In spring 2010 I'd lived in the Bay Area for almost three years. By that point Pi Wen and I were dating and life was looking good again. I was back in Berkeley after one year in San Francisco, and much happier to be in the East Bay.
That May I was still working at UCSF, which was under a period of forced staff furloughs as a budget saving maneuver. (Samuel Merritt started that August, after an interview in early June.) In practice this meant 1.5 days or so--can't remember the details--of unpaid leave per month. You could roll over that leave, adding it to regular vacation. By May 2010 I had accrued a lot of leave, of both the paid and unpaid varieties.
That year the Medical Library Association conference was in Washington, DC (my home from 2002-2004). I attended the conference, and built around it a trip that included stops in New York City (home from 2004-2007); Tennessee (my ancestral home); and Ohio (my childhood home.)
All of these places are east of the Mississippi River. That year I developed a new theory of US travel, which is that anything east of the Mississippi is close to each other.
Logically, this is absurd. By this reasoning Portland, Maine is close to Mobile, Alabama.
But it's all relative. Portland, Maine is close to Mobile compared to San Francisco.
In 2007, after moving to Berkeley, I felt displaced from all I'd known. Culturally New York City was a world away from my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. But at least it was in the same time zone, and I could get back to Ohio easily in a pinch. Out here none of that was true anymore. So, anytime I'm "east of the Mississippi" I must make the most of it.
Three years have passed since this first elaborate voyage. The Bay Area is home now--the roots are deepening, the ligaments have thickened. Mom and Bob will be stopping into town next month, because SF is a docking point for a cruise they're taking. Pi Wen and I will BART into town that morning and show them around. Easy breezy, piece of cake. We know this place now (Pi Wen moved here just a few months before me). If this cruise had taken place in 2008 I would have been a much less knowledgable tour guide.
Building a new home does not mean I never miss the old ones. "East of the Mississippi" is now a way of life. In 2011 we did not travel east; that was our wedding year, so people came to us. In 2012 I added a week in Ohio after a conference in Pennsylvania--this included catching up with relatives I had not seen in years, and going to Athens, OH to visit where Pi Wen had gone to graduate school.
This year a new version of "East" is in the offing. I have a conference in Evanston, IL (my college town! Go Cats!) the last week of June. Pi Wen lived in Evanston as well, and she'll join me. Then it's off to Nashville, Tennessee, where I haven't been since that 2010 trip and Pi Wen has never been. Then...home to Oakland. All these journeys are an homage to my younger self, but I know where I'll grow old.