In 1985 I left my home in Wisconsin to go to California to learn how to be a sailor. This Blog is not about that. After boot camp and ATD School I went to Ohio to spend some time with a woman who I loved. This Blog is not about that. After a week of playing house with Terry I went back to Wisconsin to spend a week at home with my Dad. This Blog is not about that. I left Wisconsin once again and headed out to Philadelphia to catch a plane to Sicily. This Blog is not about that. For the next 4 years of my life I spent onboard the USS Austin. This Blog is not about that. When I got out of the Navy I spent many a year floating around different apartments in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia. This Blog is not about that. Two years ago I bought my house. My house is my home. This Blog is about that.
They say “Home is where the Heart is.” My heart is in my chest so that must be where my home is. Man, I wish I could claim that line. I can’t. It does not belong to me. For some of the more geekified folks out there you will recognize it from “Dr. Horribles Sing A Long Blog” the character Captain Hammer sings that line. And you know what? It’s true. Home is in your chest, so to speak.
You see, no matter where I have lived, whether in a multi-million dollar ship, a crappy roach infested 1 bedroom apartment with a hygiene challenged shipmate, a two bedroom brand new apartment and apartment complex or now my own 3 bedroom 1 and a half bath mortgage, I have always been home. I have managed to find someplace to lay my head at night and drift off to the land of Nod with little or no effort. Home. Even when I am crashing on an air mattress in a new found friends basement suffering emotional strife, I feel a comfort of home. A feeling most say they don’t understand unless they are in their own beds and amongst their own family.
Do I like it? Not really. And as most of my family will confirm, I don’t like change. I am not the kind of person who enjoys a life of flux. But, when needed or when I am in a travel mindset I can easily adjust. Easily rest and sleep.
But today, the reason I am writing this, something happened that make me realize that not only am I Home but I have also become part of a larger community. Like a cog in the great machine of life. You see dear reader I was sitting on my front porch, checking my Facebook updates and bantering with my Twitter pals when a familiar couple of faces ride up on a pair of matching bikes. “Hi TRAINMAN!” they scream to me. “We didn’t know you lived in this neighborhood.”
I look up from my laptop, pull my Gurkha out of my mouth, put on my best social smile, wave and say “Hi Jessie, hi Katherine. What brings you to this part of town?”
“We’re just getting out doing some exercise and looking around the neighborhood. We only live a few blocks away.” Katherine states and dismounts her bicycle, puts the kickstand down and walks up the driveway to the front porch and gives me a hug. Jessie also gets off his bike and sets his in front of my car and goes gets his wife’s bike out from the middle of the street. He walks over, shakes my hand and our conversation starts.
I am not going to go into all the hills and valleys of our discussion. But I will say like all good impromptu conversations it ebbed and flowed like the tide. It was fun. Then, as things were winding down a large, maroon Cadillac four door sedan stops in front of my house and an elderly gentleman rolls his window down “Hiya Skip! I didn’t know you lived here.” Comes the voice from the driver’s seat and then a tiny female head pops up from the passenger seat and says “Hello Mr. Novak! How are you and your daughter this summer?” the driver and his passenger are from the school my wonderful offspring attended for the past 3 years. Our three way conversation just grew exponentionaly.
More hills, more valleys, more information was exchanged. We stood out there on the edge of my driveway in the 93 degree heat as children ran and frolicked, while teenagers snuck into the alleys to smoke, while pet owners walked their dogs and some homeowners practiced the futile attempt at taming mother nature by cutting grass, clipping and pruning trees and bushes. I slowly puffed on my cigar, spoke in a genteel manner and enjoyed the almost timeless practice of bonding over a beautiful day and the history of my now adopted home town.
That is when I had my epiphany. It hit me in the face like a twenty pound mallet. I had become a part of my community. I had not only moved here but over the course of twenty five years I have made friends, enemies and managed to immerse myself in the culture, language and history of Portsmouth. I not only have a home here but it seems that maybe I will be missed when I am gone. That some folks come to look forward to running into me, whether it’s at a book sale, toy train swap meet, a restaurant or even out doing the mundane things of life like purchasing groceries, always seems to surprise me. I am not the most pleasant person to be around most of the time. Ok, I need to expand on that last sentence.
I am not the most pleasant person to be around if I don’t like you. I usually am quite gruff and curt to most of the people in my daily work life. I just want to be left alone and do my job most of the time. That being said, I do run into people that actually enhance my life and bring certain joy to my extremely busy life. So, when the great Goddess Serendipity flings people I actually like into my path I try to take the time out of my normal busy day and enjoy the madness that has reared its head. Like in this case, I spent an hour of my life listening to what they had to say about life, the weather, and politics both local and national. It was fun, informative and I am glad that it happened.
My home is where my heart is and for now it’s in Portsmouth, Virginia. I walk down the street and people know my name. I get phone calls from friends to my office. It’s a pretty good place to live. It’s a pretty good life.
I’m home and I hope you are too.