Last April during Semana Santa, my roommate and I hosted a wonderful couch surfer from Catalonia. He had come to Minorca to walk the Camí de Cavalls, the name given to the trail that circumvents the island. He was great company: fun, sweet and was studying to become a professional chef. And thus, he repaid our hospitality with delicious and healthful meals. He left on his journey after one night, but returned 8 days later after he had completed his trek.
He stayed for a few more days and cooked some more meals. As we ate, we talked about what was next for both of us in the next few month, years and decades. I told him that I wanted to keep writing and traveling. He nodded and told me that he wanted to continue traveling, but within his home province--Catalonia.
My guest mused that a lot of his friends had traveled throughout Spain and Europe writ large, but knew very little about their own backyards. He gave, as an example, a friend who had gone to the Greek Isles, but didn't realize that the exact same Mediterranean architecture existed in Spain in the Balearic Islands.
Fast forward to now. I'm back in the same New Jersey suburb that I have lived in for most of my life. I've long resisted being here, choosing instead to live in my own imagination. I'm happy to say that moving to Spain had been the realization of so many of those dreams. And moving back home meant facing reality. But I'm beginning to realize that that didn't mean returning to my old life. There was no point to it. I hadn't worked for me two years ago, so it certainly wouldn't work now.
So, what was I to do? Well, I took advice from my Catalonian friend and decided to live like a tourist. That meant engaging in all that NJ/NYC had to offer. More importantly, it meant paying attention to all the privileges that I had taken for granted my entire life.
Like most locals, I have barely seen many of the major draws of New York City. I haven't been to the Statue of Liberty since I was three. And while I spent many school trips at the Bronx Zoo, I didn't even realize Central Park had one until a few years ago. The botanical gardens were a mystery to me. And of all of the major museums in NYC, I have only been to four; four museums in twenty seven years. That has to be some kind of record.
Back in Jersey, though I am a huge fan of the shore, I have only visited a handful of beaches on the coastline. I have never walked the Appalachian trail, and have never ridden my bike with the same liberty that had sustained me in Minorca. I have never been to the Western part of the state, except to pass through on my way to Pennsylvania.
So, after two weeks of relaxing in my childhood bedroom, I decided to venture out into the vast metropolis. First stop, the audience of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Aside from the Oprah Show, every talk show I have ever watched regularly has been taped in New York City. And while I knew that the tickets were free, it never dawned on me that I could actually attend a taping. This is due to the fact that I spent most of my life working multiple jobs, no I never even had the time to consider doing such a thing.
But now, with a freer calendar and a new lease of life, I decided to attend a taping of one of my favorite shows. Stephen Colbert had been a lifeline while I lived in Spain. I watched clips from his show on Youtube every weekday for nine months. It was a way for me to engage with American popular and political culture without becoming overwhelmed or enraged.
So, one of the first things I did when I landed was search for tickets to his show. And to my surprise they were extremely easy to get and most importantly--free.
Suffice to say, I had a great time. Although I didn't meet him personally, Stephen seems as personable and friendly as appears on TV. I also got to see Ice Cube and Ashton Kutcher in person, to boot. While the first wearing sunglasses indoors for no reason, and the latter seeming far more awkward than I ever could have imagined, the both seemed nicer and more human that I could have imagined before.
After I arrived back home, I began to search for tickets to other shows that I enjoy: The Daily Show, Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Chew. I also searched to see if I could turn this into a profession. I see no reason why I couldn't work as a professional audience member.
While I wait on that career to burgeon, I'll be making plans to head down to new places at the shore. And spending the 4th of July on a farm in Massachusetts. I've got nothing but time on my hands now while I am waiting to head back overseas. And I want to spend it hanging out in all the places just beyond my backyard.