A Moving Diary, The Voyage Home

Welcome to Day Two of the Great Seattle Move story. When last we joined our heroes, Matt, James, Ashley, Bob, and serpents Maize and Morrigan were spending the night at a friend’s house in Las Vegas.

Tuesday, April 28

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was how our driving rotation worked. I said before that I promised Ashley I wouldn’t ask her to drive, but what I neglected to mention in my post was my strange Captain Ahab-esque fits of insanity that occur during road trips.

I call it “Iron Manning,” although I haven’t gotten that term to catch on yet. Basically, when I’m driving on a road trip, I don’t stop. Ever. I can go for twelve hours without a break. When people ask if I need to switch drivers, I say, “nah, I’m good” and I mean it. I’ve done Tucson to Albuquerque in one evening with no breaks. I don’t know why I do this. Probably some undiagnosed OCD syndrome. The odd thing is that when I’m a passenger on a road trip, I’m the worst. If I drink anything, I have to go to the bathroom ever forty seconds. I get bored. I get hungry. I can’t sleep. I get motion sick so I can’t read or even look at my phone screen. I’m the worst.

But when I’m driving? I look out towards the horizon with a steely gaze, aviators on my face and the limits of physical bodies defiantly ignored.

My long-winded point here is that James asked to drive on Monday, but I didn’t let him. I took the wheel the entire time. But for day two, I think there were concerns that even I wasn’t ready for twelve hours through the heart of Nevada and into Idaho. So I promised to switch drivers a few times, although I still made sure that I drove the truck out of the hellhole that was Las Vegas.

Driving in Nevada was entirely uneventful, I’m sad to say. It’s a very empty state. The only saving grace was that unlike the endless plains of somewhere like Kansas or Oklahoma, there are interesting mountains to look at in the distance. There’s also the town of Lund, Nevada, which prompted a pun duel with Jenn via text message during one of the bouts where I relinquished my death grip on the steering wheel:

Jenn: “Where are you now?”

Me: “Smack in the middle of Nevada, Route 318, about 20 miles outside of the town of Lund, if you want to look for us on Google maps.”

Jenn: “I do! Holy smokes, that is a whole lot of nowhere.”

Matt: “Lund is the weirdest town I’ve ever seen. No gas station, one store, huge expanse of nothing outside of ‘main street.'”

Jenn: “Maybe it’s a mob front!”

Matt: “We concur.”

Jenn: “I bet they’re involved in money lund-ering.”

Matt: “Well played. That made us lund out loud. Your comedy stylings tickle our lundy bones.”

Jenn: “And you guys just lundered into town.”

Matt: “You’re doing God’s work.”

Jenn: “And when you finally get home, you can look up at the sky with a wistful tear in your eye and say, the eagle has lunded.”

Matt: “And now we have the giggles. Thanks.”

Jenn: “Well, enjoy it. You’re passing through the lund of milk and honey.”

Matt: “True. By the way, thanks for lunding me the money to make this trip happen.”

Jenn: “You’re very welcome, but really, I had to, or we would have had some terrible blunders.”

Matt: “You should see these snow capped mountains we are passing. They filled me with awe and lunder.”

Jenn: “Sounds lovely. Just don’t get caught in a lunderstorm.”

Matt: “I’m not worried about lunderstorms. I packed extra lunderwear so I’ll be dry.”

Yeah, that’s Nevada.

Arriving in Idaho brought some exciting new problems with the truck. A different oil light came on, which prompted another stop to pop the hood and take a look. I checked the oil levels on the dipstick and everything was acceptable. I checked the auto manual included behind my seat and realized it was the single most useless document ever printed by mortal minds. Googling the issue determined that “it probably is the computer saying we’re overdue for an oil change.”

Well, whatever. As long as we make it to Seattle.

Then the radiator warning light came on!

Another stop, another pop of the hood to look around. The engine was a little warmer than it had been, which was troubling since we were so much farther north now. The radiator reservoir looked low, so I said fuck it and poured a few liters of water into it from my Nalgene. That turned the warning light off, which was good enough for me. But seriously, three warning lights in two days? Every time I drove after that, I kept my eyes glued to the instrument panel nigh-obsessively waiting for the engine to overheat or another light to come on. The oil light stayed on for the rest of the trip.

We arrived in Boise late that evening and checked into a hotel. Parking the monster Uhaul was an interesting experience that basically involved me taking up ten parking spots and hoping nobody got too irritated with me. I was also obsessed with trying to keep the trailer secured after our host from the previous night went on and on about how easy it was to steal the trailer containing my motorcycles. Both nights, we decided to park the Prius right behind the trailer to sort of sandwich it in and make it more difficult to steal. But I still worried about it.

Originally, we were going to go out for dinner, but because it was a Tuesday night (9pm?) in Boise, Idaho, everything was closed. Dinner was a loaf of bread from a grocery story, some cheese, and some fruit. But honestly, it was really good cheese, so I’m not complaining. Still, what the hell, Boise?

Wednesday, April 29

I woke up on Wednesday with enthusiasm because it was the final day of our journey. That night, I’d be sleeping in my own bed in my new home. Of course, separating me from those things in Issaquah was a good chunk of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. So I was getting a little ahead of myself.

The weird thing about driving all the way from Tucson to Boise is that really, the terrain doesn’t look all that different. The cacti disappear, but otherwise it’s still open desert and plains with mountains in the distance. Even eastern Washington looks like a desert. It’s deserts all over the place around these parts.

The first thing that happened during this leg of our journey was where I forgot to take the padlock off the chain connecting the trailer to the truck and it popped off during the first turn. That sucked.

Oregon was really pretty. We drove through some amazing forests and mountains and I had my first real feeling of, ‘this, yes, this is what I signed up for! This is the Northwest!”

We stopped in Pendleton, Oregon, for lunch. Pendleton is notable for having more Welcome to Pendleton signs than any other town I’ve ever seen and for having an absolutely amazing Indian buffet. I love Indian food, but some of the best Indian places in Tucson are, shall we say, unusual dining experiences. The food is amazing, but the service is weird. More than once, I’ve walked into a restaurant and been greeted not with “how many for your table?” but “what are you doing here?”

In Pendleton, the owner took ten minutes to give us a tour of his entire restaurant. It really was quite charming. The food was amazing, too.

When I crossed over into Washington, there was a moment of excitement followed by the prospect of a few more hours of driving through endless desert. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough to everyone back in Tucson. When you look at the map and see Washington, you imagine forests that stretch across the entire state. This is not true! There is actually more vegetation in southern Arizona than in eastern Washington. It’s very odd.

But once we crossed into the Cascades, man.

It took my breath away. Suddenly, we were in mountainous pine forests and gorgeous snow-capped mountains. There was a lake beside the highway that was so beautiful I wanted to cry. Washington west of the Cascades is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Over and over again as I drove that final leg of the journey, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t on a vacation, that I was actually going to live here. All of these beautiful places; I could explore them! And they were a scant few hours drive from my house!

And then I pulled into Issaquah. I already knew my way around the city. I pulled onto our street and then into my new neighborhood. I parked the truck, once again taking up ten spots.

I saw Jenn running down the stairs. I broke into a run to meet her.

It was perfect.

I was home.

Epilogue: Thursday and Friday

Everything was over except for the unpacking. The nice thing about unpacking a truck is that it goes much, much faster than loading it. You basically just grab everything and drop it into the nearest empty space, which is easy since the house you’re moving into is empty!

As I said in my last post, Ashley and James stayed with us for two days since their apartment wasn’t ready until Friday. On Friday, I drove the truck for the final leg into Seattle proper and had the absolutely terrifying experience of Google maps routing me down a narrow street with cars parked on both sides of the road, two inches of clearance, and a roundabout that I was certain I was going to annihilate. But somehow, we made it through. We unloaded James and Ashley’s boxes and furniture and returned the truck to the nearest Uhaul location.

Or at least, we would have. In my haste to get rid of the spinosaurus truck, I forgot to bring the gas level back to one half. When I asked them how much it would cost to return it at a quarter tank, they quoted me five dollars per gallon, plus $30. I quickly calculated how much it would cost to do a quarter of a tank (25ish gallons) at five dollars a gallon, dropped my monocle, took the truck back, and drove it next door to fill it myself. Yes, the gas station was literally next door.

Then, as I was cleaning out the cabin to make sure I didn’t leave any of my water bottles or trash behind, I found two pieces of mummified fried chicken under my seat. I don’t eat chicken. I’m a vegetarian. That was not my chicken. I tried not to think about how long that chicken had been there.

Fucking Uhaul, guys.

And that concludes my epic voyage from the Southwest to the Northwest. It’s been a week since I arrived in Issaquah and to be honest, it still feels like I’m on vacation. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that this is where I live now.

But every evening and every morning, I stand out on my balcony and I look at the trees and I look at the mountains and I smell the air and I savor the fact that even though it doesn’t feel like it yet, this is my home. This is my home and I couldn’t be happier to be here.

Saints Row The Third: A Friend And A Song

A few months ago, one of my friends had a “house cooling party.” We said farewell to his old place, shared drinks and food, and helped ourselves to the pile of stuff he’d laid out to give away. Amid the expected books and DVDs, there were a few Xbox games in the pile. This explains why I picked up a copy of ultra-thug GTA wannabe Saints Row the Third. It’s not something I ever would have purchased otherwise.

I’m not really a fan of Grand Theft Auto or any of its sequels. I played San Andreas for a little while specifically because censors were telling me not to, but I didn’t love the game. I enjoyed the freedom to wander around and create destruction, but games are ultimately about story and character interaction for me and GTA games don’t really seem to have that.

Regardless, I received a free copy of this Saints Row game and decided to give it a shot. After all, free game! So what happened?

It’d be difficult to say that Saints Row the Third has a good story. The story is very strange and very, very irreverent. For a game that starts out about thugs and gangsters and such, you realize somewhere between the zombie invasion and fighting tanks in midair in a tank that fell out of a plane that this game is a bit of a subversion. Usual story conventions don’t really seem to apply here. The motivation for anything in the plot seems to be “do as much cool shit as possible!”

So you have your gang of fellow thugs and criminals to accompany you; you can also design your own character, male or female. One thing I particularly liked is if you create a female character (which I did), she’s in charge of this gang of criminals and nobody says anything about it. Nobody calls your gang out for being led by a woman. It’s not weird or remarked upon. It just is. Your gang’s color is purple whether you are male or female.  It’s all surprisingly refreshing.

Anyway, there’s a scene early in the game where you and your fellow gangster Pierce are driving to a destination to complete a task. Usually, on these sorts of drives, the characters will talk about plot things. You know, something to get the story rolling. I wasn’t expecting to come across anything particularly poignant or meaningful.

Here’s a YouTube recording of the scene. The game play of crashing into cars is irrelevant to my point; the thing I want to focus on is the dialogue. Warning: NSFW language is present throughout.

What’s going on here? This isn’t plot dialogue or exposition. Pierce says, “we need some driving music,” flips on the radio, and then suddenly Pierce and my character are singing along together while they drive.

That’s powerful. Do you know why? Because suddenly I feel like Pierce is my character’s friend. They’re having this moment together. It’s not a romantic moment. It’s just a moment between friends. It’s a moment that creates a bond and it only struck me with how powerful that moment was once I realized how few games try to do this.

Listening to Pierce and my character sing, laugh, and tease one another forged a bond that was with me for the rest of the game. It informed decisions I made later on when certain choices were presented. It was a small moment, a silly moment, and yet it was one of the most powerful I’d ever experienced as a gamer. It’s so rare for games to do anything like this.

“Here is your friend,” the game tells you. “You care about this person.” Rarely does the game try to give you a reason. Rarely do you have a moment of two characters interacting in a way that friends would. But this game, with all its ridiculousness and irreverence for taking things seriously, nevertheless manages to pull off a powerful and serious bit of character building with nothing more than a bit of Sublime and two characters singing along together.

Audiobooks And Speech Patterns

I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Part of this is due to my commute; I work in a different town than where I live, which means I’ve got a 50 minute commute each way (and that’s on a good day). Yes, I realize that to people who live in “real cities,” this number sounds like a refreshing dream. I get that. However, this shit is relevant and to me, an hour and a half in the car each day is a long time.

Since you can only listen to your music collection so many times before it turns into the audio equivalent of a used piece of gum, I keep a steady supply of audiobooks on hand to keep me occupied. I realized early on that this plan has the added benefit of helping me pad out the stats on my Goodreads page and also makes me seem like an amazing library employee, because I’m reading so many damn books all the time.

A good audiobook is addictive in a weird way: you’ll start hoping for red lights or traffic jams so you can listen longer. I also listen while walking, or running, or shopping, or eating lunch, or really doing anything where I have a reason to ignore the outside world beyond the bare minimum attention necessary to not get hit by a car.

I’ve noticed a strange side effect from so much immersive listening. For a brief time after I’ve finished the book, I can often find myself speaking like the book’s reader, particularly when I’m talking to somebody about the book.

This was pointed out to me while I was explaining one of my favorite moments in Bill Maher’s The New New Rules about how the fact that the NFL is socialist is the reason why it is an objectively better sport to watch than the MLB due to the latter being capitalist. Since Maher himself was the reader for the audiobook, this meant I had a pretty decent impression going during my retelling of the chapter.

Sadly, the effect fades after a day or so, perhaps because by then, I’ve started another audiobook. It certainly means this little habit isn’t one I can use to entertain friends at parties.

I’m a little concerned by this realization, because my current audiobook is Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, which is awesome and hilarious, but it, too, is read by the author and I’m a bit concerned that by the end of the book, I’m going to have “holy shit, ya’ll” in my lexicon for a few days.

That’s going to be weird.

Thoughts On Walking

My grandfather used to take me  with him on his walks. He lived in a small town in upstate New York, which meant the kind of lace where everybody knew everybody, you could walk from one end of the town to the other and see the whole thing, and everything was very, very green.

There was also, apparently, a lot of things to see. Houses, mostly. At the time, I didn’t understand why this was interesting.

I regret that I wasn’t old enough to understand why these walks were enjoyable. For me, it was the offered bribe of ice cream that made the whole enterprise even remotely palatable. Even then, it was still frustrating. Grandpa liked to look at things. He liked to stop. He didn’t understand that the more time we spent looking, the less time there was for ice cream.

I think the problem is that I didn’t know how to drive yet.

Also, I was seven.

See, it’s my hypothesis that you have to drive for a few years before you can appreciate a good walk. When you drive, you can’t look at things. There’s just the road and all the people trying to kill you via their inattention. Maybe they’re trying to look at things or more likely, they’re looking at their laps and texting.

I came to this understand when I was driving home from work today. I took a different route than usual because I was picking up a suitcase for a friend. I drove through a part of Sahuarita that I’ve never been to before. The entire time I was driving, I was trying to navigate, but I felt frustrated, because I wanted to look out the window. I wanted to see what this part of the town looked like. I wanted to let my mind wander in the semi-intrusive way that it does as I wonder what the lives are like for the people who live in these houses.

What does it feel like to live here? Do they like it? Is there a barking dog that annoys them? Are the trees nice and shady? Would I like it if I lived here? Who would I be if I lived here instead of living where I do now?

You can’t do that when you’re driving. Hence why I like to walk now. I walk every day on my lunch break; it’s a habit I started when I transferred down to Sahuarita and it’s one I’ve kept to almost every single day even though the summer heat has verged on “skull-crushingly brutal.” Despite it, I still walk. I look around. I think. My mind wanders in a way that would be negligently fatal in a car.

It’s unfortunate my grandfather isn’t around anymore. I think I’d enjoy those walks a lot more now. We could wander. We could stop. We could look at things together.

That’d be nice, I think.