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Home Sweet Home

Tonight the pangs and echoes of homesickness have stabbed me right in the gut, leveling any posturing I may have defended with previously. My hometown has degenerated into a cesspool. Enroute to a Starbucks when I last graced her city limits, I counted 3 seperate piles of broken glass, all from beer and liquor bottles, deposited wantonly and dangerously around the parking lot. The pungent scent of low priced weed clung to the air in the majority of the shops I revisited, and I was constantly on alert, fists at the ready, should one of the assorted vagrants eyeballing me choose to make good on their implicit threats. The area bore little resemblance to the site of my childhood and adolescence. Or perhaps it had always been this way, and first my naivete, and now nostalgia, had coated it, granting me a pair of rose-tinted glasses and protecting it from my clinically impartial gaze. However, in the grand scheme of things, it matters for little. Whether Ive noticed and focused solely on the beauty and unique aspects of my origins or am the unwilling victim of a type of geographical and cultural Stockholm Syndrome, the truth remains that it is still my home, and forver will be. Like a lover's misdeeds and flaws that we lovingly and willfully look past and accept, I will forever disregard my city's pockmarks and scars with a laugh and a smirk.

As a teenager I longed to explore, to experience and struggle. Sheltered from the hardships of life and exiled from the acceptance of my "cool" peers, my fellow outcasts and I mastered several disciplines archtypical of the socially distant. Writing, books, music and art were my domain. I lived vicariously through biographies, plays and songs. Women were locked away from me when my longings for them were stirring and screaming for release, as at that point in my life I lacked the requisite skill needed to make their acquaintance. Yet the stories of Giacomo Casanova, Macchiavelli and Jenna Jameson were present, more than adequately quenching my thirst and desires for forbidden carnality. My body had yet to sprout, to blossom, still replete of strength and imposition, but I could regale myself of the excursions and accomplishments of Hershel Walker, John Grimek, Wayne Gretzky, Roberto Duran, and, perhaps most thoroughly, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I stretched and nourished my awakening mind with philosophy, economics, sociology  literature and mathematics. Im grateful for these lonesome, dreary days, for as burdensome and devoid of meaning as they seemed at the time, they formed the unbreakable foundation of my later years. Little did I know, I was preparing myself through autodidaction for the ravenous, callous world that eagerly anticipated my arrival, pining at the unholy bit to swallow me whole. I joined the military vowing never to return, to be as unchained and voluminous as the wind itself. Yet I have, and now, in the face of impending, sense assaulting change, that small town and my family are my anchors. I need to calm myself, settle down if only for a few weeks, and refill my heart's reserves, drinking deeply from their cistern of unconditional love.

Caught in the indomitable ravages of this visceral life, an afternoon with my Mother is all that I need to be refreshed and ready. Out at sea or seperated from my loved ones, incarcerated in the snow and tundra of the East, the memories of a classy restaurant, calming, effortless heat emanating from the caged in fireplace, a pitcher of cool tea emerging through the sides in little droplets of water, transports me to a time where I was posituve that love existed and that it belonged to me, a fact so certain that I would stake my life on it. The conversation matters little, as her presence fills me enough. We speak of school, her job, the world, my feelings, her emotions, our thoughts, the invisible bonds tying everything together. At times it's impossible to know where I end and she begins, such is the thickness of the heartstrings that stay taut and strong from a world away. On these outings I learn how to treat a woman, how to scintillate her with tales of excitement and captivate her with comedic charm. Later, I realize that no date, no memorable evening will ever top 5 minutes with an angel. Sheltered in her wings, all is well, and my armor melts away. I love you Mom.

If meetings with my Mother shielded me from the harshness inherent in the life of an upcoming young man whos zest for all things in this world were manifesting, then adventures with my Father amplified those dormant traits. Over burgers, steak, barbecque and (root)beer, I earned my education in the rigors of my emergent masculinity, the greatest blessing God could confer on anybody. Challenges, threats, goals, and, most importantly, duty, were not to be shirked or shied away from. Rather, they were to be clashed with and ferociously combated head on, completely obliterated and souls wrenched from their bodies, hearts harvested and vitality absorbed. I was taught that regardless of my natural sensitivity and benevolence, I was, above all, a warrior. I would never surrender, never back away from an opportunity to better myself, to experience the world, to satiate my wanderlust and satisfy my overzealousness. I was exposed to the World of Men, ruthlessly initiated into the domain of conquerers. Weights, martial arts and calisthenics were my tools, employed to shape my body into Herculean and Apollonian perfection, to carve my muscularity into wrought steel and insurmountable stone. Books, however, were my salvation, my ticket to a better life, and as I wasnt in any mood for my name to be Manuel Labor, I knew intuitively that Id better start imbibing knowledge voraciously and indiscriminately. I was instructed to always put myself first in any matter pertaining to life, whether it regarded a career move or a romantic relationship. This path is rough, but it is well tread by generations of great men before me. I love you Dad.

Coming face to face with destiny, I meet his steely gaze firmly and forcefully. I have become frostbitten and toughened by my trials and travels, and nothing will steal my experience from me, for Ive accomplished it all alone. However, I feel the pull of the clipped Marina tide, begging this mariner to return to homeport. An outpouring of love awaits me, and, destination uncertain, the lighthouse of maternal love burns eternally, vigilantly awaiting my sacred entrance to our harbor. Come whatever may, Ive conquered way worse. Heres to Home Sweet Home.

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