For 74 days in a row, I’ve done whatever the fuck I’ve wanted.
Drink bourbon at 10 am on a weekday and wander around Hollywood? Done.
Run up the side of a dormant volcano in New Zealand to catch a sunset? Done.
Eat trash, delivered through the window of my car, while merging onto a highway in the vicinity of Valdosta, Georgia? Unfortunately, done. Twice.
For as long as I can remember--which isn’t terribly long--I’ve been chasing the intoxicating glow of the foreign. I don’t mean foreign in the strict, We’re Gonna Build The Wall sense. I mean new, rare, disorienting, unseen, unsuffered foreign. I mean those first four minutes after you pass through the sliding doors of an airport and into a place you’ve never been to before. I mean the first time you hear a siren in Denmark or drift into the lemon sherbet perfection of an Australian summer morning after 18 hours of recirculated air and synthetic light. You suddenly find yourself on a blind date with everything you’ve ever known--the sun, wind, photosynthesis, electricity, sinks, voices, legs, eyes, cars, doors.
Yes, you collide with love in a foreign place like a sliding glass door. You tap into the rhythm of life 6,000 miles from the edge of the circle which marks the furthest you’ve ever had the guts to go before, and you suddenly swell up with love for everyone who still sends you birthday cards. You want to tell them how happy you are and how new everything has suddenly become, but there’s no wifi and you’re on another continent with no time to spare except every second which ticks by, so you shake hands with the fantastic irony that you only thought to feel this way after spending a couple thousand dollars and placing an actual fucking ocean between yourself and all those people you forgot you loved.
Then you laugh as you race down the stairs to the train platform and the metropolis at the other end.
But there is always love to be found in foreign places.
It happens in a coffee shop in Seattle on a bright January morning or a blockbuster atrium in Washington D.C. on a muggy Saturday. Sometimes it’s a transcendent piece of art or one of those songs you know you’ll carry with you to the bitter end, but it’s almost always a woman.
I don’t buy into the concept of fate, but that doesn’t change the fact that you see it swirling all around when the door slams shut in Berlin and suddenly it’s just you and Marvin Gaye and an empty bar and a vibrant Ukrainian woman. Like a detective who forgets that every big break in every big case stems from incompetence rather than effort, you unwind the past three or six hours until you’re left with a convoluted map and a thousand fateful forks in the road. You somehow forget the missed train.
And then you forget everything else, too. You forget what to do with your backpack and how to read a menu, let alone that you were ever hungry. Thrust into a cosmic estuary where phones don’t ring and time vanishes altogether, you have to relearn absolutely everything except how to stare at someone with a warm, vacant smile. You’ve stumbled into the paradisiacal valley of love far from home, far from details. No parking tickets, no funerals, no television, no stray cats.
You already know it's doomed, but glaciers are only more beautiful when you know they’re melting.
So you throw yourself into the moment with everything you’ve got. You tell stories, hold doors open for strangers, smile at old people, scold yourself for slouching, overtip, and actually fucking listen for once. As consumed as you are by the face staring back at you, there’s an absurd belief that you two have become the center of the universe and that every other human who crosses your path is merely an extra in a montage from a well-written romantic comedy. It’s utter bullshit, to be sure, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
It’s earthbound perfection, it’s bubble wrapped purpose dropped at your doorstep by Jeff Bezos himself. You’ve met a gorgeous person who can carry on a conversation without coming across as a full blown racist or confiding that the moon landing was faked and surely nobody else has ever experienced such a phenomenon, so you casually resolve to sit the whole human race on your knee one day and tell them what it was like when The First Boy met The First Girl.
You ignore the mountains of data telling you that this is neither unique nor impervious to the subtle onslaught of monotony. You fail to hear the rattlesnake of time and met expectations. It’s fantastic. And then you board a plane.
I am utterly addicted to it, but Lou Reed’s addiction gave us “Heroin,” so I’ve decided to make something of it.