So. Here we are again.

I know what you’re thinking: This is a little weird. The last few times we got together was nice and all, it was fun, but, well, that was a long time ago — like, four years? — and we’re both a little older now, and, I mean, are we sure we really want to be doing this? I know, I know. I feel the same way. I’ll come right out and say it: It’s awkward. But c’mon, admit it: It’s also kinda sweet, doncha think? Me and you, you and me, hanging out again just like the old days? Anyway, I’m not staying long, only a couple of weeks. Let’s go with it and see what happens. Just once for old times’ sake. It’ll be fun. And if not, hey, no great loss, right? We’ll go our separate ways and no harm done. But just so you know, I never stopped thinking about you.

It’s great to be back in Charleston. Asia has been a life-changing, transformative experience (for the full backstory, click here), and I count moving there as the single most inspired decision I’ve made in my entire life. This is only my third visit back to the U.S. since I left four years ago, and, as always, it’s a little overwhelming. This is partly because almost everyone I see is, not to put too fine a point on it, fat (sorry, I gotta tell it like it is). Also because it’s a little weird to be able to understand everything people are saying around me. It makes me feel like I’m secretly snooping on the private lives of everyone in my immediate presence. Do these people not know that I can understand them? Has Facebook so diluted their sense of personal privacy that they can no longer distinguish between a phone conversation and a status update? On a related note, what’s with all the Apple products? Are they giving these out for free these days, like including them in every box of cereal?

Truth is, I’m on borrowed time right now. A 26-hour flight from Vietnam turned into a 30-hour ordeal after the inevitable delay at O’Hare last night, which put me at my parents’ house on James Island at about 1:30am this morning. Unfortunately, that calculates out to exactly 1:30pm Central Nervous System Time, which meant five hours of lying still in bed and trying to power myself to sleep by force of will. Finally, I said the hell with it and went downstairs to fix a strong cuppa French vanilla flavored instant coffee (like I said, it’s my parents’ house) and on the way to the kitchen I stepped in cat puke not once but twice.

Does it sound too earnest to say I missed you? Sorry, I’m ever so slightly less snarkily ironic than I used to be. Don’t hold it against me. Though I’m completely cranked to be back in town for the Big Show, I suspect in about 17 days I’m going to be pining for the Vietnam fjords again, nondrinkable water and all. But for the moment, Spoleto stretches out before us like a banquet, and I for one intend to stuff myself silly. I’ll do my best not to puke on the stairs.

It’s gonna be a rough opening weekend. Let’s try to be gentle with each other.