There is a reason it has taken me so long to post anything about my trip. I'm homesick. I know, I'm always homesick, but just having spent the better part of a week there, this is different. I am horribly, horribly homesick. I'm so homesick it is keeping me awake at night. I want to go home. I don't care if it's gray, I don't care if it's expensive, I don't care if it rains all the time, I want to go home.
My city was just as I'd left it, with the only changes being relatively minor and mostly for the better (with the exception of what they've done to The Pearl, but that was never a neighborhood I had any attachment to anyway, so it doesn't much matter). Mark and I hit almost all our old haunts, even Reed, and everything seemed so...comfortable. So much where I am supposed to be.
It's not so much the tangible stuff--the older houses, the restuarants all having vegetarian food--as it is the intangible. The feeling that permeates everything that I am in my place.
Our first night in town, we had dinner and hung out with our former housemate, the incredible E. We first had dinner at our old neighbhorhood Lebanese restuarant, then went to see her apartment (and visit Potter, who is nothing like I remembered him being). Her apartment is this great, light space in an old building, very close to downtown. It has high ceilings and hardwood floors and a clawfoot bathtub. Retrospectively, I am not sure if it's the most amazing apartment ever, or if I've just gotten used to the way housing is here. Either way, the evening was full of things that just aren't available in Austin--beautiful urban apartments in old buildings, good, cheap Lebanese food, and my own sense of history.
The next night, having drinks and dinner with my museum-buddy S. and her husband at a trendy downtown wine and seafood bar, I had the same feeling. Downtown in Portland doesn't mean frat boys and sorority girls in no clothes, yelling. The buildings weren't all build the same decade. I know the streets, and at this point I even miss the gutter punks. When we went to see the new Modern and Contemporary Art wing at the Portland Art Museum, I was even more jealous of the lucky people who live in Portland, who live in a real city, without having a greater population. I miss that.
I know there are things I love about Austin. The weather here charms me most of the year (though even I am ready for a little bit of fall now). I love my house. The friends I've made here, while few in quantity, are outstanding in quality. But none of that changes the fact that I've been here for over two years now, and I'm still not home. Last week, I was home the minute I stepped off the plane.
So what to do with all of this? I have no idea. We're definitely stuck in Austin for at least three years more, while Mark finishes his Ph.D. After that, we could semi-feasibly go to Portland for his post-doc, but that would only be for a few years, then we'd be off somewhere else. The chances of actually getting to settle down there are very slim, and even if it did happen, it wouldn't be for another seven or eight years.
I don't know if I can wait that long.