United States

With the 2012 Olympics looming around the corner, the games will be a common topic of discussion at water coolers, bars, homes and cocktail parties around the world. If your knowledge of olympic history is lacking, but you’d like to take part in these conversation — look no further!

Those of us who live far from home experience a longing for it that you can only know if you’ve lived away for a real length of time. We romanticize where we’re from and talk about it with an appreciation we didn’t have for it when we lived there.

The typical superficial response: The former is better because it encourages freedom, while the latter restricts it. A smarter retaliation: If you can’t opt to restrict freedom, you’re not free.

When I was 25 I decided to quit my job and move back in with my parents. Before I moved, I was living on the coast of San Diego County, working for a newspaper in Del Mar, where I was the only reporter and photographer. I worked less than 35 hours a week and could surf before and after work—sometimes surfing during work hours if the waves were good enough and I had my three stories for the week in.

At St. Mark’s bookshop the other night, after skimming through “the sex issue” of Time Out: New York, I picked up the “American Autumn” issue of Ad Busters. I was so moved by it, the beautiful images, the elegant words, and its overall extremist/fanatical take on the world. Then one piece more than any other stood out and shot through me so intensely: a visual essay in tribute to the great John Berger.

With the many warm little clusters of people huddling together around tall buildings, the “cities” that dot our landscape like a misshapen constellation, it’s sometimes hard to understand why absolutely none of them are interesting or relevant. None of them, that is, except New York City.

Once I had a beard, and longer hair. I wore whatever I wanted. My actions were derived from conscious choices. Spare time was abundant and used to nourish my mind, my body, and my soul. I moved often, sometimes on a whim, but mainly to find a better job. No one told me where to go. No one held my hand. There was no plan. There was no paperwork. There was just me: my mind, my dreams, my life, and my choices. I loved it.

Among the many lessons I was taught by those wing women so long ago, the one I learned that day at the store I consider the most important. I realized not only did I want to be around people who lived their lives in exclamation points but I also wanted to live my own life the same way. Months later that lesson would play a key role, arguably, in helping me to find someone who, thankfully, was generous enough to relieve my virginity.