Thoughts on Moving

May 23rd, 2022

This font is called "Bitter," and boy, am I!  Just kidding.  But not really.  I treasure my time in Utah and I'm really grateful for the positive experiences I had there.  That said, I don't like how things have ended, and I'm okay with saying that here.

I have no hometown.  When people ask me where I’m from, I have a number of answers, and one of the universe’s private jokes is that no matter which one I pick, it’s always the wrong one for the context of any given conversation.

If I answer with my birthplace (Tucson, AZ), then the person meant, “Where did you spend your childhood?”

If I answer with the city where I spent my childhood (Las Vegas, NV), then they actually wanted to know where I went to high school or college.

If I answer with St. George, UT—the city I lived in from eighth grade through undergrad (and for an additional four years once I finished my masters)—then they actually meant to find out where I live now.

I live in Las Vegas now.  I’ve technically lived in Las Vegas since December of 2019, but the move was gradual, and I was still physically present in St. George on a regular basis until the Spring of 2020.  Then, of course, everyone lost all concept of “regular” anyway, so I didn’t really expect anyone to keep tabs on my geographic location.  And I didn’t make it particularly easy for those who may have tried at first.  I’ve been bouncing all around the country.  That said, I’ve been back in Vegas (to varying degrees) for two and a half years now.

Anyway, lately I’ve just started claiming the entire southwestern United States.  No one can stop me, and no one tries.  New Mexico could make a pretty good case against me, but they haven’t yet.  After all, most people don’t actually care about your response to the question, “So where are you from?”

Actually, most people don’t care about my response to any question.  They usually just ask me questions they would like to answer about themselves, so I try to keep my own answers short and follow up with, “So tell me about you!”

They happily oblige.

Claiming everywhere is the same thing as claiming nowhere.  I have roots in all these places, but that doesn’t make those roots deep.  Sometimes I am keenly aware of how shallow all these roots are, so I try to be very delicate with their flowering plants.

Other people aren’t as delicate with the fruits of my labor.  They pull up the plants and hold them in their fists, tender root beds exposed, clumps of soil falling everywhere.  They smile when they do it.  As if to say, “Look how easy that was!”

And then they don’t even keep the little flowers.

(I’m also Indigenous on my mom’s side, so I’m generationally predisposed to uprootings and aggressive displacement.)

So anyway, people have been pulling up my plants for years and years, and as a result, I’ve learned not to get too attached to the flowers themselves.  I’ve learned to appreciate the process of planting more than its end result.

But I messed up with St. George, Utah.  I got attached to these plants.

In my defense, somebody told me I could reap whatever I sewed here.  Somebody said something about honest work and laborers in a vineyard. Somebody even mentioned a certain amount of silver coins, but I can’t remember the day rate they put in my contract.

(They even said they were gathering Israel, and Israel to them means everybody, so I thought that might include me.)

You know how people ask questions they wish other people would ask them?  Same thing often applies to their philosophizing.  When they said I would reap what I sewed, they meant that they would reap what they sewed.

Actually, sometimes they meant that they would reap what I sewed.

So when I look back on my time in Utah, I don’t know how I feel.  I had so many important early career experiences there.  I learned so much.  I met some of the people who are most important to me.  I was a student there from 2004 until 2015, and after that, I became a teacher there myself for seven years.

Seven years!

That’s a biblical number.

Me and Jacob.

I was part of the music scene for even longer.  I wasn’t the best at any one thing, but I filled the shape of whatever container they put me in, and I rose to every occasion as best I could.  I’m not the best at any of the obvious stuff, but the strengths I have are unique and really hard to come by.  And people needed them!

Well, I thought they did.

But they wanted them!

Or… they used to.

I don’t even know if they see them anymore.  Which sucks, because I even have some new ones.

Anyway, after all this time, including my seven years of labor at the university, I was really surprised at how unceremoniously I was dropped from the scene.  Just gone.

Did you know I still have almost six weeks before I head out east again?  And I don’t technically move to New York until late August.

Does anyone in Utah get that?  Did you guys forget about me the literal second I left?

You would think I’d already moved two thousand miles away.  Or even to Mars.

If this seems whiny, you don’t get how small the music community is in that place.  How tight we are.  How many circles there are in this Venn diagram and how few of us were in that innermost overlapping section.  I was there for years and years.

Suddenly I’m outside the whole thing.

It’s natural.

Out of sight, out of mind is natural.

I even said, “I’m not going to take gigs away from qualified locals.”

People seem to forget that I said the “qualified” part, but whatever.

(I guess if you no longer see what I bring to the table, then anyone is qualified to replace me.  Hell, let the table take a shot at it.)

Anyway, I can deal with the bad feelings.  The weird thing is that I’m not supposed to talk about any of it.  I’m not supposed to say, “I worked with these people for well over a decade; they were my teachers, colleagues, and friends, and none of them has ever said as much as, ‘Hey, how are you?’ in the last two and a half years, unless I prompted it."

I’m not supposed to say any of that because it’s unprofessional.

I’m also not supposed to say it because I’m on my way to Bigger and Better (allegedly), so my resentment lacks grace.

I’m going to the big city, and by writing this, I’m not taking the high road to get there.  My bad.

But do you guys get how much your abandonment stings?  You hurt me.  I didn’t come here looking for a hometown, but you told me I had one.  I thought I was going to be at UTU for two years and then transfer the hell out of Utah, but you convinced me to stay.  You told me I had a place here!  You said you liked me just the way I am!  At every natural exit point, you told me to stick around.

Then I moved two hours south via I-15, and you forgot about me overnight.  Overnight!

I actually think it’s hilarious because I managed to get through two parental divorces without accruing much in the way of abandonment issues… but apparently the music career can still get you there!

Look, I really didn’t expect to keep the big gigs.  I didn’t expect to keep any gigs.  But I thought you might say hi.  I thought you might check in.  I thought you might say, “Hey, we’re giving so-and-so a shot now, and they’re doing well, but we really miss seeing you around here.”

Why did I think you would do that?

I’m not even mad at you for the growing distance between us.  It’s the most natural thing in the world to lose touch.  But I’m mad that you won’t acknowledge it.  I’m mad that I’m supposed to be quiet about it.

I can’t be the first person to feel this way, so it feels worth sharing.  I want to warn people how self-serving individual members of communities can be, even when they really seem to care.  I don't even think this is bad; everybody needs to advocate for themselves because no one else will have as vested an interest in you as you.  But we should acknowledge it.  I want students to know that mentors can decide they’re finished investing in you long before you finish investing in them.  I want musicians to know that if a town doesn’t have enough work to go around, you have to leave it, and that can hurt like hell for all kinds of unforeseen reasons.

It was surprisingly easy to carve out a place for myself in southern Utah, contrary to what a lot of people might think.  It was like this one time in elementary school when we carved little statues out of sandstone.

Sandstone is good for carving, but if you carve too much, it crumbles.

Sandstone is good for carving because it crumbles.

Things that give way that easily aren’t easy to preserve.

Anyway, I don’t have to tell you, but Jacob did get his wife of choice.  It was a two-for-one deal, actually.  BOGO.  But he still had to work for an additional seven years.

I don’t have another seven years in me.  And I don’t need more spouses.

You can keep your silver, too.

I just wish you would have kept the flowers.

You know what’s funny about moving to New York?  That’s where my mom’s family is from.  Our reservation is close by, anyway.  When people are rude to me in the city, I’ll be able to think to myself, “Whatever, man, my grandpa helped build this skyline.”

He was a steel worker.  He helped put together the twin towers.

They aren’t there anymore.

(Like I said, we’re generationally predisposed to uprootings and aggressive displacement.)

I don’t think NYC will feel like home, but I hope I like however it feels.

And I hope they like flowers there.