Basho Profundo

‘Even in Kyoto
Hearing the cuckoo’s cry
I long for Kyoto.’

—Basho

On the beaches of Sardinia, I thought about whizzing over the Brooklyn Bridge. The arches frame the shining city, and I used to feel like one of Chaucer’s pilgrims entering Canterbury. (And also like the pig from Babe, Pig in the City, which I made the mistake of seeing when very premenstrual. I sobbed through the entire scene where Babe is chased by a pit bull, and then through every appearance of the faded pink Blanche Dubois poodle down on her luck. Jason, who had come along only to see the Star Wars trailer, clutched his toy Light Saber and looked bemused.)

I miss the bridge because it reminds me of the freedom and belonging I felt there, in New York Fucking City, which I claimed as my own every morning when I freewheeled down through those arches. For a month or so before leaving, I’d glumly noted ‘lasts’—the last time I sat in Central Park, rode the N train, biked to work, ate Brooklyn olive bread, or kayaked on the East River. I tried to remind myself I’m only going for a year or so. But then, that’s what I thought when I left both London and Dublin, and things don’t always go according to plan. Especially when there isn’t a plan.

The Irish used to celebrate American wakes for their emigrants. The United States was so far away that those who left for it might as well have been dead, and their final week was a mourning party. My New York friends gave me a good wake. Tricia spoiled me with pedicures, brunches, drinks, and true friendship. Harley called to tell me that the Bangkok Oriental were expecting me for afternoon tea. David gave me a handwritten note that I’ve carried with me. Joe cheered me up whenever the upheavals made me panicky, and then started his own web journal to make up for my sporadic entries from here on out. Candy gave me her own flashlight and hunting knife, and kind advice that made me cry. Michael wrote a wonderful letter. Paul squired me around on my final trip to Brooklyn. Max came to Paragon Sports on my last day, and held my bags as I panicked about shoes until the end; I gave him the shoebox to hold my mail. Mark made me laugh over my last risotto in Le Zie. And Claire schlepped, ran errands, and cheered me on, and on my last day presented me with a Polaroid camera so that I would have photos to give as gifts to any Hmong tribespeople I might meet.

I miss them all, and I wish I’d had the chance to say proper goodbyes to others, too. So here’s a shout out to my homeys. For what we have received, may [insert as applicable] make us truly thankful.