Confessions of a poly-urban nomad
(This piece originally appeared as part of my Tour Whore series in the online theatre magazine Charlebois Post, November 11, 2012. I changed a few of the cities listed, because my preferences and experiences have changed in the last two and a half years.)
“What’s your ideal living environment, like, your perfect city?”
My Alabama host looks at me expectantly. She doesn’t have renters in her house right now, which is why she was able to host me, and I think she might be missing the regular human company a little, because she wants to talk. She likes people, something she repeatedly mentioned when describing what she likes about her perfect city—New York City. She loves that I’ve traveled so much, she wants to hear all about it, and she wants to make me choose.
I stall a little. I like a lot of the cities that I go to, I say. One of the things that touring has given me is an appreciation for a bunch of different regions and cities that I would never have visited before. I tell her I could make it work living in any number of cities.
“No, no,” she interrupts, “when you say ‘make it work’, that sounds like you are settling. What do you really want?”
What I really want? I want the freedom to go among them. I want to stay in touch with a fairly large number of friends and fans all over the place, to roll up into another city and vaguely remember how to get to the billet that I’ve had three years in a row. I want to keep discovering my coffee shops, and grocery stores, and thrift stores, and secret parking spots. Choosing just one, as my forever stopping spot, that would be upsetting.
I am polyamorous with over 40 cities around the world now. I call it polyurbanism. It's definitely a thing, and I have it.
In every city I’ve been in, I can see why people live there. It might take a bit of time for me to find that, but I always do, and because of that, I would go there again. In ALL of those cities, I have met some combination of queers and artists and artistic queers and kinksters and theatergoers and good-food-eaters and radical fire-juggling punks and journalists and musicians (obviously these categories overlap sometimes), and they have given me an inside look at the reasons why living there is good. Hell, those people are some of the reasons why living there is good, and those people are everywhere. Why would I cut myself off from all of that?
I don’t mean I’m equally committed to all of the cities where I’ve performed in the past three years. No. There are definitely some cities where I would hang out for two or three days, maybe a week, max, places where I’ve never gotten to poster and promote long enough, or get to know my producers and their friends well enough, and I want to. Indianapolis. Minneapolis. Vancouver. Ann Arbor. Chicago. I’ll be back, my sweets. I promise. Not for longer than a week, but I’ll be back.
There are other cities that have a deeper claim on me, where I would gladly linger, where I do linger, when I can, because some combination of weather and architecture and audiences and coffee and people and food, some combination of all that feels really, really good. I have a few choice loves like that: New Orleans. Montréal. Ludlow. Edinburgh. Atlanta. I don’t need to stay there forever. I love what they have, I love what they offer, and what I can do while I’m there. But I don’t need to stay all the time. I have other places to go, and those cities understand. Hell, those cities have lots of other people in their lives, too. They’re getting their needs met, as amazing cities. They’re getting appreciated. The cities know. I can move on, and I’ll be back.
And you know what?
There are places I haven’t even BEEN yet, that I am sure I will fall in love with a little bit, I’m sure, because it is in my nature to get attached, just a little bit. Berlin. Amsterdam. Lawrence, KS. Asheville, NC. I don’t know what those places are like, really, but I’ll travel through next year or the year after, I’ll drive into town at sunset and leave in the shimmering silver dawn, and in between those times I’ll meet people and I’ll perform in some quirky little venue to folks who know where the best local food is, and I’m sure I can make it work.
So my ideal place to live isn’t a physical place. It’s a mental place that I want to occupy everywhere I go. The nature of it changes, depending on where I am, physically. It’s vast and dark and endless sometimes, out there in New Mexico at night, full of stars and rushing bright lights of semis and I can drive topless there because the hot night wind feels good against my bare tits. Sometimes it’s loud and crowded and bustling, the New York City that my host was raving about, I love that place too, I love knowing that I will find bagels on this block and a great coin purse in the storefront next door and some random awesome person on the next block, and all those possibilities are packed in tight. Sometimes it’s vibrant and quirky and in another language, it’s Montréal, full of graffiti-covered alleys and high cheekbones and gourmet shit everywhere, only it’s not gourmet because people there are soaking in it, and creative folks whom I know and love.
My perfect city is anywhere I can go and get what I need and give what I can, and I arrive there and I leave there, and I know that I can come back again and get more of it. The more I tour, the more I know that perfect city is right there, the next dot on the map, it’s waiting for me, and I am ready for it.