On a recent weekend, I took my first overnight trip since my marriage fell apart and the pandemic started. There is a record swap in Buena Park on the last Sunday of most months, and I thought that would be a fine excuse to drive the new/used car and get out into the still scary but less scary world.
I got a RAV4, which is pretty roomy, and I got a folding bed since I am not quite ready to stay in a hotel, and since I don’t mind sleeping in a car if it’s comfy, and well, there I was Saturday morning leaving lovely Oakland to venture through the very different land known as central California.
Different does not mean bad, it just means not Oakland, which is most of the rest of the world. I spent the afternoon record shopping in Fresno, and for a mask wearing bay area guy the culture shock at the we-don’t-wear-no-stinking-masks In-N-Out it was a bit tense making. I realize the mask mandate is lifted, and I realize I am not comfortable with that yet.
I love social distancing. I have always been the guy who moves to the fringe of the movie theater as far away from the crowd as possible. I am a self-taught extrovert who is essentially still an introvert, and the less people the better. The 6-foot apart rule is one of the best ideas ever, and why wouldn’t we want to keep that?
But a lot of Fresno doesn’t feel that way I guess, so there I was facing my fears of travelling, missing my cats, and not really finding that great of records in Fresno. But that’s life, and there was still plenty more world for me to travel through and freak out about.
About an hour down the road I realized the USB port in my car was useless at keeping my phone charged, so I went to the Best Buy in Visalia. I drove through suburban tract housing, orchards, lonesome roads, roads filled with parked trucks and then there it was, a shopping mall out of any town anywhere.
And I realized, although I was in a land of very different mindset, although we have this horrible exhausting divide about how we see and deal with things like pandemics, economics, policing, race, love, all kinds of things, we all shop at the same malls and stores, eat at the same restaurants and wear the same clothes.
It is probably not that unique a revelation, it just hit me in the moment. And made me sad and uncomfortable. And yes, I ate at a Chipotle earlier, I am as easy a mark as anyone. I once read children prefer the familiar, and the older I get, the more I realize we are a nation of children, and not in the good child like way.
But I got the charger, drove back through the suburbs and orchards, hit the interstate and continued on South. I slept up in the mountains on the Grapevine highway, which was fine except when I had to go pee at 2 AM and it was fucking 35 outside. But everything was fine once I got back under the sleeping bag and two blankets, and I feel asleep with the satisfied feeling of adventuring, because even when it’s not great, travelling and going for long distance drives is a thing I have always loved. I fell asleep thinking of my cats, hoping they were getting along ok, and sending them long distant hugs.
The cats are by far the best thing I got from the marriage. I adopted them as a desperate attempt to salvage our sinking ship of love. But even the awesomeness of two adorable babies could not heal the mess things had become. The husband got his green card and left, the cats stayed and then the pandemic hit a couple months after he left. I don’t know how I would have survived without them; they have brought light and healing into the apartment every day.
So, I felt a little bad leaving them behind. I put out tons of dry food, tons of water, made sure to tell them how much I loved them and that I would be back soon. Yes, I think they understand the essence of things, and yes, I know I’m kind of a nut. But pets gain so much meaning as we share our space and lives with them, and I do my best to treat them as I would anyone who would show me that much loyalty and love. Jumping ahead, they seemed fine when I got home, so all my worrying was for nothing, but yes, just as we have learned I’m an introvert, now we also know I’m a worrier.
The alarm went off at 4:30 AM, I got back on the road, stopped for truck stop coffee and a self-serve donut (now that’s living on the edge) at a Flying J. Got down to Orange County, found a Starbucks to get some more coffee, arrived at the record swap to hang out in the parking lot before the doors opened at 7.
Nothing was happening in the parking lot. I visited with a few people, and then we went into a dismal selection of records. Just dismal.
But I got a few things, visited with some more friends, and wandered around the room too many times thinking something would appear that I had missed. But that’s record shopping; it’s a bit like gambling, some days you hit it, and some days you could have stayed home.
I left about noon, ate a crappy lunch at Carl’s Jr., drove to the foothills at Castaic and took a nap in a parking lot of a run-down mall. It was a lovely nap, and by five I was back on the road powered by a cold brew and a readiness to be back home.
There is not much to say about the drive home. Dinner at Denny’s, too much traffic, and difficult last hour of driving, and not much else.
Somehow on the way out of the endlessness of LA, before naptime in Castaic, the GPS routed me through the downtown area; I ended up lost in a place I had only been one other time, and that time was on an uncomfortable trip with the husband.
When I look back, that trip to LA was maybe an early beginning of the end; I’m sure the poverty trip to see Hollywood wasn’t quite the level of comfort he’d expected, and his endless pace of wanting to see places and things I didn’t really care about wasn’t what I wanted. He loves crowds and I hate them; my idea of a getaway is someplace quiet, his is a new city, nice hotel room, good food.
After I got home I took the next day off, did absolutely nothing, and got a little disappointed. Getting away was just okay; it was a mostly work trip that had not gone all that well, and the world is a bit too opened back up for me. But the car drives great, it is nice to sleep in, the cats survived without me, and maybe, just maybe, I can take like, I don’t know, a vacation in a few months. See the mountains, enjoy the world. Or not.
As much of an introvert as I am, I prefer the companionship of a partner; driving alone through LA was a bit melancholy, in fact most of the trip was, but still, I’m hoping I can figure out how to travel by myself and avoid the melancholy achy stuff. Overall, it is always good to take a trip, it always yields a perspective on things. I came back exhausted and refreshed, made a good plan for the next month, and ready to proceed with this adventure called life.
It is a couple of weeks later now, and life continues. War happens, inflation happens, the world interferes with plans and the endless pivot goes on. I’m learning how to remain calm through it all, carry on and take care of myself. I came back to emails from the husband’s dippy lawyer, sinking sales which was the opposite of my plan, a matching sinking body, lovely weather, and good friends.
So I do a lot of breathing. Adapting, walking, working, continuing. Petting the cats and looking at places to go camp this summer. It is a rough life and a beautiful life. I breathe deep and close my eyes, I see myself on the road and back at home. It’s all fucked up and it’s all good, and that is just fine for now, it is better than I thought things would be after all that has happened, and yes, really, that is just all fine and good, as I and the world continue on the constant road of continuing and healing.