Can you go home again?

Art picked me up from the John Wayne airport. As we turned into Campus, then the 55, then Newport, I was struck by how much I missed Orange County. The streets were wide and clean and welcoming, how the air seemed cleaner and much more open, how everyone’s tattoos were less grungy, and people wore their clothing easily. The lights on the freeway twinkled like stars. Everything seemed romantic and bathed in SoCal air.

Seeing Amir, Art and Reza again made me feel like nothing had changed in the year and a half that I’d been away; at the Avalon, Reza talked about his new kicks. Amir was (late as usual) editing another film. Art had lost 20 pounds and grew a mustache. Chris was nowhere to be found. Shanks and the Dreamers was now a two-piece; the new songs were more Massive Attack than Sonic Youth. Drunk, we snagged tacquitos from Alfredo’s; the last time I ate there, I was with Marla and Ben, and some dude randomly gave us roses at the drive through. We ended up at La Cave, with Amir asking if I’d ever been there before. I glared at him: “I forgot you lived here,” he laughed.

Today Dennis, Annette and I had indian food. They were watching a show at the Grove, so we made plans to hang out. As usual he complained about how far Cameo was, I forgot to give him the gate code and we got lost on Jamboree. It was my bad memory at fault; I couldn’t figure out which exit came before which. I didn’t know if it seemed totally normal — familiar, business as usual — that I was in Tustin again, where my cel phone didn’t have service and exits were miles away. But it seemed like I had never left, that we were reenacting scenes that had taken place last week, last year, five years ago.

It’s the same at Tita Veekee’s house. Spending time with 14 members of my family is harder than ever; we’re in the Midwest, Eddie lives in Australia, my mom and Titale in the Philippines. But we have the same drama, the same jokes, the same chaotic craziness that just bubbles up when we’re all in one place. I saw Sarapot for the first time in more than a year; I forgot how much I missed her and we fell asleep talking on the couch. Ethan heard us cackling at 3a.m. last night. “You guys were so loud,” he said.

It’s going to be 10 more days of hanging out with my friends at places that meant a lot to me. I am totally excited, waiting to get sucked in. Five years ago I wrote Mario: “I’m taking The Longest Vacation, Ever!” Make this The Longest Vacation, Ever! Part 2.

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