I have encountered very few magical places in my life. In fact, I can only count three. One was San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico and the nearby village of Moises Gandhi. One was an alleyway opening up to a small courtyard on a cobblestone street that ran alongside a church in Barcelona, Spain. One was Flagstaff, Arizona, USA.
I suspect that my feelings about all three of these places had more, in fact, to do with my place in life when I encountered them than any magic emitted from the places themselves. Then again, you never know...
I moved away from Arizona just weeks after graduating from high school in 1995. In doing so, I forfeited a scholarship offered by the state and found myself working two crappy jobs outside of Cleveland, Ohio. That got old pretty quickly, and in spring of the following year I was able to claim my scholarship after all, and I roomed with Nicole, who'd been there a semester by then and was able to show me the ropes. I stayed one semester and then returned to Ohio with every plan to come back again in the fall. By I got waylaid, sidetracked, and I guess--to sum it up--my then 17-year-old self was in need of a little more time in the nest.
Buuuuutttt, a single winter in Ohio was enough to turn all that around. And one day I just jumped on a plane and headed for LA, where I knew there was sunshine and family, both of which I was counting on to lift me out of the fog I'd meandered into.
No such luck. LA was not the place to get happy. And yet still, slowly, bit by bit, I DID get happier there. And when I'd shaken the gloom of Ohio completely, I got into my Nissan Pulsar and headed to Flagstaff, where Nicole still lived, now with our mutual friend Kelsi. And *that* was when I discovered the magic that little mountain town held.
I'd only been there a couple of months when--full of the promise of endless possibility and the faith in all encounters happening in just the right timing and with just the right people--we hatched the plan to head to Mexico to serve as human rights observers in Chiapas. The 6 months I spent in Flagstaff and Chiapas combined for one of the most formative experiences of my life, and I will be forever grateful to both places and to the wonderful women with whom I shared it.
This is how I'd thought of Flagstaff, when I did, in all the intervening years.
Unfortunately when I passed through Flagstaff most recently, a few years back, the experience was memorable for completely different reasons, none of which were pleasant. It's bothered me that my last memory of a town I'd so cherished and adored could have been so completely tainted. It doesn't seem like it should be possible--and perhaps I shouldn't have let it--but these things are easier said than done.
Even better than ignoring the troublesome memory anyway, was to have another go at it...another chance to take in the town of my dreams.
Today's New Activity: Memory Overwrite--Flagstaff, AZ
Of course I do recognize that memories cannot be overwritten like CDs or bad tattoos. And it's probably for the best. The sweet would not be so sweet if not for the sour interludes. But it was appealing to me to have the chance to replace my most recent, sad memories of Flagstaff with some more pleasant ones.
Mission accomplished. Monkey was so happy I could believe he'd somehow been there before. Maybe he visited it in a dream or somehow plugged into mine. He watched the hippies doing Jiu Jitsu and playing with hacky sacks. Then he ran around with Sureya and Maya on the campus of NAU on the grass across from our old dorm room at Cowden Hall. He looked as happy and free as I felt.
We also paid a visit to the Downtown Diner, a place that held some special memories for us, and Nicole and I both scored some cute wearables at the Animas Trading Company.
We weren't able to stay long, since we were due at Nika's Mama's house in Phoenix in the evening, but it was long enough for me to breathe the fresh, wonderful mountain air, and to remember that Flagstaff was still the magical place I held in my memory. And I hope it always will be now.