Oh my god.
First of all, all your comments have been going into my junk folder for like 2 weeks and I don’t know why. So I just now saw them all. Sorry! More comments please, I will check my junk folder. Other stuff that goes into my junk folder no matter what I do:
- all emails from my professional organization, including calls for papers, announcements of conferences, and details about awards and grants
- all facebook notifications
So that’s going well.
Anyway, look at me, I’m in Massachusetts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I kept an analog blog (“journal”) during the drive and first few days here, excerpts of which I will now transcribe herein with added comments from the present day:
Day -1: Leaving Portland
- We had a junk giveaway party where we put everything we had freaked out and decided not to cram in a box out in the yard and all our friends came over and took it all. We had one chair and we just stood around drinking wine and playing with lasagna noodles courtesy of Alex, world’s biggest critter, who also made a sparkler toast that made me want to cry. Everyone was nice about carting our junk away, even the people who just got, like, old classical LPs instead of the hot stuff.
FIRST DRIVE: Spokane
- The moving truck was massive. The size of two regular moving trucks put together. It was amazing. The guy who drives it OWNS it, and contracts out to Atlas Shipping Lines, and then when he pulls into a town he hires local dudes to do the loading/unloading. So we had this cool New York dude telling us about the van and these amazing local hunks actually hauling our boxes around. The hunks were so strong that all of us stood around making jokes about it. We have this kitchen table that is from the 60s and is solid wood and I LITERALLY can’t even hold up one end of it using all my strength, and one of the hunks just picked it up and held it over his head and bopped out to the van with it. He said it was “pretty heavy.” Then he told me the other guy is actually stronger than him. We gave everyone $20 each and donuts, which I hope is okay.
- Steve came over to say goodbye, which he also did the last time we moved away from Portland. This was the closest I have yet come to actually crying. I am going to miss my friends so much. I can’t believe how blessed I’ve been to live within a few blocks of both Steve and Katy for 3 years, and now I couldn’t live farther away from them unless I moved to a different country, like Florida. Life is strange and fast. Portland is my homeland; the west is my homeland; now I am a stranger in a strange land, not understanding why humans laugh or whatever
- Our goal was to drive all the way across the country without ever eating road food, so my parents gave us a cooler and we filled it up at New Seasons with fancy juices and classy fruits/veg and we got a baguette and stuff like that. I stole the half bottle of tequila that we bought with band money before our last show and which I just happened to be the one to keep in their bag, so we had that too. And then we were off! (note: we met our goal of never eating road food, which is pretty incredible I think. The only exception was a pastry I got at Starbucks as an emergency. Even Starbucks we only went to TWICE, the rest of the time we either made our own coffee while camping or we found some weird local place)
- Steve was mission control for this trip. Every day he would update me with research he’d done on our route, telling me about a good co-op in Bozeman or a pet friendly motel in Billings. It was so awesome.
From the analog blog:
FIRST DRIVE: Spokane
- Connell, Washington: home of the state penitentiary, and a truly godforsaken wasteland. Snoop took a huge dump here that was so big it looked like a horse poop. He’d been crying for miles but he cries in the car whenever we slow down and is thus “the ultimate boy who cried wolf dog.”
- co-op picnic in the hotel: olives, pickled asparagus, baguette, 2 cheeses, apple, hummus, tequila with lime
- I get my period and pass out in the bed, under the covers, wearing a raincoat and holding a caramel in my fingers, and we don’t even check to see if Batman is on TV
SECOND DRIVE: Billings
- we have a room booked at THE DUDE RANCHER INN; I am excited to see it
- rad rest stop with piney meadow, stick-chasing, and a huckleberry shake. I forgot how fucking beautiful Montana is
- stop in Butte, which seems to have a meth problem
- Berkeley Pit: a lake of toxic waste that has been turned into a tourist attraction. I keep wanting to understand how this can be but no one else seems to think it is weird. The old man lectures me on “at least it’s out in the open where everyone has to face it, instead of hidden,” but all I see are people going “oooh” at the beautiful vista and taking pictures. They let us bring the dog in and he cries the entire time
- lets face it: Butte is creepy. I’ve never seen such a crumbling creep of a town in such a spectacularly beautiful physical location. I bet you can get an apartment there for a nickel and just be a weird hermit snow-shoeing around
- We make it to the co-op in Bozeman and eat huge plates of food and re-stock our cooler. The Bozeman co-op is amazing; Bozeman in general looks cute. College town. The sun is setting as we head out of town toward the Dude Rancher Inn
- the Dude Rancher Inn is incredible. It can’t be described. I bought a mug.
THIRD DRIVE: Badlands
All we want to remember is setting up our new tent for the first time in Badlands, and it is so beautiful here and the air smells so good. The crazy rocks slash apart the sky which is now pink and orange with a huge moon hanging low in the sky. We cooked chili on our little stove and walked to the little store where Gary bought a plate and I chatted with an older lady about my floppy straw hat, which she admired and said I was right to have gotten and that my husband was “wrong” to have made fun of me for having gotten. On our walk afterward I made him try it on and he did and immediately apologized for making fun of me. “You were right, it’s a crucial hat.” I am hugely validated and continue to bring it up for the rest of the day/trip.
We drove through the Crow reservation and then the Cheyenne and we talked about whether tradition and history can be a burden in this shitty neoliberal world and what would the implications of that be if so. Then we looked up the phrase “white man’s burden” because neither of us really knew what it meant, and we found that it comes from a poem by Kipling that is a scathing account of colonialism. We also decided it would be a good name for the genre of film wherein a white man joins a different cultural group and learns to see things from their perspective but also uses his superior skills, understanding, confidence, and intellect to show them how to be better at being themselves, à la “Tootsie,” “The Last Samurai,” “Little Big Man,” and maybe “Dances With Wolves” although we can’t really remember the plot of that one. “Oh you know Tootsie, it’s that white man’s burden movie where Dustin Hoffman shows women how to be better at being women but also learns a little something about himself in the process.” To be fair, I love Tootsie
FOURTH DRIVE: Great River Bluffs State Park in Minnesota
- 2 dudes on motorcycles we discussed at length: dude in front was glorious and chill on a non-spectacle-based bike with grubby, used, non-brand gear strapped to it; dude in back was sunburned, scraggly, uncomfortable on an elaborate new showy Harley, rubbing his sore arms from the dumbly-oriented fashion handlebars; wearing all new flashy Harley gear. We talked about Dude 1 being confident and happy with himself and the lifestyle he’d chosen while Dude 2 might be insecure. Long discussion of confidence and happiness in general, how even though Dude 1 perhaps has a sort of libertarian macho motorcycle dude lifestyle that I’m not into, I respect and admire his ability to just own who he is and do it in a chill and real way and how that’s mainly what makes people happy/cool. Most telling detail: Dude 2 wore earphones; Dude 1 wore ear PLUGS
- Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota! They also let us bring the dog in here for some reason, which no one really liked including the dog. Things I overheard in the Corn Palace:
- kid, sincerely: “It’s too corny!”
- kid, also sincerely: “I’ve never been in a real palace before!”
- Dad to mom: “Aren’t you glad we stopped now?” Mom: “It’s….VERY impressive.”
- kid: “…it’s just a gym.”
- Gary took a dump in the Corn Palace: “I hope the Corn Palace has a Corn Bathroom.”
- We went to the huge statue of the Jolly Green Giant that is somewhere I forget
- The Shell station was giving out cheese samples; the grossest thing I can think of
- We camp at a swampy buggy site overlooking an UNREAL vista of the Mississippi River
- Trial by fire: the firewood we got from the ranger station was very wet, so we had 30 minutes of horror contemplating a night of heinous gnat swarms and mosquitos as we very very patiently nursed our pathetic smoking sticks. Neither of us had really ever made a fire before, or at least not since 8th grade, and we had no confidence. Nonetheless, to our surprise it finally caught! And we cooked hot dogs and drank beer in bug-free delight. Today covered in bug bites and smell like a campfire but well-pleased
- SNOOPY AS TRAVEL PARTNER: he is doing incredibly well. He’s figured out how to chill in the car without being a dumbass about it! He just goes to sleep in the back. He is getting calmer and calmer at stops. To our shock he just lay down and chilled for hours behind our chairs at the fire; not freaked out at all. I hand him his ball and he just chomps it for hours and then goes to sleep. In the tent he flops down in between us and starts snoring. Is our high-falutin’, sensitive, anxious, uptight asshole of a dog becoming ROAD DOG????????? Are my dreams coming true
- FIFTH DRIVE: Chesterton, Indiana
- Crucial co-op stop in Madison, where we got sandwich and bagel and restocked the cooler, which was getting grim. Very small juice selection but otherwise solid. I am trying local kombuchas all across this great land; there are some good ones!
- Frank is become a straight-up good road dog somehow. Chill in the car, chill in the tent, chill sitting at the taco place or in the park for hours. Drinking ice water out of a glass and lying down under the table, instead of constantly pacing and sobbing like usual. I am more in love with him than ever
- We drove to this weird town in Indiana. There were no campsites available at the Indiana Dunes but we still drove there and parked and walked down to the beach on Lake Michigan somehow just in time to see the most spectacular sunset, like something out of a Fritz Lang movie or Gone with the Wind, like a fake Cecile B. DeMille painted sunset scene with angel choir singing about glory. A river of fire blazed a path across the sea of lake, leading precisely to Chicago, which was etched in black against an orange and burning sky, surrounded by clouds, everything shining in this weird golden spotlight of the sun. In the water two teenagers made out dramatically
- Stayed at a motel that shall remain nameless, which is on a small pond called Lake Chubb but which should more accurately be called Shit Lake, which is what we called it and indeed still do. Bizarre scene. From the balcony you look across Shit Lake to the Best Western, where sloping shale walls are covered with sleeping geese. A pack of scary young dudes hung ceaselessly around the entrance of the hotel. I thought a lot about how scary packs of young men are. Regardless of race or creed, if I see a pack of loud dudes on the street I will cross that street. Fuck you, loud-ass entitled pack of dudes, glorying in your dude-dom. DEATH TO DUDES/BROS
- Earlier, while unpacking the car, 3 regular non-dude guys walked by, and one said to another “Hey, that dog looks like YOU” and the guy replied “Yeah–that dog looks GOOD”
- in the hotel room we read the wikipedia article for the town we are moving to and discover it is a “countercultural hub,” which is a term that is stupid. What even IS “counterculture”???? What do people mean by that term. IT’S JUST “CULTURE.”
- also learned that it has a lot of “great” restaurants but frankly after living in Iowa City (oft-described as a, quote, “Mecca” for food) we’ll believe it when we see it
- Getting excited/nervous about our new life / whether this house we rented is somehow a scam
- just nervous in general. Can’t believe what we are doing.
SIXTH DRIVE WITH AN OBERLIN STOP: Evangola State Park, New York
- Drive to Oberlin uneventful
- Went to Burke and Elizabeth’s house! Their tiny new baby looks like an old man and a monkey; he is only one month old, poor thing. B&E amazing as always. Immediately laughing so hard. I wished, as I wish often, that we lived in the same town. Elizabeth, in voice of baby: “How do I fart or not fart”
- Our campsite is RIGHT on the shore of Lake Erie, and it is so windy it sounds like we are camping underneath a freeway. Too windy for a fire, we cook huddled around our little stove and eat hurriedly. Frank is tied to the fire grill and chomping his ball and shivering. The lake is amazing, like the sea, great crashing waves. At nightfall we retreat into the tent and drink beer and play gin rummy in our long johns and it is a good time. Snoopy sleeps in a quilt.
SEVENTH DRIVE: New Home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
First impressions are always funny to look back on. One day soon this will all be so familiar and what I thought was one way will so obviously be another way. The land here, though. It’s really different from the west coast. Hills are gentle and smooth, forests are utterly dense. There’s no jaggedness or sharpness. I vaguely remember from middle school learning that the Western mountains are younger than the Eastern ones, so the Eastern ones are all rounded and worn-down while the Western ones are still jutting up from the crazy clash of tectonic plates or whatever that made them. Not sure if this is true but I told it to Gary confidently as a fact so fingers crossed.
The weather is beautiful, not what I expected. Our neighbor told us it’s an anomaly so I am enjoying it while it lasts. It’s like 82 degrees and not buggy and not humid. I think the sweltering and the hordes of gnats are coming but for now it is pretty ideal. Our neighborhood is quiet save for fresh-ass birds singing like crazy and many dogs barking. A lovely street. Every house seems huge and stately by my standards; I remember at my job interview I kept marveling at these giant mansions that the search chair was calling “little houses.” Also they are all 400 years old and Robert Frost used to live in them or whatever. It’s a different class vibe here than in Portland or LA or SF or something. It seems like the middle class is not dying here, somehow. Like you don’t have to be as rich as you’d have to be in Portland to actually own one of these incredible beautiful stately homes. Like just regular people live in them. It’s nice.
Our house is amazing in different ways. It’s immense, for people who have never lived in more than 580 square feet (it’s almost 1600). We rented it sight-unseen, and now all this misinformation is piling up in a funny way. For example, no one ever mentioned the finished basement with THIRD BATHROOM. The ad said electric heat, but it’s actually radiator, which is way better. The rental agent said the fireplace didn’t work but it does. They said there were no washer/dryer but there are. Also, no one ever mentioned the huge semi-usable attic. Maybe in New England some things are taken for granted that would be major selling points in the west? Like duh, of course every house has a finished basement with a bathroom, what are we, cavemen??
The house is FILTHY. Don’t tell my mom but we are hiring someone to come clean it, as we just truly don’t want to do it and we don’t have any of our cleaning stuff anyway.
The house is all glowing hardwood floors. The kitchen and 2 main bathrooms (!) are WALLPAPERED, which I haven’t seen since Hector was a pup. Luckily it is really cool wallpaper. The house was built in 1935, and most recently it sold in 2012 to the current landlords who have clearly not fixed it up. The property manager says they planned on moving into it but then instead embarked on a really hateful divorce so now no one knows what is going to happen. SO MUCH STUFF has been left behind–not just by the previous tenants but I mean the detritus of ages. A lovely clock from the 70s. 6 beautiful kitchen chairs maybe from the 30s. A brass rack in the kitchen with a heavy bottle opener hanging on it. Classy old tie racks in every closet. 5 snow shovels. Innumerable cans of paint. A hula hoop. A skateboard. A box of frozen clam strips. We found a pair of jeans behind the fridge.
The house is like 200 yards from the beautiful bike path connecting up all these little towns. We walked along it all the way to downtown, which is quite a trek but doable. On bikes it will be a breeze.
Driving for 7 days, yet it felt like we arrived suddenly. An hour out, we got nervous and jittery. on the one hand, of course we know that “moving for work” is normal in our shitty world; on the other hand, though, what we have done feels insane. We traversed the width of the country and landed here in some random tiny town where we’ve never been and where we know no one, and what’s to become of us? It is Santa Cruz times 10 and feels more permanent too.
With my old man everything is better, of course. We are a good team and I love him. He’s so good at so many things I’m bad at. Whenever I get stressed about something he decides it is actually awesome or funny instead and it relaxes me. It’s a relief also to split up chores and know for example that I don’t have to put up the curtain rods or call the garbage company. We are sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags and spending the days going to the hardware store and buying a stereo and exploring, and generally having a high time. He is obsessed with getting a putty knife and I am like, go for it. At the curtain store we briefly got snappy with each other but then he said “I feel like we are having a fight because we’re hungry; and I just want us to love each other again” so that’s what we did. Also at the curtain store we saw two old men who were dressed totally alike, and had the same haircuts, but when they turned around they WEREN’T TWINS and we are still talking about it.
Emotionally it is a fun project to do together: to START A NEW LIFE. We have done it several times before but this time feels much more major. It is also emotionally weird and hard in other ways. I miss Steve and Katy. I miss my friends, I am thinking of so many of their dumb faces every day. I miss Mike and Alex and doing projects and playing in my band. I miss coffee shops, which aren’t a thing here somehow. I miss AVOCADOS. Oh my god what have I done.
I wonder when I will see my brother, my parents. I’ve never lived so far away from my homeland before and it is bizarre. It truly is another land. The air and sky feel different; the people are different; the pizza is different.
I can’t BELIEVE people used to move across the country before cars/planes. You got in your covered wagon, kissed your sister goodbye, and drove away crying because you’d know you’d literally never see her again. Actually probably not even crying, because you’d be so stoic. Life is crazy. Capitalism is stupid.
The first place we went when we arrived was Goodwill
We CAN NOT BELIEVE OUR DOG. We think we brought the wrong dog from Portland accidentally. We took him to the 7 acre combination dog park/frisbee golf course and he just JUMPED right in the river like NBD and started stomping around and splashing and dipping his whole head under. WHO IS THIS DOG??? I have never been so amazed in my life. After FOUR YEARS of sobbing hysterically whenever a river was nearby, now this?? And he’s been going upstairs by himself of his own accord and just getting into his bed when he’s bored, like see you dudes later. He is chill in the car finally. He’s not barking when we leave him alone in this huge empty echoing house! And when people are around, instead of whining and shying away from them he just lies down on the ground wherever we are standing. He is STAYING IN BED after I get up, by choice! The other day we came home after being gone for hours and we opened the door and he WASN’T THERE; this has never once happened except when he was so sick that time. We were scared, and said “Franklin?!” and only then did he come groggily stretching down the stairs. WHAT ON EARTH. I feel bad saying it but he is a way better dog now. I can say that, can’t I? Aren’t you relieved when your kid stops being a shitty teen and becomes a human? Admit it!
But it’s crazy that a 7 day road trip could create so profound a change in a beast. We have to stay on top of it and keep taking him to unusual things and breaking up his routine so he doesn’t fall back into his old wienery habits.
His chin is fully gray now. He is aging before our eyes.
We went to a vintage furniture store and they happened to be abruptly moving out because their landlord is a “jerk” and is renting the building to a corporate Chinese food buffet chain, so the lady was giving crazy deals all day long. She asked us if we were married and then said “okay so you want something good that will last you, not just throwaway crap, right?” and Gary said “we’re open to either.” We bought a rock maple bedframe. We don’t know when the moving truck will arrive.
The town we live in is outrageous. It is beautiful, with ancient old crumbling gothic buildings every which way, no speculative development boom thus no shitty condos or bulldozers tearing everything down. Tons of all-local, cash-only joints including a full-on cheese monger. I found an incredible bakery that just makes bread. The guy we hired to clean our house tried to get us to join his book club. In the book club they don’t read the same book! They just pass around a talking stick and talk about whatever book each of them happens to be reading. Sounds cool actually.
that’s pretty much it so far