Sunk low into a love seat of questionable cleanliness,  I’m on my front porch looking out over our postage-stamp yard’s summer christmas lights wondering how to start this unusually personal post.  It’s 3:30 in the morning, I can’t see my feet or the creepy things potentially marching by them, and it’s entirely possible that one of my “neighbors” may try to “reallocate” my laptop for their own use against my will.  My housemates and our assorted temporary residents are either asleep or quietly going through their nocturnal motions.  Cocooned in both mist and the sounds of the Savages in my headphones, I’m perfectly at home.

Almost.

Which brings me to the trigger for this post: A spontaneous rationally ill-advised 2am almost 5-hour $15 bus trip to New York City from DC earlier this week to meet @Wh1t3Rabbit while he was passing through. At 226 miles each way, the food court conversation, quick tour of the CyBit floor, and 90 minute talk Raf gave might seem to be weak justifications for the trip to most; but not to me.  Instead, it reminded me of my life growing up…

…Telling my parents I was visiting “friends” 5 miles away and quietly hopping a Greyhound bus from Daytona Beach to go 260+ miles to meet other efnet IRC ops in South Beach, Miami…then Begging on the phone that night to “stay the night to work on a project”

…Dating a girl because someone dropped me off at a party 30 miles away and it took so many weeks to find a ride back from the hosts house that she and I figured getting together was the only sensical thing to do…

…Carrying a 486 PC on another Greyhound bus all the way from Florida to NC to move in with a guy I originally met on a BBS before heading to Finland to move in with a girl (my future and ex wife) I met on Geocities…

…standing in the rain at Kezar stadium in San Francisco for hours on end – with nowhere to stay that night myself – redboxing to my “ten years older than me online girlfriend” trying to talk her out of suicide by telling her to think of her 7 cats…

…being kidnapped by German Tori Amos fans in Tampa I met on IRC for two days because I had no money, no phone numbers memorized, and I couldn’t actually remember how to get back to my dorm (at the college I only went to one class at the entire semester)..

…Deciding in 10 minutes to use a random $200 “scholarship” check I got (for no good reason I could tell) to fly to Oklahoma to go meet “Stella” from IRC for a couple of nights…telling no one else…and coming back to find my suitemates knocking on my bedroom door telling me to “get the hell off the computer and come eat”…and quietly disappearing into another online friend’s house…only the first time no one knew where I was living…

…couch crashing as a lifestyle…first in a little hacker compound and later in another BBS hangout…

…dropping a friend off at the airport but enjoying the conversation so much I bought a round trip ticket to sit next to her and got on the return flight a few hours later…

…legitimately having to ask “which state am I in?” after getting off of an airplane…

…blowing an emergency roadblock with a friend and heading into an area of Florida completely on fire…and finding the only other living soul back there was a lost pizza delivery dude…

…waking up on a complete empty train…in a metal cavern…walking out the door…following a yellow line…up a few steps…and walking through yet another metal door into a night club…(apparently, they put train cars on ferries in some parts of the world)…

…calling home collect from Sweden with only $80 in my pocket, unable to find Geocities girl and realizing that no matter how far from home you are in the US, you can always *walk* back….

…putting a sheet up as a bedroom door because it had been broken down so many times by friends, family, and strangers that no one wanted to bother putting up a new door…

Anyway. You get the idea.  I’ve spent a lot of time with every material possession of any importance to me fitting into a backpack and having a very flexible definition of “secure safe personal space”; that backpack was “home” to me more than any physical location was.  Much older now than I was in most of those vignettes and having lived a more grounded adulthood, it was only this recent New York trip that made me realized how much that lifestyle is still with me.  I mean, I knew that I enjoy a relatively flexible lifestyle that allows for spontaneous travel and chance encounters…in general. But sitting on an actual greyhound bus to New York, with no rationally justifiable purpose or agenda and everything that mattered  - including clothing – in a single backpack, brought back very specific physical memories; I actually felt, for the first time in a long while, at home.  There was a part of my that relaxed which I hadn’t even felt clenched.  Even the odd double-images created by bus windows were something that tasted of old friends…

I’m obviously not suggesting that I want to live out of a backpack for the rest of my life, but it was a striking reminder that no matter how far we get from our pasts, or how many transformations are created by new experiences, those pasts are always with us. Even if we don’t always notice them. In a personal transition period now, I had been unsure what I wanted to do next.  I’m still not sure, but now I have a much more specific idea of where to start looking…and how to integrate (and take advantage of to everyone’s benefit) that mindset in my professional career.

(And, now that I hear morning birds chirping, it’s time for sleep…)