By Isaac Eger
Although I was born and raised on your shores, I had no loyalties to you, Sarasota. I got the hell up and out of your Northeasterner burial mound as fast I could. I couldn’t handle your migrations of snowbirds and the way they gobbled up your crisp winter and dodged your brutal summers. I avoided your South Trail and its Applebee’s and car dealerships and existentially crippling sub-developments like the plague. I resented your bigoted vestiges of the old South in your treatment of Newtown.
So I went as far away as a contiguous U.S. flight could take me, all the way out to the progressive Pacific Northwest, where I went to college and stayed for five years. I seldom came back to you, Sarasota. When Portland, Ore., had run its course and I returned, briefly, the only way you seemed to have changed was in the prevalence of those embarrassing Tube Dudes.
So I moved to New York City. Never a dull moment here. I can have anything I want, any time of night. Big ideas and bigger buildings. It’s loud and my blood flows. And when I travel to foreign countries I don’t tell people about you, Sarasota. I just say I’m from New York. It’s easier, sexier.
But you know something? I keep coming back, and the last time I did, I realized why. There’s this place, just down the street from where I grew up. It’s hidden off a thin road that skirts round the bay. It’s a sliver of that scarce public bayfront slipped in between two multimillion-dollar houses. It’s a place without a real name and without promotion because the neighbors keep it that way. I bring a few beers and a cigarette and sit on a cement drainpipe and watch the sun cut into the horizon. The sun never really sets in New York, it just turns into streetlights. I sit with a few friends and listen to the soft tide running in the bay and make fun of you, Sarasota. But I can’t think of another place I’d rather be.
Isaac Eger’s story about playing pick-up basketball in New York City was recently published by The New York Times; he’s working on a book about pick-up games around the world.