I’ve said since I was in the first grade that I would one day like to be the president of the United States. (And I’m fully aware that such a brazen admission of ambition on the internet could one day be used against me in a campaign). But I’ve also said more recently that I’d like to one day live in a town where everybody knows each other’s name. And I think back again to a piece in a 2005 copy of the New Yorker which is my only theft to date, by Ian Frazier called “Out of Ohio’” Frazier was looking back fondly on his childhood in the small town of Hudson, Ohio and between the names, stories and anecdotes he described small-town living as “unfairly sweet.”
Before leaving on this gap year, I wrote my own 6 page tribute to my Los Angeles and my upbringing that tried to capture the bits and pieces that were truly unfairly sweet, before my memories washed away in a sea of nostalgia. Something about this small village stole me right back to driving on the 101, to my mind wandering and thinking about my childhood and my city, to sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and reading Frazier’s article for the first time.
And I know that my afternoon there wasn’t an accurate portrayal of what life is like there. I know that despite the homegrown lunch feast, the villagers aren’t self-sufficient. (I asked). I know that the villages’ residents have their own problems, issues and secrets, that with all the young people moving out and into the cities, they really aren’t at all removed from the hustle-bustle of urban life. I know that life there isn’t nearly as pure and simple and sweet as it seemed to me this afternoon.
But none of that knowledge stops me from thinking about giving up all future ambitions, presidential and otherwise, sinking into anonymity and moving to a tiny village whose name I can’t pronounce, an hour outside of a small city, five hours northeast of the capital of Russia. And that’s why when Nikolai’s van started pulling away, I was sad to leave.