Friday, June 11, 2010

Round on the ends and high in the middle

Watching the silent flashing yellow lights at 3 a.m. on the streets of Oberlin.

I haven't written yet about my Ohio trip, I know. As with all vacations, it came and went in a whirlwind of experiences, thoughts, conversations, moments...I feel that the trip initiated some movement and change within me, which is always productive - but writing about it in retrospect, it's difficult to capture it all. When I went to Seattle for the first time five years ago, my journal entry about it was just a mess of details. I wrote, Chai lattes, acoustic guitar on sidewalks, sketchbooks, flying fish, postmenopausal hippies, Thai food and mango bubble tea, walking everywhere, anarchy bookstores, no internet, browsing zines, pink hair, Ramen by coffeemaker, art and more art, running up 25 flights of stairs, falling asleep on windowsills, rain, thrift-store explorations, pigeons, local poets and magic tricks, the boy at Seattle's Best Coffee who thinks my name is Francesca, the drunken Scot with a lip ring who followed us around for a bit...

This trip to Ohio? Even though I saw a plethora of friends and had a zillion thoughts about myself, my past, my life path, necessary changes for the sake of my journal's seen little of it, my blog, obviously, has seen none at all so far, and my camera only has a few sparse pictures, mostly of silly things that have nothing to do with what this trip was really about for me.

What I did get to do: Truly sleep in, on more than one occasion! See a ton of friends and acquaintances alike - Oberlin kids, Elyria kids, old professors and bosses... Have a silly night out at the Joyful Mug, and in celebration of the good ol' Midwestern cost of living, buy a round of drinks for my old co-workers. Run 13 miles at French Creek. Eat at all my old favorite Oberlin restaurants (including the Feve twice in one day...yesss.) Hang out on a lot of Oberlin porches. See the new Creative Writing House, the stunning new jazz studies building, the new bagel place in town, the new green East College developments and Oberlin's first true coffeeshop, Slow Train. Listen to Julie Taymor's commencement speech (On a scale of 10, I'd give it a 6.5, but it sure beat the heck out of Richard Haass' speech at my graduation.) Stand on a folding chair and scream my head off as graduating friends' names were called. Enjoy Giovanni's pizza and watch a stunning sunset over the lake with Alan at my side. Sit out a lovely afternoon thunderstorm underneath the Mudd library ramp. Nap in the sunshine in Tappan. Drop by the Dick's store in Elyria and have lunch with Quinn. Spend a lazy afternoon in the backyard shade with (some of) Alan's family. Walk down the middle of the road at night by myself under a full (ish) moon and listen to the crickets.

What I didn't get to do: Go to Cedar Point. Have a beer at Stubby's. Belt out a duet at Loco karaoke with Aseem. Splash around in the Arb lakes. Spend any time in Cleveland whatsoever. See Quinn perform. Ride bikes on the old rail trail. Read in any of the three books I hauled with me.

But that's all right. There will always be next time. Until then... photo album!

Iconic Oberlin photo.

Ruth*, with our delightful $4.50 plate of nachos on Agave's new sidewalk terrace.
*who will be moving to Seattle in September!

Feve burger and tots. Mmm...indeed, most of the pictures I took on this trip involved food one way or another.

The ridiculously slick new jazz studies building.

Hint hint, Seattle. See? The Midwest knows how to a Happy Hour right.

CLE Airport. Oh Cleveland...

Mini Cup o' Joe report!

Cappucino, Slow Train Coffee. This place, though not perfect, beats the pants off of JavaZone.

Slow Train Coffee interior.

The strange thing about returning to any place that was once home is that it's generally about as you left it...yet you no longer occupy the same role there. You don't have a place to call your own, nor a routine to claim - but rather, you piece together an itinerary for yourself out of familiar elements in hopes of reliving a glimpse of your past, but inevitably probably falling a bit short. The one day I made it to Black River for brunch, the coffee they gave me was bitter and lukewarm, and the sausage overcooked and hard as a rock. Go figure. The new coffeeshop, Slow Train, is awesome, but aptly named; it took nearly 15 minutes for them to handle a line of four people wanting espresso drinks. The day I ran at French Creek, it was hot as hell, with 90% humidity and mosquitoes everywhere, so it hardly felt like this blissful running spot I remembered it as...and I realize that Seattle's taught me to love running hills, of which, of course, Ohio has none.

But I suppose that the big guy in the sky is just looking out for me: if, this time around, Ohio felt like the cozy blanket it once did, it would have been hard to leave. And it wasn't. I felt I got what I needed out of it - seeing the important people, being nudged to reconnect with my biggest, original passion in this life (i.e. writing), having the time to breathe for what felt like the first time in months - and it's clear to me that since returning to Seattle, I've been in a much better, calmer, Zen-like state of mind than I have been in awhile. I was definitely in need of a vacation - but, I'm also happy to be back in my new home, where things are familiar and cozy and full of friends, decent coffee, spectacular baristas, hills aplenty, and fresh, cool mountain air.

I love checking out the patchwork farms from the plane window as much as the next person, but mountain peaks are cool, too.

Sigh. Isn't she lovely? I'm still in the honeymoon phase.


  1. Loved this entry, Yitka! I'm so excited to one day soon go back to Oberlin, but I feel like I'll have a very similar experience to the one you had. I suppose it's fortunate that we as humans find ways to love the places where we are, but it's hard not to remember the great things about where we were.

    Also, that Feve burger looks beyond delicious, and I can't believe Oberlin has a real coffee shop finally!

  2. Heey again :)
    was just reading around a bit aan a few words caught my attention immidiately: "My original passion: WRITING!"

    well i can definately connect to that phrase!

    writing is just my one love in this crazy world ;)

    I feel like now ive grown a little older, we ought to have a few looooooong conversations to make up for all the years weve missed because of translation problems ;)