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Brent
Bettina
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Sunday, Jul. 18, 2004 - 12:12 p.m.

I was walking around my neighborhood yesterday when all of a sudden I stopped cold because I smelled pine trees. There were just two, scattering their needles on the lawn of a small house. There are plenty of pine trees in South Carolina, so I didnít know then why the smell made me want to cry.

All day Iíd been sad and grumpy. I was annoyed by the cat, who was whiny. I read for a while, kept the beans going in the crockpot, tried to play the guitar. I listened to the recording of my band that our friend Mike made a few weeks ago at practice, and I didnít like it Ė at first it didnít sound bad, but yesterday it sounded too masculine, or something. Karl pounds on his ride like heís Alex Portnoy; Will barely opens his mouth when he sings; Lawson writes most of his songs in D major, the key with a big, throbbing penis.

I got a wonderful letter from Bettina, six pages of good stories, good sense, and beautiful writing. She manages to balance having grown out of drama with remaining introspective, and it all comes out so well.

I read an essay by Sarah Vowell about growing up in Montana with a father who railed against New Yorkers (the essay was mostly about Teddy Roosevelt, but her topics tend to amble here and there), just as my father railed in Colorado against his Boston roots. And Sarah and I have both, in adulthood, made our way East. The only difference is that she finally feels comfortable, while I feel okay but definitely not at home.

And for the first time in three years, I decided to listen to The Van Pelt, a band Iíve hardly thought about since I moved here. And it wasnít until the last song on the album, Do Lovers Still Meet at the Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial, that I realized what was wrong with me.

I was homesick.

I remember listening to that song while having my heart broken in Minnesota. That was when I lived on the side of the country where you go for a drive when you have something awful to talk about. I donít know how people break up here, but they drive for neither joy nor angst.

I just felt boring and untrue to myself, uncertain of which sacrifices Iíve made are right and which wrong. I canít sort out growing up from living in the East, because I have done both at the same time.

Today I feel more centered. Itís little things that assuage the homesickness: it first began to lift at the grocery store, where my checker was a high school girl with bright eyes and spiky hair dyed black. As I handed her my money and smiled, she looked right in my eyes and there was perfect understanding between us. This never happens to me with strangers, and seldom with other women. We donít belong here, our eyes said, but we can do pretty well wherever we are. We fit in with each other, and thatís enough.

And then L and I made New Mexican enchiladas. I made sauce with dried red chiles from a ristra I carried all the way back here last year. The Anasazi beans my mom brought last month were finished cooking, and we refried them in bacon grease. L picked jalapenos and serranos from his garden and made salsa. If weíd had blue corn tortillas instead of frozen white corn ones from the Piggly Wiggly, it would have been unreal; as it was, it was perfect. We went out to half of a show before getting sleepy and heading home to drink High Life on the screened porch.

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