That number is following me lately. The old highway I grew up on, California as the 31st state, and Vandy’s Festus Ezili wearing 31 with the Warriors until they decided they could use a mop bucket at the 5 instead. And now, the games of the XXXI Olympiad, happening in Rio after years of drama and malfeasant planning and God knows what else.
It’s a marker. 12 years since I got here. I watched the Athens olympics in my sister-in-law’s house. They don’t own it anymore because they’re divorced. I saw commercials for and coveted the new 3G phones AT&T was advertising – but they got eaten by Cingular, which took their name and promptly kicked the can 2 years down the road on 3G. And I lusted after that Nokia 6620, a Symbian Series 60 smartphone from the leading manufacturer with EDGE speed…and now I have the long-desired iPhone SE, personally owned and never locked, and ready to go abroad at the end of the week…to London, ironically the last home of the summer games.
A lot of time gone by. A lot of years under the bridge. I’ve been here longer than Nashville and Arlington put together, even if I still emotionally identify at some level with the DMV – although I hear it’s changed a lot and not for the better, and that my old stomping grounds are a lot more like what I don’t like about here than what they were when I was walking from Glebe and taking the Orange Line from Virginia Square. The Vanderbilt phase that started ten years ago seems to be coming to a conclusion – I was looking for a Premier League team to call my own in 2006 and instead I wound up reclaiming Vandy just in time for baseball to become a big deal and for football to hit its highest point in decades. But now, going to Vanderbilt events in San Francisco means a bunch of folks ten or twelve years younger than me at least, without the commonality of shared experience because I was in grad school all those years ago instead of the typical undergrad Vanderbilt four years.
London will also be strange – haven’t been in six years, since before the family meltdown and before the job turned to shit and before I turned forty and watched my body and mind and soul do like the car at the end of The Blues Brothers. This isn’t a tourist excursion, we won’t be queueing for the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace or the London Eye – it’s about boots in Camden Market and a canal boat to Notting Hill and a restaurant in Covent Garden that’s 100% gluten-free everything and no one noticed for months. It’s about a Fulham match at Craven Cottage, years after I kept coming back to them as my Premier League team and years after they crashed right out of the Premier League. It’s about Costa and Pret and Sunday roast at the pub with friends. It’s about a personal Three SIM in my personal iPhone and not having to squat outside a closed shop trying to steal their open wi-fi to update my RSS.
It’s about the most bulletproof way of escaping from an industry and a politics and a place that isn’t particularly pleasant to be around right now. And seeing if it really is what I said six years ago: a place that we may as well just move to if we’re going to keep visiting.