Places please us; they also make us who we are.

You are where you are from — you are all the places you are from — in part.

I was born in Long Beach, California. My family lived during my early years nearby, in Torrance. My later years — about two-third of my life — I have lived in San Diego. Thus, I am California-ized. I am a coastal, beached, palm-treed, coastal, diversified, somewhat edge-of-the-ocean liberalized.

When I was five my parents, my two brothers and I moved to Missouri, first to Kansas City, then to Warsaw, Missouri. I lived there for 15 years. Thus, I am a woodsy, lake-loving, landed, middled, Bible-belted, ruralized, familialed  — raised as a farmed-fed fellow.

I was twenty, when we moved to San Diego. I might say my formative years were in the Midwest — they were — but all years are formative years and all the places I have lived, or been, have added to me.

We are where we live, and we are where we have lived

I have lived in Missouri — five miles from Warsaw on State Highway 7, where it meets county road Z. During my years, there were woods, streams, farms and a town of 1,000 people there. Near Warsaw — at the Christian campground I grew up on — I hunted wild mushrooms around musty rotting logs after spring rains, picked and ate wild strawberries in the fields behind R-10 — my rural, consolidated grade school — copied art master-pieces for Mrs. Myers —my revered grade school teacher — fished for large mouth bass on small streams over-hung with trees, chased lightening bugs in front of the house on warm summer evenings with my brothers, watched huge bright flashes of lightening rip the roiling Midwest sky apart, water skied on smooth evening water on the Osage River, sledded in winter down a favorite hill to a small pond through trees sparkling with ice and worked in the local grocery store and threw hay into barns for two cents a bale to earn money for my first car.

I learned stuff there. How farmers live, how small towns function, what localism feels like, what natural beauty looks like, how the woods function as a refuge, how water feels under your feet, how snow tastes, what fish feel like at the end of a line, how a gun smells when fired, how the planet feels when it is only one-hundred miles in diameter, what if feels like to live one-mile from the nearest neighbor, how to read a lot on snowy winter days, to have dogs for friends and how to have your brothers as your best friends and favorite playmates.

And then I lived in San Diego, the city of Chula Vista, eleven miles from the border of Mexico, on Highway 5, in a bedroom community, on the San Diego bay, in the California inland hills, in a racially diverse community, in a desert — with yards and median planters made to look like the Midwest — and in a beautiful master-planned community called Eastlake, built around an artificial lake.

In Chula Vista I have watched winter winds whip the pepper trees into a wild street dance, attended San Diego State University and UCSD to earn degrees in literature, met my wife at a church, bogey boarded in the Pacific Ocean at Coronado and La Jolla Shores with my two little daughters, enjoyed Shakespeare at the Festival Stage in Balboa Park every summer, surfed the blue, curling waves of Tourmaline and Del Mar, tramped the bright blooming Torrey Pines State Beach Park, the gorgeous Anza Borrego desert and lovely Cuyamaca Mountains, taught in an inner city high school in Southeast San Diego and at a diverse community college in Chula Vista, pastored two churches, bought four homes, became a writer, became a traveler, began to know who I was — perhaps a little, a lover of beauty, a lover of places, a lover of the city and a lover of the country. I am, just perhaps, an odd and unique combination of two places — the Midwest and the West Coast.

On top of this, California became a bit of a launching pad for me, for from there I have traveled to Sequoia, to Yosemite, to San Francisco, to Lasen, to Portland, to Seattle, to South Carolina, to Georgia, to Hawaii (three times), to Alaska, to Arizona, to Washington DC, to New York, to Massachusetts, to Kansas City, to Montana, to Wyoming, to Maine and to many other US destinations too many to name, and also to other countries, to Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Nicaragua, South Africa, England (twice), to France, to Italy and other countries too.

I am my places — in part — and they have all shaped my perspectives on life.

Rural Missouri taught me to love oaks. San Diego taught me to love palms. Missouri taught me to love forests. California taught me to love parks. The Ozarks taught me to love streams and lakes and farms, San Diego to love the ocean. Warsaw showed me small and slow-paced; San Diego showed me large, and fast. Warsaw taught me cultural similarity; San Diego taught me cultural diversity. In Missouri I feel in love with the countryside; in California I fell in love with cities. At at the edge of the continent — voyaging out — I fell in love with the world, and the world taught me to love the world.

Who am I? I’m not sure. Perhaps I am everywhere I have lived, everywhere I have been, who I have met and how they have influenced me.

Because I have lived more than one place, perhaps I am able to see some differences in places — perhaps not always accurately — but I do have a point of comparison. Because I have traveled to still other places, I am able to notice more of what is similar, and sometime different in people an places.

The effect this has had on me, is mostly likely unique, different than the effect would have had on anyone else. We are each one a custom filter. We are each one a special geographical sponge. We soak up different things from our environments. I do not think of myself as a Missourian, or a Californian. Although I am very California, I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world. I want to be cosmopolitan. I want to be international. I long, ache and pine to be universal.

I want to live in other places, meet other people, meet exotic people of the world. Indeed, there are no other kind. All people are exotic to me, all are interesting, all are maps, all may be read as a place, all are places or combinations of places, all add to me, all add to us.

In a time when some of my fellow American want to isolate, be with only their own kind, expel outsiders, mistrust foreigners, become provincial again, put up walls, get safe, I don’t.

I know I am an North American, I know I am most comfortable here, probably in California, I know this is a good home for me, but I know that I want to be from more than one place, and know more than one kind of person and value more than one town, state, country, culture and continent.

I want to be from everywhere — well almost. Let’s be honest. I have been places and read about more places that I don’t want to be from. But I do want to know everyone — well, mostly, kind of, growing towards this, wanting to adventure out more, getting there, on my way.

I’m excited to plan the next trip, buy the next plane ticket, make the next move — outward.

I am, in part — where I go next.

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