One of the things I remember most about Reno, Nevada was it's distinct smell — desert brush mixed with pine and white fir wafting down from the Sierras along with the slight stench of pollution from seedy tourism. That last part disappeared as you wound up Mount Rose towards gorgeous Lake Tahoe as I did every day for my internship at The North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspaper that summer.
They say your sense of smell is the most sensitive of the senses, often helping to conjure up even the most distant of memories or experiences with people. I lived in a completely different world there — new smells, new experiences, new attitudes, new surroundings. It's the only other place I've lived. However all of this came with the safety net of living with my parents who lived in the area at the time. And, after two short months, I was back at school in the middle of my familiar Kansas.
There are no safety nets this time except for the fact that I will now be living with one of my best friends instead of alone. Moving to Denver will change my life completely and I'm ready to take it all in despite small fears that "homesick" will develop into a disease rather than just a tiny, intermittent virus.
The bad thing about Kansas City is that it's smell is not distinct like that of Reno. It smells like barbeque and roasted coffee beans from the Folgers plant, which means that walking past a coffee shop or a meat smoker while on this adventure to the west could cause me to shed some spontaneous tears...well, I hope not.
Maybe Kansas City isn't the most glamorous of places — there are no mountains to speak of to ski on, no beaches to flaunt our shit on, it does in fact go to "sleep" around 2 or 3 a.m. and seeing cows next to office buildings isn't uncommon. Our claim to fame is apparently "The Wizard of Oz" based on the fact that everybody who finds out I'm from Kansas says, "Ha! Do you know Dorothy? Where's Toto?" and I have to refrain from verbally abusing them and shoving my foot up their horrifically non-witty ass. I did, however, meet Jerry Maren, the lollipop kid from the movie, but that's another story...Despite it's so-called shortcomings, according to the rest of the country, not me, I love that place.
I spent the last couple of weeks before I left soaking in the comforts and distinctions of my city, my home. The food, the trolley rides, the theme parks, the nightlife, baseball games and of course, the people. My going away party, thrown by none other than my best friend Kate, was filled with all the people I love and the distinctions of Kansas City.
Shortly into the party, Kate brought out a huge pink box full of all things Kansas City that people had picked out to give to me — a bottle of Most Wanted vodka made in Atchison, Kansas from my friend Erin with a note telling me to find a Slurpee and a swing if I ever got homesick — a nod to a childhood memory we had together; T-shirts from my favorite bars; french fry seasoning and barbeque sauce from the the best BBQ joint in the world, Oklahoma Joe's, which is attached to a gas station and on Anthony Bourdain's 13 Places to Eat Before You Die; Christopher Elbow chocolates and a Boulevard Brewery glass; the passing on of the infamous "HO" cup; treats and a collar for Andy from Land 'O Paws, locally brewed beer and a "City of Fountains" martini glass.
Of course, there were nods to Denver too — a few reusable shopping bags because I'm pretty sure you get stoned to death in the street if you don't use those in Denver. And, my new roomie Whittah surprised me by first showing up to the party, then giving me a Denver care package full of granola, extra sunscreen and University of Colorado Denver supplies.
I was overwhelmingly touched by the party and the people that showed up. It was quite the send off celebration.
To top it off, I decided that it was a good idea to go on our annual and physically exhausting float trip the weekend before I left without having my apartment packed up. Yes, of course it was a good idea, because it's the greatest float trip ever created, a.k.a. Riverdiddle. Our theme this year was the golf classic, which of course prompted us to have Sam play Tiger Woods while we played his many cocktail waitress hos. I spent the day with play money shoved in my swimsuit and a name tag that read "Tiger's #1 Hizzo" stuck to my ass. Highlights included winning the Wal-Mart Bingo contest and receiving a blue pitcher with our team name on it — Kate's Car 'o Bitches, an armadillo sighting, a braiding contest, flip cup championships and flying whip cream shots. It doesn't get much better than that.
I came home to yet another send off from my family. This is when I really had to fight off the waterworks, escaping to the bathroom at least twice to compose myself. My niece, Remi, walked into my parent's house and immediately wanted to show me the card she gave me, which read: "If you knew how much I missed you...You'd be back by now."
Then, she had two versions of her name, one with and one without help on one side and this little drawing on the other side:
NOT Ike from Southpark, by the way.
"That's you," she said, pointing to the one on the left "and that's Andy," she said, pointing to the one on the right. This kid is killing me. I might just miss her most of all.
My aunt, whose health is fading more and more making me worry about moving so far away, gave me a card with the distinct ruby slippers on the front and the wish that I would click my heels and come home often. If only it were that easy...
While I found myself nostalgic of home last night, saying my last goodbyes to my friends, recalling memories of all the places I drove by on the way back to my parent's house and shedding a few tears, I sit in this hotel room in exotic Goodland, Kansas and feel more excitement than fear. I'm a two hour drive away from a new life, and while I'll miss my home and my people, it's about damn time.