I finally left California a week ago today.
The ride back sucked much worse than the trip out, which makes sense, I guess, but it would have been nice if it wasn't quite such a cluster, honestly. I wanted to write about what happened to me in Wyoming, but I keep trying to and sounding so weird to myself that I can't. It's not a huge deal, it was just dumb, and stressful, not life-threatening at all, low drama in the end, so I can save it for later. My unrelated conclusion that I can share from my hours in that state is that Laramie is not my friend, because if you go to pay any kind of respects to Matthew Shepard, which I really wanted to do since I realized he was on my route through there and I'd likely never be back there again? Well hell. They've changed the names of the streets near where he was killed, so it's hard to find the site, especially if you're (like I UNFORTUNATELY WAS AT THAT POINT, long story) paranoid about any kind of militia-style law enforcement swooping down upon you while you're trying to leave him a talisman of any kind that says you're sorry he died a brutal, disgusting death at the hands of some of his fellow citizens because he had the audacity to be gay.
I didn't cry then. I'm tearing up now. I'm just so not a fan of lying at any point, and I really believe as a corollary that hiding things, no matter the difficulty, especially revising things that have already happened, is a kind of insidious violence.
I never want to go back there, but I'll always feel unfinished because I never found where Matthew Shepard died. It doesn't change anything that happened to him or the value of any of the lessons learned, of course, but I think it'll still always bother me, at least a little.
After that, I drove like a fool on drugs I hadn't taken (HI WYOMING LAW ENFORCEMENT YOU ARE AWESOME) to get out of there, and out of Nebraska too, for that matter. My approach to my trip wasn't the most solid at that point, which Sarah pointed out when I think she was sick of wondering whether or not I was going to crash into a concrete wall at 4 a.m., so I stopped when I got to Iowa.
The sky and the earth opened up there. I loved the landscape there a lot better than I ever expected to.
Please note that I have a sickening number of pictures on Instagram, and I just figured out that you can remove the frames from every filter. Please hire me for your next mobile photography and/or social media opportunity. Go on.
Iowa itself made the Dar Williams song that I've always had a thing for make so much more sense to me the whole way through. I sang it several times, trading off with Ice Ice Baby, which is fun and keeps me awake, and By the Time I Get to Arizona, because I was obsessing about forgetting the words to it and I am not right in the head. Chuck D has nothing to fear from me on the mic but if I were Vanilla I'd keep making those home improvement shows, is all I'm saying. (And it turns out than when you're in a car alone for many hours, thoughts like "I wonder what he was doing when the line 'take heed, cause I'm a lyrical poet,' came to him." I should not be unsupervised.)
I've been in Ohio since Thursday and its been so good. I landed at the house of one of my oldest friends, a person who knew me before and when and since I lived here, in whose bed I can crash because he doesn't care about taking the couch and leaving me to my own devices and even knocking on the door of his own room to suit my sleep schedule, which is even worse now because I was so worn out when I got here.
We went into a high school on a Saturday for totally legitimate reasons, but of course what this means to me is Breakfast Club detention. You're not fooling anyone, Bender. The next screw that falls out is gonna be you.
The sun has shone like it does best in the fall here and the clouds have bounced around and it's just been beatiful outside.
I saw my first boss the other day, who hired me when I was 25 and knew nothing about running a grant program, but she liked my attitude. This still makes no sense to me at all, but she's a pretty smart person, so I just have to chalk it up to some kind of intuition that I wouldn't ruin her grant program and I'd be nice to the old people we were trying to help. She still works with a nurse who worked with us then, who hugged me when she was leaving the office on Friday like it was 1997 and not 2012, and said the nicest things about me, like she'd been storing them up, and I said the same kinds of things back to her, because they were all still true.
Egregious picture of me dorking out at Graceland to break up all of this positive talk. It was so much fun, and I'm not even the world's even millionth biggest Elvis fan. Those other million people must really go crazy.
Hanging out with Karen was the best two hours of this whole month-long weird thing I've done in some ways. It was like I'd driven that far to get there. As soon as I picked up the phone when she called to set the time for us to get together, I felt like she was calling me with an assignment, actually, as she often did back then, and I was totally fine with that even now, whatever it was, and you KNOW how I am with authority.
Life is so weird.
We went to Oktoberfest at the Art Institute today, and it was so much fun. It was drunk and bratwurst and cover bands, which pretty much describes fall around here, but it was also the most gorgeous day. There was a stretch of time sitting in the sun under big old trees with zero agenda where I felt completely happy in a way that I cannot remember feeling for so long. I don't know if it's Dayton, or just me, or the weather, or what. It doesn't really matter, it's just good when it happens.
It is easy to be here. I think I missed that part, even with all of the things I wasn't so thrilled about when I lived here for real. I'd just more or less forgotten the core of it.
I'm ready to go home for now. I started this thing thinking a lot about what home and community meant, about what I was missing of that where I was, and where I could find it elsewhere. I'm not sure that I'm anywhere closer to figuring this out in a huge way, but I have a lot more information now, from both outside and inside of myself. I have way more clarity than I did when I started, and a lot more peace, which may be the most useful thing of all, although I had none of either when I left so even a little has felt like Christmas. I'm going to spare us all the Wizard of Oz metaphors, because there is nothing wrong with leaving anywhere if it feels right, and home can be anywhere that it happens for any of us. I'm just hopeful that when I go back to the place I left a month ago that I can stay focused enough to pull the best stuff out of the many, many things I've thought about and dreamed up and discarded and mentally prioritized since I left in August.
But first I still have to fix my sink. That's my first priority.