Friday, May 30, 2008

As God Is My Witness, I'll Never Sit on the Floor Again

Our stuff arrived. Thank the fates. I just...I just want all of you who read this...I just want you to go home tonight and before you hug your children and before you hug your spouse, I want you to hug your stuff. I know we're not supposed to be materialistic and prize objects over anything else, but damn it, stuff just makes life better. So, hug your chair and hug your bed and hug your silverware. Do it!

It's been a looooong day. And our movers were great! Our driveway is a steep and narrow tree-lined pathway, so the moving truck couldn't come down to the house. They had to park up on the street level and carry everything down the steep hill, drop it off, then climb back up the hill for more. They were such troopers. I think I would have taken one look at that hill and just kept driving. I drive up the hill to get the mail every day.

So now, we're going to be unpacking for a while. Each box I open feels like Christmas. We haven't seen our stuff since the beginning of May, so I had forgotten how fabulous all my shoes are.

Tonight we're going to Sante, a wine bar, to relax, have some wine and cheese and take a deep breath. We'll finish unpacking tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Little Fall of Rain

During my sophomore year in high school, I fancied myself a poet and spoiled reams of paper with my truly terrible poems and song lyrics. Most of which chronicled my unrequited love for my guitar teacher. Here's a sample:

The clouds hover over
Dark and billowing
Like my feelings for you.

I am held back
My feelings like the rain.

Yes, I somehow managed to express that my feelings were both out of control and yet restrained, all in one poem. This is just the beginning of this epic tome, by the way. I only bring up this embarrassing literary episode, because whenever the skies are overcast or storm clouds roll in, my brain immediately coughs up my little poem. Carrie Fisher recently said that until the day she dies, the words Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope will be stuck in her head. I guess the same is true for me and my meteorological poetry (though I will also have the Princess's plea stuck in there, too).

As you might have guessed, it's raining here. But that did not stop me from putting up my squirrel feeder. We had friendly (and hungry) squirrels in our backyard in Los Angeles, too. They were loads of fun and Michael even taught them to take peanuts out of his hand. But those were L.A. squirrels and probably had some prior training and SAG cards. Here, the squirrels are a bit more...well, squirrelly. But like their Los Angeles brethren, they quickly fell in line once I put up the feeder.

It took them no time at all to figure out how to get the food, and three of them spent the morning feasting, barking and running up and down the tree. Don't worry, I placed the feeder far enough from the house to protect us just in case they're rabid or have the plague.

My next project will be the birds. It's a diverse group. Then there are the chipmunks, but they spend most of their time in the front yard singing pop songs. The one food that seems to enthrall the entire animal kingdom (and humans) is peanut butter, so I will give that a try. As soon as the dark and billowing clouds (and my metaphoric feelings) clear up.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quiet Riot

Making friends has always been difficult for me. I am what you might call "anti-social." I don't know if I couldn't make friends because I was anti-social, or I became anti-social because I couldn't make friends. In either case, I am now a cold, humorless, unapproachable adult. And that is why we use Michael as our front man when meeting new people.

Michael is warm, friendly, larger-than-life, and people gravitate to him. Luckily, I have been able to harness his genuine, sweet personality and use it for my own sinister purposes. We put Michael out front to lure people in, butter them up, get their defenses down, then we spring me on them and see if they stick around or run. Those that stick around tend to become our friends. Those that run tend to warn others.

Since my birth, the most common phrase used to describe me has been "quiet."

"Oh, he's so quiet."
"Chance is so quiet in class."
"We would have taken him to the hospital, but he was so quiet."

In recent years, I have actually attempted to be whatever the opposite of quiet is. Loud? That seems to be what people prefer. But no matter how gregarious I am or silly or obnoxious, people still call Michael the next day and say, "Chance is so quiet." Since we're starting this new adventure here, I decided that I was going to try to be a "new Jan Brady" and change my ways. I was going to be the warm, friendly one. I was going to smile at people and answer them when they spoke to me and offer to throw water on them if they happened to catch on fire. I was going to be Marcia.

So we went to dinner with some new people the other night, and I decided to try on my best smile, small talk, chatter and charm. I asked people questions, genuinely laughed at their jokes, told funny, self-deprecating stories about myself. I knew I must have finally broken down that door and proved myself engaging and worthy of friendship. But as dinner came to a close, one of our new friends turned to Michael and said, "Chance is so quiet."

I have now reached the conclusion that I am not actually quiet at all. The truth is... people just don't listen to me. Socially, I am invisible. I suppose there are worse things to be. As a writer, it's nice to be an unnoticed observer, even when I'm telling a story or hanging from a chandelier or bleeding. It's probably good that no one remembers anything dreadful I said or did. I get a clean slate at every party.

So we'll keep using Michael as bait to lure in unsuspecting potential friends. And I will slink back into the shadows, my frigid, alabaster skin and milky, sightless eyes recoiling at the warm, golden radiance of his popularity.

Weekend Wrap-Up

Click image above to enlarge.

Funny how I can feel disorganized and scattered even when there's absolutely nothing around me. It must be the OCD. Hopefully, I will feel better once I really do have something to organize and arrange. I've learned a couple of things this past week. You really can live without all the material trappings and possessions and things that we all cling to. The other thing I learned is that I don't want to. I can't wait for our stuff to get here. As an experiment, try getting through the day without a chair. You don't realize how much you depend on the lowly little piece of furniture called the chair until you don't have one. My favorite part of furniture shopping has been just sitting in all the chairs in all the stores.

We've been here a week now, though it seems longer. I don't mean that in a bad way. It's just that the local people and the friends we've made have been so nice to us and we have been so busy, that it seems like we've been here for ages.

Quick tragic childhood story: When I was a kid I had terrible allergies. Then when I was 9, I started allergy shots and they helped immensely. On one camping trip, the family and I found ourselves in a campground surrounded by cottonwood trees. The little white tufts drifted in the air like magic, and it was beautiful. But within a few seconds, I was having the worst attack of my life. The parents grabbed me, packed up our stuff and we got the heck out of there. From then on, we stayed away from cottonwood trees. You see where this is going?

Yesterday afternoon, I walked out on the balcony overlooking the backyard and the air was full of tiny little whispy, cottony plumes, like someone had blown the fluff off a giant dandelion into our yard. My allergy attacks have been mild here, but pretty steady. There's definitely something in the air. Somehow, the smog and absence of nature in Los Angeles had dulled my allergy problems over the years. Here, it's like a brand new world of sneezing! I'm going to try some homeopathic remedies, then head off to an allergist, if necessary. Even Michael has been sniffling and sneezing. Damn nature. It's enough to make you want to bulldoze some of these trees and put up a couple of Starbucks.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Culture Shock: Part 1

Funny how the little things that are different about a new location can creep up on you. For instance, I went to Lowe's yesterday, and for a while, didn't know if I was ever going to make it back out. Get this! The layout at Lowe's is completely opposite to the layout at the stores in California. Why? Is it because it's the East Coast, so they flipped it? It's lawn and garden on the right, tools and lumber on the left, people! I spun around in circles for an hour.

If you're in Los Angeles, you are going to freak out at this next part. The cans of spray paint...are just out there in the open! Unlocked! They're not in a cage, and you don't have to get an employee to help you! If you're not in Los Angeles, let me explain. Even the spray glitter at the craft store is behind a big iron gate, and you have to explain to an employee just what you plan to do with the spray glitter once you have it! But here, it's all out in the open! I can gather up all the cans of paint and glitter I want and throw them to the starving masses like they're loaves of bread.

Next on the list is movie theaters. We went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night. I haven't been to a normal movie theater in years. In L.A., we always went to Arclight, where you get reserved and comfy seats, lots of legroom, no commercials, movie introductions by ushers, and most importantly, a bar. Maybe it was because the movie was showing on 10 of their 12 screens last night, but we somehow got the smallest movie screen in the world. And commercials. Lots of commercials. But I have to give props to the audience. Well-behaved and respectful, they even stayed for the credits, which is a hallmark of serious moviegoers. So kudos to Asheville movie fans! I'm just going to miss my assigned seat and my cosmo. Luckily, I'm still on the Arclight mailing list, so I can live vicariously through the weekly newsletter.

I'm off to Home Depot and a few comic book stores today, so we'll see what other cultural differences are in store. Maybe Asheville's Superman is a villain instead of a hero! I will let you know.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Food, Glorious Food

Everything we shipped, ordered, ferried or sent by carrier pigeon is scheduled to arrive at the exact same time, approximately 10 days after we actually arrived here. I don't know how it happened exactly. I thought we planned so carefully. But that's the way it is. So we've been sitting on the floor, discovering back pains we never knew existed. We've also been eating off of plastic plates and using plastic utensils. Our breakfast and lunch consist of anything that doesn't have to be cooked, since we don't have any pots or pans yet. Frankly, it feels like I'm back in college or in my first apartment where the contents of my refrigerator included water and Slim Fast and nothing else.

For dinner, we've been exploring the foodie offerings of Asheville. Asheville boasts some really fantastic restaurants. The people here seem really excited about food, and you'd be surprised at the diversity and creativity of the menus here. As Michael mentioned in his blog, we went to a place called Scully's on our first night to try their onion rings. I had the black bean veggie burger, and it was delightful. I also indulged in a special vodka and lemonade concoction that was both sweet and refreshing. I was too embarrassed to order the drink I really wanted, which was called The Freddie Mercury and was described as "fruity."

Monday night we revisited our favorite vegetarian restaurant in Asheville: The Laughing Seed. As vegetarians, we're used to going to restaurants and having maybe 2 or 3 choices. So when faced with an entire menu of choices, we are practically paralyzed with indecision. After reminding ourselves that we'll be here for a year and have plenty of time to try everything, Michael had the mushroom risotto cakes and I had the yellow curried Napoleon. Both were sublime. We sat outside on the patio and took a moment to breathe and relax and contemplate what exactly we think we're doing with this whole kooky project.

Last night, I Googled "the best pizza in Asheville" and found a place called Marco's Pizzeria. It's a family-owned restaurant with a warm and comforting old-school Italian restaurant feel to it. Michael had the pesto pizza and I had the white pizza with fresh mozzarella, ricotta and garlic. Lots of garlic. We had a 2004 Monte Antico red wine, which was a blend of sangiovese, merlot and cabernet from the Tuscan hillside. I described it as caustic, but in a good way. Michael described it as red and drinkable. Really, it was very good and much better than either of us has described here.

When our cookware, dinnerware and cutlery arrive, these nightly restaurant jaunts will probably slow down quite a bit. There are still so many places to try and quirky little specials to discover. So when the moving truck finally arrives, I might just wave them on and tell them to keep going.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Rest Is Silence

Since arriving in Asheville, when I've woken up in the middle of the night, I've had to remind myself where the heck I am. And I've only been waking up because of all the noises. Michael doesn't hear the noises, of course. Nor does Henry. I heard similar noises back in Los Angeles, but I had lived in that house long enough to identify and classify all of them. The medieval creaking of the heater. The floor boards settling. Henry getting up and turning around before settling back down for the night. They still woke me up, but I knew them all.

New house. New noises. I've identified the heater and floorboard noises here. I've also identified the refrigerator noise, which I can hear all the way from the kitchen downstairs. But there are all these other noises which will need to be investigated and cataloged so that when I wake up, I can tell myself, "Oh, it's only the refrigerator," then go back to sleep.

Then there are the morning sounds. A cacophony of nature in surround sound. In Los Angeles, sometimes we'd get a bird or two in the tree outside our bedroom window, but we were much more likely to wake up to the sounds of passing traffic or construction from down the street. Here, there is nothing but trees all around us. So we have chirping and tweeting and whistling and warbling, as well as a little honking and quacking from the lake. There's also this bizarre twanging sound coming from the edge of the water. It's like the strumming of a banjo string. Before you start thinking of Deliverance, let me assure you that it's not "Dueling Banjos." Just an occasional twang, twang, twang.

Before, I might have told people, "We moved to a small mountain town in North Carolina. It's so quiet here." And it is quiet here, if you consider the absence of big city noise. But all the other sounds are practically deafening. It will be interesting to see (and hear) how soon I get used to it all, and it just becomes white noise to me. For now, though, Michael and Henry are both in a deep sleep, while I'm wide awake and blogging about sensory overload.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Sunday morning in Knoxville was overcast and blustery. We could have left early and been in Asheville by 10AM, but I needed to stay at the hotel so I could record a podcast for my other website. With that out of the way, we were off around noon. By then the storm clouds had rolled in and soon the light rain turned into a pounding rain. If one were to believe in omens, one might turn around and go back to sunny California.

The drive through the smoky mountains was gorgeous. Even in the rain. Or especially in the rain, since the overcast skies seemed to imbue the foliage with a rich, dark emerald color. A thick fog rolled through the mountains and the rain washed away the California sand, the New Mexico dust, the red Oklahoma dirt and all the rest of the evidence of our journey. Instead of a bad omen, maybe the rain just served as a metaphorical baptism into a new life. If one were to believe in those sorts of things.

Michael was nervous about showing me the house. I told him I would try to hide the crushing disappointment and horror on my face if I hated it. But we both know I'm a mediocre actor at best. My college newspaper described one of my performances as "convincingly banal." I still have the clipping! But I needn't have worried. As soon as we turned down the tree-lined driveway leading to the house, I was relieved. It really is a beautiful area. The house is a mid-century modern design, and if you know Michael, you know it's no accident that he managed to find the one mid-century house in North Carolina. The backyard slopes down to the lake and a small dock where we can feed the ducks and geese and breathe the fresh mountain air.

The house itself is a little old, a little quirky, but should be a warm and fun hideout for the next year. I should probably think of something philosophical to say as we begin the net phase of this adventure. All I can think of is that after months of planning, we're finally here, and I'm not horrified. Which is a good omen, I think. If one were to believe in those sorts of things.

Check out the latest photos here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Walking in Memphis...Literally

From Branson we decided to skip Little Rock and drive on to Memphis. Little Rock was heartbroken, but we had to soldier on. We arrived late Friday night and checked into our hotel. On a side note here, we've been really lucky with all our hotel choices during this trip. We only had one hiccup back in Oklahoma City, but were able to find a better place right away. I judge a hotel by the water pressure in the shower. So far, I've been pleasantly surprised every step of the way.

Anyway, Saturday morning we got a little bit of a late start, but finally got showered, packed and navigated, so we could spend the day with our friends Heather and John and their new baby Django, who has the genetic promise of being talented and gorgeous and thin. Heather and I went to college together. We met in Modern Drama class, where she would invade my personal space by reading my Entertainment Weekly over my shoulder. It took another year, but we finally became the best of friends, terrorizing the Drama Department and our fellow students along the way.

Heather and John just relocated to Memphis from New York, so they had lots of knowledge to share with us about moving to the South. Just as we've noticed about the people in Asheville, Heather and John commented on how nice everyone is. It's very sweet, if not a little disarming. I plan to keep my guard up, though. I've seen enough movies to know that the nice town folk will probably end up eating me or turning me into a robot.

We walked to their favorite breakfast place and had our first biscuit and sorghum of this adventure. Sorghum is sort of like molasses, sort of like honey, but has a really unique flavor. It was yummy. Everyone back in California gets a bottle of sorghum for Christmas! Woohoo! The visit with Heather, John and Django was fun, and I wish we could have stayed longer, but we had lofty ideas about driving from Memphis to Asheville in one day. We could have done it, too, if it hadn't been for me. In Knoxville, I decided I didn't want to creep into Asheville in the middle of the night. I wanted to take more pictures of the journey and see Asheville in the daylight when we arrived. So Michael agreed to spend the night in Knoxville.

So today the trek across America ends. We will be in Asheville this afternoon and a whole new adventure will begin. It's exciting, but scary. I'm going to do my best to make the most of this year and this opportunity. And I'm going to do everything I can to avoid becoming food or a robot. Wish me luck!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hillbillies, Has-Beens and Fudge...Oh My!

If you grew up in Oklahoma and spent most of your family vacations in Branson, Missouri, then you definitely know the difference between a jubilee and a jamboree. Branson is part Nashville and part Las Vegas. Perched atop the Ozark mountains, Branson is all about country and bluegrass music, old-timey attractions and hillbilly haute couture.

Like Vegas, Branson exists primarily on a single strip, littered with theaters and hotels. Each of the theaters boasts a different country music review show. When I was a kid, some of the acts included the Presley family, the Baldknobbers, the Bobolinks, Ozark Country Jubilee and Hee-Haw. We saw all the shows, but they were all basically the same. An extended family of talented singers and musicians put together a variety show of country music hits and standards, then broke it up along the way with antics by a rodeo-style clown, usually a stereotypical hillbilly character. Still with me? Think of Cirque du Soleil, but with banjos.

Driving through Branson today, it was almost unrecognizable from the hokey little Ozark resort town from my youth. Extending way beyond the main strip, Branson now has a convention center, Hilton hotels, outlet malls and Dick Clark's American Bandstand theater. I was kind of happy to see that the Presleys and the Baldknobbers had still managed to hang in there all these years. Other than those, all the theaters feature new acts, old has-beens and, inexplicably, Yakov Smirnoff. Luckily, we also found the shop selling the same fudge I used to always get when I was a kid.

Still, it was a beautiful drive, and it was bizarre sharing something so silly and specific from my childhood with Michael. I keep expecting him to make fun of it all, or at least grab me and say, "Thank God you got out of this crazy place!" But you know Michael. He just smiles and goes with the flow, making friends along the way, doing his best to put out the fires from all my burning bridges.

P.S. The difference between a jubilee and a jamboree? Seven.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Equality for All

Today's instant methods of communication are amazing. There we were, in downtown Tulsa, enjoying the Mayfest street festival, when Michael got an email about the California Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Being the cynical one, I kept pestering him with questions, looking for clarification. It couldn't be true. Could it?

Michael's thumbs flew across the keyboard of his Palm Treo. It was true. But what about the anti-gay amendment to the constitution that's going to be on the next ballot? Yes, the opposition is going ahead with that. But in 30 days, gay and lesbian couples will be legally allowed to marry in California. The battle isn't over, of course, but for today, I'm proud to be a Californian. And although I am many, many miles away at the moment, and will be for some time, my heart is with those celebrating in the Golden State right now.

To learn more about the ruling and what you can do to help with the next steps toward protecting our newfound equality, please visit Equality for All.

Back on the road tomorrow. Tune in for our adventures in Branson!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Proud Nation

Native American casinos in Oklahoma are very different from the Native American casinos in Los Angeles, and even more different from the casinos in Las Vegas. Michael and I went with my parents for a little mid-morning gambling at the Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino in Bartlesville. Unlike the campy/sleazy/over-the-top atmosphere of Vegas, this casino had a cold and determined all-business feel. I think I understand. It's as if the corporate mission statement is: "Well, this is what it's come to. So let's make the best of it." It was a beautiful building in a beautiful area of the rolling Osage Hills. But there was still that feeling of single-minded ruthlessness that made me feel slightly uncomfortable being there. And I'm Native American! I lost about $30, even on the Star Wars slots, which seems totally unfair considering how much money I've spent on Star Wars in my life. I always feel like I should get a little something back when I play those things.

In a moment of familial pride, I told my dad that I would take this next year in Asheville and learn the Cherokee language. My grandmother's language and the language of my heritage. So let's add "learn Cherokee" to my list of goals for the next year. Oy. Wait, that's Yiddish. So I'll do what I always do when I start one of my kooky projects...go buy a book. Maybe a year from now I'll be writing this blog in Cherokee, thus alienating the three people who are reading this thing. Ay dios mio! Wait, that's Spanish.

Thursday we're off to Tulsa for Mayfest. I will take more photos then. I've been giving my camera a rest the past couple of days because you can only terrorize your family with your camera for so long before they smack you.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


As mentioned in the titular song, the wind really does sweep down the plain here in Oklahoma. For comparison purposes, it's similar to the Santa Ana winds, but more consistent and somewhat more forceful at times. We spent the night in Oklahoma City and indulged in a childhood favorite: Mazzio's Pizza. It's a regional pizza restaurant best known for its greasy deep pan pizza. Mmmmm...greasy.

This morning we woke up to the wind blowing through the streets of OKC, making packing the car a little difficult, since every time we set something down, it would blow away. We headed out of town and drove straight to Tulsa, where we picked up my car. We decided to ship my car to Tulsa and give it to my mother. It made it safe and sound, thankfully, and I'm going to miss it, since it was the first new car I ever bought and even paid off!

I have a complicated relationship with Oklahoma. Around the age of two, I was already plotting my escape from the place. Yet, there is a lot of beauty here. If you can look past the crucifix skyline, you'll see a stunning sky of azure blue and white fluffy clouds. Plus, since Oklahoma is so flat, you'll never see a more picturesque sunset as the sun literally melts into the straight line of the horizon. As expected, my house feels smaller than when I was a child. And now my parents' big yard feels smaller, too, since they lost almost all of their trees in the ice storm earlier this year.

My 12-year old niece informed me that she saw my name on the alumni panel for my class at the high school. Yup, the graduating classes are so small that you can fit everyone's pictures on one panel and then hang them in the hallways. She noticed my name was listed, but no picture. For me that pretty much sums up my youth in Oklahoma. I was here in name only. My heart and soul were already long gone. We're here until Friday, so I'm sure we'll be encountering more ghosts from my past. Michael's just happy mingling with all the cows. I'll have to check and make sure one doesn't end up in our car before we leave.

Monday, May 12, 2008

This Land Is My Land

Since I've lived in Los Angeles for so long, I've gotten used to being in a crowded city where space is at a premium. So naturally it's very startling to drive hundreds of miles at a time with nothing around but land, land, land. My first thought was, "Wow! You could fit about a zillion Target stores out here." Then I got more serious in my analysis of all the empty land. Couldn't we just move the state of Israel to the US Southwest or Midwest, thus solving the whole Middle East crisis? Andrea, if you're reading this, please let me know if this is a viable option and I will look into it.

The other thing I noticed today is that Texas sucks. I was extremely nervous entering Texas. We mapped out our route so that we only had to cross a small portion of it. But even then, I was sure we were going to end up being chased down, then drawn and quartered. We are both pretty easy-going and tend to get along just about anywhere we travel, but there was just something about Texas that scared me. I never thought I'd be happy to enter Oklahoma, but when we finally crossed the border, I was so relieved. I know Oklahoma has its problems, too, but I felt like I could talk us out of trouble with my native knowledge of the state. I did take Oklahoma History in high school, which sounds odd, I know, since I've told most of you I grew up in London.

My final thought for the day is about ghost towns. It's very eerie and sad to see the skeletons of once-thriving towns. What was it like there? What happened to the people? What must it feel like to see a highway built to bypass your town and businesses? There's something comforting about living in a thriving city, full of life and commerce and humanity. Let the critics make fun of Los Angeles, but it's alive.

One more thing...Texas suuuuuucks.

Exterminate! Exterminate!

I should have known it was only a matter of time before our new onboard computer/navigation/entertainment system became sentient and tried to kill us. I've seen 2001, Alien and The Sound of Music. I know how this stuff works.

After surviving the computer's failed attempt to strand us in a forest, Blair Witch style, we made our way through Monument Valley, Utah, which is this otherworldly series of rock formations jutting up hundreds of feet into the sky. Most impressive.

Then we stopped in Four Corners to get our daily fix of goofy Americana. Then it was off to Santa Fe to crash for the night. Hopefully, the computer has not formulated a new plan to get rid of us. If the computer takes over this blog, please send a search party!

Check out the photos from the trip so far on our Flickr page.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Modern Stone Age Family

Nothing I've seen or read could have prepared me for the sheer size and beauty of the Grand Canyon. I had never been, but thought I knew what I would be seeing. It's truly a natural wonder. I was reading the park map when it first came into view. Michael sort of whispered a reverent, "Ohhh." I glanced up and did a genuine, real live double-take. All I could say was, "Are you kidding me?" It was magnificent.

I'm impressed that it appears to have suffered little interference from mankind. I understand that humans control the flooding of the river that still winds its way through the canyon, but for the most part I was relieved I didn't have a cell phone signal and there didn't appear to be a Starbucks perched on the edge. There were, however, lots of signs warning people about perching on the edge and that most deaths at the Grand Canyon were due to people falling off cliffs. Most?

Like I said, the Canyon was beautiful. A woman standing near me said, "You can't come here and still be an atheist." Ugh. I wanted to say, "Lady, this is the prime example, Exhibit A, of natural age and processes on the Earth. This ain't 6,000 years old." But I didn't feel like getting pushed off the cliff by an angry mob of Christians. There's still so much to see of this beautiful country. And as much as I get annoyed at America in terms of politics and social issues, America...the actual so beautiful, it hurts to look at it.

Henry, our gigantic dog, seems to be having a blast. When I met Michael, I thought for sure the dog issue would be a deal-breaker. I didn't have dogs, didn't like dogs and avoided dogs at all costs. But here I am, almost ten years later, hugging the crazy dog, taking pictures of him and making Michael buy him a bandanna to wear, so he won't scare people so much. I forget how big he is. Then I see how people jump, gasp and recoil when he comes loping towards them. It's like we're walking our pet T-Rex. And speaking of pet dinos, we stopped ever so briefly at Bedrock, a Flintstones-themed park, diner and souvenir place. It was as kitschy as it sounds and the lone store attendant was divine. She asked trivia questions about the characters and gave us 10% off, even when I didn't know that Fred only has three toes. Yes, three. See, another example of evolution at work!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Global Cooling

I had a lot of expectations for moving day. I sort of had a whole script in mind of how it would go, how it would feel and how I would act and react. But ultimately, it was completely different from anything I expected.

First of all, it was dark and cold and gloomy. And when you're trying to feel sad about leaving sunny Los Angeles, a cold and overcast day doesn't help that much. Next, the movers were clearly very experienced and professional, but they were quite possibly the slowest operation I've ever encountered, which only succeeded in making me nervous. Finally, I imagined walking through the empty house and yard as the soundtrack swelled and a montage of happy memories played. But, ultimately, I just wanted to leave.

I guess I didn't need all the drama and sad goodbyes and tearful strolls down memory lane. I think I did all that while packing, so the empty house just felt...well...empty. Paul and Andrea stopped by to say goodbye, which gave us another opportunity to say, "Here, take this" and hand them stuff we wanted to unload. Mallery spent the day with us, helping direct the movers and organize the whole show. And, of course, Philip was there. Whenever I mention having a housekeeper, I always feel ridiculously pretentious, because, growing up, housekeepers were only fictional characters on TV, not anyone I'd ever encounter in real life. But now I've encountered a lot of them, because they all tend to quit after I drive them crazy with my demands. But Philip was a treasure and somehow managed to put up with all my over-the-top OCD requirements. He even survived the 4-page Excel worksheet detailing how to clean each room.

Now that we're on our way, I hope I can stop being so philosophical and start having some fun. Even I have a low tolerance for my existential bullshit.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Manifest Destiny in Reverse

Way back in the Nineteen Hundred and Nineties, a fresh young composer named Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a little musical called Sunset Boulevard. Back then it was still unusual to turn a movie into a Broadway musical. Now, it's required, with disastrous results. I'm looking at you, Legally Blonde. But I'm not here to discuss the decline of the American musical. Though I just did. And it is. Instead, I bring up Sunset Boulevard, because for the past two weeks I haven't been able to get the title song out of my head.

Odds are you don't remember it, or have never heard it. To sum up, Joe Gillis sings of his dreams of moving to Los Angeles, then describes the harsh and bitter reality that greeted him, essentially justifying his decision to move in with a crazy silent film star and live off her money and mental instability. So what does that have to do with me? I love Los Angeles. I've found friends and family and love and success and a home here. And yet, by leaving it, I feel a little like Joe Gillis when he decides to give it all up and leave town. Then, of course, he ended up floating in the pool with a bullet in his back. And I'm sorry if I just spoiled the end for you, but the movie has been out for 58 years. Almost as long as I've been out.

Fighting for space in my brain with Sunset Boulevard is my high school history book. The one that described manifest destiny and "go west, young man." I don't remember anyone saying, "go east, young man." Or even, "once you reach your destiny, turn around and go back." I've heard California described as the end of the rainbow. Why would anyone leave the end of the rainbow?

You don't regret the things you do; you regret the things you don't do.

So here comes this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave home for a year and experience an entirely new and different way of life. The mountains of North Carolina are a far cry from the streets of L.A. But why do it? Barring any earthquakes, fires, mudslides or governors, California will still be here in a year. But this opportunity won't be.

We are going to miss our friends and family, our home and the crazy world of Los Angeles living. I mean, I love a city where the local news leads with what's happening in entertainment. But we'll be back. With stories to tell. And an exciting chapter to add to our lives. Unless of course we're chased out of town by an angry mob with pitchforks and torches...which is always a possibility when I'm involved.