“I was born very far from where I was supposed to be, so I’m on my way home.” -- Bob Dylan
I was surrounded by dentists and drag queens on the corner of 4th and Howard, each wary of the presence of the other. Waiting for the crosswalk light to turn white, the fellow next to me fixed his six inch pumps and asked me, “Do you know where the Love Parade is?”
“Sorry man,” I replied. “Love is one of those things some of us weren’t meant to find.”
Getting the reflective distance necessary to evaluate such an adventure takes a few days. Jet lag gives your brain tunnelvision; it is functioning almost like it should, except the peripheral thoughts that keep us all company are a shambling goo. The “thank yous” to waitresses get back to English from Russian. The signal attenuator for English language goes from 11 back to 0. Morning tea turns to coffee, BBC World is replaced by San Francisco Chronicle, and cold stares at my hair shift to warm amused smiles. I catch up on the new release in movies (3:10 to Yuma), music (Foo Fighters, New Found Glory), and video games (Team Fortress 2). I’m returning to the life I left and the jackets aren’t quite fitting the same. The transition isn’t easy, but inevitable.
Near instantly, my gastrointestinal system goes into high fructose induced shock. The first four days in Russia I had a similar problem as my body expelled all the artificial flavors and preservatives had ingrained a certain level of expectation in the system that keeps the human machine running. The introduction of real sugar in the Coca-Cola, real meat in the salami, and real rye in the bread was enough for my body to tell all the yellow number 5 and MSG to kindly get the fuck out. The first four days the shit couldn’t get out fast enough. It was like I was eating real food for the first time and the whole of my abdomen was extremely fucking confused.
Returning to the ways of old has the gut traffic jammed up like Monday morning on Highway 101. As I pick up the Metamucil from the corner drug store, the woman behind the counter chuckles. She can laugh all she wants -- in three days I know which restroom I’m going to visit.
On the flight to St. Petersburg I watched No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese’s recent documentary of Bob Dylan. A fitting overture to this Russian opera, Dylan describes his principal motivation for this place called “home.” Having come close but never quite, I can sympathize. Already the swath I’ve cut through this planet’s bountiful harvest is longer than most. And in every corner of this earth I have the privilege of seeing I see in the eyes and in the hearts of humans an earnest sense of belonging. The very real sparkle in the eye of one identifying oneself as home.
Some of these folks found it immediately. Some have found it after travels longer than mind. Education pulling oneself from agrarian Nigeria to the capital of Russian cosmopolita. National duty sending one from the outer reaches of Siberia to Cold War listening posts on the South Pole. The business of video games getting a self-proclaimed East Coast punk stuck in Warsaw.
Travelers all, the best we can hope for is a clear road and good company a fair part of the way. These friends we make and these hearts we break along the way serve as the guideposts to finding our way home. Little angels whose angles are best when perpendicular to our own, giving us the strong turns on the path that effect the real change we wish to live.
I don’t know if I am any closer to home after visiting St. Petersburg.
But I do know the way back if it is there.