01 January 2009


Did you know that the Hartford airport has free wifi? It does.

The Philadelphia airport, where I am currently holed up, does not. I am therefore reduced to coffee drinking and pecan-roll eating. I suppose it shouldn't alarm me that this pecan roll is awful, since I bought it in an airport, but I feel compelled to ask the world at large why on earth any baker would insist on making a pecan roll so slathered with a tar-like caramel that it is basically inedible unless you are gifted (cursed?) with teeth like the villain of that one Bond flick. I can't remember his name. Srsly. Do you remember this scene in one of the Harry Potter books where Hagrid gives Ron and Harry a bunch of treacle that he has made and they barely escape with mandibles intact? I'm pretty sure that the baker of this particular pecan roll invented some sort of Gumby-based technology so that ze could jump into the pages of that book and steal the recipe from Hagrid.

I'm on my way back to Birmingham--a day later than I was supposed to leave, due to weather. I'm tired and have the beginnings of a cold, but I'm happy to be traveling towards home. I miss my mother and have a suspicion that she has been working too hard lately. I miss my mother's cats. I miss Birmingham.

I think about cities a lot, probably most especially Birmingham. At some point when I was in high school, I woke up to the city in a way that I have never fully recovered from. Though I had moved around quite a bit through my childhood--living in different houses, going to different schools, allying myself with different parents--the city had been the one constant, the solid thing that was mappable, dependable. I have an allegiance to Birmingham that I will never have for another place, no matter how many years away from it I spend.

Like most allegiances, mine for Birmingham is perhaps misplaced--or, at least, based on false premises. It is not the only city I've ever lived in, or even the only city I've ever loved--I spent the first for years of my life in Macon, Georgia, and the four years of my undergraduate degree in Atlanta. But I still feel, somehow, that if the whole world were destroyed and only I survived, I'd miss Birmingham the most, its cicadas and its Shades Crest Road, the marquee of the Alabama Theater and the pothole on 19th Street.

I spent last year in London, earning a degree I have yet to use and now that I'm back I must admit that I spent the better part of my time there pining for things that felt familiar. Now that I've moved to Philadelphia, I find myself pining for London. I miss the bus that I took to the British Library every day and the Gherkin. I miss the market along Whitechapel High Street that I walked through every day and I miss coming home at night when it was packed up and gone, but you could still smell the fish from the fishmonger's stand when you passed its vacant spot. I miss the view from my kitchen window. I get sad and nostalgic listening to this song .

I'm currently re-reading Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry, so I'll leave y'all with this as a final thought of the day:

"As I drew my ship out of London I knew I would never go there again. For a time I felt only sadness, and then, for no reason, I was filled with hope. The future lies ahead like a glittering city, but like the cities of the desert disappears when approached. In certain lights it is easy to see the towers and the domes, even the people going to and fro. We speak of it with longing and with love. The future. But the city is fake. The future and the present and the past exist only in our minds, and from a distance the borders of each shrink and fade like the borders of hostile countries seen from a floating city in the sky. The river runs from one country to another without stopping. And even the most solid of things and the most real, the best-loved and the well-known, are only hand-shadows on the wall. Empty space and points of light."

1 comment:

  1. In this photo and especially the one sipping what appears to be Canada Dry, I am compelled to tell you how much the camera captures the pose, look and mannerisms of your mother as I remember her close to your age. It caused me pause and made me smile of very happy times in my history.

    Chuck Key