Home/Place with Garrett Brown

Home/Place is a Company Innovation project conceived by Jennifer Lin, designed to create a collaborative dialogue between artists and audience. The project began with an invitation for members of the community to submit images and text in response to three prompts: The home I was born to, The road I traveled, and The home I made. We are sharing these submissions, the foundational components of the project, as Home/Place continues into the next phase of development.

This submission is from Garrett Brown, a member of Third Rail’s 2019-2020 Mentorship Company.

This is me the summer after freshman year of college when I was working in Seaside at a seafood restaurant. The owners hand-made their own mascot outfit (it was pretty bad to wear) and I waited all summer to try it on. It’s a fun photo!

In my high school, Key Club was in charge of planning our winter formal. It was a popular dance, but always got overlooked due to not being Prom or Homecoming. My junior year, Key Club was populated by a group of people (most of whom were queer or would come out later as queer) and had carte blanche when it came to planning the winter formal (usually some benign theme like “A Night in Paris.”) That year was around when Lady Gaga was top of the Zeitgeist, and I advocated for “Monster’s Ball” to be the theme (based on her album and tour). Basically it was our chance to go crazy and make it queer, camp, and pop arty. And for me, who came out as bisexual later in life, I think it was a way for me to safely express being queer (having not really realized it about myself yet).

This is a photo of a stray cat in front of a building at the Parthenon in Greece. I traveled while I was in England for study abroad late 2015. Although it wasn’t always easy, looking back it feels idyllic, almost like a weird time of my life that wasn’t real (before 2016, and onward). I want to return eventually, but I think of the beauty of the place a lot.

This is a chair that I accidentally broke when I was in the hospital in Portland (likely it already had structural damage and I was the final straw but still an apt metaphor for where I was in my life at that point). I had graduated college maybe 4 months before, and I was depressed and having issues adapting to post college life. I was struggling with mental health including self harm, PTSD, and depression. The program was a three week group therapy intensive, where I would spend 8 hours a day with a variety of other patients working to process trauma and pain. The chair happened on day two. For me, it kind of marks a sort of hilarious rock bottom: obviously the chair isn’t a big deal. But in the moment, it was funny, because it seemed that nothing else was going right, AND THEN THIS. Looking back at the photo gives me an amused smile.

Taken a few weeks ago in 2020. I spent my life trying to escape the coast. I love where I grew up, but to me, it feels like failure to return. My greatest fear for a long time post college was that I would “fail” at life, and need to move back in with my parents. My home place is a strange mix because I grew up with the (wrong) notion that money or achievement determined success: many people in my town stayed local for a variety of reasons (money, family, marriage, drugs, whatever) and I think there was always a worry that I would be “trapped.” 

And of course, due to COVID I have moved back in with my parents. It’s a strange feeling. Because I moved back in because I was worried about safety (have a few roommates) but also worried about my mental health. And although I still have worries for the future, I know I won’t be in Astoria (the coast) forever. It may be longer than I want, but I’ll leave. But I’m glad I’ve been here for at least this little bit.

I miss the Third Rail Mentees. I’ve spent the last several years building friend and peer groups in Portland, and I feel like the group of Mentees are inspiring to me. People I want to spend time with, individuals who I want to collaborate with, people I trust and love. It’s a lot not to be around them right now: I miss hugging them, and I miss the kinetic energy of seeing them in person. People live in Zoom now, and I can’t wait to be back in the same space with them.