These Jeans

I visited my hometown for the first time in almost a year. My Chicago anniversary quickly approaches.  Having stayed at home for college, it was the longest I'd been away from my father in my whole life. I'd seen my best friend, Tim, literally everyday for the last decade.  For the last ten months I've been two thousand miles away from the life I had spent a quarter century making. Then, a miraculous plane ride later, I'm back home.  

Being back home is like wearing an old pair of jeans. The experience is dependent on the kind of person you've become. Even if you're exactly the same size, and the jeans fit just as you'd expect, the experience is still startling. They remind you of who you used to be. After putting on a few pounds the jeans feel cumbersome and awkward. They remind you who you used to be. If you've recently gotten your shit together, the jeans sag around your waist.  They remind you of who you used to be.

Landing in Reno was like sleeping with an old lover: simultaneously familiar and foreign. There is hesitation and excitement. Palpable excitement. The air feels different. Literally. The desert breathes differently than the Midwest.  Initially, the strangeness is most prevalent, but trust and the comfort tame the awkwardness. The familiar is seductive. It declares, "You have a place in the world. I remember you. When all others treat you as a stranger, these arms remain open to you. Welcome home."    

I'm not sure how my Reno jeans fit. Even now that I'm back in 60613, I don't know. For that matter, I don't know how my Chicago jeans fit. I'm perpetually visiting the cities I inhabit. I don't know what it means to have a "home" anymore. I was a Renoite for my entire life. It was part of my identity and how I understood myself.  

Then I moved. I picked a city and I moved there. To a disturbing extent, the city was arbitrary. I could have just as easily moved to Los Angeles to study at iO West and Magnet in New York. Am I entitled to call Chicago home? I have no roots here. No family. I pay rent. That's about it. I could live anywhere right now. So if Chicago isn't home base, what is? Reno has moved on. My friends and family are all tangled up in their own lives. They're getting married, graduating, and raising their kids. And they should be. 

I'm a grandson coming to visit during the summer. When you visit family, everyone is on their best behavior. Grandmothers and grandsons rarely ever fight. When you see someone once a year, and there's a real possibility you'll never see them again, there's no time for fighting. It isn't until your parents divorce and your grandson comes to live with you for a few years that you really start to hate him. The please-and-thank-you routine goes out the window and you end up engaging him like a human being. I'd rather fight with someone than play nice.  Reno is my grandmother now; I visit her and she politely smiles at me. I love this woman, but she has a life without me 51 weeks a year. She loves me, but the bed I sleep in isn't my own. 

This isn't to take anything away from my friends and family. I spent twenty-five years finding the best dozen people in Nevada and I love each of them immensely. If being away has taught me anything, it is that I am wholly dependent on my friends.  No matter how satisfying my life is here and how many opportunities I am able to explore, my friends and family are undeniably necessary to my happiness. 

I won't be able to call anywhere home until I can mate my creative satisfaction with the loves of my life. These jeans need their closet-mates. They're lonely.     


  1. On the one hand, you say that Reno opens its arms to you, is familiar, welcomes you in a sincerely loving way that feels like home. And that you did feel like you were home.

    On the other hand, you says it smiles "politely" like a grandmother you never much see--but what you mean is that it's distant, unfamiliar now, something that has moved past you.

    I suppose it can be both without contradiction. But *I* know, at least, that it will always welcome you with loving, open arms. To see you again after the longest stretch in my OWN life of not seeing you was, for me, like being home.



  2. Denise,

    I meant that we're on our best behavior when the trip is short. I love you too. Thanks for being there for me.

  3. Very nice Nick. :)

    I miss your face.When are you coming back?

  4. I'm hoping to be back in January for the three year Empire Improv anniversary show. Maybe I'll see you there. Glad to hear from you again.