I was tired, having spent my first evening out at a questionable motel in Hays, Kansas. The price was right, and included free Sunny Delight for breakfast and free audio access to all surrounding rooms. Perhaps the final clue that I had wandered into a budget motel was the sign in the bathroom that read, "Please do not use the towels to wipe down your car." Well, dang, then what the heck are they there for??
I admit to being a little nervous as I pulled into Centerville, Ohio
. I came to visit my friend Brian (formerly and perhaps better known as Baadaye), whom I had not seen in over 5 years. Though we had kept in close contact through e-mail, a lot happens in five years, especially when you've spent it on another continent, as he had. He and his mom gave me such a warm welcome that I felt immediately at ease. I can't say he's the Same Old Baadaye (just as I'm not the Same Old Jino), but I can say that our friendship was easy to rekindle and I was grateful, as I have been on this entire trip, to remember what unique and fun friends I have.
Though Centerville, Ohio may not sound like a cultural mecca, I left more cultured than when I came. It was a weekend of Firsts, starting with my First Manhattan. This is Brian's Dad's drink of choice, and a tasty one at that. A little alcoholic, though, and since it seemed inappropriate to dance on the tables at the Dayton Raquetball Club's shih-shih restaurant, I only had a few sips. I spent the rest of the evening being wined and dined as I probably never have been before--Hal knows how to treat a lady, and he treated me pretty well, too.
Another first for the week--Brian's mom, Mary, and her Special Someone Bob treated me and Brian to my very first ever baseball game. Here is something that I think everyone needs to know: THEY BRING THE BEER RIGHT TO YOUR SEAT
. I am not kidding. I love baseball. It was the minor leagues, the Dayton Dragons, and we had seats 9 rows behind home plate. I had a great time, and it made me rethink my policy of trying not to attend sporting events. I think I had been a little turned off by college football. Here's what I loved about this game: Absolutely no one had painted themselves green and then gotten too drunk to watch the game, and no one seemed clinically depressed by their team's loss. Everyone seemed to be there just to have a good time.
We spent the 4th at an Arts festival in downtown Dayton. The music was amazing--we spent much of our time listening to D'Gary, a musician from Madagascar whose real name consists of 17 consonants and an "a," or something like that. The fireworks were otherworldly, mostly because while the sky to our right lit up with fireworks set to music like "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" and "At Last my Love has Come Along," lightning danced across the sky to our left, lighting up the river and causing the sizable crowd to gasp in unison. We were lying in the grass on a fairly steep incline, and I couldn't imagine the chaos if it downpoured and the banks of the RiverScape turned to sludge. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, we all stayed dry.
So there's Ohio for you
. Of course, talking to Brian and seeing all his pictures from his work and travels in East Africa almost killed me. Sometimes I feel like this round-the-world trip is just a means to get back to Africa, which begs the questions--Why don't I just go straight back to Africa? Now there's
a part of my personality I'll never understand. Maybe I'm afraid I've romanticized it, and I don't want to be disappointed. So the alternative is to spend 5 years envious of the friend who had the courage to make it happen? Silly. But, barring catastrophe, I'll make it back. At least it's on the horizon now. Maybe I'll step off the plane and say, "what was all that fuss about?"--Or maybe I'll step off and wonder what the hell I've been doing for the past seven years. One way or another, I'll finally lay to rest that constant tug at the edges of my life.
Missouri hit me like a big, wet, sloppy, humid blanket, and I at last remembered what it was like to be thermally comfortable. I realized with glee that I WAS THE ONLY ONE IN CHARGE OF THE AIR CONDITIONER! I crossed into Ohio vowing never to leave the humidity again.