Twelve hours from now, my friends will start arriving in hordes of caravans from around the midwest to North Manchester, IN. If you’ve been following my ridiculous twitter feed, you know I’ve been here since Thursday, for the purpose of gathering footage of another summer camp and getting other footage for a Manchester College commercial. If you don’t know about North Manchester, IN, it is the tiniest of towns, population just above 6,000. But it has also been the home to TAF since 2000, and I’ve been coming to this campus once a year since then.
Most of my live tweeting the past two days has been over-dramatized for entertainment purposes — even though it was my birthday — and even though I did (mostly) spend it alone. But my birthday to me has always been, to quote Damien Rice, nothing unusual and nothing strange, just a little bit older, that’s all.
After two days though, I’m really grateful for being able to take the time to come here. At first I though it would be incredibly strange to be here on this campus alone, since during TAF, we are never alone. I can’t even sleep in at TAF because I want to so badly not miss anything. But now, I had nothing to miss. I wanted to catch the sun hitting the Union at 5pm, but that was it. The rest of the time, I just walked around or drove my golf cart. And with nothing else on mind to worry about — no workshop to film, no video to edit, no conversation to be had — I suddenly found myself, for the first time in a very long time, being able to look at these buildings and lawns and dormitory hallways and reminisce about my own times here, when I was a camper and I didn’t have the responsibilities I now have. On my 29th birthday I got to be 16 again for brief fleeting moments. Forever mother effin’ young.
And then I walked the short mile into town past white picked fences, American flags, quaint storefronts and neighborhood kids riding bikes and smiling past me, and I felt nothing but peace. I approached a restaurant with a local basketball team and their parents taking pictures and the crowd made me think this must be a good place to eat, and it was. I ordered my pork tenderloin (“Best in Indiana!”) and sat down, and the elderly owner (actually his son owns it now) sat with me while I ate. We talked about college basketball and Thailand (his brother lives there) and the history of North Manchester and he offered me a ride back to campus because he looked at my TOMs and said “them ain’t no walkin’ shoes!” but I politely declined, because I wanted to walk back now, in quiet, back to Manchester College, to appreciate it for what it once was for me, and what it will be this week for hopefully everyone that comes.
Los Angeles is truly great and is my current home, and I will live there for years to come, but for me, the midwest will always be best.
My new friend Dave and his store, celebrating 50 years in North Manchester in September!