What Home Is

I’m sitting on my bed in New York, snacking from a bag of homemade Chex mix that traveled with me this morning on a plane from Portland, Oregon. This is bringing me great joy.

For the first time since I moved to New York over two years ago, I went home for Thanksgiving. I’d been home other times, of course, but this was the first time in a few years that I spent Thanksgiving in Portland. I was lucky to get a good chunk of time there, too – flew out Tuesday morning and came back Sunday afternoon.

One thing that’s surprised me about living in New York is how infrequently I get homesick. Or rather, how infrequently I get Portland-sick. I miss my family, but we talk all the time, and since my sister is also in the area for school, they come to New York at least a couple times a year. We’ve also gotten together in “neutral” places, like a trip to Florida last summer. So while I miss a lot of things about Portland – friends from college who live there, extended family, Fred MeyerPowell’s – I find myself able to go a long time without physically being there, because so much of what represents “home” to me can be found elsewhere.

This was my first trip to Portland since last Christmas, and I think I was wearing my almost-a-year-away-from-home badge with some degree of pride. I secretly wanted to see if I could make it a year. And I know I could have done it, but what’s the point? The opportunity to go home was there, and I wouldn’t have jumped at it if there hadn’t been some part of me that longed to be in the actual place.

These little thoughts about home have been bouncing in my mind since Tuesday. What is home, really? A place? The people in the place? A combination of the two and several other elements? When I landed at PDX on Tuesday, my first stop was my old high school, where my mom is still a teacher. A landmark for me in Portland – but the school changed locations in January. I loved chatting with my favorite teacher and cross-country coach, but we weren’t in any of the classrooms I used to sit in. It didn’t matter, of course. But it was different.

And about a year after I moved to New York, my parents moved within the Portland area. They’re not far from the old house at all – my sister who’s still at home didn’t change schools – but there’s not the same sense of nostalgia. I’m not going to Portland so I can sleep in my old room, you know? My whole frame of reference for driving has changed, too. Again – none of this really matters. Home is still home. Portland is still Portland. But I was reminded this week of how things are always in flux.

It’s the physical places that are in flux, though. Not the people I spend time with. My parents and little sister are the same people, as are my best friends from college. It was a joy to see those girls. I think there’s a relaxed air to the Thanksgiving holiday that doesn’t exist at Christmastime, where there are more events to attend, gifts to buy, places to be. At Thanksgiving, we can just hang out.

I know there isn’t a formula calculating the perfect number of times one should visit home. There are so many factors. But I know this visit was perfect, and perfectly timed. I saw so many amazing people, made two trips to Powell’s (scored a gloriously retro used copy of this for $2), tried new (to me) restaurants and sang at the top of my lungs while driving up and down I-5 (though I discovered that in two years of basically never driving, I’ve lost my parallel parking prowess).

There’s something I love about landing at JFK and knowing I’m home. Not home in the “this is where I was born” sense, but in the “this is where I am supposed to be right now” sense. So here I am. Eating snacks from home and thinking about what home really is. I think the last few days have given me a pretty good idea.

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New York and Portland, Lately

There is no tired like red-eye jet-lag tired. Holy cow. Actually, new-parent tired is probably way worse, but of all the tireds I have experienced, this PDX–>JFK variety takes the cake.

While I’m tired in this moment, I’m really feeling refreshed after a four-day visit to Portland for 4th of July weekend. It was planned pretty last-minute, and I flew out after work on Wednesday.

Brief aside: One of the best “cheating the New York system” feelings comes from taking the subway to the airport. Yes, I paid an arm and a leg for a cab ride home from the airport this morning – I love the subway but there’s no way I’m riding it at 5:30 a.m. after having been on a plane all night – but getting all the way from Chelsea to JFK for $8ish when you include the cost of the AirTrain? One of the city’s best bargains.

Anyway, we (meaning my sister Hope and me; see below for more on why she’s in the city this summer) arrived late Wednesday night and got our first glimpse at the Landsem family’s new home in West Linn. My parents moved from Tualatin in May, and despite my lack of familiarity with the floor plan, I have to admit it’s a cool house, complete with a huge backyard that provides ample roaming space for the dog who may have kind of started to like me.

For as long as I can remember, we’ve spent our Independence Days at our cousins’ house in the Columbia River Gorge among grandparents, aunts, uncles and other friends, setting off our own fireworks in their driveway and enjoying a bigger show over the river, put on by the city of Cascade Locks. I talk a pretty good “city girl” game, but spending the day in view of the river, trees and mountains reminded me that there’s nothing quite like the natural beauty of the Northwest.

More visits with family and friends filled the weekend, and they not only afforded me opportunities to see some of my best friends from college; they also gave me the chance to drive all over Portland to see them in various locales: downtown, the Rose Garden (as in flowers, not Blazers), Pittock Mansion, the Eastbank Esplanade and of course, that great bastian of suburbia, Bridgeport Village. I love driving and never get to do it in New York. Jetting across town to see some of my favorite people at some of my favorite places, all while driving with the windows down and blasting my rediscovered Switchfoot mixes from high school (don’t judge) was a serious treat.

It can be tough to live 3,000 miles away from most of the people with whom I shared my college years. While I’ve made amazing friends in New York – honestly, every day I count my blessings with regards to the community I’ve found here, and know many of those people will be lifelong friends – there’s a slightly deeper comfort zone with the people who knew you before you started out on the post-college journey. This past weekend, they challenged me (in a good way) with regards to how I like New York, where I see myself in a few years, whether I would move back to Portland and how I’m doing personally and spiritually. I was probably in a reflective mood anyway, since the visit came around the same time as my one-year anniversary of living in New York (June 18) and my birthday (July 1), but I loved seeing how the last year had taken us all down different paths but hadn’t changed the relationship we had. I am blessed to have them.

New York is a singular city. No other place holds the same level of excitement and intensity, but this weekend reminded me how important it is to take a breather every now and then. Recharging in the company of family, friends and Portland was good for the soul.

*Since I haven’t written in awhile, I have to do a quick speed round of awesome NYC happenings from the last month or so:

  • SUNSHINE. And as a result, perfect afternoons and evenings outside at the Bohemian Beer Garden in Astoria, the Skillman BBQ Crawl last month in my neighborhood, and the Top of the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking district.
  • My sister Hope’s arrival in NYC for the summer. She’s interning at the Wall Street Journal, and even had an editorial published in the paper last week. A number of other friends – from Oregon and elsewhere – are also finding their way to the city this summer.
  • Lots and lots of Mets games.
  • Movie obsessions as of late: Joss Whedon’s black-and-white, Shakespeare-language-in-a-modern-setting staging of Much Ado About Nothing, which Hope and I loved. And, because I’ve had a Bill Murray obsession lately (for no particular reason, although I recently rediscovered Lost in Translation and have pretty much had it playing on a Netflix loop), I watched The Royal Tenenbaums on my flight to Portland. So I guess now I have a Gene Hackman obsession. I mean, come on.

That seems to be it for now. I can’t wait for the rest of summer in the city.

Familiar Faces

Over the past few months, I’ve perfected the Readers’ Digest version of my life story to share with the new people I’ve met in New York. You know: “I’m Paige, I’m from Oregon, I was a journalism major, I work in the PR department at Sports Illustrated and since you asked, yes, Portlandia provides an accurate description of my hometown and yes, my school’s football team has a lot of uniforms.” I can’t even count how many times I’ve shared this surface-level information about my life since I moved in June.

The conversation has gone deeper with several people, and I’m beyond grateful for the new friendships I’m forming. But I’ve gained a new appreciation for the people who’ve known my story for years, and a few of those people made their way to New York over the past couple weeks. I was so excited to see familiar faces.

First visitor: Sarah. Sarah was my roommate in our sophomore year, but we go back even further: Fall term of our freshman year, we were in the same J201 class (the most introductory of the introductory journalism classes). She went the broadcast journalism route while I did PR, but we had a few other classes together along the way (including a hip-hop class just for kicks…we have skills).

Nostalgia photo: Sarah and me at the Oregon-Arizona State game in 2009:

Anyway, her older brother is in a graduate film program in the city, so she took a few days off from her job as an assignment editor at KATU (she’s a boss) to visit him, and I was lucky enough to crash their party for awhile. We spent Sunday walking the High Line, exploring the West Village and eating pizza, and I met up with Sarah and her sister (who’s also a boss and was in the city rehearsing for a touring show she’s in) for dinner after work on Monday. ‘Twas a blast.

Grace, Sam, Sarah and I on the High Line:

The next weekend brought two more old roommates to town, and these two actually got the pleasure of sleeping on my couch.

Kate and I were roommates for most of my freshman year (my first roommate transferred at Christmas break) and when I think back to the awkward Facebook chats we had after finding out we’d be roommates, I can’t help but crack up…”I’m so excited to be your roommate! How is your break!” etc. We’re way past that now, and I’m proud to call her one of my best friends from college. She got married in March and moved with her husband, TJ, to Boston in May. While I still haven’t made it up there to visit, I often find comfort in knowing that one of my closest friends is just a few hours away (when pretty much everything and everyone else familiar is on another coast).

Nostalgia photo: Our house formal, June 2009, when we were roommates:

Shannon and I were never technically roommates, but we’ve been housemates since my sophomore year – both in the giant co-op I lived in through junior year and the smaller house with six others we lived in as seniors. We had quite a few classes together since she was also a PR major, though I probably spent as much time raiding her closet as I did sitting in class with her – she needs a fashion blog. Anyway, Shannon went to stay with Kate for a week, and they came to New York for a long weekend (arriving really late on Thursday night and staying through Monday morning).

Oh, and Shannon nostalgia photo: Modeling the last Autzen-Stadium-student-section arm stamps we’d ever wear at the Pac-12 Championship game last year.

Bonus nostalgia photo because I miss college: Shannon and me at graduation, in front of said senior-year house:

It was Shannon’s first time in New York, and Kate hadn’t been since high school, so I loved sharing my favorite parts of the city with them. On Friday, we walked through Central Park, explored various neighborhoods and enjoyed the rooftop beer garden at Eataly:

Kate, our photographer, not pictured here.

I work from home Saturday afternoons and evenings, managing Sports Illustrated‘s Twitter feed, so after a morning pilgrimage to Citi Field (Shannon is a huge baseball fan, and her brother played in the Mets’ farm system for awhile), Kate and Shannon set out for a day of exploring on their own. On Sunday, we bought rush tickets to Chicago on Broadway – while Broadway shows are always breathtaking experiences, I was underwhelmed, but that’s probably because I adore the movie version and judged the play too harshly against it – ate brunch on the Upper West Side and did more exploring. We ended their visit by watching Wonder Years re-runs and eating takeout in my apartment Sunday night.

Kate and me waiting in line for Broadway tickets.

The three of us walking beside the Hudson on a gorgeous, sunny Friday.

These visits were refreshing. Going from a world of familiarity to a world of unknowns is exhilarating but stressful, so after nearly four months, returning to a bit of that familiarity was just what I needed. Thanks to Sarah, Kate and Shannon for venturing to NYC…and if you’re reading this in Oregon and need some time away, my couch has your name on it.

Pondering Life’s Big Questions. Or, My Last Night in NYC.

An email with this subject line just popped into my inbox: “Check in for your flight to Portland.”

That means my return flight from NYC to PDX is less than 24 hours away.

What?

When I booked the flight back in April, just leaving for New York in June seemed lightyears away. And now it’s August? What the heck?

Editor’s Note: I really don’t analyze my emotions as much as the next few paragraphs might suggest. Bear with me for one post that’s more on the “reflective” side.

But my final day in the city has arrived. And I’m not sure how to feel about it. Last year, I was legitimately homesick and ready to be back in Oregon. This year, it’s different; I’m excited because I’ll be reunited with family and friends (and Oregon football), but I’m also bummed because I’m worried that a lot of the growth I experienced this summer – personally and professionally – might be stunted once I’m back in my true comfort zone.

It’s not as though I can’t grow during the school year. I’ll be involved in a lot of different internships and activities that will undoubtedly challenge me, and I truly can’t wait for it all to begin. As much as I loved the city this summer, there were times I wished I was at home, where the pressure to be doing something all the time is lifted. But when you’re in New York for an extended period of time, you can’t imagine being anywhere else. What’s the point of living in another city when everything happens here?

Sure, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I’ve pondered the question. I think part of my nervousness stems from knowing that I only have one more year of school (and fun and wearing sweats all day and being home, if I do relocate after graduation) left before I’m tossed into the real world, and I’m scared that I won’t make the most of it.

But amidst all these larger-than-life questions, there’s real work to be done. When I get home, it’ll be time to roll up my sleeves and start preparing for the year at Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run public relations agency at the University of Oregon, where I’ll be Firm Director. I’ve also started working with Baseball Prospectus as one of their social media interns, and my mom has informed me that I must deep-clean my room and my car before I head back to Eugene. It might not be New York, but all of the aforementioned tasks (except maybe cleaning the car) make for an exciting agenda upon my return.

Guess it’s time to print my boarding pass.

My Sister, Future Leader of the Free World

Before launching into the real purpose of this post, I must make one comment: supporting a West Coast baseball team while living on the East Coast is awesome. It’s almost 11 p.m. and the Mariners and Marlins are only in the third inning. I’ll be in bed before it’s over, but in Oregon, you don’t get to fall asleep listening to the M’s. (Of course, I understand that this is a double-edged sword, because it’s this same phenomenon that helps perpetuate the “East Coast bias” in sports – East Coasters don’t give West Coast teams [see, “2010 Oregon Ducks”] the credit they deserve because they’re rarely awake late enough to watch them play. But that’s for another post.)

Now that we’ve got a sports reference and parentheses-within-parentheses out of the way…

One of my favorite pictures of Hope and me - at the 2010 Civil War football game.

One of my favorite pictures of Hope and me - at the 2010 Civil War football game.

It was a big weekend for the Landsem family, as my sister Hope and my parents traveled to New York to drop Hope off at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she’ll soon begin her first year. Tomorrow is known as “R-Day” in West Point-speak. It stands for “Reception Day,” and it basically means Hope’s first day as a West Point cadet. (I’m probably messing up some of the terminology, because I don’t think she’s officially a “cadet” until she finishes basic training, but you get the idea.)

Anyway, it’s a huge step. Most of my sister’s friends are still basking in the glory of summer vacation, but for the next several weeks, she’ll be acclimating herself to West Point life during BEAST – that’s an acronym for something I can’t fully remember, but it’s cadet basic training. On “A-Day,” or “Acceptance Day” in the middle of August, she’ll become a full-fledged cadet and begin her academic endeavors at West Point.

Hope is fully prepared for this: she was Student Body President this past year at her high school, was a Valedictorian, wants to be a chemical engineer, went to a Summer Leadership Seminar at West Point last summer…she was even a contestant on the kids’ edition of “Jeopardy!” in 2005. (No joke. She even has an IMDB profile because of it.)

I feel very lucky to have had some one-on-one time with my sister this weekend. She arrived in New York on Friday night (our parents didn’t come until Saturday) so we spent Saturday in the city.

A view of Manhattan from the Roosevelt Island Tram

We took the Roosevelt Island tram to um, well, Roosevelt Island. I don’t know how many people generally ride the tram, but it seems to be a hidden gem of New York City tourism. Tram fare is no different than a regular MTA MetroCard fare, and you get a pretty solid view of Manhattan. It’s not as impressive as an observation deck like Top of the Rock, but for a few bucks, it can’t be beat. The island itself also has nice walkways along the East River.

After meeting our parents last night, we drove to Newburgh, New York – a town near West Point. Escaping the city for the first time since I arrived was relaxing, but strange. We were only 50 or 60 miles outside NYC, but it felt like lightyears. Where were the skyscrapers? The smells? The subway stations? Here, people drove their own cars and lived among rolling hills and the Hudson River. I’m making it sound more idyllic than it really was, but the contrast between West Point and the city was astounding. My New York bubble had been popped.

We made a quick tour through the West Point campus (just in the car) but the place is stunning. You can just feel the history. I’m so proud of my sister for earning admission to the academy and for securing her place at an institution that’s taught some of our nation’s most important leaders. I mean, just read this sentence from West Point’s website:

From the day of its founding on March 16, 1802, a favorite expression at West Point is that “much of the history we teach was made by people we taught.” Great leaders such as Grant and Lee, Pershing and MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton, Schwarzkopf and Petraeus are among the more than 50,000 graduates. Countless others, following military service, have had distinguished careers in business, medicine, law, sports, politics, and science.

Words fail me. How can you not be impressed?

One aspect of my sister’s West Point experience that I find especially cool is how her graduating class of 2015 will mark the 100th

The entrance to West Point welcomed new cadets.

anniversary of “the class the stars fell on,” West Point’s class of 1915. That class included many of the most important leaders of World War II, like Omar Bradley and Dwight D. Eisenhower. This is cool for obvious reasons (“Oh, yeah, my fellow West Point alumnus, Dwight Eisenhower…”) but also because I’d assume there’d be a high likelihood of someone super important speaking at graduation (which I plan to attend).

While the weekend was bittersweet – I won’t see Hope until mid-August, and can only communicate via written letters until then – I am grateful for the time we had this weekend. The transition to military life likely won’t be easy, but I know she’ll do great. And in a few years, she’ll probably run for president.

Goodbye, Best Summer Ever

Most college students have already purchased new books, started new classes and heck, maybe even taken a midterm. But because we’re on the quarter system (I’ll spare you the details), classes at the University of Oregon begin tomorrow. It didn’t even hit me until I was out for a run this afternoon that today is the last day of summer vacation.

I can say with certainty that this was the best summer of my life. Why? Because I…

  • Completed the most amazing internship in the most amazing city. I worked in New York City and interned at Rodale publishing, specifically with Bicycling magazine, one of Rodale’s titles. I had the chance to do so much fun work and apply my PR skills in a real work setting. (You can read more about my summer here and here.)
  • Met my baseball-announcing hero, Jon Miller, in a spontaneous encounter on the streets of Manhattan. Got his autograph.
  • Saw a game at Fenway Park with my family on a beautiful Boston evening.
  • Successfully learned how to navigate the New York City subway system.
  • Secured season tickets to Oregon Ducks football games.

Of course, a lot more happened than that, but those were the highlights.

It’s my goal to follow up the best summer ever with the best school year ever. Bright and early tomorrow, I’ll be settling into my new class schedule and starting a new routine. It’s going to busy, but I’m determined to not let anything slip through the cracks (including this blog).

ESPN’s College GameDay is actually helping me make this a great year, as they announced this morning that they’ll be broadcasting from Eugene on Saturday and featuring Oregon v. Stanford as their game of the week.

Duck fans try to get their signs shown TV during GameDay's trip to Eugene last year.

I’m already brainstorming poster ideas, and you can bet I’ll be there, decked out in my green and yellow. Can’t think of a better way to spend the first weekend of what I plan to make the best school year ever.

Side Dishes for your Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s basically Friday, which means it’s a slow day on the blog; most people have already checked out of their responsibilities and are on their way to some exotic locales to spend time with family.

However, there are a couple of fantastic items that came my way last night that I wanted to share with you all.  So, rather than a substantial blog post, please enjoy these two “side dishes.”

Side Dish #1: The Song

Last week, I wrote a post declaring my love for the “I Love My Ducks” video that a group of University of Oregon students created.  It was pulled from YouTube because they featured Puddles the Duck, our mascot; Puddles is licensed by Disney and some people over at the athletic department worried they’d get in trouble.  That situation aside, you can now download an mp3 of the song featured in the video.  If you have a long drive ahead of you this Thanksgiving, don’t listen to the radio.  Listen to these guys profess their love for the Ducks by rhyming “Legos” with “eggos” and saying that Jeremiah Masoli is “sicker than E-coli.”  Check it out here.

Side Dish #2: The Break-Up Letter

A friend from my journalism class sent me this from USC’s student paper, The Daily Trojan.  It’s the Pac-10’s break-up letter to USC.  “We’ve been inseparable for what seems like forever. Whenever somebody mentioned “Pac-10,” they couldn’t help but bring up ‘USC,'” the letter says.  “…After what happened with Oregon, well, I just don’t know where we stand.”  Great piece of writing, even if it did come from USC.

That’s it.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!