June 30, 2011
The hometown tour
I’ve known Artist Friend for ten years now, and I mostly see him at conferences. We’re always exploring cities together: eating in restaurants, wandering the streets, and finding cool places to hang out. I met his youngest brother when a conference took us to Big City Like No Other, and I met his other brother when they stopped at my house on their way to the mountains for a camping trip. I’ve met his wife and his son when they’ve come along to conferences.
But last week was the first time I’ve visited his hometown.
We turned the Friendly Green Conference into a roadtrip. For two days before the conference, and a day after, Artist Friend drove me around the part of the country where he’s pretty much lived his entire life.
We went to a museum filled with airplanes — literally, hundreds of real airplanes — and a small brick building where the Wright Brothers repaired bicycles. We walked through a mansion once owned by a rich dead person, where the closets had flowered wallpaper and curved wooden shelves, and we sat by the fireplace in the library. We explored an old train station with a huge domed ceiling and tried to climb up behind the windows in the front. Artist Friend has a fine disregard for rules, and he happily took me up staircases and behind doors that should have been locked. This was mostly fun, except for the moment when a door locked behind us, which freaked me out a little until we found a way out several floors below.
He took me to the river where he fishes, and he insisted that I take a couple of casts with his fishing pole. During a downpour, we took a wet walk to the creek where he played as a kid. He pointed out houses and apartments where he’s lived, campuses where he’s gone to school, and the garage where he once built a canoe. (“I bet there’s still shellac on the floor,” he said.)
When we stopped at his home, his teenage son gave me a tour. I saw all the things I know from ten years of email: the birdhouse he and his son built, the stone steps he spent a summer building, the table he built from a tree that fell in his parents’ yard, his butterfly paintings, and the big brown chair in his study where he sits when we skype.
At the end of the trip, just before I had to fly back home, we stopped at the house where his mother still lives, and I met his Mom. After ten years, it felt good to be able to give her a hug and let her know how much I appreciate her son.
Posted by jo(e)