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.
We’ve officially been in Ohio a year now, and I’ve already spent more time mowing the lawn than I did in 15 years living in Boise.
That’s not an exaggeration. In Boise, it took 20 minutes to mow our tiny lot’s dusty lawn. Here on nearly an acre of land in Hudson, it takes two hours to complete. The sensible and/or wealthy ones in town own riding mowers or farm out the job to professional landscapers, but my bullish blue-collar roots won’t allow either, and besides, I want the exercise. Lastly, but most importantly, I’ve found friends to keep me company on the grass in the Grateful Dead.
In November 2005, I moved to Boise with a duffle bag of clothes, a Sony Discman and a Case Logic CD binder, and the first place I slept was the couch in my brother’s basement. It was meant to be a stopgap, a temporary measure to save money while my wife, Erica, stayed back in New Hampshire until our house sold. We figured it would only be a month or so. It ended up being four and some change, but for my own comfort and sanity, I bolted from the basement long before Erica landed in Boise on April 1, 2006.
In a micro sense, my return trip in July resembled those initial weeks in Boise 16 years ago. Twenty-four hours before my daughter, Magnolia, and I were to touch down on the tarmac, our lodging for the 16-day trip fell through, so I texted Travis to see if we could crash with his family until we sorted it out. But shortly into our stay, it became clear that, unless we ponied up for a hotel or Airbnb, we were stuck squatting on the basement sectional until the bitter end.
The Suburban Abyss returns from its summer break with my first-ever guests, record collectors/lifelong music fans Travis Dryden and John O’Neil, who spent an hour with me in Boise discussing the highs and lows of Sting’s recorded output with the Police and as a solo artist.
I had started thinking about the album on a run after the humidity against my skin and the pre-storm static in the air transported me back to the summer of ’97, and revisiting "OK Computer" that afternoon ultimately led me back to "Kid A," because it always gets back to "Kid A." "Kid A" exists at the opposite end of the Radiohead spectrum, far away from the artful guitar squall of "OK Computer," and even though its temperature is cooler – icy, even – it’s still a summer album to me.
I didn’t know what to expect when I landed in Boise on a hot and sunny Thursday afternoon. Shortly after arriving, having reconnected with my brother and a work world I had only seen through Zoom since August, I took a short walk through downtown, my head in a daze of post-flight fatigue and sensory overload. Whenever she flies, Erica talks about waiting for her soul to catch up with her, and this walk was my attempt to slow down and allow mine to find its way back to me. As I strolled by old haunts and new storefronts, past the familiar and foreign, it became clear that it could take me a while to feel right, to feel present.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ on June 22, this week’s transmission diverts from the episodic format of The Suburban Abyss for a reading of an essay on Neil Young’s “Sugar Mountain,” originally published in the out-of-print "lost" debut issue of Desperation Fanzine.
Shopping at Costco is something like a hero’s quest with multiple narrative conflicts: man against man, man against society and, most importantly, man against self. In every direction, Costco leads you into temptation – vats of sugar and fat, tubs of chemical dipping goop, sensible slacks that share a brand name with the giant jar of minced garlic – and everything is priced to deliver you straight to the doorstep of your evil consumerist impulses.