Hello, hello, hello, hello
Is it gonna last?
Why don’t you come and take me with you?
And so I know you had to go
I’m dreaming of the past
An echo of the years we passed through
The litmus test for Local Pride is probably this: when you’re going home, and your city shows up on the road signs, how do you feel? When you write down your city on the customs declaration form, how do you feel? When you tell someone where you live, how do you feel?
I currently reside in Pennsylvania, in a town containing within it every single negative of big-city life and absolutely none of the positives. And let me tell you, when any of the above happens to me, it doesn’t feel very good. I don’t want pity (“Good, ‘cos you ain’t gettin’ any.”), I just want you to know where I’m coming from here.
There’s this forum I’ve been on since 2007. When I was on the other side of the world, I listed my location as “Sydney, Australia.” It’s one of those little things, but it was absolutely amazing, being able to say, “I am from Sydney.” There aren’t very many cities that can do that for me.*
I experienced this again on my way back to the States. On the flight to Los Angeles, I had the good fortune of sitting next to someone else who had also been studying in Sydney. We mostly kept to ourselves, but there was this one conversation we had, while waiting for the plane to take off.
Me So, are you from LA, or are you changing planes there?
She Changing planes.
Me To where?
She Seattle. You?
Me New York.
I didn’t tell her that from New York I was going somewhere else, because I knew that this would probably be the only time in my life I would effectively get to say, “I am from New York.” It was electric. When you think your hometown is hell on earth, feeling pride about where you “live” is the greatest thing in the world. It’s something you savor.
Some time ago, during a slow day at work, I found myself watching a Missy Higgins video. I am not a Missy Higgins fan. (This is not to say that I think her music sucks. That’s to say I’m totally indifferent to her stuff, and if you’re a fan I’m not going to think any less of you as a human being.) But someone at work is, and thus did I find myself watching the video. But anyway.
The video was for her song, “Steer.” I was sort of half-watching it, while reading a book, right up until I noticed the skyline behind her seemed awfully familiar. At which point Missy had my full attention, because the skyline in question was Sydney’s. Then there was a scene where she drives out of a crash test center (apparently she works there as a dummy) and drives over a bridge and into the bush. I think it’s supposed to symbolize breaking out of workaday drudgery or something, I don’t know, because all I could think at that point was, oh my God, I recognise that bridge!
It wasn’t the Harbour Bridge. It was a totally nondescript bridge over the Cooks River, in an equally nondescript industrial/suburban area of the Inner West. It’s something you’d pick up on only if you used to live there.
And then I immediately went all blubbery and nostalgic because I remembered I don’t live there anymore.
Recently, I wound up idly thinking about potentially spending a week in Sydney next year, if all my travel plans fall through, and I soon found myself hoping that that’s exactly what would happen.**
I’ve decided that’s a good thing. It means Sydney has left enough of an impact on me that I want to return. I suppose I already knew that; I go to school with someone who also used to live in Sydney (2000-2003), and I still recall the time we got really excited when we remembered how many Maccas there were on Broadway/George Street.***
I suppose it also helps in some way that, although I wasn’t there very long, I thought of myself more as a resident than a tourist and thus didn’t do very many touristy things when I was there. I never went to Melbourne or Brisbane or New Zealand. I didn’t go to a single museum. I went to the beach, the zoo, the Opera House, and the Bridge. That’s it. It wasn’t the big things that really made Sydney for me; it was the coffeehouses and the get-togethers and seeing that really excellent cover band perform in World Square.
And that, I guess, is my biggest fear. That the coffeehouses will all have closed, that all my friends will have moved out, that the cover band will have moved on to better pastures. That I’m holding on to Sydney-as-fantasy and all I’ll see when I come back I will judge against that fantasy and not on its own terms. That was something I did when I first moved there, and I was horribly depressed for a whole month before I let all my preconceptions of Sydney fall away and just accept it for what it was. It did me a world of good.
It’s going to be harder the next time around, because it’s all going to come in at once. Whenever that happens. Going back in 2012 is not very likely. But I will return, eventually, I’ll make sure of it. Because I miss this city so very much.
The shock of change I’ll just have to deal with as it comes.
Hey, if you want to see this general theme addressed a zillion times better, by someone who does much more than angst and talk about himself, go read these four posts. It’s from a fellow who is, at heart, a Chicagoan, who has lived in the Chicago area for pretty much all his life. For the past year and a half, however, he’s been exiled in Dallas, a town he hates about as much as I hate mine. And that’s just how things were.
Until he got a job offer. In Chicago. This is what moving to a place that is really, truly your capital-H Home feels like.
*Besides Sydney, I can name three: New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Osaka also kinda sorta do this, but nowhere near as much. Ultimately, however, it is only these four cities in which I can seriously entertain putting down roots.
**Did I or did I not say it was privileged whining?
***I know it seems silly on paper, but never ever underestimate the power of shared memories. In Down Under, Bryson mentions eating at a fish-and-chips joint in Watsons Bay, and I was like, holy crap, I ate there, too! Let’s be friends!