November 19, 2008

traveling; home

I've been in Chicago for the last two days. It's cold and windy, and my grandmother is crazy; otherwise great. At the coffee shop this morning, the cashier asked where I'm from.1 I don't know if I look out of place - in Hyde Park? it's full of dressed-up pseudo-hipsters! - or if my voice, which is ridiculously scratchy, makes me sound like I have an accent.

I claimed Philadelphia, because I'm not there. In Philadelphia I would have claimed Des Moines. In Des Moines? I guess I would have said, "I grew up here," which is not quite the same as, "I'm from here." I always claim the last place I was, which means I can never be home. Next year I'll probably be from Philadelphia full time.

Anyway. When I told him I was from Philadelphia, he said congratulations. The Phillies win, which seemed like such a big deal at the time, is such ancient history that he had to remind me why Philly got congratulations. After the Phillies won, there were riotous celebrations; for days afterward, Philadelphia was full of irritable, slightly hungover fans who wandered around shrieking "Go Phillies!!!!1!" every time they saw anything red. They were kind of like grumpy, overtired bulls.

Election day was totally different. I wouldn't have been anywhere else. After they called the election - at 11:01 pm - people poured out into the streets and danced, banged pot lids, chanted, sang, shouted, hugged each other, drummed. The church on the corner near my house has a tiny school, and on Wednesday morning all the kids, ages 4 to 13, were out there waving home-made "Honk 4 Obama" signs and screaming and dancing. People smiled at each other on the street.

I know Obama's bound to disappoint us. I know it. And I'm ready to leave Philadelphia, because if I don't do it soon I never will. But that day, I wouldn't have been anywhere else.

1. He and the woman barista, who had an amazing voice, both seemed to be flirting with me. Do they flirt with all their customers? Do I just look that queer?

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