fatigue on Damien's part. It was quite a contrast from the few hours prior, but Barry and I still managed to soak up a bit of Brooklyn once the walls came back into focus. Wandering around was a welcome sensory overload, all the sounds and smells, and magic hour out on a pier; some surprisingly good sushi followed by some unreal artisan (read: five dollars a scoop) ice cream. A few hours later, the band took the stage, and closed both the night and the tour out with an absolutely incredible show. It blew the doors off the venue, and was hands-down the best performance I'd seen them give to date.
We spent the night in a surprisingly rad, affordable hotel near the bridge, and hit Manhattan proper early the following morning for a haircut. Having not been to Brooklyn in all the trips I'd taken to New York over the years, I was blown away at how different it was compared to the city -- which I knew logically, of course, but I'd never experienced the contrast firsthand. The hotels were already booked and prepaid for the next two shows, so after spending the entire day's budget on two hours of parking, we zipped back eastward for brunch and one last hang with the band, and began our decidedly tame adventure north. I'd planned out so many things along the way, but instead we stretched out, and took our time driving, and got lots of big salads at Whole Foods-es along the way, and slept in a bunch. It was downright luxurious for us both, after having been apart for what seemed like forever, and especially for Barry after an eternity in the van, surrounded by people at every turn.
While we managed to sneak in a glorious earthy breakfast at the Haymarket in Northampton, which was one of my favorite spots to visit when I'd drive up for shows at the Iron Horse way back when, our attempts to head over to Cape Cod for dinner one night failed due to *insane* amounts of traffic.
Here's the haircut and the brunch:
Also, I got a bloody nose in this bathroom:
The second half of the trip was spent with family, and what was initially supposed to be a drop-in for Barry turned into four-plus days with me at my aunt and uncle's house. We landed in town pretty wiped out on Saturday, hitting the pool for the better part of the afternoon, while Sunday turned into a caricature of itself: a haze of relaxing, golf tournaments on the television, quality time with the dogs, and putting together sauce and meatballs for family dinner. I documented my uncle's step-by-step instructions while taking notes in my phone about beef-to-pork ratios, the correct type of stale bread to use, seasonings (vs. salts), and the oiled baking method they use now that comes out just as good as frying.
Most of these views, save for perhaps a coffeepot upgrade or some new window coverings, have not changed for at least a decade. The sights, sounds, smells, and even the creaks in the floor when I stepped in certain spots were all so comforting and so warm -- this is a place that's so burned into my brain that I dream about it regularly, full of the ghosts of holiday gatherings past and all the other Sundays with meatballs, and everything in-between.
Most of the days looked the same after Sunday. My aunt and I caught up about the last few years, talking about my sister and the subsequent changes our family has gone through since her death. We cried sometimes, and laughed sometimes, and had lots of espresso, and lots of fizzy water. I lounged around on giant rafts in warm water, and took luxurious naps, and spent afternoons in the sun, and old family friends dropped by, and I got and gave more rib-cracking hugs than I can count. Connecting to it all was perfect in ways I didn't expect, and hard in ways I didn't expect, and lots of feelings in-between that I can't quite articulate all the way at the moment. Maybe in another post.
That's Cookie and Joey, my mom's youngest sister and her husband. There's so much history behind us now that we're all older, as obvious of a thing as that is to say. It's surreal to truly wrap my mind around being forty, which puts them just past the sixty-year mark -- somewhere in my brain, I'm a still a teenager and they're the age that I am now, and we're all still trying to figure it out. Somewhere else, I'm still a kid and my aunt is outside with my mom, drinking Michelob in the driveway while they sun themselves on lawnchairs, spraying the hose at the dogs and smoking cigarettes on a Saturday afternoon.
No matter how old we all get, a piece of me will always live on this back porch, where my grandfather used to sit and watch the thunderstorms, where we sat and watched the rain this trip.
As much as I'm a West Coast-er now through and through, and as much as I've moved on from what life used to look like when I lived back east -- well, I think the only way to put it is the old adage of there really being no place like home. Even with all the hard parts, I still can't wait for the next trip back.