Andrew introduced me to Interpol sometime near the end of 2002, a few months after we took over my brother’s rental home on Collinwood Avenue in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood. I don’t remember the exact date "Turn on the Bright Lights" entered the house, but listening to it now, it’s synonymous with the uncompromising glare of winter on Collinwood. The combination of little money, low job prospects and a lack of direction created a crippling, quiet intensity within me, a pent-up urgency on the constant verge of implosion. And the house was cold. So f**king cold.
Even when you’re happy, winter is like a boat without an oar that drifts you farther away from joy, and during the long first season back in the Lake Erie snowbelt, I lost sight of the simple pleasures that brighten the dark days.
All is quiet on New Year’s Day.
Except for Bono, of course.
On Dec. 10, 2020, exactly four months from the date my family and I left Boise for our new life in Ohio, my father landed in the hospital.
One of the main reasons for moving closer to our parents was making up for lost time before we started spending time in hospitals, yet here we were, only four months into it – and 15 days before Christmas – doing just that.
Every day I express my gratitude to the cosmos in my own silent way, but when we get to the end of Thanksgiving day, I’m just glad it’s over.
The saving grace of Thanksgiving, the warm quilt of redemption, is my annual viewing of John Hughes’ 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles.' The movie will never make one of those all-time-films lists, but it’s fair to call it a holiday classic, and the warmth I feel watching the movie reminds me of the warmth I felt growing up in a mostly-functional Midwestern family and the warmth I feel now in my own household. But removed from the context of the movie, the soundtrack, as a standalone listening experience, makes absolutely no sense, and like Thanksgiving, it kind of sucks.
At this time last year, as we spent the fall unpacking boxes and putting our lives back in place, I envisioned a much different day-to-day in our new environs. I thought I would sit outside more. Take more walks. Chop more wood. Modern life has pulled us away from the natural world. That notion is nothing new, but even here in my roving home office in the leafy green nowhere, with the ability to move at will, to step outside, put my feet to the earth and smell the pine-scented air around me, most days I stay put in front of the screen.
My friends and I first heard about the Nirvana show on the radio, and we could not believe our ears – not only was Nirvana coming, but Nirvana was coming to Akron, not Cleveland. It was unheard of. The biggest band in our universe was playing 10 minutes away, and on Halloween no less. We were never this close to the action; we had to be there or we absolutely would die.
It’s been a year since we moved from Boise to Northeast Ohio, and my friendships, be them near or far or old or young, are in various states of order and disorder. Whenever someone moves, all the staying-in-touch talk comes on fast and strong. Some of the talk comes from a place of genuine intent, some out of polite, yet otherwise empty social obligation. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which, and 12 months after our move, I’m standing firm with some friends, in a long wave goodbye with others, or stuck somewhere in between on shaky, undefined ground.
As summer 2021 comes to an end, we pause from the episodic format of The Suburban Abyss for a reading of an essay on a long-ago return home and the poetic and not-so-poetic embrace of the emerging fall, originally published in the out-of-print "lost" debut issue of Desperation Fanzine, a prequel of sorts to The Suburban Abyss.
Instead of skipping this week entirely, I decided to string together all eight parts of the Moving Saga, as it’s come to be known, that kicked off the start of The Suburban Abyss blog and podcast. If you’re new here, this eight-part story details how our family decided to move from Boise back to my native Northeast Ohio during the peak of the summer Covid surge in 2020. If you already know the story, this is an easy way to revisit it from start to finish. Thank you for listening.