Travelogues, Then and Now

by Jessica Machado

London, spring semester abroad, Day 3, 1997:
Things that are different from my hometown of Honolulu: Only 4 channels — all lame. Alcohol at every meal. Employees can smoke in the store, don’t have to be nice. Spice Girl stuff EVERYWHERE. Tapes and CDs cost the same in pounds and in dollars. KFC has no mash or biscuits. “Kleenex for Men.”

Nashville, fall getaway, Day 3, 2013:
Things that are different from my current home of Brooklyn: Biscuits all day, every day, bring it. Near-empty freeways. No longer feel urge to change the radio station when a country song comes on. More old people than people my own age on vacation, drinking beer. Induces fantasies of wearing swing skirts. Smells regularly like meat I’d actually want to eat.

*London, 8 p.m. — 4 a.m. on a Tuesday, 1997:
I tried to work on my paper, but didn’t get very far because Edward Scissorhands was on. We watched that, ate some cake, drank 2 ½ liter thing of cider and went to the Toasters concert. We took the rest of the cider on the subway in Evian bottles, but by halfway through, I had to piss really bad. I peed behind some garbage cans on this scummy street. At the concert, the lead singer pulled me up on stage so I could dance. He pulled other guys up on stage, but told them to go down after awhile and let me stay on. It was so fuckin rad! Afterwards, the singer came up and asked me how I learned to dance like that. He said it was a different, weird ’60s thing. Then he told us if we wanted, we could meet them in front of the hotel tomorrow and go to Rotterdam with them for their next concert. He gave me all their information about where they’d be staying and their # and stuff. Fuck ya [sic]!

Brooklyn, 8 p.m. — 4 a.m. on a Tuesday, 2014:
I tried to work on my essay about vulnerability, but didn’t get very far because I started searching for illegal downloads of SWV: Reunited. Then I waited 45 minutes for one to upload and decided to get another one queued up, in case, you know, it was necessary, which led me to scroll to the bottom of the page, where there was an article asking me if I knew which “13 Famous People Went Missing” and, sweet lord, Boner from Growing Pains committed suicide?!? Then I ate some cheese and rested my hand on my lower abdomen, before falling asleep scrolling through Twitter, phone in hand.

*The Wag nightclub, London, Saturday night, 1997:
We met these two dorky young guys who were full of being British. They thought they were so different. I thought they were trendy.

Shitty, crowded bar with a DJ in the corner, Lower East Side, Saturday night, 2014:
Ha! Why would I know what happened here? I spent three minutes wrestling with the idea of going to my coworker’s birthday party, before opting for the bar with the guaranteed empty seats around the corner from my apartment.

*Bruges, spring break, 1997:
Belgium is known for its chocolate and fruity beer. I noticed a lot of people walking around with their cute little dogs. There were even horse carriages you could take a ride in. Bars played crappy house music.

Prospect Park, Brooklyn, first warm day of spring, the 2010s:
Fresh sheep’s milk danishes and free-range jerky are sold to the north. Couples and friends, pale as plaster, are splayed on flannel blankets, reading back issues of the New Yorker to the west. Their jeans are cuffed and shoes kicked off, exposing calves chaffed from a long winter of wingtip boots. Heels feel as coarse as raw timber. They talk to each other in quiet voices; it is the first time in months they feel they deserve to just be. “Who’s playing at the bandshell this summer?” one young woman asks her boyfriend, his hair tousled, his mod sunglasses to the sky. “Probably The National,” he replies. Around the perimeter, others run in lycra shorts or with their pups, who were once rescued from a shelter but today are free of the neighborhood walker. In the distance, the jingle of the ices man finds his rhythm.

*Glasgow Cathedral, Scotland, Friday afternoon, 1997:
We got there as it closed — lame — but there was a cemetery behind it! It was a rad cemetery on a huge hill with a circle of graves and tombstones below. It looked like people had dug up some of the graves and the wind had pushed headstones down. Then Lori got cold and stupid and went back to the hostel. I’ll never understand her or why she came. She is always sick. Yet she can still flirt at night! Tomorrow she’ll probably decide to be real talkative to me again and stuff. She’s always in one of her phases.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Midtown New York, last Friday afternoon:
Bryant Park is about ten blocks too far from my office, so I plopped down on the stairs of the gothic cathedral at the end of the street. I put my head in my lap. Then I took the nap I couldn’t take at my desk. Gave no fucks.

*The most contemplative, emotionally turbulent parts of my soul, age 19:
I’ve had mixed feelings about going back home to Hawaii. I think it’s going to be really awkward and I won’t be able to talk about things with people. I think I will feel like I’ve changed and experienced stuff and no one else has. It’s going to be so boring at home. Nothing to look forward to. This may be the very best time in my life.

The most conflicted parts of my wintry, Vitamin D-deficient being, visiting my family in Hawaii, Christmas 2013:
Why don’t I live here, again? Why do I need challenge and struggle and the overrated sylishness of wearing layers? Is that another fucking rainbow and another beautiful person nodding a polite “wassup” to me right now? Did my parents just tell me they love me again AND have all the cable channels? I’m a moron.

*Paris, drunk on the metro, 1997:
Everyone thinks it’s dirty and stink here, but I like Paris.

New York, on the train, every morning:
It reeks of business-dude cologne, egg-sandwich drippings, last night’s funk and decades of gunk on this here F train. But it’s also awash in a spectrum of statuses, tones, talents, beats and tempers. An emblem of a city filled with extraordinary people where no one pays you any mind. This is why I still like you, New York. Plus, I can always head to Hawaii when it’s cold.

(Study-abroad travelogues excerpted from journal with Renaissance-looking angel on the cover, spring semester 1997, age 19.)

Previously: Love Poems, Then and Now

Photo via sanfranannie/flickr.

Jessica Machado writes about what kind of grown-up she is here.