I’m back in the mellow haze of Thanksgiving, that good tryptophan groove that starts after the dinner and then just gets better after the late evening round of turkey-stuffing-potatoes-gravy. This food-induced trip is part of an actually trip back to Fargo, where I’m spending a couple of days with mom, dad, and my oldest brother’s family, before returning to Minneapolis tomorrow.
Before the feast began, I got quick run in to get primed for eating. As I unpacked my running cloths, I realized that I brought two different running shoes, my three-year-old pair of Asics and my one-year-old pair, so I ran unevenly through north Fargo, with one foot in the past and one in the present. I jogged around the old neighborhood, as I often do when I’m home, past the old house on Ninth Street, past Ben Franklin Jr. High, finally reading Fargo North high school on 17th Ave. The wind was blowing the light flurries of snow in my face as looped back toward home along 3rd Street, and as I cruised through the home stretch I began to feel an odd soreness in my left foot and tightness in my right leg, as if my body was having trouble adjusting to the mismatched shoes.
I’m always glad to be back in Fargo for whatever time I get, but this trip feel a bit short for reflection, for reconsidering my sense of Home, as I always do when I’m here. I flew into the Twin Cities on Tuesday, stayed over night with my other brother Jeff that night, drove with my other brother to Fargo Wednesday while watching movies in the Suburban, and then will drive back tomorrow. Shuttling between Boston, Minneapolis, and Fargo should be routine by now, and I guess I should appreciate the chance to touch base with these places on a fairly regular basis. But this time feels rushed, like I’m being slightly rude by glancing at my watch and excusing myself before we’ve really had a chance to catch up.
Yesterday morning as I was riding up Commonwealth Avenue by Boston College, on the backside of Heartbreak Hill on the Boston Marathon route, I saw to young men gliding down the sidewalk on Segway Human Transporters at about 10 mph. It was suprising, to say that least, and I had no idea who these people could be. It seems like an expensive way to get to class, though I wouldn’t put it past some wealthy BC students.
Then this morning I read an article in the Boston Globe (“On the Roll Again: Five Take Scooters on 4,000-mile Trek“) that offered an explanation. It turns out that five twenty-something guys hopped on their scooters in California on August 9th and have been traveling at 10 miles-an-hour across the country ever since. It appears I was lucky enough to cross paths with them on the home stretch, less than 8 miles from finishing their journey.
I once test-rode a Segway in an extremely vivid dream I had just after they hit the market. The dream was so clear that I genuinely feel as if I’ve experienced this innovative form of transportation, and I must say it was pretty fun. But when I woke up, the $5,000 price tag as a bit too real for my wallet, and it wasn’t clear exactly how this human transporter could revolutionize the way we get around without first dealing with the bigger issues of SUV’s and suburban sprawl.
While the Segway is a technological marvel, I still think the bicycle is hard to rival as one of the most efficient and pleasurable forms of transportation we’ve come up with so far. What scares me most is the idea that one day I will find myself stuck in traffic on a freeway somewhere and will wonder if my years of biking for transportation were just a dream, a foolish fantasy never to survive past my graduate school years. But I’m strangly inspired by the foolish journey of these Segway riders, and I wonder if we’re all trying to get in touch with something deeply spiritual about transportation, a sense that how get around matters in more profound ways that we are usually able to realize.
Yesterday when I made public my profession of love for Boston, several
folks responded with some insightful reflections on the nature of commitment to place.
I should add that it took me six years to finally say “I love you”, which indicates the commitment issues I’ve been having. It’s also a bit frustrating that I finally have reached this point just as I begin to face the possibility of a major move in the next year or two (provided I actually finish my dissertation and get a job of some kind). But I’ve decided that when I leave, I want to miss this place rather than hedge my bets now in order to make the process of leaving easier.
I agree with Jarret and Jean’s suggestion that the marriage analogy has it’s limits in this context. Lorianne makes these limits more clear she wonders if moving=divorce or loving two places = bigamy. However, I think Pica’s idea of having some kind of ritual that reflects one’s commitment to place is worth considering. It seems blogging about place is a kind daily ritual of commitment (in the same we have daily ways of signalling commitment to those we are with), but something more formal would be interesting.
Perhaps such a ritual is particularly important for those of us who have nomadic tendencies, who are trying to rediscover a deep sense of place, or who are compelled for whatever reason to move often. The challenge for us is to figure out what our ethical, spiritual, and artistic responsiblities are to a place no matter whether we live there for two years or twenty. And in some ways, it’s the two years that’s the real challenge.
Any thoughts on what rituals of place commitment might look like? To what extent is writing part of this process? I may have to think about this a bit more.
Biking to Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge: 750 calories
Overpriced hotel orange juice: $4
Overpriced breakfast sandwich $9
Conversation with Fred: priceless
After three and half hours of conversation about blogging, place, education, and life, we were just getting warmed up, and by the end of the moring I felt a genuine intellectual kinship with this person that I had never met in person before this morning. Looking back, it now seems both amazing and utterly natural to meet up in Cambridge on Monday morning and chat with a blogger from Virginia. It seems fitting that place blogging should at times spill off the screen into a breakfast meeting or a walk in the woods (see Lorianne’s account of meeting Fred on Sunday), and it give me hope that we can find ways to use new media to connect to both places and people in deeper ways.
As I was biking back along the Charles, I found myself admitting to myself that I love Boston and I love my work, both my disseration project and my instructional design work at BC. While I don’t sense that I’m “married” to this place, as Fred is able to say about Floyd County, this statement of committment is important for me to begin saying to myself and to others in order to fully be here, for however long that may last. Sure, I’ve grown to really like being in Boston and I generally have been happy with with my work the last year or two, but it was important to me to actually say it.
Last night I biked down to Copley Square to be near the Kerry festivities. At around 2:00 a.m. I rode home slowly up Comm. Ave through a
light drizzle, feeling profoundly disoriented, not quite sure what country I had ended up in by night’s end.
This morning I considered posting an all black entry with no words, but it felt melodramatic. Instead, I just tried to focus on anything bright, like the sun on the maple leaves outside my third floor landing.
This morning I was a week ahead for my meeting with Fred at his hotel by MIT. Apparently I got it in my mind that it was this Monday rather than next Monday that we were going to get breakfast, so my mistake gave me a convenient excuse to bike along the Charles on a gorgeous fall morning. All along the way, the city skyline was framed by trees in color and I had to stop several times to snap photos. Hopefully there will still be some leaves on trees next Monday when I Fred and I actually connect.