Nashville, TN

 

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March 2017

This post is a few months late, but better late than never, right?  Haha. As mentioned in my previous post, the beginning of this year brought with it the decision to stay put in the Midwest and explore the area as much as possible in the form of a road trip per month.  Accompanied by my fellow Southerner friend, Heather, we’ve been exploring the Midwest little by little each month.

Our first trip of the year took place in March. Before I go on, let me just tell you, it seems like March is a miserable month no matter where you are.  In El Paso, March is infamous for absurdly strong winds that bring with it dust storms and tumbleweed stampedes. Here, March was cold and miserable, with only a few days of weak sunshine.  For that reason (well, actually let me be real here and say that I chose the destination; I’d always wanted to go to Nashville), we decided to head south to catch a break from the incessant cold and rain, so we headed to Nashville, TN.

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We left on an uncharacteristically warm and sunny Friday afternoon after obtaining permission from our boss to leave work early.  The drive was long, but actually really fun. We had an interesting stop at a gas station where Heather ended up with a ribbed condom in a little box as a souvenir. I had Panera for the first time ever in Bowling Green, Kentucky (which also happened to be the town someone I met later on in Nashville was from).

We stayed at a hotel that was just…..unreal. I wish I’d taken more pictures because, shit, that place was an attraction on its own.

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The following day, excited for the day ahead of us, we woke up to…..snow. Because of course. We donned our coats, scarves, and boots and headed out! Our first stop was Crema. I’ll be honest and say that it’s been too long for me to remember exactly what we ordered, but I remember my drink being really good. The place itself felt a little cold and…sterile? A little too minimalist-industrial for my taste, but I would definitely go back for another drink.

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The rest of the day was a little disappointing.  We happened to visit Nashville (unknowingly) the weekend some basketball convention was going on downtown. The streets were so crowded we could hardly squeeze through, and as the morning snow melted, it turned to an ugly, gray slush, making our surroundings seem bleak and dirty. We went into a few shops where we bought corny souvenirs for our friends back home then walked around semi-forlornly through the bustling downtown streets, noisy with a medley of conflicting musical styles and hazy with clouds of cigarette smoke that permeated our winter clothing.

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We had lunch at The Diner downtown, which was a pretty cool place. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t remember what I ordered…it may have been a philly cheesesteak, but I remember it being really good. After lunch, we went to a park and took some pictures of the parthenon, which was closed by the time we got there. We walked around in the cold; I creeped on a red cardinal and managed to get a picture of it, which was the highlight of my afternoon. Things were looking bleak, guys.

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We headed back to our hotel room, where we spent some time moping around, resting our feet, snacking, etc., before deciding to go out. With very little online digging, I found a promising-sounding bar, No. 308. Heather wanted to go to an aquarium restaurant not too far from our hotel. After getting ready, we grabbed a quick bite (fried green tomatoes and fried pickle chips, along with a sampler of local beers) at the Jack Daniels restaurant inside the hotel, then decided to walk over to the aquarium place, where we were planning on having some drinks before calling an uber to take us to No. 308. What was supposed to have been a 10 minute walk turned into almost an hour-long one due to some weird parking lot closures. My feet were killing me when we finally made it. We got our drinks, enjoyed looking at the fish, then requested our uber, who arrived there pretty damn quickly.  The lady driving us happened to be from Flint, MI, where Heather is originally from, which was a pretty cool coincidence.

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We arrived at the bar relatively early (it was around 10ish) and stood around awkwardly with our drinks (I started the night off with an Old Zander, which had egg whites in it and was amazing), people-watching for a bit, before finding a place to sit. As the night wore on, we befriended (?) the people sitting next to us, and that’s where things really began to pick up. The bar got more and more crowded, the bartenders started having a little more fun, and it turned into a really fun party atmosphere. We met some nice people, shared some drinks with them, did some dancing, had some conversation, and just overall had a really great night. It was definitely a great ending to what started off as a somewhat crappy day.  We ended the night with lighthearted conversation at a Waffle House close to 5 in the morning.

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The following morning, at around 10, we checked out. We went over to one of the universities in town and took a tour of the campus, then went on the hunt for an authentic home-cooked southern comfort food meal for lunch before heading back home for the day. We ended up at Mai Bee’s Southern Cuisine, where we had, no lie and no exaggeration, the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in my life. The portions were beyond generous and despite my desire to leave a clean plate, my stomach would not cooperate. The staff was friendly and made us feel really at home; it was a great ending to our Nashville adventure (I am choosing to omit the fact that upon leaving the restaurant and heading home, traffic was a nightmare for the first hour or so of the drive back. Technically we were leaving Nashville, so that doesn’t count, right?).  Can’t wait for the opportunity to visit once again!

Midwestern

Earlier this month marked one year since I made the decision to pick my entire life up and move 1,500 miles away from everything and everyone I had ever known. To this day, that has been the biggest, most impactful decision I have ever had to make.

To offer some background, I grew up in the southwest; El Paso, Texas, to be exact.  El Paso is a city unlike any other. Nestled snugly between Mexico and New Mexico while sitting on the far western arm of Texas, El Paso has a culture and way of life all its own.  A big city, sometimes with a small-town feel, El Paso felt like both home and a prison to me (which, yes, is very dramatic).  My entire family and all my friends live there,  but save for a few close friends, I never quite felt like I belonged. Following my graduation from the local university, I felt stuck. Job prospects were low and I found myself feeling aimless and uninspired. After working a couple of different jobs at home, I received a job offer from a company in the midwest.  It was kind of a no-brainer, but I still deliberated a long time. I’ll be completely honest and say that at the time, the midwest did not sound attractive to me at. all. So the thought of leaving home for a place I wasn’t sure I even wanted to live in was a little terrifying.

In the end, I decided to do it anyway, so on the morning of April 4th, with all my belongings stuffed into the trunk and backseat of my tiny little car, my dad and I set off on a 27 hour road trip to what would become my new home.  We drove nonstop, only stopping (for a significant amount of time, that is) for dinner and for a quick nap at a rest stop (it was the beginning of April and that is still, today, the coldest night I’ve ever experienced). We arrived in the mid-afternoon the following day. We rested and early the following day, on April 6th, I signed the lease to my first apartment ever. The following day, I drove my dad to the airport in Chicago and started the daunting task of settling into my new life completely on my own (a friend of mine stayed with me my first week here. I am very grateful to him for that.).

My first few months here were a bit of a roller coaster. My new world was all very new and exciting, but I did feel lonely a lot of the time. I experienced a huge culture shock too; I hadn’t anticipated how central a role religion played in the lives of most people here and how common it was for people to get married at a very young age. Everything here was all very new to me, but I felt welcomed and comfortable. The landscape is absolutely beautiful and I took advantage of it fully, going for walks every day and exploring the area on my own during my first few months living here.  It feels like it took me a really long time to make friends (a lot of people seem to leave this town just as you’re getting to know them, which makes it difficult), but once I did, everything became a lot easier. I found a family away from home in my coworkers and my new company (not the original one I moved to work for…that’s another story for another time) and started creating memories with them.

I experienced bonfires in the summer and seeing rows and rows of cornfields, along with beautiful open fields illuminated by fireflies at nighttime. I experienced my first colorful autumn (the leaves on the trees back home don’t usually go through dramatic color changes as they move from summer to fall to winter), war reenactments, autumn festivals, and everything that comes along with fall. I experienced my first real winter, with snow and ice and beautiful Christmas traditions.  I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet and call my friends some of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Along with the seasonal changes and the people, I also got to experience the beauty that is midwestern cuisine, and even better, sharing it with all the amazing people I have met and befriended.

I have been very happy and comfortable here, for the most part. I still get homesick every now and then, especially having to go months and months without seeing my family and friends back home. Early this year, I struggled with trying to decide what my next move (literal and metaphorical) in life would be. After a lot of deliberation and difficult decisions, I made up my mind to remain (physically) where I am, at least for the time being. This is the first time in my life where I’m in a place (again, physically and metaphorically speaking) where I am finally completely independent and I decided I wanted to take advantage of it.

Living in the Midwest now, I am constantly in awe of how close everything is. Wanna go see a show in Chicago or Cleveland or Indianapolis or Detroit? Just drive a relatively short distance! Drive a couple of  hours and you can find yourself in a different state, or by the beach, or in a charming small town with cute coffee shops and antiques stores, or all of the above.  I have never lived in such close proximity to such a variety of places before, so I am more than excited to explore as many of them as I can during my time here.

Accompanied by my good friend, Heather (a fellow Southerner), we have decided to take a weekend to set out and explore a different city in a different state each month for a year. Seems like a bit of a lofty goal, but it is definitely exciting! We have already started, having gone to Tennessee and Ohio and Pennsylvania just recently. I will post about those places even though those trips already happened, because why not? Ha.

Homecoming

January 2017

-A Recollection. Nothing more.

Sitting at a window on the second floor of a hundred year old home, I feel anxious. My light winter coat feels too heavy; my layered sweaters too tight. Accompanied by a friend, I make empty conversation as my eyes furtively scan the room for a place to settle down in.

Before me, the room begins to fill. Smiling faces file in, preceded by their shadows on the opalescent wallpaper that hugs the walls leading to the room. Laughter, conversation, and the sounds of instruments being tuned and adjusted fill the room. There is art on the wall, snacks in a bowl. It’s a safe space. And yet. The lights are too bright, the crowd too sparse. I feel out of place and exposed.

Behind and below me, the city settles into the night. The houses that line the street outside are darkened, looking almost vacant. With my back pressed against a big picture window in the fully lit room, I wonder if anyone out there can see me. I allow my anxious mind to wander, a welcome distraction from the razor-sharp focus I’ve had on my racing heart and shaking hands up until that moment. When I was younger, I used to try to see into the lit up rooms of houses I drove by, hoping to catch a glimpse of the life going on within. I wonder how I look to someone outside at this moment. How we all look in this brightly lit room in this big, beautiful home, basking in the warmth of each others’ presence and the studio lighting, sheltered from the cold January night outside.

As the night’s event begins, the first artist’s words of pain and feelings of loss go over my head. I can hear the nervousness in his voice and feel it fuel my own anxiousness. The lights are still too bright; the crowd not big enough to hide in. The twinkling notes he creates with his keyboard bounce off the glass of the window behind me, threatening to shatter the glass and escape onto the misty streets below us. Instead, they fall to the floor and pool around the audience’s sneakers and boots.

As the night progresses, the lights are eventually dimmed and the crowd, now substantially larger and sitting on the smooth hardwood floors, has moved to envelop the second artist of the night. I remain seated on the outer fringe, perched atop the radiator by the window. The cold from outside seeps through the glass and under my clothes where it settles on my skin like a fine mist. My anxiousness has subsided some by this point; probably a result of the lights being dimmed. I no longer feel exposed, but I still feel like an outsider.

I cannot understand what the musician is singing about. His voice is too low and gets drowned out by his guitar. He and his family came from out of town to play for us. His parents are seated beside me, listening intently. I look out the window instead. The streets outside glisten with the light rainfall that has been steadily falling throughout the day. The water amplifies the vibrancy of the colors outside, doubling the glow of every streetlight as well as the lights of the cars that drive by. Feels like looking at life through an HD screen or filter.

Suddenly there is screaming down below. Shouting. It’s hard to tell which of the two. It sounds playful at first. A couple of us exchange amused glances. The shouting gets louder, panicked, then muffled. There’s a loud pop and then silence. Our glances go from amused to concerned, eyebrows furrowed together, eyes opened wide. A dog starts barking from the floor below us. People rush to the window, trying to piece the puzzle together. Face pressed to the cold glass, I remain where I sit. A girl limps down the street. Two men from our house talk to her. We later find out that they called the police, who arrive promptly. An ambulance takes her away. People start talking, ignoring the musician trying to finish his set. The air has become thick with curiosity and uncertainty. People mill around the window trying to catch a glimpse of whatever it is that is going on below us.

Inside and before us, our hosts try to continue with the night’s event. The musician who had been playing while everything outside unfolded, meekly finishes his set to halfhearted, distracted applause. There is a short recess during which people are offered the option of leaving, for their safety. After a few moments’ hesitation, the third and final musician of the night begins his set with no introduction. His music alone commands attention and everyone closes in to listen, momentarily setting aside the commotion downstairs. I marvel momentarily at everyone’s ability to file the events unfolding down below us into some sort of mental drawer. The sound of his guitar is purposeful yet dreamlike; a beautiful bookmark for the night’s chilling events. For a moment, even I, with the blaring blue and red lights behind and below me perpetually in my peripheral vision forget about the scene playing out outside. I forget my cold, shaking hands, and my hammering heart. I am overtaken by the haunting, somber notes of his guitar, by the quiet thoughtfulness of his voice. For the duration of his set, I feel like I’m underwater and when it’s over, I struggle to break the surface back into reality. The lights are turned back on and everything seems too glaring, too harsh. Everyone seems as if woken from a trance. Below, the street looks dark and deserted.  A resolution has been found?

We are invited to stay and chat and enjoy the art in the room. Some people stay; many others leave. We decide to stay, and in the warmth of that brightly lit, now-sparsely filled second story art gallery/studio space, I feel strangely at home.  Must have had something to do with making the choice to remain. We enjoy the space for some time before deciding to call it a night.

Outside, the night is quiet once more.  The absence of the police sirens makes the street feel dark and devoid of color. Rain sprinkles down lightly but steadily. The only sounds filling the eerie quietness at this time are those of our boots splashing through puddles that reflect nothing but the darkened sky on the sidewalk.  Even our voices are hushed as we discuss the music and art we were just exposed to, our words floating up as gray fog in the chilly night air towards the second story space above us that we had just left. Nothing on the street at this point suggests that only an hour or so earlier, someone had been shot. Nothing, that is, until we round the corner and find police tape blocking us off from our cars.

We stop short, then slowly tread closer, unsure as to how to proceed.  The yellow police tape flaps with the rain like a flag.  We’re informed by an officer that we will be unable to retrieve our cars or any of our personal belongings, as they are part of the active crime scene. We exchange a glance and decide to go back inside. We are accompanied back to the scene of the crime by a couple of people who had been upstairs with us and we are told, once more that we will be unable to leave. Everybody else has left at that point, and the four of us stand around uncertainly before one of them suggests we wait the night out upstairs.

So back into the old home we go. We make our way upstairs to the now deserted studio, our shadows preceding us along the opalescent wallpaper on the walls like the shadows of the night’s crowd earlier had done. Our host pulls up some chairs and we sit in silence,  staring at each other and at the glossy hardwood floor, reflecting on the evening and our current situation.

My mind takes me back to a year earlier when, 1,500 miles away from where I sat at that moment, I had found myself stranded 45 minutes away from my home. I’d sat in my car, a friend in the passenger’s seat next to me, pulled off the side of a mostly deserted downtown street lined with big, historic houses much like the ones that lined this street. Coincidentally, it had been raining then too, big, heavy drops that pelted my windshield steadily.  The friend I was with then had sat with me in the darkness as we waited for my father to arrive to help us. Instead of a glossy hardwood floor, we had stared at the slick road outside; at the streetlights and headlights reflected upon its surface; we’d laughed at our misfortune, our features illuminated by the orange glow of the car stereo. It was easy to find humor in the situation when we knew help was on the way.

Now, in a city where I have no real roots of my own, I find myself stranded in a roomful of near-strangers, all of us looking at each other tentatively, trying to find some common ground. Even though we all know each other in passing, working for the same company, we introduce ourselves sheepishly and talk about our lives outside of work.  Al’s wife likes true crime shows. Patrick likes to write. Heather tells us about Florida. We hear summer camp stories. Over the next two hours, we converse and ride out periods of not-uncomfortable silence.  In the same room where I’d felt exposed and isolated earlier, I now feel a strange feeling of belonging and warmth.

After some time, my eyelids start to feel heavy with sleep and as I look around at the faces around me, I realize that for the time being, the 3 people in the room with me are all I have.  The realization comes matter-of-factly, unremarkably. Stifling a yawn, I long for my bed in my white-walled bedroom in my apartment on the second floor of a 60 year-old-building just a few minutes’ drive away.

The Beginning

What defines a beginning? Can a beginning be considered an action? A state of being?  How long before something ceases to be considered a beginning and becomes routine?

Start Anew

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Like an Apparition, the blog (or whatever you’d like to call it), has been around for about two years or so. Throughout the course of those two years, it has shifted and evolved to fit whatever need I have had for it during certain points in my life during those two years. It began as somewhat of an online journal during the summer immediately following my college graduation, when I found myself feeling adrift in a sea of aimlessness and confusion. It was a place for me to chronicle all the extra time I suddenly found myself having. Once I gained some sort of structure and stability in my life, Like an Apparition became a place for me to store my thoughts and a few of the details that made up who I was and who I wasn’t at the time.

Over time, as my post-college life gained more structure, Like an Apparition took the form of a hobby. It became an escape for me when I wasn’t happy with the direction that my life was going in or whenever I  needed a distraction or outlet. Throughout these changes, however, Like an Apparition never stopped feeling like home to me, which is why I decided to keep the name for this new site. I would like for this new Like an Apparition to encompass everything that the old site was for me the past two years, but I also want for it to grow and become a place where I can grow along with it. This is only the beginning.