A Vigor for Grit

Fire of inspiration: Our new view

Juvenile and brimming with naive ideas of endless potential, I sit perched and wide-eyed at a café on Broadway in Harlem. Around me, 18-year-olds smash together. Backpacks and notebooks sprawl atop tables, as their owners roost over coffee and frozen disarrays of frapa-god-knows-what. The smell of collegiate incorruptibility lingers as I catch the same sensation that I observe.

As if back at college, or even high school, I allow myself to believe in the optimistic thoughts amassing in my head this very moment. At thirty one, it sounds silly, but I’ve spent a far greater time than I’m willing to admit doing little that I aspired to when I was eighteen and overflowing with reverie; sipping coffee that I had yet to acquire a taste for like these hopeful blobs of possibility and dreams. It’s enough to distract me. I abandon my work and think back to my hours logged in coffee shops and dimly-lit rooms of creativity.

Thirteen years ago, I wrote a poem. I was seventeen years old and attending The Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts .  I read it aloud at the University of Hartford to a crowd of students, parents and friends. Blind ambition allowed me to feel proud and rhythmic in my speech like Langston Hughes or Robert Frost – two of the only writers I cared about at that time. But looking back, it was just embarrassing. The text, the delivery and the canopy of invincibility that I falsely stood under. The memory alone is worthy of cowering under as I imagine the audience recollecting that reading today. However, in that piece there was one line that referenced a café (that I mistakenly labeled a pub). That line, still fresh with meaning to this day, brought with it a literary photograph of a scene that has forever stained the walls of my memory. That one line brought me back to the purpose in my pen as I crafted the feel of rain outside, the streetlight above, the smell of wet gravel and the jacket discarded and left for puddles and dispossessed hands. Everything that I inked onto white-lined paper thirteen years ago, acts as an ever-present reflection of the life that I’ve only recently adopted in New York City, yet it is strangely and noticeably unconnected. So to feel even a glimmer of this contagious motivation once again in a setting that I inadvertently built ions ago on a simple piece of white-lined paper carries with it deep meaning.

I’m in the city. I’m back where the electric waves of stampeding footsteps vibrate the very meaning of what I’m doing here. The screeching sparks of subways under foot and the idle arguments of the guy on the bench yelling at the other guy that resides inside his head lull me into a creative frame of mind, which will indefinitely fulfill itself on a platter of limitless success. At least that’s how it feels. Feeling has opened itself up to purpose and purpose is within reach. It labors itself on a minute-by-minute basis as the bumbling of this-and-that froths to the surface of my every being.

I’m not sure why, but in Los Angeles, I lost that. I lost a part of myself; a part that believed in the strings that pulled the puppet of creation. I had ideas and I held tightly to each of them, but I scuffled in carrying them out. It wasn’t for the lack of belief in the ideas themselves or Los Angeles as my corridor, but instead it was in the utter disgust I harbored towards my own ability to do so. I became an ungainly joke of a man with too many dreams and nothing to show for them. I’d sweep others away with my boyish excitement and infectious rhetoric, but then cast them out with the flickering fade-out of the very thing I campaigned so mightily for. This cycle of inspiring disappointment was a recipe in which I came to blame my inactivity. And then came the offer.

“I was asked to move to New York City,” my fiancé, Samantha said. It was April and the idea seemed crazy. Leave her parents? Leave all of our friends; friends that became an ingrained part of our extended family, slowly collected over the last twelve years as both her and I dragged Westward in our own paths of progression and lack there of? (Sigh). How? “Okay,” I responded. “Really?” “Really.” And that was it. As if possessed by a foreign and simplistic tongue, all the complications of a move so massive became as easy as saying: “Okay.”

The following week, we were on foot, cramped and flustered with the overcrowded island of metal and grate searching for something that felt like home. What we got was something that felt like a resurgence of artistic stimulation around every corner. We were falling in love. We cherished the vigor of late night conversations passing and swirling around us at all hours of the night. We actually liked the humid waft of staggering air loitering around the massive buildings above us as we marveled at the explosion of culture and taste, grit and bounty below. It seemed as if everything in the world was jam-packed into 5 tiny boroughs that, in our google-induced brains, were mere specs on an oddly shaped continent, but in person, larger than life.

Two months later we would move here and the enduring flame of prosperity would be re-ignited, lifting my fortitude to a higher level of triumphant conviction – something I desperately needed. The fear of congealing a plan together to make myself relevant and adequate is a journey all in itself, but this time around, I am alive with the reality of the charge. Nevertheless, Los Angeles lay in the midst of what we left behind. The transition still leaves my pen dry as I attempt to express something that only dances on the surface of what it really means to leave.

Transition period. That’s essentially what this is. Yeah, we relocated from one coast to the other, but transition means much more than hopping on a plane or getting behind the wheel and leaving. Giving way to the seasonal mix of mud and snow from the rather temperate warmth of Santa Monica was all people talked about when we mentioned the move. They asked if we could handle the snow or how we’ll possibly cope with the close confines of our new urban surroundings. But what people missed or at least neglected to mention was what it really meant to uproot ourselves from a life that we’ve tirelessly shaped. I’ve purposely neglected that conversation myself, because I’m not sure what it means.

As we watched the flakey craigslist figures come off the internet and into our home, we realized that we were really doing this. A bookcase here, a lamp there, a TV, nightstand, pot rack… and so it went. Items, complete with their own memories, left our home and entered another. The skeleton further revealed itself. Our walls emptied their frames and our rugs literally swept from under us as we prepared to leave Santa Monica.

We never had a proper goodbye. With every attempt, we needed another. When that one felt inadequate and undeserving, we’d call up another friend and try to soak up whatever it was that we were trying to salvage. But the fact was, we just weren’t good at it. Like monkeys to the crumb, we wanted every last bite of this familiar world, but the anxiety of alteration that awaited us on the far side of the country scrambled those ill-fated attempts.

Goodbyes have never been easy for me and I’ve built a formidable wall around them by simply keeping them short. I’ve grown to build Sammy that same shelter of thick skin and quick tongue so that I don’t have to suffer the sight of her breakdown either. A curbside advocate, I don’t go into airports and watch as friends and family slowly glide up the escalator and crisscross through security check. I don’t drag out the face-to-face gauche of hugs and empty promises. I simply see it as; “I’ll see you later,” because in essence, I will. It’s become a ritualistic right of passage as I’ve played hopscotch over the country from Connecticut to Vermont, and from Vermont to Utah, and Utah to Boston and Boston to Rhode Island, back to Boston, then to Los Angeles and now… New York. With each new home, long or short lived, I’d add a new crop of cherished and beloved friends and I would leave them all the same, only to see them again and again. Now Sammy and I would have to do it one more time.

My camaraderie is my harebrained way of feeling wealthy and excessive in all life has to spill out for me. To be able to push-pin friendships into the lower 48 and consider them dear is something I hold high. So when Sammy or I say, “We’ll see you soon” or “It’s no different than us living next door to you,” that’s because to us, it isn’t. Our family, extended and immediate, friend and pal, has become portable and welcomed along each mile we’ve traveled. It’s what makes us able to take opportunities as they come and run with them with smiles and grace.

When we come home and close the door behind us, we know that soon we will wake to one of those comrades hung over on the couch, sleepy-eyed by the balcony, or shyly sneaking into the bathroom before us. Like Abigail and John Adams, we revel in the idea of being Matriarch and Patriarch in our abode to a vast array of notable hearts. While our position is not deserving of such comparison, it is indeed another literary illustration on white-lined paper of a scene that simply makes us feel good and relevant for doing what we love with those that we love most.

The Before & After of Ours

 From our living room
Our old neighborhood.  The PCH in Santa Monica

 Our new waterfront stroll

Our old waterfront stroll

 The new lawn. Shared and open
 The old lawn. Quaint and ours
 Our new street

 Our old street

 Echoes. Our old abode

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