It took 8 hours to get from San Diego to Berkeley. Siri completely bypassed LA, which was perfect, so as soon as I left Orange County, and the distant familiarity of where my college life had taken place whizzed by in my rear view mirror, I felt like I was gone. I didn't recognize where I was. The feeling that I was somewhere that no one knew me eclipsed the feeling that I was in a world where I could run into someone I kind of knew and was friends with on facebook for some reason but wasn't sure of their name. It was a good feeling. During the 8 hours I listened to the poetic mix of fact and fiction that is Shantaram, resisting the anxiety I felt when I wanted to underline a particularly beautiful passage but I couldn't because I was listening to it, not holding the off white pages in my hands the way I love to do while reading. As I drove north through the cold grey of California I listened to Gregory David Roberts describe India with warm and vibrant words. It was a beautiful juxtaposition.
In San Francisco I ate rich and flavorful food at the largest food truck gathering in the bay on the windy corner of land that touches the sea in Fort Mason. I froze my ass off, I hiked in the cold and milky bay air and I tried and failed to find a hat that fit my child sized head. I saw Sara for the first time in 3 years, and stayed on an air mattress at her place covered by a comforter I had given her when I left New York.
"You've changed", she said with a smile, after I told her a honeyed realization I'd had while on the road. It was about driving through patches of rain on the way up, and how I'd see it from the sunny side, the dense and thick rain cloud, and I'd know I'd soon be in it. While I was under it I could at times hardly see...it was dark and the splash from the semi trucks meant the water was coming from every direction, but I knew that soon it would be clear again. I told Sara this had made me realize the importance of keeping perspective when things were awful, knowing that soon you'd be out of it; that it was only a matter of time. It was cheesy but she was right, it was an indicator that I had changed, and she was happy that I wasn't as hard and hopeless as I had been when I left New York.
2 days later I drove 2 and a half hours north east to Napa. I walked into a friend's house I hadn't seen in 10 years and it was warm and inviting, just as I'd remembered her. Julia had old pictures of us from our year abroad in Italy that I hadn't seen since. I had long orange hair that had been much blonder in my memory. She looked the same. We stayed up drinking wine and I played with the kitties she was fostering though my allergies made it near impossible for me to breath. Her and her husband told me the story of how they met and fell in love as I sat under the warm light of their home and I felt happy and completely content. The next day Julia had to work but her husband, though he'd never met me before, took me to their local grocer to get a gigantic bagel and a bottle of kombucha and on a hike overlooking the valley. We spent the remainder of the day at the vineyard where Julia worked, sampling wines, exploring the grounds, laughing and sharing the stories of our very different lives. We ate buttery local cheeses and breads. Julia got off work and joined us for a dinner of more cheese, more wine, avocado, more laughs and stories. It was a perfect 2 days. I love that friendship endures, that even after such a long stint without seeing someone, that Julia and I could fall into our adoration of one another. I adore her anyway and love the life she's made for herself in Napa.
My second morning in Napa I woke up in the familiar pain of an enflamed neck and shoulder. I drove to Chico and for 48 hours attempted to stave off the pain with hot compresses, over the counter medication, topical ointment, an airplane neck pillow, whiskey and reluctantly, a trip to the chiropractor. I spent most of my time in Chico in pain on my cousin's couch. It was my first time there but I could barely move my neck and head so I couldn't do much of anything. Stephanie has always been more like a sister to me than a cousin. We were born less than a year apart and have been close our whole lives, so I didn't feel guilty being down and out at her place. She made me whiskey tea the night I arrived and drove me to the chiropractor the next day. I went to Sierra Nevada and had a beer, as you do, but other than watching a lot of Anthony Bordain and snuggling with my cousin's dog Ziggy, I didn't do much. Life has a way of canceling my plans sometimes. A way of forcing me to rest when it's what I really need.
To be continued with Part 2 - Bend and Portland...