As August ended this year, both my apartment’s lease and my campus job at a health sciences library expired.
With nowhere to go, I decided to take an autumn road trip. With family and friends in Nashville, Atlanta, and Florida’s gulf coast, I had a few weeks’ worth of adventure ahead of me.
After making out with a radio personality in Nashville and spending a few days of vice and skin with my lesbian ex-girlfriend in Atlanta, I finally reached my destination.
Marco Island is filled with tourists, retirees, and for some reason, a house owned by Eminem. Youth is rare and gay youth is rarer. I assumed it would be a good place to unwind for two weeks. Relax on the beach, share drinks with the family I was staying with, soak some sun into my skin. No intertwining tongues with strangers, no maintaining friendships, no calls from editors or supervisors. Just me, some tequila, and sand.
Then I got a job.
My first night there my aunt asked me about my previous internship with a Columbus record label.
“I found a job for you,” she said.
I was soon introduced to a woman who I’ll be calling “Lucretia,” a name bestowed upon her by my friend @shelldash. Lucretia lived and worked in New York City for almost forty years in music licensing and publishing. To keep the explanation of what she does short, she connects musicians with popular television shows and movies to get them exposed to the public. Chances are in the past ten years you’ve heard her contracted musicians anywhere from Law and Order to Saturday Night Live.
As she grew older, she decided to move to Florida, and moved her entire business with her. Filing cabinets, desks, and audio equipment fill her home. Documents and albums litter every surface of the house. Her cat serves as a paperweight. The cat is the true owner of the home, and Lucretia bends to its will.
Lucretia has three Antonios in her life: her pool technician, her landscaper, and her general repairman. It was common to find the three of them around her kitchen table as she insisted on feeding them serving after serving of whatever she had on the menu that day.
I became Lucretia’s studio assistant. I archived music, prepared contracts, made phone calls, helped with studio production… basically whatever needed done.
Weeks passed and I still hadn’t left the island. I was struggling to organize a disorganized Lucretia by day and making out with handsome strangers in ocean-view penthouses by night.
It wasn’t the change I was looking for. I had driven across the country, to paradise, where the sand ends and the rest of the world begins, but it wasn’t right. I wasn’t getting enough hours and Lucretia wasn’t putting forward the effort necessary to maintain her business (at least not to my standards). And why would she? She’s past the age of retirement and has plenty of money. If I were in the same situation I would probably just say “fuck it” and spend my time giving my three Antonios back rubs, too.
I was told I was living in paradise but I was sad all the time. I’m naturally moody, leaning towards the cynical and pessimistic, but this was different. This wasn’t home.
So after a few months, I left. I returned home to Ohio, regrouped, and made plans for my next move. I ended up in Phoenix, Arizona.
I’m still in touch with friends made during my time on the island, and sometimes I’ll get a call from Lucretia asking if I know where a contract that she swore she left on the couch is, because apparently I’m supposed to know these things after being gone for months.
I left an island paradise in exchange for the metropolitan desert.
Why would you leave an island?
You can’t just move across the country with no job.
Are you sure about this?
This is insane, even for you.
Maybe you should consider graduate school?
Ohio doesn’t offer me the beauty of driving to work with mountains ahead of me and skyscrapers in my rear-view mirror.
The island doesn’t offer me a sprawled valley of city lights and the millions of beautiful drifters that live under them.
Now I live in the desert, where the sand never ends and the rest of the world begins.
Columbus, Marco Island, Miller City… they’re beautiful and unique and special, but they’re forever homes. Til death do you part.
Phoenix is different. Of the dozens of people I’ve met, only one of them is actually from Phoenix. The Valley of the Sun is just a big bowl filled with the world’s restless souls, traveling nomads and wandering gypsies. When I tell people I moved here on a whim, instead of being met with the usual “That’s insane you’re going to die in the desert,” I’m met with a casual shrug and a “Yeah, me too.”
The desert is home to no one and home to everyone.
It won’t be home forever, but I don’t need forever.