I’ve been thinking a lot about elsewhere recently. I don’t know whether it’s simply a periodic bout of overwhelming nostalgia, boredom with here, or just a random path my mind has chosen to wander. But elsewhere is certainly where it’s wandering.
Elsewhere has taken many forms.
Sometimes it’s Islay; the ferry pulling into Port Ellen, the round parish church in Bowmore and the patio out the back of the Lochside hotel, sipping a Feis Ile dram and a pint of ale in the sun, the Paps of Jura in the distance to the north. Then I journey up to the Assynt Peninsula in November, then further to Cape Wrath. The sky’s so low you can touch it; a menacing grey that creeps closer when you’re not looking. The slate sea crashes against jagged black bedrock and explodes into turquoise capped with white foam. Looking out and knowing it’s just the Atlantic for a good portion of the world until you reach land again.
In a blink it’s India. Morning by the Ganges in Varanasi as the sun comes up, showing just how vibrant colour can be. Pungent on the nose. Countless people praying and doing laundry. Hearing the lap of the river against the wooden hull of the small boat, the sound of the world waking up drifting over the water. Goats, pretty much everywhere.
Or I’ll start in Jerez de la Frontera, sitting at the bar in Nono’s, watching him tap a cask of Palo Cortado for my afternoon libation. Watching the pigeon on the bar eat seeds out of a matchbox and sipping a bottle of Cruzcampo, a copa of sherry on the side. I don’t even know if Nono’s still exists. I hope it does. From there I’ll drive down to Cadiz and wander along the sea walls and breathe in the ocean air.
If it’s an evening wander, it’s probably Fenway. Drinking a watery beer in a cramped box seat while munching on a hot dog and spilling pretty much everything as I jump up to cheer as Papi drives one into the Monster seats. More Boston. Walking along the brick-laid sidewalks on the Hill, watching my step where the tree roots have pushed up the bricks like a crooked set of teeth. Grabbing a slice from the Upper Crust on Charles St before wandering over to the Common and noticing again how much smaller the little league fields seem these days.
And then, out of nowhere, I’m sat out front of the Café Sola in Collioure, drinking a beer and looking out over the bridge towards the Mediterranean. Maybe later I’ll walk down to the pier and listen to water on the rocky beach. It sounds just like rice crispies after the milk’s been added; snap, crackle and pop.
A cocktail at Bramble in Edinburgh.
Brunch at Louie’s, watching the storms come in.
Walking on the wet grey sand in Humboldt, transfixed by the Pacific.
These journeys all cover old ground. I’m not going anywhere new, just revisiting where I’ve been. I don’t know if I’m haunted by my past or if it’s me that’s doing the haunting. Lingering long after the event, looking for something lost that probably wasn’t there in the first place.
Isn't that a song lyric?