The places where we’re from.

We just returned from a trip to Kansas. A plan initially booked to bid farewell to my ailing grandmother, we unexpectedly found ourselves in the middle of a full-fledged love fest.

We put in our time at the nursing home. We spent hours entertaining my nephews with song, dance and wild rides in the Kubota. We shared stories with brothers, mothers, aunts and uncles. And the whole time one simple phrase kept going through my head: don’t forget your roots.

I’m proud of these who’ve influenced the person I am today and slightly embarrassed that I don’t go home more often. It’s now more obvious that ever why I’m so drawn to these people. Good parents—and the family that surrounds them—provide a support system unlike any other. It’s safe. It’s secure. It’s a network of kindness, built-in backup plans and places to crash.

I’ve thanked my family before. I’ve tried to keep up with phone calls, Christmas cards and birthday gifts. But this last visit was absolute proof that spending time with them is still the best way to indulge in their generosity and knowledge.

Life on the west coast is everything I could’ve ever hoped for, but my heart will always be in Kansas. At least as long as my family lives there.

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Party of three.

Since moving to San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, we’ve started eating Italian food based on proximity rather than desire. There’s spaghetti around the corner, a delicious plate of eggplant Parmesan closer than the grocery store and pizza never sounds like a bad idea after a long day at work. Never. Add in the fact that dogs are welcome at a handful of the local spots and getting the kitchen dirty at home seems downright silly.

Logic or location, we found ourselves at Tony’s last Monday sitting in the sunshine watching the world enjoy the soft glow of an abnormally warm evening. They’re good to us at Tony’s, but the star of the show is Woody the dog. The staff has gotten to know Woody and his tendency to cast his love and affection upon practically anyone who takes an interest. Servers come by every few minutes to stroke an ear. Tables full of tourists inquire about his personality and pedigree. And occasionally they’ll bring him a surprise from the kitchen.

As you can imagine, all this activity in a place that’s already bustling can create quite a scene. And it was in the middle of this swirl of mild chaos, conversation and beauty that I attempted to order meatballs. It was out of the ordinary for us and I was hoping they’d appear suddenly like a gift from the Italian protein gods.

Five minutes passed. Woody got comfortable under the table as we settled in to our corner spot. With a glass of wine in my hand and visions of the indulgent dinner we were about to consume, one of the general managers appeared.

“I have a surprise for you guys…meatballs!”

I moved forward, grabbed a fork and watched as she bypassed the table and set them down on the sidewalk in front of Woody’s sweet, watchful eyes. As he began ravenously devouring them, I realized that my order had been misinterpreted or possibly forgotten. Our table got meatballs that evening, but the only one who got to enjoy them was the rotten dog.

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Precisely.

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A perfectly timed, beautifully executed, single frame that captures the exact feeling I have when our drunk neighbors wake us up at 3:37 AM on Wednesday morning and the party doesn’t stop until roughly around the same time our alarm goes off. Thanks itspeteski

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Sleep on it.

True to all the stereotypes most of us are exposed to via network TV, anyone who works for a living has their fair share of good days and bad days. I think this is why parents preach college and careers to their stoned teenagers. But even the corporate gigs that come after all that can test people’s fortitude. Such has been the case in my life this week.

Of course, when frustration strikes the complaining to significant others begins. And Monday evening was filled with intricate details of everything that unfolded Monday afternoon. It was the kind of conversation no one really wants to have (or hear), but the whole “how was your day” ritual is an obligatory part of being in a committed relationship.

But time passed as time does and eventually Tuesday morning rolled around. We shared a cup of coffee, spoke briefly about what the day had in store and then took a short stroll through the filthy, but charming streets of our San Francisco neighborhood. We both carried a smile as the wild animal on the end of the leash lunged for discarded pizza crust in front of us. The sun was coming up and the air was crisp. It was 6:20 AM.

We wound up outside my lady’s yoga studio. She was a few minutes early. Her kiss goodbye was followed by a little advice. “Do something you enjoy this morning.”

“I already have been,” I thought, as she disappeared through the door.

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Lost and found.

These days, in the age of facial recognition, push-button fobs and coded numeric pads, keys are beginning to have some kind of old-fashioned appeal. A physical object, cut to loose specifications, that works together with a mechanical device to help make things happen.

Of course, the trouble with physical objects is that they can go physically missing.

This is the situation I found myself in early Saturday morning. We’d quickly packed the car and left the city the night before. There I sat, two hours from home in a small cabin surrounded by nature and all I could think about was a wad of silver and gold metal lost somewhere along the way. Access to front doors, back doors, basement doors, garage doors, padlocks, bike locks, seat locks—I considered all the places and things I could no longer get into or undo. We’d deliberately planned a weekend getaway, but suddenly I felt completely lost.

I checked my pocket a second time for my stray car key. The one that lives on its own. It was still there. Like a subtle suggestion that it’s the only one I really need. I looked out the window and listened to a bird sing a good morning tune next to a small waterfall. I considered the tiny apartment back in San Francisco, the rat-infested storage unit, the dingy parking garage where the ceilings ooze paint remover and considered a new perspective. Maybe the lost keys were a sign that I wasn’t supposed to go back? Maybe San Francisco is as done with me as I am done with it? Maybe I was on the verge of true mutual break-up?

Probably not.

The next day we returned to the city and the keys were on the floor of the parking garage right where I dropped them. I felt a little embarrassed. And relieved. I stuffed my custodial-grade collection into my pocket like nothing ever happened and went back to thinking about the quiet place with the bird and the waterfall.

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Warm thoughts from a cold place.

The locals are bundled and bound in winter ware and the chance of snow that was predicted last night lingers in the air. Minus the usual cast of silver, gray and white vehicles, this is a place of thoughtful design. Some things are so simple they’re confusing. In the states, we love our switches and dashboards. Here, it seems one hinge can serve three different purposes.

We wound up here on Easter Sunday. We’ve heard many things will be closed for the holiday. It’s strange to witness signs of my own family traditions at work so far from home. Comforting in a way, I suppose.

As the list of places I want to see grows, Copenhagen is definitely a place I want to see again. And good things come to those who book early.

 

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