- David Ritter, Fremont, Indiana
Angel Stadium. Period.
- Suzanne Spear, Irvine, California
Bangor, Maine. I stepped onto American soil for the first time in nearly eight months. I wanted to kiss the ground. I left for Iraq in March 2003 knowing little about what lay in store. I arrived in Kuwait, joined my U.S. Army unit (the 101st Airborne Division based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky), and fought through jet lag to integrate into the preparations to cross "the berm" - the line dividing Iraq and Kuwait. Over the following eight months, my unit fought through the country, making stops in An Najaf, Al Hillah, Baghdad, Tikrit, and Mosul. It was sad to see the destruction of war but joyous to watch Iraqi citizens experience freedom for the first time. … By November 2003, it was my time to leave. I boarded a plane from Mosul to Kuwait and proceeded through the airports of Qatar, Cyprus, and Shannon. Our next stop was Bangor, Maine, and even Ambien could not induce sleep or hope to contain my excitement about being back in the United States, back to safety. In Bangor, we were greeted as heroes. Volunteers in the local community lined the jetway. They applauded, cheered, and offered us free phone calls to our loved ones. What a great homecoming! I wanted to kiss the ground. For this reason, Bangor, Maine, will always hold a special place in my heart.
- Kevin Terrazas, Cambridge, Massachusetts
A good ballpark. By ballpark, I mean baseball stadium, with the local team in town and playing that night. From single-A minor-league stadiums to Major League Baseball franchises, there is no place like a ballpark. At a ballpark, you have a snapshot of the local customs as well as the comfortable feeling of belonging. From the sights, the sounds, and the smells to the way it makes me feel, there is no place like it. The local flavors come out in these stadiums. At Seattle's Safeco Field, there's the sushi-style Ichiro roll. San Diego offers Riptide Red, a great local microbrew; the Rockies offer Coors Fresh from the Rocky Mountains; and the Anaheim Angels have a great Knothole Club. There is always the old standby - a hot dog and a cold beer - that is offered at any stadium (and a guilty pleasure for me!). … The different songs and sounds from the stadiums ring loud and true. With the game on the line and the closers coming in, San Diego offers "Hells Bells," the Dodgers offer "Welcome to the Jungle," and the Mets play "Enter Sandman," each electrifying the home crowd to no end. Being away from home is not easy, but when I can attend a baseball game, it lightens the load and takes my mind off work. It makes the trip seem shorter, and it also gives me a reason to travel.
- Greg Giraldin, Ladera Ranch, California
The inside of my suitcase. Whenever I fly in, after checking in to the hotel, wherever it is and at whatever time, the first thing that I find myself doing is opening up my suitcase. … Unzipping the bag and opening it brings out a unique bouquet of aromas that instantly turn an unknown hotel room into something that is almost subconsciously more familiar. There is the chlorine smell of home-washed clothes. The pepperminty and slightly damp smell of the toothpaste that long ago squeezed itself out of my grooming kit. The reassuringly familiar smell of leather belts and shoes. The inside of my suitcase, really, is home away from home.
- Jerome Jao, New Rochelle, New York
The cab to the airport. Regardless of how many hundreds upon hundreds of flights I've taken in my lifetime, I am still oftentimes giddy with anticipation of my next flight and my upcoming visit to what is still frequently a place I've never been to before. I think about the pleasantly maddening whirlwind that is the airport, the gleaming airplanes scurrying around the taxiways, and the thousands of travelers trying to get home or to visit a friend or family not seen in a long time. I wonder how the upcoming trip will go, what challenges or unique experiences will occur on this trip, what new sights I may see, what surprising conversation I may have with someone from a far different place than I came from. I think about the sights that I probably never would have seen otherwise, like a dusty central square in a small Texas town, the natural beauty of West Virginia, and a thunderstorm rolling across the plains of Nebraska. … I think, too, of the places I've already been because of my frequent work travel, and I'm thankful for the wonderful places I've visited as a road warrior. During my cab ride to the airport, my little corner of Chicago expands to a worldwide opportunity.
- Mark Lammartino, Chicago, Illinois
Sweezy Lake. Yep, that's the name of the place: "Swee-zeee." Pronounced just like it's spelled. Sweezy is a tiny lake in a tiny town whose name I've forgotten. For a couple of summers when I was a kid, my parents had a cottage on that lake. … I'm not sure this place would meet anyone's highfalutin expectations of a summer home. The dumpy yellow house had a kitchen almost big enough to turn around in, provided you were alone. And slim. And not carrying anything. And the back porch had nary a rocker. There was the red-and-green couch from the house my parents lived in before I was born, and I think I remember a card table with assorted chairs. … At Sweezy Lake, we kids ran around covered in dirt, hyped up on grape sodas and hot dogs. We'd burp the alphabet loudly. (I never got past E in one belch. I'm quite dainty.) Our cottage at Sweezy Lake had a three-seat outhouse, the first I'd ever encountered (and the only one I've seen since). I could never understand why three people might decide to take a sit-down in an outhouse together. … At Sweezy … my brothers taught me to fish. For me, fishing meant waiting for a hook with a worm already attached, and holding the fishing pole until it got a tug. Then I'd shriek for someone to "get the fish, get the fish!" Someone would take the pole and reel in the three-inch-long sunfish. … After a few days straight of swimming in the lake and drying in the sun, we'd get a bit rank. So Dad would toss us kids into the boat with a bottle of shampoo, and we'd head over to the sandy-beach area of the lake. I don't know how clean we could possibly get by bathing in lake water, but that counted as bath time. After so many years, Sweezy Lake remains a snapshot in my mind.
- Amie Wyrostek, San Antonio, Texas