An old friend of mine came into town for the weekend from Colorado. We didn't get a chance to hook up, but the tone of the messages she left made it obvious that she was excited about being back, and looking forward to seeing the old friends and hitting the old hangouts, if only for a day or two.
Those messages — coupled with the fact that the presence of several new Planet staffers has me constantly trying to come up with things to recommend that they see and do — got me wondering what I, and others, might miss, were we to get gone and stay there.
Like many Bay area residents in my age bracket who are both a little creative and delusional enough to suspect the whole world needs to know about it, I think about relocating every once in a while. That's particularly true toward the end of the year, when the realization that another 12 months have come and gone leads to a quiet, personal stock-taking — you know, examining recent events, listing accomplishments, wondering if some opportunity is waiting or gradually slipping away somewhere else.
But I don't know if I give enough thought to all of the stuff I'd be giving up if I ever did go.
I'm not talking about the big, obvious things, like friends and loved ones — as anybody who's left the area for a bigger, cooler city can tell you, you're gonna get plenty of visits from them anyway — or the apartment that just recently achieved the perfect, homey amount of lived-in-ness. I'm talking about the little things, the sights and places and meals that range from notable first experiences, to habits, to struts in the latticework of our day-to-day lives. The crap that makes or breaks a day or a week, but that you don't really notice, except perhaps at the moment of makeage or breakage.
Personally, it's easier for me to pinpoint the shit I wouldn't miss. I wouldn't miss driving the stretch of U.S. 19 running from Pinellas Point Drive to, oh, right around Tallahassee. Or the convenience store down the street from my house, where they lock the doors and resort to the pass-drawer at 10 p.m. every night, inspiring colorful obscenities from customers who don't know the proper sign language for "one 12-pack of Natural Light, two large bags of pork skins — spicy, not regular — and four Phillies Blunts." Or the way the cops sometimes stand on the embankment at the north end of the Howard Frankland, pointing the radar gun right at you, digital Dirty Harry-style.
On the other hand, though, there are probably a million things I take for granted that I couldn't enjoy anywhere else. Like a burger from El Cap or buffalo wings from Ferg's. Like sitting in Peaches' car at Fun-Lan Drive-In, eating a box of fried chicken and watching whatever regrettable horror or comedy flick happened to come out that weekend. Like that tiny concrete pier at the end of Pass-A-Grille, where I once nearly ruined a sunset wedding by hooking a large, groom-distracting snook while fishing nearby. Like traipsing through NCNB Park in downtown Tampa after last call, trying not to step on the sleeping homeless.
I made some calls and sent some e-mails to friends who've managed the impressive trick of moving away, and not yet moving back. I haven't had many responses so far. (It is the holidays and all, but I can't help feeling like one of the things they don't miss is my penchant for mining personal relationships for material.) One guy who did get back to me was Aaron Kant, a Clearwater native and professional session drummer who's now based out of Brooklyn. And he knew exactly what I was talking about:
"La Teresita, Anjelica's [the now-defunct Ybor restaurant], that Thai lunch buffet on Kennedy," he wrote. "The corner of 15th Street and Seventh Avenue in Ybor driving over the Courtney Campbell Causeway (my favorite drive ever), and of course the vibe at The Hub at around 2:30 [a.m.], right before the lights get turned on and it seems like anything could happen and my mom awake at any hour, offering me food."
Those are just a few of the things that made the Bay area home for one individual. We've all got 'em, but we probably don't think about them all that much, because they're always there when we need them. It's the details, and the way we interact with them, that make a place resonate, bring it to life.
And while a lot of us might love the same restaurants or sunset spots or dive bars or sports arenas or parks, we've also each got places that are special to us for reasons that are as singular as we are.
So what would you miss if you left?
Let me know.