Wednesday evening. A day and a half till Moving Day. We live among boxes. We have new subdivisions in our house, box walls within real walls. We are, you might say, boxed in.
Damian and I drove down to LAX this morning, into the bowels of the airport under the Century Freeway overpass, and dropped Cocoa off for his 10:30 am flight. Boy, did that feel strange, walking away, back to the car, leaving him behind in a carrier on a pallet in a cavernous hangar. If it weren't for the two big dogs in similar carriers heading for the same flight, I'd almost feel like we'd left him in a warehouse by mistake.
But no, everyone there in the tiny office space was very nice, very reassuring. (And no, I didn't act freaked out. No more than my cat, at any rate. Well, not a whole lot more.) They knew who I was the moment I walked in, they talked about how cats handle travel, and said it would be just fine.
I'm not generally neurotic, but it was hard, doing this, harder than I expected. After all, the last time I brought a cat somewhere in a carrier and left him there. I never saw him again. And even though I know it's not the same, my child brain self doesn't.
So we left our black cat with the loud purr there and went back to Hollywood, the Land of Boxes. On the way home, I described as accurately as I could conjure what would happen to Cocoa every step of the way. Damian knows most of it already – he'd been telling Cocoa at great length over the past week or so what was going to happen to him today. But he wanted to know anyway, I think so he could picture it all more clearly, with more detail filled in. And periodically through the day today, Damian would ask, "Where is Cocoa now? Is he on the plane yet? What state is the plane flying over?"
A while after the plane landed at Newark (and no, I wasn't worried. Well, maybe a little, but fretting isn't real worry, is it? It's just stretching the muscles in case they're needed later), I got a call from Kymm the Magnificent, a/k/a The Mighty Kymm, the volunteer (well, okay, I drafted her) cat wrangler du jour. Cocoa was on the ground. Cocoa was in her possession. Cocoa was sniffing her fingers through the carrier's wire front. Cocoa was in New Jersey.
It all went smoothly, I'm relieved to say. The only odd moment was when my land line phone decided to call Kymm's cell phone. I have no idea why. I wasn't anywhere nearby. In fact, I was on my cell phone at the time in the other room. I guess my phone got worried, wanted to check in. Thought I wasn't doing my duty by my cat. But it turned out Kymm was about to call me. She'd arrived at Dan's parents' house. The moment they opened his carrier, Cocoa sauntered right out and started checking out his new locale. That cat has sangfroid.
Really, this is a remarkably tumult-free story, not much of an adventure at all except for the fact that I'm sure it's a huge big wallop of a life change for my sleek feline boy. He took an airplane trip by himself. I wouldn't feel comfortable letting Damian do that yet, and he can talk.
So Cocoa is the first one to make the move. He's now an East Coast Cat. And I can move on to worrying about something else.
This is just to say that I'm proud as hell of my friend Toni. She started blogging her experiences as Baton Rouge got swiped by the edge of Hurricane Katrina. In the storm's horrific and heartbreaking aftermath, official news is primarily concentrating on the big picture, particularly on conditions in New Orleans. But a hell of a lot of people are worried about friends and family in outlying areas, small towns and suburbs not covered by the news stations. So Toni's been blogging everything she hears and sees, sending her son out to do some reconnaissance and now going out to offer help and also report back for people who feel helpless and in the dark. It's a kind, kind thing to do.
Tuesday evening. Two and a half days until Moving Day.
The "last time" moments are piling on top of each other now. Today Gloria, who has been coming to clean our house every other Tuesday for the past seven years, came for the last time. We've grown to like each other tremendously. Goodbye meant a lot of hugs and an exchange of presents.
Gloria gave Damian a Harry Potter Lego set. When we got home from dropping her off and running errands, Damian wanted to put it together. Well, actually, he wanted me to come and put it together for him. All those little pieces were too intimidating. I don't blame him. But I can't, not right now. Can't do it for him, can't do it with him. Can't do it. I told him if he was willing to wait till Saturday night in the first hotel room, I could. But not right now. He pouted. I went off to pack.
About half an hour later I came back into his room to pack his drum stands. He'd assembled the first little stand-alone vehicle and was sorting through the necessary pieces for the second.
I was impressed. The box says ages 7 to 13. Kid has some visual motor issues. This kind of tiny manipulative work isn't always easy for him. And yet here he was, age 7, doing a damned good job of it.
I'm not sure what the moral is here. Neglect your child doesn't seem exactly right, y'know? But if I'd cajoled and pushed, he never would have done it. Leaving him alone did the trick. And having a strong reason for saying no. He KNEW I couldn't take the time. So he did it himself.
Monday evening. Three and a half days to Moving Day, ack.
We hit the road Saturday morning. Our route, for the curious:
Saturday September 3rd: Drive from Los Angeles to Springdale, at the western edge of Utah. Probably with a lunch stop in Las Vegas.
Sunday Sept 4th: Mosey down the road to Zion National Park. Spend the day there.
Monday Sept 5th: Visit Bryce Canyon National Park. Drive to Moab (still in southern Utah, but way the hell east).
Tuesday Sept 6th: Visit Arches National Park. Drive into Colorado. Spend night in Breckenridge, a ski town west of Denver.
Wednesday Sept 7th: Drive through Denver, stopping for lunch and a visit to the renowned Tattered Cover bookstore. Head north. Spend the night in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Thursday Sept 8th: Cheyenne to Hill City, South Dakota a/k/a a relatively central town in the Black Hills.
Friday Sept 9th: Explore the Black Hills.
Saturday Sept 10th: Spend the morning in the Badlands, then drive to Mitchell, chosen primarily for its convenience as a halfway point but what the hey, it's also got a kitchy Corn Palace.
Sunday Sept 11th: Mitchell to Minneapolis. Stay with relatives in the Twin Cities.
Monday Sept 12th: Explore the Twin Cities. Celebrate Dan's birthday.
Tuesday Sept 13th: Head to Madison, Wisconsin with stops along the way at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin and the surreal-sounding House on the Rock, both near Spring Green, about an hour west of Madison.
Wednesday Sept 14th: Madison to Chicago. Explore Chicago.
Thursday Sept 15th: Explore Chicago some more.
Friday Sept 16th: Chicago to Cleveland, Ohio. Stay with relatives in Cleveland.
Saturday Sept 17th: Cleveland to New York. A long day's drive. Spend the night with Dan's parents.
Sunday Sept 18th: Meet the movers, get our stuff. Move in. Wow.
Can you tell I'm looking forward to this drive?
Sunday night. Four and a half days till Moving Day.
I had a surreal moment this afternoon. I decided to do something with the vegetables in our fridge while I still could, so I threw onions, beans, diced tomatoes, and zucchini into a pan and made a very basic impromptu stew with the few condiments that remain accessible (ie: garlic and vinegar but no spices). As the onions were browning, I taped together a fresh box. As the beans were bubbling, I filled the box with cans and containers. Literally: stir the stew, turn around and put a can of beans into the box, season the stew, wrap paper around a glass pasta jar and fit it into the box, taste the stew, tape the box up, label it (box #136) and add it to the inventory.
After the stew cooled, I put it in a container in the fridge, washed the pan, dried it carefully…. and packed it.
I've never been crazy about living in earthquake country, especially after experiencing the Northridge quake. But hurricanes? Not a whole lot better. Toni, one of my closest friends, is liveblogging her experiences in Baton Rouge as the storm approaches. I worry about her. And about Eliza, also hunkered down in Baton Rouge. And about everyone in its path, whether dead-on or the still-powerful outskirts of that devastation, which Jeff Masters at Weather Underground says is currently the fourth strongest hurricane on record.
Hang on tight, guys.
I was amused to find out today from a friend that Dan and I are quoted in a currently popular baby parenting book. Turns out it's written by our first pediatrician. Turns out I actually jotted something down back then, when he told us he was writing a book and asked for quotable material. I had no memory of it until Dan reminded me tonight. Then again, I'm amazed I remember anything of that sleep-deprived zombie time.
Hearing that our names are in this book amuses me because we switched pediatricians between the six month and nine month checkups. Not because the first one was bad – and I suspect his book is quite good – but because when we first interviewed him, he promised not to pressure us into vaccinations. But once Damian was born, what did the guy do? Pressure us into vaccinations. We agreed to the first one after he scared the bejebus out of us about pertussis and little ones. But we figured that was it.
It became apparent he was gonna scare the bejebus out of us about every single serious disease you can be inoculated against. Listen, if that's what you the doctor believe, you the doctor have that obligation. But then you the doctor should not represent yourself one way to anxious prospective parents and then turn around and scare them into doing something against their instincts.
If we hadn't inoculated Damian, would he have been autistic? I suspect the answer is that he would still have some issues, yes. I think he was born that way. But did the thimerosal in the three vaccinations he got make it worse? And would his impairment have been more severe with more of it in his veins? That we'll never know.
I'm not wildly angry at that pediatrician, even in retrospect, probably because I never saw a clear connection between vaccination and regression in my child. He never regressed, he just developed differently. But I do think we made the right decision switching to a doctor who truly respects and understands our choice, our concerns. It's just odd now to be quoted by that first doc, an implicit approval of his entire practice as a physician. On the other hand, he did give us excellent advice about soothing a cranky baby, and I gather that’s what much of the book is about. So it's right and fair that we be quoted. It's just… odd.
Finally (after how many years?) I now understand the medicinal value of alcohol.
I'm not one for drinking. I don't like the taste of most drinks and even the ones I do like, well, I guess I don't seek the buzz, in fact I often assiduously avoid that assault to the senses. Now that I think about it, it's probably related to my self-diagnosed sensory integration dysfunction. The world is uncertain enough, why destabilize it more? I hate that loss of control, that fuzzy mindedness. Always have.
However. This afternoon Toni called to check in, let me vent. Vent? About what? (And yes, I know moving is considered the number one stressor in modern life. Doesn't apply to me. We're ahead of the game here, you see. We're on top of all of it, packing and setting up utilities and planning a two week trip while Dan works long hours at his summer TV gig and I snatch time to do my freelance writing gig and Damian, well yes, he needs some attention doesn't he? No sweat. Really.)
Of course, once I started talking, I couldn't stop. I needed that outlet, needed her permission to let it all out. And yes, this feeling in my body, these twinges and twangs and tautness, of course that's what it is. Stress striating my muscles, thrumming in my bones. It feels unhealthy, uncomfortable and altogether unpleasant.
I had a glass of sherry tonight. I feel calmer than I have in days.
I've been dreading this day.
"Mommy, where are the boxes that the jewel cases come in?"
"Um, what boxes?"
"The boxes. That the jewel cases. Come in."
It took a while, but he finally explained. He wanted the boxes to his computer games. He likes to look at the illustrations.
"I packed them this weekend, along with the computer games you didn't want to take with us."
Thus ensued much gnashing of teeth and cries of "You MUST unpack them! I NEED them!" and no patient reiteration of "have you seen the mountain of boxes in the guest room? I can't unpack anything anymore. You know that. We've talked about it," none of that made much of a dent. The rage machine had to run down on its own, interspersed with many "Don't EVER do that again!"s.
Late this afternoon:
"Mommy, have you seen my Simon Sticks?"
"I packed them."
Two weeks ago, when I first tackled Damian's room, I asked him which toys he wanted to donate, which pack and which keep for now. While explaining that nearly everything he earmarked to keep would only be around and available for two weeks (ie: until now), with the exception of the few toys we'd take in the car. He understood. He accepted.
Theory is different from practice.
I understand. I do. It's hard to part with your stuff even though you know you'll see it on the other side. In a way, it's hard to conceive of the other side even though it's coming soon, sooner, soonest with the inevitable inexorable and yes, exhilarating march of minutes. Damian is committed to this move. He admits it all feels weird but also acts and seems and says he's excited about it all. But this in-between, when our stuff is inaccessible, sealed up inside a hundred boxes, here but not, this is the hard part.
Edited to add:
Tonight, as Dan was kissing Damian goodnight after telling him a bedtime story, Damian commented, "I know one thing that won't get packed."
We now have a New Jersey phone number. I guess that means we live there, huh?
Strange, I know, but somehow these things, the mundane backdrop of daily life: electricity, internet access, magazine subscriptions and most especially the phone define where we live. They place us, more firmly than our physical presence does. How do you get a library card? Show a utility bill, proof of residence. How do you enroll your child in a highly rated public school? Show a utility bill, proof of residence. If I consume heat and light, if I talk on the phone, if I give my number to you and you and you, not to mention all of them, my once and future creditors, well, then I must live in a place. Even though I don't. Not yet. I'm here and my phone number, well, it's all the way over there. Waiting for me.
Less than eleven days left. I'm going to try to post a blog entry every day. Nuts? Probably. We'll see how it goes.
And I've booked all but one of the hotels on the two week trip. Many have broadband internet access. I'll post from the road, a travelogue of this cross country journey.
Less than eleven days left. I'm in an odd mood. When I'm not packing, I'm depressed and irritable. When I'm packing, I'm excited and happy. When I"m not packing, this move seems far off and impossible or at least improbable. Packing makes it real.
Dan feels similarly, I think.
Yesterday a woman rang the bell. She had a gift for me, of sorts. Not the sort to warm the heart, but I'm glad of it nevertheless. She handed me a small trunk-shaped box, covered in gold brocade, and a round piece of hardened clay. Dante's ashes and his death-print (pawprint taken after death).
I don't think about him as much, don't dwell as heavily on the pain of sudden loss, don't relive the last hours I had with him in the emergency vet hospital's waiting room, don't regret the cursory goodbye I gave when I thought I'd be picking him up the next day, don't look obsessively at the hundreds of photos I took over the past few years. Not so much anymore. He died a month ago today. He was a cat. A sweet, idiosyncratic beast who leaves a greater hole than I think Dan or I expected, but a cat nonetheless. A cat who grumbled and purred his way into our hearts, yes, but with everything going on right now, well, the ragged sadness does heal faster than it might. But holding that box, rubbing my thumb over the indentations Dante's paw left in the clay, grief hit me like an aftershock. Hard to stand there in the midst of a mundane day and feel that sudden spasm of heart hurt. Unsettling.
Damian felt it too. He did what he does now, he curled up in a ball and got very quiet. But soon enough he was prying open the box to look at Dante's ashes (safely enclosed in a clear plastic bag). He found them fascinating, I think. Then he set the box down onto the floor.
Right now there are two sheepskin-lined cat sleeping baskets on the floor in the dining room. Dante used to love them. When he was a kitten, nothing made him happier than a sheepskin lined anything. He'd knead and purr, purr and knead, and settle down happily to sleep. So we got two of them this past winter, one for each cat. Dante loved them, of course. Cocoa? Pretty much ignored them. Until Dante died. Since then, he settles in one to nap at least once a day. A way to remember his buddy? I can only think on some level that has to be true. The difference is striking.
After Dante died, Cocoa didn't grieve in any obvious way. He didn't get morose, didn't go off his food, didn't avoid us – not for more than a day, anyway. He seemed more restless than usual, didn't purr as much, but it was fairly subtle. But he gravitated toward Dante's sleeping baskets, and he took on a few other characteristics too.
Dante liked to stick his paw in his water bowl while he was drinking. I think it started because he liked to drink from moving water, so he'd swish the water around with his paw before drinking, but after a while it became habit; I'd often walk by and see him lapping away with his foot completely submerged in the bowl. Dante's the only cat I've ever seen who did this. Except Cocoa. The week Dante died. He started putting his paw in the bowl. He'd take it out quickly, it wasn't really his thing. But he was trying. Dan says he's read that this is a way of grieving, that sometimes you take on habits or quirks of the person who died. So yes, I think Cocoa has been grieving in his own cat way.
Yesterday, when Damian put the box of ashes down on the dining room floor, Cocoa was curled up in one of the cat baskets. The other lay empty beside him. So Damian put the open box into the empty basket. The two cats side by side again.
But an interesting thing happened. Cocoa got up out of his basket and went to the other one. Lay down in it. Snuggled up next to the box. Then he put his paw over the box. Possessively, companionably. Just as he often did when he and Dante curled up in the cat tree together. He stayed like that for a while. It was really striking, the way he did it. Very deliberate. I doubt the box smells like his friend, either. Fire purifies and purges. Do bones smell like a person? I can't imagine they do. But he knew anyway.
When we got back from our first reconnoiter-the-New-York-area trip in April, I remember driving down Melrose past the boutiques, Fairfax High School, the so-chic lighting and furniture stores with their colorful window displays, their plumage fluffed out and enticing against drab single story block-shaped buildings, and feeling as if I was driving through a stage set. These were all flats propped up by scaffolding, no substance, no reality, just a thin sliver of Los Angeles that I could scatter with a breath to reveal real life behind it. Real life, of course, was New York/New Jersey/home that was and will become.
That feeling faded, of course, as those feelings always do, as the minutes and days go by and you settle back into the mundane and the immediate. After our second trip, I expected to feel the same strange displacement, as if real life was elsewhere, not here. I did and I didn't. I do and I don't.
This time it feels more like I no longer live here, that I'm staying in this odd sort of bed and breakfast, only they're making me do all the housekeeping. (And packing. For some strange reason, this hotel has piles and piles of life detritus to organize and pack.) I'm here but I've already left. And yet sometimes, like last night over dinner with friends in a lovely little French bistro, I feel as if I do live here. As if I've lived here forever, as if I will grow old and die here, wither away into myself like the ninety two year old woman in her studio apartment next door, alone with her blaring Russian language TV.
We're waiting to move now. It's an active waiting, a say goodbye to all that and do a whole lot of work besides sort of waiting period, but fact is, we're neither here nor there. We're somewhere in the middle of the country, in the so-called flyover states that we will soon, and with great relish, be driving through, savoring the miles as we go.
I think it's right that we drive and don't fly. How else can we make this real? This distance between here and there, palm trees and sunset over the ocean versus sugar maples and the green copper Lady of the Harbor holding her torch aloft, welcoming us home.
I don't want to fly, I don't want to slip from one dream into another. I want to feel the miles, experience the shift in terrain from scrubby canyon land to wind-sculpted red rock hills to the buckle and twist of the Rocky Mountain range and on through gradually lusher landscapes, rambling through the countryside as we approach more familiar terrain until finally my inner landscape matches what I see out the window.
Less than three weeks now. Every day Damian asks, "How many days until we leave?" It's a countdown. In seventeen days, Cocoa boards an airplane bound for New Jersey. In nineteen days, the movers come and sweep our life onto a truck. In twenty days, we hug Tiny Coconut and her family goodbye after spending the night at their house (no beds left here!) and head out, take the 210 to the 15 to points east. We begin the adventure.
In just twenty days we begin anew.
Exactly three weeks from today (Friday, that is to say), a long-bodied, tremendously empty moving truck will pull up in front of our house and a few strong people (most likely men) will step out, ring our doorbell, and get to work. When they're done, our life in Los Angeles will have evaporated, nothing left but wisps of cat fur in the corners, a few light fixtures, and some colorfully painted walls. So simple. You make a decision, you follow through, a place goes from tangible fact to memory.
Will I miss LA in the middle of February slush, wax nostalgic for my time in this hyperbolic desert mirage? I doubt I'll miss the overall of my daily life in this place, but inevitably, yes, there are places, things, and people I will miss. If there weren't, my life here would have been far too sad and solemn and utterly lacking in all things necessary to sustain life in any decent form.
Here are some I'll miss or at least remember fondly:
(click on "more" to read the list)
Mashti Malone, an Iranian ice cream parlor secreted in a scruffy Hollywood mini mall. Even lactose-intolerant me can find my bliss there, with the saffron pistachio nondairy ice cream and the fallludeh, a rosewater ice with threads of – not sure what, something mildly chewy – running through it. Dan loves the peanut butter chocolate ice cream and the strawberry cheesecake (yes, ice cream) and Damian is fond of the cookies and cream flavor.
Sushi Nozawa. The original sushi nazi. "Trust me" signs have been multiplying in the little storefront. That's how you get the freshest fish, if you trust Nozawa to make the decisions for you. So we tell Nozawa's wife, "Chef's choice, please" and get small plates of silky smooth raw fish. Baby tuna sashimi drowning in ponzu sauce, cold crabmeat wrapped up in a warm rice handroll, albacore marinated in mild vinegar. Butter on the tongue, over too soon.
Aidan's Place playground. Admittedly, Damian will miss it more than I will, but I do love the big sprawl of disability-friendly, playfully inventive play structures. When Damian was three years old and scared of heights, he ran up the ramp at Shane's Inspiration (Aidan's Place's sister site), able to gain altitude without ever realizing he'd left the ground. And I sat with him in the armchair-sized bucket swings, giving him that much-needed vestibular motion in the security of Mommy's lap. Now that he's seven and an occupational therapy whiz kid, he climbs to the top of the structure without pause, walks on the swaying mushroom pods while barely holding on, and invents his own scenarios in the shelter of the sand yard's castle.
Vroman's Bookstore. New York, last I remember, wasn't exactly a bookstore mecca. Not like Berkeley or Boston. Los Angeles is even worse, but it does have Vroman's, a gargantuan user friendly independent bookstore in Pasadena. Sometimes on a Sunday we drive east and north to Pasadena for the day, stop for brunch at Marston's (I like the salad with chicken and mandarin oranges and the bread pudding, Damian loves the blueberry pancakes, Dan likes everything) and then heading to Vroman's to wander the aisles and emerge hours later, dazed and carrying a heavy bag of new books.
Malibu Creek State Park. It's ironic, with all the easy-access hillside trails, all the untouched acreage in this huge city, but I don’t much like hiking in Los Angeles. Dry scrub canyonland doesn't feed my soul. Malibu Creek is an exception, a taste of Northern California in the south. Tall, slim oak and sycamore trees, hidden pools and of course the creek. Butterflies, wavy marsh grass, a sense of peace.
Clementine Bakery. Oh, the yeasty apricot buns! Oh, the Moravian Sugar Bread, with its buttery sugary perfect mouthfeel goodness! Oh my yes. Wonder if they ship? Wonder if shipped baked goods get stale?
Apple Pan. A total dive with zero atmosphere. No, negative atmosphere. And yet the very name makes my mouth water and my tongue curl. A shack in West LA with lines out the door, people waiting against the wall for the privilege of sitting at the U-shaped counter on high stools to eat burgers wrapped in wax paper and dripping with barbecue sauce. They apparently serve a mean apple pie but I'm always too full after the burger and fries.
Ocean Avenue Seafood. Sit on the patio and look out across Ocean Avenue to the promenade and the ocean. Get a dozen oysters, Hama Hama or something exotic, doesn't matter. Briney, slippery, sometimes surprisingly sweet. Eat halibut wrapped in potato and prosciutto. Order chocolate bread pudding for dessert, walk through the restaurant and gaze at big fish tanks against the back wall. Head down to the promenade overlooking the Santa Monica bay and watch the sun set over the ocean. It's not that it's the best seafood restaurant ever (though it is good), but the ritual of it means something more than the sum of its parts.
The beach, up in Malibu, and the drive along PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). There are beaches on the east coast, I won't go without, but there's something about that blue and the near-white sand, the rocky hills jutting out of the water. Something about the Pacific Ocean on a warm winter day.
Cost Plus. Yes, I know. It's a Pier One type of chain store, so what? But I like their furniture. And I like that they have lots and lots of small rubber frogs for a certain young person who happens to be very fond of such creatures. I guess now we'll have to get our frog fix at the Museum of Natural History (they too sell small rubber frogs).
Bay Cities Deli. Of course, what I like about this place is how New York it is. And Jersey, in particular, is Italian food heaven. So I guess I won't miss it that much after all. But they do have good, crusty house-made bread and they do have a yummy avocado spread for their roast beef and they do have a heartburn-inducing intense meatball sandwich and they do have astonishing crowds surging forward to order lunch en masse.
The new Disney Hall. Frank Gehry gave downtown LA a bit more personality. Silverly sheen, curvilinear multifaceted geometric bits and pieces that jut up here and sweep around there, like a child's unexpected take on building a playhouse. Inside the lobby, soaring ceilings, tree trunk-like pillars branching out. And inside the auditorium, a cathedral of sound, hushed and clear, with a tall, majestic organ at the back of the stage. I like.
The drive up Laurel Canyon, up and over the Hollywood Hills into the Valley. Twisty turns, Moorish rooftops, rows of slim cypress. Fountain grass growing wild by the side of the road. Feels almost like Italy. Feels almost like somewhere I'd like to live. (Except for, you know, the lack of back yard space and the danger of landslides. And the fact that it's still LA.)
Bougainvillea. Didn't know the flowers were actually leaves. Didn't know it came in yellow and orange and pink, not just magenta. Didn't know it grew in such profusion, draping itself over walls and transforming the mundane with its extravagance.
The Hollywood Farmer's Market. Food, yes. Oh, yes. You can get great strawberries, peaches, English peas and white corn on the east coast. Maybe even better. But Fuerte avocados? Fuyu persimmons? Fresh navel oranges straight from the field in February? I'll also miss the sellers I've gotten to know and the sense of community I always feel there, albeit from the outside, as if people belong to clubs I've never known to join.
Santa Monica Seafood. The freshest fish. Glistening rows of fish. So fresh. Too far from our house. But worth the drive. (Mostly because everything closer sucks, but still. Is good.)
Dr. Jay. Damian's pediatrician. Funny and warm and respectful of a child's personhood. Also very good at the whole doctor part. And after our visit this week, Damian has begun trying vegetables. The man's worth his weight in gold.
Lazy afternoons in Tiny Coconut's peaceful terraced backyard. Talking, lolling, watching the kids, talking some more. Not enough of those, actually.
Lunch at Cheebo with my friend Michele. A regular ritual while Damian was in school this year. Meet at my house, walk up to Sunset to a small restaurant with bright orange walls and high ceilings and good food. And good conversation. At least at our table.
California Craftsman architecture. Like this very house. Also Spanish-style architecture. I got sick of it for a while but I'm over that. I like it. I'll probably even be nostalgic for it. (Not enough to come back, though.) I hate the low-slung boxy bland architecture on the main boulevards, yawn at the prevalence of ranch houses everywhere, but I do like the Craftsmans and the Spanish style houses. That I do.
There may be more. Maybe not. It's enough of a list to leave with. Enough to come back and visit, perhaps.
About an encounter in the park. One that leaves me with questions.
As of today our house magically transformed itself into a pile of money in the bank. And yet it's still a house. For now. And we still live here. For now.
We'll pay this month's rent to the people who now own this house, using the very money they just gave us for this house. It makes me dizzy to contemplate, in an MC Escher sort of way.
What I also find amusing and amazing and altogether peculiar about this is that it's money for nothing. For having the good sense or rather, good luck to live somewhere for a while and then – and this is the important part – to leave that place. Without the exit, the profit remains monopoly money, numbers on a piece of paper, bloating in theory but in practice? Simply a house. Shingles, lathe and plaster, paint and wood and plumbing. A house on a chunk of land that's worth one amount one year and a highly improbable amount more a few years later.
I'm sure honest-to-god wealthy people would consider this mere lunch money, and they're probably used to conjuring dollars from the air like a cadre of professional magicians, but to me, a rank amateur, it still has that air of "Where did this come from?" and "Whoa."
Of course, at some point we hope to plow it back into framing and foundation, walls and ceiling and floor, back into something concrete and far more tangible than the automated bank voice I listened to today on the phone reciting a bunch of random-sounding numbers into my ear with the melodic yet calm tones of a lobotomized preschool teacher. I'll be sad to see it go. If we're lucky, we can hold onto some of it as non-real estate investment. I hope. We'll see. And if so, maybe in time it will seem more real. More natural. More like ours.
I told our realtor today I'm almost tempted take some of the cash out in small denominations, fill my bathtub with dollar bills, and plunge my hands into it. Green dusty water. Making it real. But even then it won't be, will it? Just a different kind of symbol, that's all.
Strange world. Strange life. A cushion that feels theoretical and yet isn't. A house that gives you a going away present when you say goodbye.
Ah well. Back to packing.
Another car conversation from today:
"When we get home, I want you to get some pages and staple them together and make a book for me and I'll tell you what to write in it. I want you to write two things that I want to remember, that I want to make sure not to forget."
(He could write them himself, but, well, you can see his inclination. Writing is still hard. Thinking of stuff to write, not so hard.)
"I want you to write that when we drive out of Los Angeles, I want to say, 'Bye Bye Los Angeles.'"
"What's the second thing?"
"I want to remember to say, 'What's this white stuff???'"
He's thinking ahead, I'd say.
Today in the car on the way home from Damian's swim lesson, I put Suzanne Vega's eponymous album on the stereo. Damian listened for a while, then said, "I want you to play this album first on our drive across country. I want you to play it when we're leaving Los Angeles."
I agreed, though I would have preferred Wang Chung's "To Live and Die in LA" or The Eagles' "Hotel California." But hey, why not?
A bit later he said, "I hope we get home before the end of the whole album. I don't want to hear the whole thing because the last time we listened to it, Dante was in the car" (we were acclimating the cats to carriers-plus-movement) "and if I hear the whole thing now it'll remind me of him and that will make me too sad."
There you have it. Our current emotional states encapsulated in a child's reaction to a CD.