I’m seven years old. I live in a small city in Arizona. I live with my parents and my brother in a trailer on decently sized piece of desert next doorI’m seven years old. I live in a small city in Arizona. I live with my parents and my brother in a trailer on decently sized piece of desert next door to my grandparents. We go to the lake every Sunday. We don’t wear seatbelts. I realize, for the first time, that I’m one of the few kids in my class whose parents are still married. I am happy about that.
I’m ten years old. My life is mostly the same as it was three years ago. My dad is drinking more, and his moods are more volatile. There’s more yelling. Every time I try to sleep over at a friend’s house, I get a paralyzing feeling of homesickness. I always call, and my mom always picks me up. Nobody questions it. When I get home, I feel a palpable sense of relief.
I’m sixteen years old. I confront my mom and tell her I can’t live with my dad anymore. I pack a bag and move into my grandparents house. I live there for roughly one hour before my dad calls and tells me to come home. He doesn’t listen for my response before he hangs up. The threat in his voice is implicit. When I get home, he doesn’t say anything to me. Home doesn’t feel safe anymore.
I’m seventeen years old. I confront my dad and tell him I can’t live with him anymore. I tell him I want to move out, and, no matter how much I beg, I don’t want him to ever let me come back into his house again. This isn’t my home.
I’m seventeen years old. I work at the local library shelving books. My mother shows up and tells me she’s leaving my dad. We pick up my brothers and hole up in my grandparents house. After three hours, my dad calls and tells us to come home. We don’t. He comes for us and tries smashing his way through the kitchen window. The police show up and take him away. Our family is broken.
I’m eighteen years old. I move out of my mom’s house into an apartment with my bandmates. We live in harmony for a few months before I find evidence that someone is going into my room when I’m not home. I install a lock on my bedroom door. After a week, I quit the band and move out.
I’m eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one. I bounce between apartments every time a lease is up. I live in half a dozen places.
I’m twenty-six. I’ve gotten married. I still work at the library. We live in a townhouse that we like. My wife is pregnant. We crunch numbers. We decide to move in with her family.
I’m twenty-seven, thirty-one. I get my master’s. I get a good job. We move to a small house in midtown Phoenix. Our landlord is a negligent old lady. My daughter starts kindergarten at one of the worst schools in the state. We have another girl. I start applying for jobs out-of-state.
I’m thirty-two. I get a job out-of-state. We move to Spokane, Washington. We rent a small house. We’re far away from everyone we know. I breathe easier.
I’m thirty-three. We buy a house a mile away from the one we’re renting. I love my job. My daughter is in a good school. I want to love this place. I want to feel at home. I find this book on a display at the library.
I’ve not had a true feeling of home since I was sixteen. Since then, I’ve felt generally uneasy. Every place I’ve lived has felt temporary. I’m always looking for something, but I don’t know what it is.
With my family, I feel happiness. I want their presence to give me a sense of home, but it doesn’t give me exactly what I need. I lack place attachment. And place attachment is an important part of my happiness. I’ve tried to make my residences feel like home, but they don’t feel like mine.
This book purports to be a guidebook for how to achieve this feeling. Warwick tells the story of her own efforts to make her new city her home, and offers science, psychology, and advice that she discovers along the way. She advocates for knowing your neighbors, getting involved in your community, buying local. She describes a process that’s very intentional. I appreciate that.
So I’m trying to follow her advice. I own my house, and I care about it. I’m trying to buy things local (even though it costs a fortune). I’m learning who my neighbors are, and talking to them sometimes. I’m trying to improve the lives of people in my community at work- instead of working for a paycheck or my own intellectual curiosity, I am actively trying to care about what good I can do. I picked up a piece of trash on the sidewalk. I’m trying to visit new places on foot. I'm trying very hard to love Spokane. And I think it's working.
It’s going to take time, but I’m hopeful. The reward is pretty clear. More than anything, though, I appreciate the knowledge that I'm not alone. That, even if no one else felt the unease that I have, at least Warwick has. It’s something....more
It was June. It was Las Vegas. It was hot as hell.
I was in town for a conference and had decided to check out one of the pre-conference get togethers.It was June. It was Las Vegas. It was hot as hell.
I was in town for a conference and had decided to check out one of the pre-conference get togethers. At the very least, there would be free food. Once I got there, I realized that being fashionably late was a mistake. All the seats with people I knew were filled, so I got stuck at a quiet table off to the side. It could have been worse, but it definitely wasn’t better than sitting in my hotel room watching Family Feud.
It was a tapas place, and I perked up a bit when they brought out the first course. But then I saw that it wasn’t vegetarian, so I went back to that place of comfortable disappointment. The second and third courses weren’t any better. My table mates felt bad for me.
In the middle of the awards reception part of the gathering, a familiar face materialized. His breath smelled strongly of booze and, to be honest, it was kind of like coming home again. This guy was one of the only reasons these conferences were fun for me. He suggested we get out of there. I took my napkin off my lap and bade my single serving friends farewell.
We left the restaurant.
“Fuck, it’s hot,” he said. “Let’s just walk down a little ways so we can catch a cab. We’re going to have to wait an hour in line here."
My pal was having trouble staying awake. He’d taken quite a few pills with his quite a few drinks. And the non-vegetarian tapas he’d consumed were not agreeing with his system. He was a fucking mess. I laughed my ass off. We had to stop at every hotel along the way for him to use the restroom and try to get us a cab. Turned out there were, like, eight hundred events going on that day, and all the hotel folks just laughed at us. We sat in a lobby for a while, and my friend fell asleep. I roused him, somewhat concerned that he might not wake up again.
“Fuck it,” he finally said. “You just want to walk?"
“Sure,” I said. I didn’t care. Las Vegas was hot, but I lived in Phoenix. It was uncomfortable, but doable. He, however, was from the east coast, and the sun was destroying him. He was sweating and high and drunk and dehydrated. Again, funny.
At some point, he saw a cab stopped at a red light and bolted toward it, throwing open the door and climbing in. Luckily, the cab was empty and the driver was cool with that behavior. He told the driver an address, and fell asleep again.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
His eyes opened. “What?"
“Where are we going?"
“We rented Fat Mike’s house."
“The Fat Mike?"
“You know him?"
Not personally, no. I have never had a conversation with Mike Burkett, lead singer of NOFX. But I’d stood in a dozen sweaty crowds of people in relatively close proximity to him. Back when I was still discovering punk, I used to wear a NOFX shirt all the time, even when I’d never heard their music before. Fat Mike, as far as I was concerned, was the godfather of my era of punk rock. So, yeah, I was aware of him.
When we pulled up to the house, I was sure he was mistaken. It was just an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood. I was slightly disappointed, but not surprised.
But then we went inside. And it was Fat Mike’s house.
The place was a NOFX museum. There were piles of punk CDs next to a beat up stereo, a beer vending machine, a mini-golf course, and, of course, lots and lots of S&M gear. The house rules were written on the wall of the kitchen, and NOFX’s gold Punk in Drublic record was on the wall of the master bedroom.
It was amazing, and felt incredibly personal to be in the man’s home (even if it was just his Las Vegas vacation house). The experience was very similar to reading this book (I bet you never thought I’d get there). The book is the most graphic and intense musical biography I have ever read. With touring musicians, I always expect some level of debauchery, but NOFX makes guys like Tucker Max look like the minor leagues. At times, it was really hard to read.
But there’s honesty, wit, and wisdom in these pages. There are many things to be learned from this band’s triumphs and catastrophes. I think it’s probably worth a read even if you aren’t a fan of their music....more