Friday, September 21, 2012

July, July

I didn't move to California in July. I moved to California in October, after having left my parents' house in my little Cabrio (now deemed the California Raisin by Leslie) the September after my college graduation, right about when Katrina hit New Orleans. I drove cross county along with increasing gas prices, oblivious to everything that was going on in the world outside of the road and my next motel (no groundfloor rooms please and thank you, I'm a lady travelling alone). I remember a spectacular sunset in my rearview window in West Virginia, how much I felt at home once I crossed into Wyoming, hubcaps nailed to stumps in the Oregon high desert. I sold books in small and big towns, visiting college friends and drinking beer in out of the way places with my father, along for the ride.

I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge on October 8, 2005. I spent the next few months driving between San Francisco and Humboldt County, where I stayed with my friend Katie on the farm where she was working. I would listen to the radio in civilization, but somewhere near Mount Shasta the radio would cut out and I would switch to the CDs in my car. Specifically the Decemberists, specifically Castaways and Cutouts, specifically July, July.

As I said, I didn't move to California in July. But my birthday is in July, and this song had the whole Humboldt world in it to me. There is a road that meets the road that goes to my house...I didn't have a house, I had a house where I stayed, one full of spiderwebs and summer squash and a cat who nipped my nose in the night and giant green buds strung up across the room with crystals that picked up the moonlight and glinted (it was Humboldt, after all). I had to get used to hot days with cold nights, to eucalyptus and madrone trees, to early morning farmer's markets, to bartering for chanterelles, to no rain in summer and people who made eye contact on the street. As the song said, it never seemed so strange.

This is the story of the road that goes to my house...
And the chickens, how they rattle chicken chains.

Such a satisfying line for me, patting my steering wheel on the California highway, alien landscape all around, no matter how much actual sensical meaning it had.

And we'll remember this when we are old and ancient, though the specifics might be vague....

The specifics aren't vague, actually; they're as much a part of my life now as was my dinner tonight. It's the generalities that escape me now. What was I thinking in that life, where I provided slightly incompetent help on a friend's farm? Where I didn't know what I was doing next? Where I had minimal money and minimal expenses? Where I didn't know that very very soon I would meet Mike, and make a real true life in San Francisco?

It never seemed so strange. And I'm so glad.

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