I have an annoying habit that I’ll admit to.  When I am asked, “How are you?”

Often I’ll reply, “I’m here.”

Most people just give a nervous laugh or a confused smile.  Some just think, “Andrew, again.”

Why answer that way instead of the traditional, “I’m fine,” or “Doing well”?  Part of me objects to the mindless “How are you” that doesn’t expect a real answer. “I’m here” is a response, but not the expected mindless reply.

Sometimes I answer, “I’m so good I don’t what to do with myself,” or occasionally, “If I was any better, they’d arrest me.” Partly I’m just a wise guy, and partly I want people to think about what they are saying.

But, I am here.  Never having moved far from my birthplace, I am a creature of here.  Around each corner is a memory of what used to be there, or something that happened there.  In the confusion that is our memories, a single place can bring in a flood of memories from happy to traumatic.

On the corner is the Jack-in-the-Box.  A simple place serving burgers, soda, and fries.  It’s across the street from the little league field where adults tried in vain to teach me to play baseball.  It’s was the place, where, as a 18 year-old security guard I stopped at midnight for a meal, a drink, or a few minutes of warmth between shifts.  It’s at the intersection where my first car accident was.

Today it’s a signpost on the way to Starbucks – that used to be a Del Taco, and before that the Church’s chicken where the cherry orchard was before they built the new street in 1962.

Lately, I’ve been searching for a new subject for my poetry.  My prostate cancer book, There was a Time, is out there, and my lectionary project on the Book of Mathew is making slow painful progress (11 out of 43 completed), but I feel the need to explore something else.  Many of my recent poems seem to fall into a class of regrets and thinking what if things had been different.  Emotionally charged but useless thinking.

But, I’m here, life was, and the future is that way.

Here, place, where your feet are and have been, is a powerful memory – rich with images and emotion.  How often do we think of who we are and attach a place to it, “I’m an American,” or “I’m Californian,” or “I’m midwestern,” and so on.

Place can be that link between people and the bridge to shared memories.

I’ve also discovered that as a poet, I don’t often find pure inspiration to write a poem.  I need the structure of a project to drive and channel my creative energy.

So, I’ve decided that my next poetry project working title will be, “I’m here – a collection of poems about growing up and living in San Jose.”

I have no idea where this will go or how long it will take, but it feels right to start it.



About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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25 Responses to Place

  1. It’s a matter of great good fortune, to have such roots in a community. I missed out on that, in a time when I had no control over my fate. The feeling of being an ‘outsider’ never leaves me. It is a part of my being, in just the way San Jose is part of you. Incidentally, if someone greets me with a ‘how are you?’ I usually respond with something like ‘well, the swelling’s going down, at least. Thanks for asking’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have been fortunate is this regard. I never really intended to stay so long here, but my parents never moved and the bit of vacation/business travel I’ve done seems to have satisfied whatever wanderlust I may have had.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. George says:

    That’s a great idea, Andrew. From personal experience, I can tell you that writing about my childhood, and the associated memories, always came out so easy, especially in poetic form. I’m sure there is an easy answer for it but I never asked my self that question. I just felt it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. CJ Hartwell says:

    I always hated the ‘how are you’ question too and for the same reason. Never thought to go against the standard reply though. Good on you!
    As to your working title, I think it’s brilliant. Another good on you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful idea! It’s unusual to find someone who’s spent most of their life in or near the same place, so it will be a unique perspective. Glad to hear your creative juices are still flowing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Margy says:

    I always say, “I’m great!” That seems to surprise people too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Debra says:

    I have recently wondered if age is responsible for my personal attention to many areas of nostalgia, Andrew. I’ve never ventured from my own home town, so many of the landmarks of my youth have actually changed multiple times. I do like the idea of your next phase of poetry centered on place.

    We had a radio host who in response to the question “How are you?” typically responded, “I’m better than most and not as good as some.” I thought that was a great reply. I often think it, but I don’t say it. Maybe you can borrow it from time to time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, you ARE here and your readers are glad of it. When asked “how are you?” my Dad always replied, “Still living!” Looking forward to reading your next collection of poems.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. dorannrule says:

    This will make a fine book. And you already have the introduction!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ray V. says:

    Lots of things going on in that post. Just when I think I have an appropriate comment, you turn down a new street, changing the focus and causing me to think again. My “ normal” answer to a perfunctory greeting is “Outstanding, but getting better and hope you are too”. Then I shut up, smile and wait for the response. I started that probably 20 years ago and should have kept track as the responses ran the gamut and could fill a book on human interaction. My hometown, too, has changed and while I visit only 2-3 a year, I still see lots of ghosts and have lots of memories. One is the tree, still scared from my first accident on November 3; 1977. Just write, Andrew. Just write.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. timsablog says:

    I sometimes say “I’m still here”. It really depends on who is asking and what they know about your health. Sometimes when it is a vaguely familiar face the hidden question is “Who are you?”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. shelie27 says:

    We’re here because we’re here and we’re not all there!


  12. This is an interesting post, Andrew. I also find that while many of my poems are inspired when I experience strong emotion about something like poverty or corruption, I find it easier, in between, if I have a theme or even a prompt provided to me to focus my thoughts.

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