I was back from my last trip for all of three days before I set off again, grabbing the direct flight to Dulles to spend a few weeks back in Charlottesville. During the first years of the pandemic there were no direct flights to DC from Berlin. This was annoying. The amount of invisible time that layovers add to the journey begins to drag on you over time.
This was a working trip, and when I’m in the US I do try to timeshift so that I can keep some overlap with German hours. The first week isn’t so bad, jetlag means waking up at 3 o’clock is not so hard, and finishing the workday by noon is something I can 100% recommend. Since it was a working trip, my only plans were to catch some music and to attend a fundraiser for the nonprofit my friends Eve and Kieryn support, the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CHRE). CHRE’s work is essential. They’ve got years of experience fighting christofascists in legislatures and there’s a lot that the trans rights movement could learn from them and their allies.
Christine and I had booked a bunch of shows for the month, so shortly after I arrived, we headed out to Virginia Beach to catch Shane Smith and the Saints, an underrated red dirt band, playing an intimate show in a small venue. It was great. We stomped in the beach a bit the next day and I discovered Hatteras-style clam chowder, which as a New Englander I find is a crime against common decency. Cream base or death!
The following week, we had a three-pack of shows: Shovels and Rope in at the Pavilion, my father-in-law’s band playing Fridays after Five, and finally, the day before I left, we headed up to catch Mavis Staples, Ziggy Marley, and Trombone Shorty up at Wolf Trap. I’d not been there before, and I quite enjoyed bringing along a cooler of sandwiches and beer and making a little picnic on the lawn. That’s exactly how concerts should be.
Before heading back, we visited the Udvar-Hazy annex of the Air and Space Museum. I hadn’t been there in many years, not since before I met Christine. The collection had grown a bit and I had forgotten just how impressively large the Space Shuttle was. It’s on the edge of absurdity that we sent that into space. The museum’s collection seems to have grown since I last visited and we particularly enjoyed the gallery relating to early balloon flight they had assembled. We accidentally viewed it backwards, which was an interesting experience of watching the story transition from early aerial surveillance in war to the absurdism of early balloon flight, including peasants destroying downed balloons, thinking them to be demons descending on the earth. Maybe they had it right all along. Man has no dominion over the skies.
Hopping the redeye back to Berlin, I arrived early Monday morning and headed direct into a workday. Unfortunately, as soon as I got off the flight, I suffered some serious calf cramps, so I went to the ER to check for DVT. Thankfully, it wasn’t, but better safe than sorry. I fly a lot and I made the mistake of wearing skinny jeans on my flight, so I figure it’s only a matter of time before one of these flights leaves me in a tough spot.
The more I head back to the US, the more I miss it. I miss home, and I miss the food, and I miss the comforts of the place. I do not miss the lack of public transit, the absurd expenses, and the catastrophic healthcare. I also don’t feel threatened at all by the current wave of queer antagonism, which contrary to what you see on Twitter and in the news, is far from ubiquitous. I went to a country music concert in Virginia Beach, it was fine. There was a little Pride market at a local brewery in town, it was fine. There absolutely are issues with homophobia and transphobia in America, but the bigots are on the losing side and while they’re getting louder, they’re also losing. Trump appointees are throwing out transphobic laws. They can’t even win their own side. I keep thinking about moving back, and sometimes people say, “but isn’t it unsafe?” Despite the hate, it’s still safer now than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Returning to the US is definitely on the table for me, though nothing is certain. It’s not like Germany is without its bigotry.