I have a treasured group chat with my three high school best friends—Sue, Caitlin, and Colleen. None of us have lived in the same city since we were in high school and I’d seen none of them since the pandemic. I made a game plan to see all three of them at some point this summer. I met up with Sue, who is Seattle-based, while we were both in Rochester in July, and one of my primary reasons for choosing Philadelphia as the first Nomadic location was to spend time with Caitlin. And I completed the trilogy in Cape Cod, where Colleen and I reunited along with a few other Massachusetts-based high school pals on Mayflower Beach.
Confession: I’m not a big beach person. I’m not anti-beach, but I prefer to go only once or twice a year for deeper appreciation. And it’s a lot of sun and SPF application, so if I’m going, I want it to be an epic beach adventure. Go big or go home. Mayflower Beach is an epic beach. It’s on Cape Cod, for one. After parking your car in the lot, there’s a short boardwalk with sand dunes on both sides and then the beach reveals itself. It’s best at low tide, when you can walk over ribbed sand to reach clear, warm water that’s perfect for swimming. Not a rock or bit of seaweed to be found.
My motivation for traveling, or living semi-nomadically, is not only to see new things, it is to see familiar things, particularly old friends and with a different type of depth than if I were to do the typical action-packed weekend visit. If I go to Seattle for two weeks, I can hang with Sue the way we often say we wish we could—simply meet up after a long day of work for craft beers. Or I can finally go to one of her brass band gigs and hear her play bass, something I haven’t gotten to do since high school. Or I could go to London for a month, to live the life I used to have with my friend Lois, where we would see each other at least once a week in Brooklyn.
I am ride or die for my friends, and my loyalty only grows with time. Even casual friends, or peripheral people in my life can occupy a good amount of mental space, as I wonder about their well being. I remember reading a profile about Ottessa Moshfegh, where she’s described as someone who would fly across the country to spend a week with a friend in need and I thought, well, same. I give a lot to people, but this isn’t mentioned as a total brag. This intensity can also mean I act (internally) like a little bitch when I feel I’ve been let down, even though rationally I know that’s often an unfair feeling. People have a lot going on that I may not have any idea about or there have been situations where I misinterpreted what I thought to be a slight entirely.
There’s this quote in Sheila Heti’s excellent novel Motherhood, “I had always thought my friends and I were moving into the same land together, a childless land where we would just do a million things together forever. I thought our minds and souls were all cast the same way, not that they were waiting for the right moment to jump ship, which is how it feels as they abandon me here.” And a paragraph later she writes, “When a person has a child, they are turned towards their child. The rest of us are left in the cold.” She’s speaking of her friends who have decided to have children, but I feel this same sentiment could be applied to a variety of more “adult” life changes that people choose (marriages, fancy jobs, buying houses) and make me wonder if the era of doing a “million things together forever” is past. COVID accelerated this process. People jumped ship or turned more inwards than ever and I probably did too, in some ways.
I feel like this piece is taking a depressing turn from the whole beach thing, so I should add that sometimes I don’t feel this melancholy way about friendships at all. I can have a great night out, or even a really lol text exchange with a friend and suddenly, the million things together forever are still there. All is right with the world.
While we’re on the topic of friends with kids, here’s something I don’t actually hear mentioned enough. I’m someone who likes to make spontaneous plans and new parents can be the best people to make spontaneous plans with. I can text, “does today work?” and they’ll respond, “yeah, actually that’s perfect.” They also want to see friends, but having a child makes it impossible or exhausting to plan too far ahead. In Philly, I met up with two new parent pals and we started discussing friendships during COVID. One of them, she has red hair and glasses, and such a sweet and inviting voice. She mentioned how, last year, when she hadn’t heard from some people, she wondered, “Are we still friends?” There was something about the way she said that, in her voice of goodness, that got me.
When did the lock icon [🔒] go from signifying friends-only to paid content? I feel a strong urge to friends-only this post, LiveJournal-style.
I remember hearing about this novel Writers & Lovers by Lily King and like all novels I hear about, I looked up the description to decide whether it was something I wanted to read. When I hit this line, “At thirty-one, Casey is still clutching onto something nearly all her old friends have let go of: the determination to live a creative life,” I thought oh hell no, absolutely not. I can read a book with the most disturbing and dark subject matter, but that mirror of reality is a hard pass. For I’m a lifer, you see, and unfortunately I’ll be following a “creative life” until the end. But I actually don’t think all my friends have let go of that. This post is dedicated to the other lifers, some who are probably reading this newsletter.
Want to know where this post’s title came from? Originally I was going to call it “Friendship in the time of Coronavirus” or something, thank god I nixed that one. Back in high school, I read a lot of Douglas Coupland books and there’s an author Q&A at the end of Girlfriend in a Coma. He answers the questions in a blunt, deadpan style (Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness? A: Right now. Where I am. At home. Q: What is your greatest fear? A: That God exists, but doesn’t care very much for humans.) And, of course:
Q: What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A: Everybody I like and love all living in the same city.
✨Two Cape Cod articles✨
“How Martha's Vineyard became a Black summertime sanctuary” by Lavanya Ramanathan in Vox
“They came to make art in isolation; the pandemic forced them to stay” by Leslie Pariseau in The Los Angeles Times
✨One Cape Cod book✨
Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown by Michael Cunningham. Cunningham writes, “It is the only small town I know of where those who live unconventionally seem to outnumber those who live within the prescribed bounds of home and licensed marriage, respectable job, and biological children. It is one of the places in the world you can disappear into. It is the Morocco of North America, the New Orleans of the north.” I read this book a long time ago, and without revisiting it, I also distinctly remember passages about painful longing and fear of failure.
✨One Cape Cod television episode✨
The Massachusetts episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown is one of the best. Bourdain returns to Provincetown, where he began his culinary career. It’s also where he started using heroin. He discusses addiction, recovery, and the second half of the episode sees him in western Massachusetts for an exploration of the heroin epidemic in the area.
I had a nice chat with my friend Lucy K Shaw for her interview series ~Profound Experience of Poetry. We talked about Nomadic, traveling, writing, The Bushwick Review, and our shared strained relationship to poetry, a truly ongoing controversy that originates from Lucy’s essay Rockaway February, which, might I add, to bring it full circle, is about an epic beach adventure.