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Rememberances and Evolution, or Eric goes all Emo on you.

(From Queen of Wands. Click on the thumbnail for full sized bittersweet lullabies!)

When I was twenty years old, I moved from the Greater Metropolitan Boston Area (technically Brighton, though where Brighton, Brookline, Boston and Newton began and ended, I couldn't tell you on a bet, and neither could anyone else I knew) to Ithaca, New York. I did so because I felt like Boston wasn't leading me anywhere, and because I was in love.

Ithaca stands out in my memory as the happiest time in my adult life. Oh, I was dirt poor, working as a temp, rarely breaking ten thousand a year in salary and always living on the far edge. Circumstances weren't ideal between my girlfriend and I (a subject for another story sometime, though it wasn't that she wasn't cool -- she was. And I was... well, me. So if you think I'm cool I guess I was then too), but I was happy, mostly. I roomed with my best friend, Frank, who remains my best friend today. I love the feel of Ithaca, which by virtue of its two full sized four year colleges (Ithaca College and the majestic Cornell University) had almost all the cultural amenities you'd find in a much larger city, while maintaining a certain townish appeal. There was live jazz often played. There was theater. There were mass market movies and two art movie places. There were stores of all kinds, and bars of all kinds, and good pizza made by Greeks, and Blues bands, and the coolest two bars I've ever had the privilege to vomit near -- the Chapterhouse Brewpub, which at the time brewed its own beers and served them in pints, half yards and yards, and the Rongovian Embassy to the United States, which had a bigger beer selection than I've ever seen and the best live music. My official twenty-first birthday party -- which took place some weeks after my actual birthday, and which a number of my Boston friends came up for as well -- was at the Rongo. I still owe about two pitchers' worth of beer in drinks for a Quarters game I disastrously, gloriously lost.

Most of all, I loved Ithaca. And I loved it because I loved my friends -- the ones who lived there and the ones who lived in nearby(ish) Syracuse. Karen, Frank, John, John, Kevin, Becki, Rebecca (two different people), Nin, Christie, Suzanne... all the folks up at the Sterling Renaissance Festival, all the folks at Collegetown Bagels and Ragmann's and the late, lamented Other Side, all the folks at Borealis Books (which has fallen on hard times, I'm sad to say)....

It was wonderful. And it couldn't last. It was a bubble in my life -- my early twenties, when I felt romantic and exciting and immortal, when there were little rules and less money.

Things began to change, of course. Frank and Becki got married and moved on. I went away for a year to finish up my degree and try to shake the logyness out of my life. I got involved with a different girl who didn't end up being that good for me... and ultimately I knew I was spinning my wheels. The world I loved was in the past, and I had to do something to move into the future.

So, I headed West, to Seattle. Which was a fantastic move for me in so many ways....

But there were some months between my decision to go and my actual leaving. And there was the realization that what I most loved about Ithaca were the friends there who I loved... and they would continue to grow and evolve without me. And that they would be all right even when I was gone.

This Queen of Wands is beautifully done. All the things I praise Aeire for are here -- the creative use of text, the lightning path, the fact that she still draws dynamic motion in each panel... and the song lyrics floating along the path unifies and makes it all more immediate. This is a beautiful strip.

And Kestrel's tears in the last panel strike me hard, because this is the very definition of bittersweet -- the recognition that Shannon and Felix and their baby are going to be all right... that the family Kestrel adopted and the life she loved has evolved and disappeared even if she were going to stay... that she's making the right decision for herself by leaving, and that the world will not end when she's gone. They're going to be all right. It's okay. Kestrel really can go.

That moment really resonates for me. It's been eleven years since the day I experienced that same moment. I sometimes go back and visit Ithaca, and those friends who're still there... and it's truly wonderful to see them. I should move back here, I think to myself. But I'm not likely to -- because I can't move back to my early twenties, and I can't move back to Frank being single and he and I living on Raman and having a blast... or to my ex girlfriend, or to our broken down basement apartment. I'd probably love living in Ithaca again... love spending time with the new friends I have there, and the friends I'd make... and if I won the lottery I'd probably move there.

But it wouldn't be my Ithaca. That's gone, the same as "my" High School stopped existing in 1986 when I graduated, and "my" Boston disappeared when my friends graduated or left Boston University, and "my" college disappeared after I graduated that, and "my" Seattle went away when I moved back east, and so did Dominic, who broke up with Annie....

The places we love are places in our past, shaped by events and people. And when we leave them, they change, and they evolve, and the people move on. And they're generally all right. All the people I love are all right, even though I left.

And that makes me happy and sad, all at once. And Aeire captured that perfectly, and I felt like I should mention that.

Man, now I need to go do something cheerful.

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Comments

Helluva post for Joy Sunday, Eric -- today you bring honour to the name of Mr. Burns. But I was feeling rotten to start with, and now I can blame you and you can blame Aerie, so it's all good. (Except for Aerie, I guess. Who does she blame?)

- Z

Funny, as I read this post I happened to be listening to Van Der Graaf Generator's "Refugees", a tremendously pretty ballad on exactly the same subject. Bittersweet city!

With graduating from college in a scant four weeks and looking at having to decide where to go and find a job, and make a living, and all the decisions like, 'Do I want to try for New York City, a place that's so big and full of possibilities or do I want to stay in the Syracuse area and stay near family and friends' and just so many other decisions like that, I've got to say that the post really spoke to me in a way.

I'm not saying that that's my situation, having moved on and seeing that things still go on without me, but thinking that depending on where I go and what I do, that's the situation I'm going to be looking at in a few years.

I don't know what I'm trying to say other than that was a damn good post and it made at least one person give it lots of thought.

well damn. I guess that's what I've been looking for. I couldn't put it into words, and I could only articulate parts of it, but there it is. I've been wanting to move back to New Paltz for a really long time, but I think what you said.. I think that's been nagging at me. Because the evidence that some of the people I've loved have grown past what I knew, it makes me feel sad and scared. Like I would lose them. And I suppose in a way I have, the people they were turned into ghosts along the way somewhere, along with the person I was then too. I don't know if what I am now is better, or what. Well, anyway, thank you for posting it, for saying it.

My wife displays an extreme form of this reaction in that she more or less refuses to return to any of the places in which we used to live.

The first house we lived in, which was owned by that nice elderly couple who sold it to a commercial real estate holding company which, rather than trouble themselves with residential tennants, kicked us out so that they could build a vacant lot on its site? That, I can understand fully: Vacant lots are pretty damned depressing, especially when that collection of weeds and broken glass was where you entertained friends, got a cat, celebrated Christmas, and so forth.

But the nice little rental house we lived in before we bought our first house? Our first house? For me, those places represent warm memories of stray cats adding themselves to our household; of fireworks battles with the folks across the street; of the twenty tons of fill dirt Angie had delivered to our front yard so that she could build a giant flower bed along the full front of the house (I figure that I moved about 80% of it by myself; sure enough, I got another day older and deeper in debt). For Angie, however, they create an emotion somewhere between complete disinterest and alergic distaste.

I guess it's just as well that we don't intend to move again.

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