Someone asked me—after reading my Facebook updates about my road trip home—where home is. Is it New Orleans? Or is it Pennsylvania? Am I leaving home or going home?
I had finally arrived at Lake Winola, Pennsylvania, after an adventurous road trip with (drunken) stops in Nashville and Roanoke. The weather was surprisingly cool, especially compared to the torturous heat we had just endured throughout June in New Orleans, with heat indexes of 110.
It was a nice change to relax and not drive, to stare at a TV instead of the road, and to annoy my mother by constantly complaining about everything she watched on TV.
It had been an unusually cool summer in PA, and I was surprised and pleased. The days were beautiful, and the nights cooler than expected—I even had to pull out my flannel pajamas. The mountains around the lake looked beautiful. One of the reasons I love road-tripping home so much is that I don’t realize how much I miss the mountains until I start seeing them again, somewhere in Georgia or Alabama or Tennessee. I lose track.
I didn’t spend much time at home relaxing, as every trip home is always hectic with trying to see everyone at once. I spent a day jumping up and down on a trampoline with my friend’s two little boys. I spent a night catching up with old friends at the Dalton Carnival, partaking of deep-fried pierogies and cheap beer-tent libations. I’ve learned since migrating south that Southerners are unfamiliar with the joy that is pierogies, and this little Polish girl from Pennsylvania misses them.
The occasion for this trip home was my 20-year high school reunion. I know. It’s scary. I can’t believe it’s been that long. The Lackawanna Trail High School Class of 1989 reunion was held at Keystone College, yet another of my alma maters.
While the idea of a 20-year reunion might be intimidating, it seems that Facebook was able to alleviate much of the stress for a lot of people. We knew a great deal about each other’s whereabouts, spouses, children, careers, hobbies, and just about everything else. I had even joked that since we talk so much on Facebook that we were going to wind up in a room with nothing left to talk about.
The opposite was true. Thanks to Facebook, the ice was already broken for most people, I think, and I had a great time. I have to say, the people in my class look amazing, and some haven’t changed at all since high school. (You know who you are, Michelle.) Some are just louder and full of cheesy Chuck Norris jokes. (That would be me.)
The reunion ended too early for us at the hall and continued at the closest bar, where it did not end until the bar closed.
The experience was totally worth the road trip home, and I’m looking forward to the next reunion, whenever that may be and wherever I may be at the time. (Paris, perhaps?)
My trip also included a weekend trip back to New York City, to traipse around my old stomping ground. I spent most of the time in Hell’s Kitchen, my favorite neighborhood, and made sure to visit Central Park. I do love Central Park and wish I could pick it up and move it to New Orleans. I love the hills and the rambles of Central Park, but I love the Spanish moss, live oaks, and the rogue alligator on the loose in Audubon Park. It doesn’t get any cooler than having and alligator running around free in the park, does it?
My friend Matt and I paid a visit to my favorite restaurant, the Delta Grill, a Louisiana-inspired restaurant. I also made sure to spend some quality time at my two favorite places, the world-famous Don’t Tell Mama piano bar, and Kennedy’s Irish Restaurant. At Don’t Tell Mama, the staff is mostly the same since I left, though they have lost some wonderful entertainers who have passed way, moved away, or left for personal reasons. It’s still the best entertainment anywhere in the city for a Broadway fanatic like me.
At Kennedy’s, on any given afternoon I can still find the old regulars at the bar, telling the same jokes. The bartenders are still the same cute Irish lads who greet me with a kiss on the cheek and still remember what I drink, even after all these months.
It was a quick trip. I miss New York sometimes but am happy to ride streetcars instead of subways now, to wear shorts in the winter instead of coats and scarves, to sit on balconies and not fire escapes, and to enjoy parades with abandon instead of just watching from behind a barricade.
I left two days later to begin my journey back to New Orleans, with the flu. I felt like crap but still loved being on the road. I stopped only once, outside Chattanooga, Tennessee, to rest my weary, mucus-addled brain, and arrived home the following afternoon.
So which is home? New Orleans or Pennsylvania? Both. I have spent almost 30 of my 38 years in Pennsylvania, and I still have many good friends there. It will always be home. I spent more than five years total in New York City, so even still I feel at home there. But more than anything I have forged a deep relationship with New Orleans since coming here prior to Katrina, and this is definitely my home.
It seems no matter which way I’m traveling, I’m always headed home.