In today's Washington Post Magazine, Achenbach writes about his visit to Hollywood, CA. One thing he noticed is how people look at each other's faces. People look at your face to see if you are Somebody. Of course, if you are not, then you have a continuous silent chorus of disappointment surrounding you, which could be disheartening if you weren't a humor columnist who is going to get to write about the experience.
The story reminded me of a similar experience I have in Key West. There, people also look at your face--to see whether they know you. It's a sociable town, and full of tourists, so you are either a stranger to be more or less ignored, or a familiar face to be greeted. In the town where I live now, it's so unlikely that I will meet someone I know at the grocery store or the library or WalMart that I don't spend any energy checking people out. But in Key West, even though it has been 12 years since we lived there, I see familiar faces all the time, and often run into old friends. Even people I don't recognize sometimes remember me. Last time I was at the Key West Bicycle Center, the guy there said, "I remember you--didn't you work at the MARC house?" The heart yearns for community. I probably will end up back in Key West someday, because it is the only place I have ever known that kind of external happiness, the joy of friendship and community.
Now you country fools in your one-horse town, you can laugh at me
It's plain as rain that you've never been down to the southern sea
To see me now, it's like watching a fish on dry land
I only wish you could see me down in the islands
Mister, that's my home
What a fool I was to leave the only happiness I've known
You see me coming, you wink your eye and call me "Captain Jim"
And when I don't do nothin but to walk on by you say, "Baby, get a load of him"
But all I need is the sea and the sand
And I know where I stand
Instead of you hicks, straight out of the sticks
Decidin I ain't a man
You'll never understand
'Cause up here I'm just a whiskey bum
But down there I'm a king
It sounds just like the angels up in heaven
When they sing:
"Welcome home, welcome home
Welcome home, welcome home..."
"Captain Jim's Drunken Dream," by James Taylor