As Grizzly Adams steered the raft down the New River (actually we paddled up the river since the New River flows south to north), I struggled with getting my head on right. The previous night had been rough. Camped out along the Shenandoah River, out tents got washed out by the inbound hurricane and we spent the whole night shivering under our improvised tarp city. Short of sleep, knee deep in mud, and wet and cold, we did what any sensible weekend warrior would do - we drank our entire weekend's supply of alcohol in one night.
Actually Grizzly Adams isn't our guide's name. But since I can't remember what he called himself and he was one towering, bearded, jolly and loquacious fella', Grizzly Adams it is.
"In West Virginia, a non-native only becomes local when the last person who knew you when you moved into town dies," Grizzie imparted upon us. "I arrived over 20-years ago and I'm still not local."
As much as I adore trekking and camping on the Appalachian Trail and rafting and rock climbing in the New River Gorge, I have no desire to pick up and move to the Mountain State.
But just now when I was laboring away at the gym, I got to thinking. How long must one live in a place before one becomes local? I have spent most of my life in three cities: Taipei, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.
In the self-styled entertainment capital of the world, one earns the privilege of being an Angeleno as soon as one moves into town, find a trustworthy barman, bagel shop, burger drive through, and sort out one's favorite beach and roach coach (Southern Californian lingo for taco truck).
In Washington, very few I associate with are natives. Except for some generations-old Chevy Chase or Fairfax County families (which are outside the city limits anyway), many Washington residents are from somewhere else and go somewhere else for Christmas and Thanksgiving. After 16 years living in Washington, I hold a Brooklyn driver's license and still call myself a Californian.
Even in Taipei, most are from elsewhere in Taiwan or China. As a Japanese city originally designed for 600,000 residents, the City of Azaleas still works off the same 1895 grid but is now bulging with 2.6 million residents. Do the math and it's fairly obvious that most Taipeiers are from somewhere else. Around the time of the last big war, gramps moves the family to Taipei from Miaoli County, a quiet farming community 142 km south of Taipei.
I'm going to Buenos Aires soon. What am I going to be? I'm quite sure I won't be a Porteño. But am I going to be a traveler visiting Argentina or am I going to be a Buenos Aires resident?