Friday, August 22, 2008

For all the nobody people like me....a love letter to my hometown

This is an open love letter to my hometown; possibly the most honest I’ve ever written. Lots of you will either not get it or scoff at it, and that is fine. Just remember all of it when you complain about Tuscaloosa around me so I can save a breath or twelve.

Tuscaloosa is in fact what most people say it is. It is a college town. It is a place where The Crimson Tide and College Football might as well be religion. It is certainly a party town. It is a world of its own with a unique feel; somewhere between a quiet, tight knit community like Montevallo and the city/suburb dichotomy of Birmingham. Some have said that “there is nothing here” and have been, and always will be completely wrong. There is much, much more to my home than meets the eye. These examples may mean nothing to the cynical ivory tower dweller with his or her bags packed and ready to move to whatever city might be hip this year, and that is fine. They are presented as a reminder to myself and others who struggle with the love/hate relationship that is growing up here. If you know, you know, and this is for you.

It is riding your bike up and down the hills of Northwood Lake as a kid and feeling completely free. It is entire summers spent at the NWL pool, diving off the lifeguard stand when no one was looking, being in awe of the older girls (or guys), trying to talk to them and failing miserably, and all the random mischief that took place as soon as the sun went down and the gate was locked. It is a random winter where it happened to snow, and feeling like we were transported to some foreign arctic land, if only for a day.

It is the fear of leaving the comfort of elementary school for Riverside and its two floors, field house, log cabin, and endless walls of lockers. It is being dropped off at said school and having to wait in the parking lot until the doors opened, forging friendships with any other misfits you could find. It is bad lunchroom food, first loves, fights, vodka in a water bottle on the bus, stacks of napkins, bent forks, and coaches who seemed to speak entirely different languages. It is hopeless crushes on Mormon girls, being tossed out of high school parties in Crown Pointe only to go back and egg the house later. It is somehow discovering and falling in love with punk rock along the way, thanks to George and Chuck at Vinyl Solution (the only love that has stuck around).

It is moving on up to County High (The real building, not the slick food court meets prison that exists now), hanging out in the gravel lot with misfits old and new, asking Senior girls to Prom, almost wrecking the Driver’s Ed car, and subsequently going down Skyland to take your driving test and barely passing. It is holding your first girlfriend’s hand for the first time at City Fest and feeling unstoppable. It is staying up all night at Boone Cabin and jumping off the deck into Lake Tuscaloosa to wake yourself up and prepare for another day without worry. It is getting your first job and feeling like you have money to burn. It is throwing your cap in the air at Coleman and knowing you want to do it again in four or five years.

It is getting accepted to UA and skipping orientation because you think you know everything about campus, and then going to class to discover you know two things: jack and shit. It is new friends who become family just like your old ones. It is staying up all night just because you can. It is City Café at 5 am and again at 1 pm. It is THE AVENUE and every hilarious thing that ever went down there. It is game days on The Quad (or a Saturday with Eli on the radio in the office at Foodmax for me). It is seeing bands at the old Johnny house or the basement of Alabama Apartments. It is a Grand Canyon’s worth of mistakes (some you make twice) and learn from before it is all over. It is the uncomfortable sleep of two people in a dorm room bed. It is seeing best friends fall in love and get married, it is also seeing friends fall out of love and not knowing which side to be on.

It is graduating again in the same room, with a less than optimistic feeling this time around. It is the genuine fear of the “real world” and not knowing how to handle three or four kinds of loss all at once. It is the desire to see different things. It is road trips, tours, and various other types of escape. It is living alone and paying bills, It is 9 to 5 with a million ideas on how to live without it. It is hope and despair all at once. It is a stack of failed relationships. It is having the best of friends stick by you despite all your faults and quirks, and doing the same for them. It is having no clue what the next day, week, or month will bring, and the strange comfort that comes along with that fact.

Most of all, it is my home. Tuscaloosa is just as much a part of me as I am a part of it. I will always wear Crimson, get excited in the fall, and give a “Roll Tide” to anyone within earshot. I will always get random cravings for Archibald’s, Dreamland, and Taco Casa. I will always love meeting new people and finding new spots to hang out and talk about life. I will always love the feeling I get when I ride a bike around campus, no matter what gets remodeled or how The Strip now looks more like a strip mall. I will always peer down to see how muddy the Black Warrior River is that day when I go over the bridge. I have good and bad memories about damn near every part of this town, and wherever a car, plane, or train will (hopefully) take me, Tuscaloosa will always be where my awkward, goofball, misfit heart lies.


Jason said...

really good work dude, enjoyed it to the max

Joshua M. said...

i hated tuscaloosa when i first got there. the longer i stayed there the more i learned to love it. mike, i think you had a big hand in that and i think i will always connect certian things in tuscaloosa to times that we've hungout. thanks for sharing your love with a newcomer like me. i will be back soon.

Geek in the Pink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

(trying this again after fixing my profile...)

I feel the same way about Tuscaloosa, and even more so each time I come back to visit. Don't get me wrong, I love Atlanta and all my friends there, but I do wonder if it'll ever be "home" like Tuscaloosa is.

You and the rest of the gang are the only thing that I miss about TCHS, though...