We mutually decided a long time ago: California was where we needed to be.
It was tough to let go of Chicago. Way tougher than I have facility of language to express. I had done the impossible over there. I had built friendships. People actually enjoyed my company. It was odd.
But much like I snuck in, it was time to go. I was able to find work out west, and she already lined up a really big money gig. Couldn’t say no to any of it. To be fair, Chicago itself was a transitional state. It felt a ton more like college than it did otherwise. If New Orleans didn’t have all the awesome shit, my day to day living was basically the same. Point A to Point B. This was going to be starting that thing called life.
It was alot like a snake shedding its skin. All my furniture was junk. All my pots and pans and silverware were junk. A collection of pawn shop, hand-me-downs, and Wal-Mart’s attempt to go even lower rent than IKEA. Nothing that would impress anyone. I lived on highly functional, poorly made for many years. She grew up in circumstances where she had actual furniture with her. Our apartment out west was small, so I gave it all to the landlord. He had people with his church or something who needed it. I didnt event lose a deposit over leaving it all behind.
I shipped some stuff, but everything else I owned that was worth calling a possession, I put in a 2 door sports car I bought leaving Louisiana. The car had one defining trait: reliability. Got it fully serviced and new tires for the drive out west.
And that was the party on this expedition. Me and the car. A man and his horse. Like Paladin. Have gun will travel.
She was already en route in a way. Shutting things down at school. Making sure the movers got everything valuable on a truck headed west. She sold her car and would meet me west in a few weeks. She took one last trip with her friends to Europe before the long dark of gainful employment.
So, I was alone. The last meal I had in Chicago was a bowl of lobster bisque from a can. The last canned food I had in the pantry. I slept on the floor; the bed was already gone. All the stuff was in the car.
I left Chicago like a sneak thief at 3am. The cover of darkness is the best way to leave Chicago. I did not see a soul all the way out of the city. In fact, I really didn’t see anything till that Iowa sunrise hit like a truck at around 5:30am.
Iowa is an odd duck of a state. The whole country centers around it every presidential election, but it really seems like it wants to be left alone. The interstates are wide. The landscape is bleak. And every landmark is made to cater to the transient. It has the worlds largest truck stop. Lives hard off the legacy of a book from the 90s. John Wayne’s birthplace. This actually helps with the boredom of the long stretches. Always something weird coming up. Unlike fucking Nebraska.
Nebraska. Should be a curse word. I am sure Omaha is a nice town. Was moving too far and too fast to stop. But, I can tell you this. When you get past the greater Omaha area. It is 400 miles of claustrophobia. Corn or grain tall enough to block the horizon. These walls of a specific height follow you all the way through the state. So much so that when you hit the Archway outside of Kearny, it is completely jarring. Then your body is settled in for another 200 miles of crop-based tunnel vision. Till you hit…
Wyoming. Its a totally underrated state. You feel like High Plains Drifter out there. Mountainous and constantly shifting. 60 miles of rolling plains. 40 miles of rocky landscape where the earth itself looks like its reaching out. Tornadoes happen so often out there that there are barricades forcing you to leave the highway if there are some forming down the road. I also had the pleasure of making Laramie the first place I laid my head down on my trip. Very much an out west college town. Lots of cowboy hats and boots. Didn’t get to really see the town. I did 1,000 miles in one day. Still the most I have driven in one sitting. I slept the sleep of kings.
Got up early, and continued on through the state into Utah.
Salt Lake City is one of the oddest duck’s of a town I have ever witnessed. On the one hand it is completely dominated by the Mormon church. On the other hand it has a ton of weird concert venues, and this whole vibrant underground art culture. When you get to the outskirts there are these giant signs, “LAST GAS FOR 70 MILES. EXIT NOW”
So, I exited. I wasn’t going to argue with a billboard in all caps. I am at the truck stop getting food and coffee and stuff, and a state trooper pulls up right in the spot next to me. I ask him what all the billboards about. He tells me plenty of people get lost crossing the great salt lake. Either they run out of gas or they fall asleep at the wheel. He told me if I felt tired “go to one of the designated spots” and sleep for a bit. He said the biggest portion of his day is looking for “new tire tracks to follow in the salt lake.” Didn’t know what he meant till I got out there. It is stark as fuck. I dont know if its the highway system or the state of Utah but they put really weird art pieces out there to I guess break up the monotony. But there are PLENTY of tracks that go deep in the salt lake. You can’t see where they end cause they go clear to the horizon. I wasn’t going to be a bit of that statistic, so I blasted the metal and got the fuck out of there.
The second you hit the border into Nevada you are hit with billboards for prostitutes. Like they would be amusement parks. All the kinds of ranches you see on HBO shows, but also little places that just look super sketchy. I saw a handpainted sign that said, “Come see our Wimmins.” The rest of Nevada was mountainous desert all the way into Reno. if you are curious, Reno does in fact feel like cheapo vegas. If you are to cheap to hang in vegas, Reno is your spot. And its where I spent the night. Cause the hotels were cheap.
The next morning I made the short blast into Silicon Valley. My new home. My immediate reaction was just how different every little thing was than Chicago. Chicago feels more like what you think a city should be. Tall buildings. Industrial sections. Apartments. Etc. This place was something else. A hodgepodge of non-zoned madness. You will have a state of the art office building or an equinox gym right next to a shady as fuck used car dealership that was there when they grew fruit in Silicon Valley. The whole place is like that. And my new neighborhood was no different. A bunch of weird ass office complexes left over from the dot-com bubble with my brand new apartment complex plopped in the middle. By the time I left 7 years later, it was one of the hottest spots south of San Francisco, due to its proximity to the new Levi Stadium.
The transition was complete due to an odd event. I was visiting an old friend on the california coast line. We got up one morning and went up this random trail in town. After about 3 miles of walking, I was completely surprised to find an unobstructed view of the entirety of Silicon Valley, from San Francisco to San Jose. And it really looked like a dream. The exact reason we went there. To find our future….then I get a phone call.
A call from Italy to the top of a random foothill on the california coast. Its from her. She tells me, “Lehman Brothers just collapsed. The world is in financial meltdown.”
Transition complete. Work begins…