This is me in an indeterminate Starbucks in an indeterminate location. (Actually I was in the Chevy Chase location in Lexington, Kentucky sometime in winter, but roll with me.) The thing about places is that they are all different even though they are all the same. I am not trying to be opaque here; hear me out. With the way that the internet and media in general connects us all and lets us all into the big and little secrets of other places, it is hard to feel sometimes that anything is unique. Recently as I have visited new towns I start looking for the categorical locations that must exist there: the whimsically cute gift shop where ladies lunch, the grungy record shop that has a small cache of vintage items that most of us probably shouldn’t wear but always want to, and the greasy spoon restaurants that nicely jive with memories that have been given a soft glow by nostalgia (these memories defy indigestion and sticky tables); these are only a few of the “types;” we could certainly go on.
I mentioned in the last post that we have had a lot of changes since I fell off the blog train, and they have been big ones. We moved states away, John is headed to Divinity School, and I am no longer a teacher and instead in the lea of a job search, and while change is good and these particular changes are good, I am a lover of routine and familiarity. I like to know my places and my people and to know right where they are. You are probably thinking that I have a lot of room to grow, and I do, and you are right, and I am framing this move that way (most of the time).
But back to these places, you would think that having these categorical places would be comforting to a routine hound like myself, but instead I have found myself pondering the metaphysical qualities of it all. I had a surreal moment in which the clocks on the wall might have actually turned into puddles in a JoAnn’s fabric. Thrilling I know. I had been in this store before; I had seen these wares; the chintz and calico and flannel were the same as they had always been arranged in a color gradiation from beige, to puce, to Christmas, to prom dress, and yet this was a place I had never been. The same feeling got me at Target and the neighborhood coffee place that wasn’t exactly my coffee place. We are infinitely familiar with all the faces of these places yet just like any human doppelganger there is no substitute for the original. It has been unsettling at first, remember I am the one you loves the familiar, but last week I triumphantly reported back to John that I found the Marshall’s that “felt” right (Maybe I do believe in Feng Shui?), and slowly I am finding my equivalents, musing that Parker and Otis could be my new Wallace Station and Guglhupf Bakery could (possibly, though this one will take considerable time) be a replacement for my beloved Magees. (Someone please bring me a glazed donut!) Places don’t become our own too easily; we have to earn them and that is the way it should be, and just to even the score, they have to earn us too. I am looking forward to earning my places and new friends; cheers to Durham becoming the new normal.