I’ve done my best to mend the bonds that I’ve let wither through neglect and my own general indifference. Bonds that I once considered safe harbor from the maelstroms that came in the wake of tragedy. Bonds with those that allowed me to emotionally anchor myself to them when the seas got the roughest. Every act, every word marked with the sole intention of acknowledging my thanks, my gratitude, for the provided shelter from the storm. These acts to reconnect were immensely powerful, immensely healing. But, despite what I tried, what I did, something always felt like it was missing. And, after some time, it started to make sense. As much as I wanted to reconnect with the people around me, rebuild the bridges I may have burnt, there were just some things that I could not do. No matter what, you can’t reconnect with a dead man. But, I’ve been known to be stubborn. And, the idea of impossibility has always been more of an invitation towards conquest than a warning of failure.
The journey to find a sense of reconnection started almost two years ago. It could have, and probably should have, started years before that. But, over the past few years, I’ve mastered the art of preoccupation, working tirelessly to put off the agonizing exercise of working through my shit. My belief in this art led me down roads that I would have never ventured without my desire to procrastinate, my desire to postpone the process of healing. Tours. Kitchens. Bars. All of these with some of my closest friends. These experiences remain the few fringe benefits of my emotional irresponsibility.
So, here I was, with the taste of loss still as fresh as ever, about to journey to the land of my father. I set off to explore his childhood home, seeking to see his sights, walk his steps, and, somehow, experience his previous life. I walked through his old neighborhood, visited his old haunts, and even heard stories of those with whom he lived his life. It was my first experience with such a pure form of reconnection, and I loved it. I should have known better though. The first taste has only led me down the road of chasing an ephemeral joy.
When I returned back to the States, I attempted to revert back to my old ways. But, that first taste of reconnection awakened my true self. But, preoccupation has a way of burying our inherent nature. And, the latest season of toil did its best to hide the fiend that I was. I had an insatiable yen for reconnection. My addiction lay dormant, waiting for the perfect time to rear its head. I could keep busy all I wanted, but there was no way I could escape it. It would always be there, waiting to pounce at the first opportunity.
I tried as hard as I could to postpone the inevitable, but preoccupation can only take you so far. I eventually found myself staring directly at a future without work, a future with nothing fettering me to anything, nothing to keep me preoccupied. My buried nature did everything it could to tempt me into tasting reconnection once again, and there was no way I could resist. I broke and binged on what I so desperately tried to avoid.
I packed my bags and decided to drive across the country, hoping to reconnect with my former safe harbors. The company and conversations changed, as did my settings. The supply of constants was scarce, but the demand for them was even scarcer. I had all I needed already. I had the open road and one of the last, remaining possessions of my late father.
A 2002, champagne colored Volvo S60 with 200,000 miles on it. Torn upholstery. Peeling paint. It seems to be composed more of flaws than anything else. It is all I have left, and it is broken, just like me. It has seen its share of challenges and weathered through them, just like what I can one day hope to do. All of its strengths, its weaknesses, they are there in plain sight. Yet, it perseveres. I love it, and I don’t ever plan on getting rid of it.
I was never really one for sentimentality. But, that first taste of reconnection in Hong Kong altered my state. I now cling to tokens of previous times, hoping that they can remind me of more halcyon days. The days before my emotional apocalypse. And, though these types of sentimental tokens are often carried, mine carried me. It sheltered me. Protected me. But, most importantly, it helped carry the spirit of my father to wherever I was headed next. I had no idea that an old Volvo was capable of such things.
Driving was how I was going to reconnect. Every road. Every city. Every single new experience. I was going to experience them with my father. Places we once talked about seeing together. Culinary adventures that would have triggered our shared trait of gluttony. Everything I did was met with a bittersweet cocktail of the sweetness of reconnection and the sourness of loss. But, if my ventures into the food world have taught me anything, it’s that things can only reach levels of greatness when they’re balanced with a dash of the acidic.
Before I set off on this emotional pilgrimage, Nashville firmly landed atop my list of places to visit. Though, it sounds strange for this Chinese-American Angeleno, my American roots first began to sprout in Music City. Of all the places in America, my father, along with 3 of his friends, decided that Tennessee would be their gateway to their American Dream. Here, they lived their lives together. Worked together. Bonded and grew together. They cultivated a wealth of stories together. Stories that I would never be able to hear firsthand. And, as I spent my time there, cultivating my own stories with my own friends in that city, I could not escape the parallels that I was seeing in both my life and my father’s. This city revealed itself to be the perfect supplier for my vice of choice: reconnection.
Though my emotional bender stood as the main reason for my travels, scouting a new city to call home stood as a secondary objective. I lived my entire life up to this point in Southern California, and the idea of a change of scenery slowly crept into and burrowed itself within me. No matter what other cities I went through, Nashville was always on my mind.
All of this has led me to this point. Led me to this city. Other cities piqued my interest. Portland, Austin, and Charleston, they all fought valiantly to be my next home. But, Nashville provided something no other city could: the purest form of reconnection. My inherent nature could not resist.