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Here’s The Thing With Going To New Places

Here’s The Thing With Going To New Places

When you are in someplace new, you notice shit like this.

When you are in someplace new, you notice shit like this.

While I was on my trip last week, I got a couple chances to go out and look around downtown Chicago. I did this by deciding to run outside instead of in the gym, and though it wasn’t very comfortable because of the heat, it was worth it to see Milennium Park, which happens to be very close to the hotel where I was staying, and think about how cool it must have been to be there last November with all those people. I also saw some interesting article that I suspected must have been by Frank Gehry, but I didn’t have a good camera with me, so I didn’t take any pictures. Which is too bad because I think they would have been cool.


I’ve never been much for travel writing myself, but the thing with going new places or moving new places is that there’s a perspective you get for the first say, six months that you live somewhere new, and it’s like an outsider perspective that you retain before you become one of the natives. You notice stuff. You look around and evaluate your surroundings in a way that just doesn’t seem to happen after you’ve been somewhere for a while.

In Phoenix, "upscale marketing" means targeting people in flip flops and cutoff jeans, with travel pillows around their necks.

I remember when I moved to Los Angeles (the actual city, rather than just the surrounding communities, in which i’d lived growing up), I had all kinds of thoughts and experiences about LA that were bubbling over in my brain all the time. I would think about how the signs affected us, the traffic as a kind of lifeforce to the city, and I assure you that however hackneyed it may sound now, it was all very poetic at the time. The thing is, I didn’t write it down of course. I just thought it, entertained some vague ideas about maybe writing a book someday, and now when I try to go back and get those things, they’re lost. Because I cannot see LA as an outsider anymore, however much I might make fun of it or despise certain aspects of it, I’m a part of it now and my experience is woven into it.

Going to Chicago–a city I’ve been to before but not for a few years–reminded me of this. It seemed like all the stuff was begging me to write about it, or at least begging me to snark about it. Or maybe it was the wake of the conference? I don’t know. But it occurred to me that the value of blogging to the aspiring writer is that need to write all the time, if not every day then at least several times a week. It makes you better, even if you cannot see it all the time. And things don’t get away from you like they do when you just sit in traffic, thinking about how some day you will write it all down.

On the way to Chicago, there, and on the way home I was looking at everything and really seeing it for the first time in a long time. And I had all kinds of ideas. Which is good, because there are like three other conferences this year I’m going to have to go to, and if I have to take time away from my boys to go to them, it’s good to have a feeling like I’m on the right path.

Sometimes you have to step outside of your little zone to get inspiration. Sometimes you have to put yourself outside of the story to learn how to narrate it.

Comments (8)

  1. Jul 31, 2009

    Those are compression socks. They’re supposed to help your legs recover sooner after a workout. Cyclists are wearing them too.

    I’m glad you’re on the right path. That’s a good feeling. 🙂

  2. Jul 31, 2009

    I found out that’s what they were, but it still doesn’t explain why they were wearing them in order to get on a plane. Is this an athletic event now?

  3. Jul 31, 2009

    Most athletes wear them after an intense run or workout for several hours, sometimes the entire day. A few runners wear them while they run, but they’re used primarily for recovery. 🙂

  4. Jul 31, 2009

    But, but, I got to the airport at 5:00 am. Do you see the timestamp on my tweet there? Am I to believe that these people got up at 3am and biked to the airport, thereby necessitating the use of compression socks? And here’s an idea: How about wearing pants instead of engaging in this whole legwarmer fiasco?

  5. Jul 31, 2009

    Why isn’t anyone else up in arms about this behavior? You are all acting like it is sane. 🙂

  6. Jul 31, 2009

    I knew someone whose doctor made her wear those when she flew, because she had just had surgery and was apparently prone to blood clots, which I guess are more likely when you fly. If there’s a medical reason, I can see that (although I’d wear pants then).

    I remember seeing Milwaukee that way when I moved here from LA. I had never been here before I came to look for an apartment, and it was a culture shock. Then I moved to DC (and had another culture shock), and then I moved back to Milwaukee (and had the same one all over again). Now I’ve been here too long, because those giant Packer sweatshirts don’t look as bizarre to me as they used to.

  7. Jul 31, 2009

    I can’t relate to the compression socks thing. I read a lot about running and have learned quite a bit from others, but I haven’ felt the need to do this. Or take ice baths. I’ll recover slowly instead thank you.
    But the point of your post is great. Five years away from my last job, I am not just five years smarter (OK, some might argue nowhere near five years smarter), but I have a new perspective. A perspective that might give me a whole different view of my world at that time.

    Keep exploring, it’s good for the soul and good for your readers.

  8. Jul 31, 2009

    Unless these people were flying off to China, I can’t imagine why they’d need compression socks on a plane. I don’t think there’s much chance of a blood clot on a 3-hour flight.

    I remember feeling positively *assaulted* all the time when I first moved to SC. Everything was so different all I could do was notice and make comparisons. I couldn’t turn it off, and it was exhausting. And like you, I told myself I’d write about it someday. Sigh.

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