This time, Buffalo.
I didn’t know where to land—or maybe how to land. But Buffalo has always been softening my falls, which might be the “worry” about moving home—is it too easy? Is it motivated by fear? Is it a regression?
American culture devalues homecoming. The “return” is exile: isolated in your parent’s basement, overwhelmed by debt or immaturity, ridiculed for your failures or shortcomings. Take Wayne’s World as an example of the basement-dwelling-peter-pan-syndrome—there are countless movies that show delayed adolescence and the shifting definition of what it means to be an adult: Elf, Cyrus, Big Fan, Our Idiot Brother, and even The Royal Tenenbaums deal with our uncertainties about growing up.
I’m not sure the definitions of being an adult have changed as much as opportunities. The Great Recession is still influencing our careers and our job security, and some of the conversations about what will “bring” jobs seem precariously tied to what will also undermine public space, creativity, free time, and the environment. While I am moved by the “creative class” and conversations about work-place freedom, I am less certain this is a “revolt” and more curious about the contexts: I know so many people who interned with the “promise” of a job, took part time work because of a “carrot,” and had contracts that were ignored or changed. My own small family has dealt with false promises, handshake deals, and salaries that never made it to our paychecks. For more conversation about what motivates homecoming, “Boomerang Kids”, a series by Photographer Damon Casarez, hits a pretty personal note right now. Regarding the “creative class,” I am pro any arts endeavors and I hope we can continue the conversation to ensure that the arts do not always facilitate “hip” neighborhoods, but also work to encourage community, self awareness, and deeper connections to the environment. I think Buffalo is pioneering growth pretty intelligently with work that vales transferrable skills: urban farming and direct training programs.
I am back home. And it isn’t because of debt, immaturity, or laziness (all the stereotypes of our American homecoming), but it’s because we did pretty “okay” for ourselves and discovered that we still wanted community, family, and a sense of home. We were nostalgic for lakes and rivers, and we really needed values and connections. In Buffalo, I am reminded of Niedecker’s “Look around, dear head, you’ve never read / of the ground that takes you away.” Here, there is a reconciliation between my desire to root and still be able to move and grow. There’s room.