Back in April, I stayed with my sister JoAnn – who lives in The Villages, FL – for nearly two weeks. All too soon, it was time for her to sign my travel didgeridoo and hit the road. Highlights included …
Seeing this gator sunbathing on someone’s back lawn. I was out on the patio, at a neighbor’s social function with JoAnn. I brought along this baked ziti, which was a big hit …
We also paid a visit the Morse Museum in Winter Park, which is exclusively devoted to the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Check it out …
Then there were my sister’s friends. These included people who popped over for dinner and those I got to hang out with at the local Starbucks. One of them is now a Facebook friend.
One night, JoAnn hosted a dinner for people who grew up in Meriden, CT. Back when I was young, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. But knowing who I am now means knowing where I came from. From these people, I picked up invaluable insights.
The Meriden person I really wanted to see, though was a certain Beth. Back in junior high, I think – when my sister was in high school – she had moved into our neighborhood from another local neighborhood. In nothing flat, she and my sister were walking to high school together.
In my eyes, Beth was definitely the coolest person I’d ever laid eyes on, and I don’t mean this in the standard cliquish cool girl sense. No, she exuded a certain Miles Davis cool. There was something in her look – straight long black hair, modish horn-rims, short skirt, dark stockings – something in her bearing and expression that made you want to listen to Beat poetry and read existentialist literature.
For two school years, I would accompany my sister up our street. Then a right turn and a couple of houses to the left, and she would peel off to pick up Beth. I ventured a few houses further to rendezvous with my own walking buddy.
So it was, a good many days, I had a chance to view Beth from afar, and sometimes even close up. Who was she?
It turned out that a few years ago, she moved a few towns over from JoAnn, and the two picked up right where they left off. So it was that one day we headed off to her place. She opened the door. “You haven’t changed a bit,” were the first words that flew out of my mouth. Different hair, different clothes. Same persona.
Her own jewelry and paintings graced the place. When she left Meriden, she made a beeline for New York and straight into the world where fashion and publishing intersect.
Over lunch at a local Cajun joint, I put it to her about how I found her so quintessentially cool. Funny, she commented. She was aware of her cool aura. Indeed, others had remarked on it, as well. But here is the kicker – she told me that she went through high school in a fog. In almost a state of disassociation, a trance.
Holy crap! So did I.
Months later, I’m still unpacking this revelation. My latest book, IN SEARCH OF OUR IDENTITY, devotes itself to the question of why so many of us feel so different, like we don’t belong on this planet. Call us outliers, whether too nerdy or too cool, for various reasons we simply don’t fit in. The takeaway from the book is that until we find our own tribe of fellow outliers, we are always going to have issues engaging with the tribe that we were born into.
Yet, somehow, in a town long ago and far away, Beth and my sister had engaged. And eons later, here were the three of us at the table – fully engaged.
Looking forward to picking up more insights, but that means getting back to Florida. Maybe Christmas …