We pulled in late last night from a hurricane trip to Chicago. Ashley celebrated her 10 year high school reunion and we stayed in Naperville. It’s a story for later, but Ashley lived here four years and was known in her class of over 700 as the “runner girl” who set records and was otherwise mild and quiet. Her friends knew a rebellious streak and her tendency for innocent mischief. Although she would never do anything bad, she would be willing to do something perilous. Ashley Addair meant danger.
Nonetheless, she had a scholarship to Kentucky and headed South, alone with her 15 minute 5K and a sack of rice and butter. She had been born and raised in Virginia and this was halfway home. Roots are wily things, and in one year she would become entangled with a Kentucky boy. Within another year, they so to speak married up and settled down. It was just the Naperville thing to do.
No it wasn’t. At the Class of 2002 reunion there were still only a handful of wedding bands. It was downtown in a swanky restaurant, open bar and playlist of 90s pop music. I wore boots and made jokes that the doorman had made me put my gun back in the truck. Furthermore, I’m sure not many couples were concerned about the babysitter. At my high school reunion in Kentucky, the kids played in the parking lot. Some of them were designated drivers.
My old friends have ended up in Chicago too and for this trip we had to split up to see everybody. Adam and Scott were roommates here during residencies after Medical School. We’ve been friends since the 7th grade. Adam and I have nearly drowned after flipping my four wheeler. We used to shoot pop bottles in a strip pit. Adam would be a stand up comic if he weren’t a Radiologist and a Biomedical Engineer. Scott and I have siphoned dirt out of water with a sock, survived bear attacks, hiked over 1000 miles together and driven across the country six times. He’s an Anesthesiologist. And a Chemical Engineer. Those were great chats across North Dakota.
In my mind Adam and Scott are tackling the big city and going to be fine. In reality, they each have a luxury apartment in nearby parts of downtown, work at different hospitals and try to catch up every other couple weeks like friends in a city do. I was standing on Scott’s balcony Saturday, overlooking an early moon on Lake Michigan and some event at Soldier Field. Adam was leaning back on the couch, looking for a football game. I told them, “We gotta plan a trip.”
It took about 12 hours to get home, and that was with Addair’s angelic behavior for a nine month old. From Knoxville it makes little difference to drive up to Cincinatti and over to Indianapolis, or over to Louisville and up to Indianapolis. Both ways go through Lexington, and that’s where Ashley and I got our start.
On the way home last night Addair threw up just as we were passing Homberg, the big shopping sprawl of Lexington that looks unrecognizable from when left in 2004. I pulled off and tried to find a gas station in all the monstrosity. I found a station attached to a Wendy’s/attached to an indoor playground/ attached to a Long John Silver’s. I recognized the place.
I’d been here before. With Emilio, a guy my age from Mexico who couldn’t speak a word of English. We’d shoveled dirt in a ditch all day, unable to talk, burying lines around a new swimming pool. We’d liked each other, tried to jovially outdo each other, and had sat here eating dollar menu cheesburgers. I probably cleaned up and went to a Marketing class that night. Who knows what Emilio did, he never showed up again. He’d been a friend of Hector’s.
Anyways, it got me thinking during the last leg home. It was rainy and nearing midnight. I was wondering to how much degree we all get where we want to be. Emilio wanted to be here. I didn’t. I didn’t want to be in Marketing Class. I’d changed back to Pre Med like all friends since the 7th grade. There’s also Gene, a Pathologist in Portland. But I didn’t want that either.
I knew I wanted to be with Ashley, I had to play music, had to write songs, and would see where it got me. When driving home or places that have been home, for high school reunions or seeing people that are as comfortable as home, it makes for good state of mind to listen to Country Music. So that’s what I did. Most of the time I want to be something that I don’t have much control over. But where I’ve had some say, I’ve already made it.