16 March 2000
The last week was a diseased tooth being yanked from a throbbing jaw, each bloody tendon being slowly pulled to the breaking point.
I quit my job, I said goodbye to old friends and older family, I threw away the bulk of my stuff and packed the remainder into twelve boxes and my car, the Black Pill.
I can track the progress of my twelve boxes online. Thank you, Mister Internet! According to the latest report, Box No. 4 and No. 9 are currently housing drug-addled infants in the greater Chicago area. You make me so proud!
You wouldn't believe the stuff I threw away. I sealed perfectly good stuff in cardboard boxes, snuck out in the middle of the night, and tossed them into giant dumpsters behind buildings in the many high-tech office parks that are scattered around Silicon Valley. I felt like a criminal. I felt like the lamest criminal in America. These boxes contained dirty silverware and clean sweaters.
There is something very appealing to me about office parks at night. Half the lights are always on, and you can see the labyrinths of cubicles within, and it's so lonely and beautiful. The hushed fluorescent light shining out on the perfectly manicured lawn, the industrial sculpture. It's right up there with oil refineries at night, something I'm looking forward to seeing more of on the east coast.
I had a very difficult time saying goodbye to people, because those are times that call for emotion, and I find myself emotionally stifled whenever other people are in the room, though there are some significant exceptions. But I would say farewell, either promising that I would be back in the Bay Area soon (which is probably true, esp. since my parents just moved back here) or saying "goodbye forever" in that tediously jokey manner. And then I'd get in my car and drive away, or shut the door behind them, and that's when I'd start crying and that's when I felt the loss and that's when another tendon snapped.
Once I decided to make this move, however, I never regretted it. I never doubted its rightness. I had plenty of doubts beforehand, sure, but once my mind was made up, once I came to my senses, there was no looking back. This is enormously comforting and maybe even unprecedented. And it made the past week tolerable, because I knew I wasn't putting myself through this for nothing, that I was actually moving toward something real and good.
No one in California, and indeed much of the rest of the country, can fathom moving to Philadelphia. I tell people that that's what I'm doing and they ask if I have family there, or if that's where I originally came from, since no one originally comes from California. There must be some extenuating circumstances for leaving the unruffled auras of San Francisco for a bitterly cold and angry city that still still! clings to Rocky as a point of pride.
I tell them my girlfriend is out there but that only makes things more confusing. What is she doing there? How did you meet her? Please god don't tell me you met on the web. I tell them I have a job out there, but when I explain it's in the internet industry, they're all: Um, aren't there, like, internet jobs in San Francisco? Like, a kagillion? So then I say something like: I have been miserable and full of hate for the past six years and you know what? Everyone in San Francisco is exactly like me and I'm lonely in this crowd of sad, desperate people and I'm rotting away and I'm doing absolutely nothing and I'm feeling absolutely nothing and sure, I should probably focus on trying to change some internal shit about myself rather than dramatically changing every possible external thing, but internal is hard and external is easy and really the bottom line is that I love a woman and she happens to be in Philadelphia and that's fairly internal and that's really just about the end of that.
No, of course I don't say any of that.
I'm in my parents' kitchen. Their temporary kitchen. My mother and stepfather met in Denver, then we moved out to Burlingame, California, in, say, 1983. Somewhere around then. Toward the end of my raging high school career, when I actually made out in the back of cars and had my mouth sewn shut with orthodontia (at the same time!) and really only worried about being entertaining, my stepfather's work took him to New Orleans (if you happen to stay in the French Quarter, I highly recommend licking the powdered sugar from the beignets off the tables at the Cafe du Monde) and then to Houston, and my mother finally joined him out in Texas, her home state, and my father's home state. Last year they moved back to California, which made them much happier. Right now they're renting this house here in Carmel, mayor'd by Clint Eastwood and home to, as my (ex) co-worker Jay said, "bad art," like oceans and eagles and whatnot, until they move back into their old house in Burlingame, which they've been renting out while they were in Texas ("tejas" means "friends"!) and which, because the real estate market in the Bay Area recently went from the "staggeringly insane" to the prestigious "you simply must fucking be kidding me" level, is worth a great deal more than when they bought it in 1983.
My parents take it personally that I'm moving about as far away as possible just as they move back here.
I didn't get to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium today, as I'd hoped. It is probably my favorite place in Northern California like, my favorite place where you have to pay admission. But I was there pretty recently and got to look at the tiny jellyfish and pet the manta rays, so it's not the end of the world.
Instead, I bought shoes that don't have holes in the soles which makes them significantly better than my current pair, and I finally knuckled under and got a cellphone. I vowed I would never get one, but my mother talked me into it, I saw the light. I may sneak the number into these diaries somewhere so if you're bothering to read this, you could give me a call and tell me a fun-fact or something, something to make the long drive out east fitter, happier, and more productive.
Tomorrow I make the trek down the 5 to Los Angeles, a drive I have made many, many times before.
The rented home of my mother and stepfather. The unbearable beauty of California can be seen out of every window. A teapot that's been decorated to look like a cow sits on the stove. Dinner was a delicious brisket, one of my mother's specialties. We worked a difficult crossword puzzle from the Wall Street Journal.
Today's Facial Hair Report:
Sparse, but portents of oncoming chaos abound.
16 oz. bottle of Hawaiian Punch, noteworthy only because I haven't had H.P. in ten, maybe twelve years. It was a drunken luau in my mouth, complete with pig-on-spit.