First and foremost: The title of this journal entry comes from two places. The first is obvious and relates to my wonderful home city where I have grown up and in which I hope to one day reside (but of course that is dependent on external variables likely out of my control). The second cause for this title is a song written by my childhood friend and longtime basketball rival Howie Eady Jr. who had recently released a mixtape of 17 songs that are fabulous. Now, these raps might not cater to the musical preference of many of my readers but for those of you who appreciate fantastic lyrics accompanied by equally intriguing beats (though not all original) I encourage you to download and listen to his album. Below is the link.
But a simple title of a new song is hardly enough to warrant a journal. Instead I began listening to Howie’s mixtape at the precisely appropriate time in my abroad experience; the time when I begin to think about home and part of me starts to desire a return to the undeniable comforts of life as I knew it.
Sunday, the 14th, I woke up and went with Courtney to the Milan train station from where she would took a shuttle bus to the airport so that she could fly back to Granada. I knew this departure would be the most difficult, for me at least. This was likely the last time I would see Courtney until we met up again in Rome before finally leaving together for the good old U.S.A. That this separation would be the longest of our relationship (and could even rival the longest separation since knowing each other) weighed heavily on my mind. Of course I didn’t want her to leave and I really didn’t want to have to spend five weeks without seeing her, but I underestimated the other mode in which her departure affected me; it sapped my waning patience for many of the difficulties that are inherent with studying abroad.
Studying abroad, like going to college, forcibly sequesters you with the same people in tight enough quarters where if you are not lucky enough to get along with the people perfectly tensions can rise. And even if you do enjoy the other people, there comes a time in the semester when you simply need a break from it all, or at least I do. Besides the people, the tedious monotony of going to class, doing homework, going to the same places and doing the exact same thing night in and night out weighs on a person. Even before Courtney had arrived, and maybe as a product of spending two weeks straight in Parma, my patience was waning.
Still, before Courtney’s arrival this waning patience did not formulate itself into any sort of prescribed thoughts of departing Parma. My frayed nerves ignored the desire to return home. I was still in Italy and no amount of monotony or valueless work could take away from that. Parma was my home, and homes can become a bit tiring, but in the end they are always home and will always be comfortable. Then, though, Courtney left and with her disappeared the newly found sense of home that I had in Parma.
I knew it would happen. I predicted it when Courtney first got to Parma and the sense of home suddenly set in. Obviously the two were intertwined but obviously I wanted to ignore them. When she left, though, they could no longer be ignored and my emotional state went through a protracted swing from comfort to constant discomfort. I can’ blame her. It’s not her fault that I find home in established relationships instead of the ever changing temporal relationships of acquaintances. As such, home can only be for me where I have those connections, which as of now is not Parma; it’s New Haven and to a lesser extent Boston.
I cannot blame anybody but myself for not making the kind of lasting connections with my group mates that the others seemed to be able to do (well, that could be argued but such talk is not publicly appropriate). Whatever the case, I don’t have those connections(save one or two) in Parma and time is coming to a point where it will be impossible to further foster them. But in honesty, at this point in the experience, it doesn’t much matter because I’ve come to long for the people at home. I’ll admit it; I’m homesick.
Needless to say this homesickness found its trigger with Courtney’s departure, but it had been a long time coming. It manifested itself, though, when she boarded that bus and I, for the first time in Italy since perhaps Rome, felt truly alone, isolated in a country thousands of miles from home and countries away from the one person who can always bring home to me. My weekend state of content and euphoria had dispersed leaving a void to be filled by homesick loneliness.
And so I was left in such a rough state that even Nice noticed. That Sunday was a waste of staying indoors reading about Italian communes in Italian (which is a frustrating tedious and long task). Finally, after literally sitting for hours I went downstairs and downloaded Howie’s CD. I don’t exactly remember what prompted me to finally click on the Facebook link he had sent me about a month ago. Likely it was the fact that Giordano is big into American rap and likes to listen to people he knows make beats or new raps. I wanted to add something to the conversation by displaying one of my friends (I actually have several basketball friends who rap), but that Sunday night my mind certainly wasn’t on rap. Still, something clicked and I clicked it. Unfortunately I fell asleep before the album had finished downloading.
The next day, being a Monday, was a disturbingly long day of disturbingly unimportant classes. My concentration level was zero and my body language screamed discontent. I left my last lesson, Medieval History, early to go home. I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t want to be anywhere or do anything. I began to get too deep inside my head and psyche myself out, doubting realities and inventing problems which don’t exist (my mind is quite active, sometimes too much so). I felt stir crazy. I tried to do research, but my mind hated it and screamed at me to stop wasting my time. The research was necessary but I needed an escape. I grabbed my headphones, stuffed them into my ears, and went for a walk.
The choice to listen to Howie’s album seemed strange, even to myself at the time because rap is not exactly my usual go to music when my emotions need a facelift (hello Jimmy Eat World), but I had yet to listen to more than a brief bit while downloading it and I had liked what I heard. I scrolled through until Hidefinition and pressed play. My first impression was of how awesome it was to hear a friend’s voice coming through my iPod in a professionally sung manner. I began my walk around Parma, through the park, around the streets, wandering aimlessly listening to my childhood friend express himself through intelligent, catchy and powerful lyrics. This wasn’t just ok. This wasn’t an ordinary mixtape. Maybe it’s prejudice or maybe it’s ignorance (I am a white half-Jewish suburbanite) but Howie’s raps are awesome. His delivery is fantastic and clear and the stories flow along with the beats. I bopped along for the first four songs fully absorbed in the joy of hearing a friend produce such art, temporarily forgetting my woes and abandoning my woefully troublesome mind, when the fifth song came on. I shouldn’t have been that surprised, knowing that Howie grew up in New Haven, but I nearly stopped in my trek of the park when I heard his rap about Elm City begin.
It was perfect timing and thank God for it. I listened to Howie’s hilariously interesting and true rap about my home town and I couldn’t help but smile. I thought of all of the good things I had waiting for me there; my friends, family, Ivy Noodle, the Green, Archie’s, Pepe’s, my BED, the JCC. Everything. It felt good to hear about it from a sort of third party (even though Howie is a friend, his voice through an iPod is a little different). The music put a smile back on my face. It helped me to realize all of the wonderful things in New Haven are not exactly temporary. They will be there when I return home. Elm City would be there waiting, the place that I had enjoyed for the majority of my life and a place where I will continue to enjoy my life in the future. So thank you Howie for writing a song that I happened to listen to at the exact time when I needed some sort of feeling of home the most. I felt connected once more as the music transferred my mind back to all of the comforts of home. I felt better.
Still, the homesickness continues. Maybe it’s just the season for it, but whatever the reason I’m starting to feel the tug of home.
[The pictures are there for color and are mostly from the walks I take in the city]
(As a side note: Dad, I wrote this BEFORE we talked tonight)