Tag Archives: seattle

I Went To A Thing Called “The Blind Cafe”

As an introvert still getting used to life in a new city and a new corner of the world, it’s easy for me to retreat into my lair and not come out for days at a time. I have books to read, writing to do, video games to play, and Netflix to watch, so . . . really, with so much to do from the safety of my own home, why should I venture out into the wider, scarier world? Well, obviously, that’s not a great way to live one’s life, so even though it involves a mental kick in the ass to get in gear, I try to live by the adage (it’s not really an adage) of “do cool stuff whenever possible.”

Last week, one of the area mailing lists I got sucked into (from Yelp, I think) told me about an event happening called The Blind Cafe. Here’s the basic elevator pitch: you’re served a meal in absolute darkness. No lights, no emergency exit signs, nothing. You’re led into a room, seated at a table, and from there, you get to experience life the way . . . well, the way a blind person does. After dinner, there’s a keynote speaker and a Q&A and the night caps off with some live music. With the exception of the host and a few volunteers, all of the staff for the event were blind; servers, kitchen staff, speaker, etc.

So, what’s it like?

Your mileage may vary, but for this author, it was nothing short of terrifying. In a good way. In the way that a great roller coaster is terrifying. The way paragliding is terrifying. But it’s still really scary.

Our tickets were for the 8:30 event, but since we’re still learning our way around the city, we left early to give ourselves plenty of time. We arrived outside at about 8:00pm and waited outside as the previous group finished up. As people staggered out, most were wide-eyed and blinking. It seemed both promising . . . and foreboding.

We went into a little lobby and checked in. It was a pretty tiny room for about 60ish people, but we were each given a glass of wine, so I was content. Once we were checked in, the host gave a brief introduction and told us what to expect (they asked several times to have phones and watches turned off, so as to not spoil the effect). We lined up in groups of eight to go into the dining area. Each person put his or her hand on the shoulder of the person in front to avoid getting separated. We were advised to go to the bathroom before the event, for obvious reasons.

The door from the lobby to the dining hall was turned into a sort of “light-airlock,” with multiple heavy blackout curtains that we walked through. They were thick enough and heavy enough that it was a little disorienting, which led to the effect. I was plunged into complete darkness with nothing but my hand on Jenn’s shoulder to guide me. We were led to the table and seated. From there, it would be up to us until the keynote.

Dinner was all vegetarian, which was helpful for me (being a both a vegetarian and someone with a pretty serious food allergy). There was some bread that we figured out how to pass around in the dark, although I never did find the butter. After that, it was up to each of us to eat and talk. In complete darkness.

Here are the things that wigged me out: because the room was pitch black, it wasn’t like wearing a blindfold, where there’s always a liiiittle bit of light peaking around through your nose or at the corners. There also was nothing I could do to be able to see; no blindfold to take off, no watch to light up, nothing. You can’t really recreate this experience at home, because even if you turned off all the lights in your house and managed to make it completely dark, you’d still know roughly where you are. You know your house. You might stumble and shuffle, but you know what the area looks like.

It’s profoundly different going into a place you’ve never been before in the dark. I couldn’t tell how big the room was (I tried to estimate based on the sound, but turned out to have wildly overestimated the size of it).

That was the part that really got my anxiety churning: I’m intensely claustrophobic. Claustrophobia takes many forms and for most people, it’s regarded as a fear of small spaces. The tight spaces are part of it, but they’re usually actually a trigger for a larger fear: the fear of being trapped.

In my daily life, I have this little ritual that I go through whenever I start to feel anxious: I visualize where my exits are. I look around for the ubiquitous red or green glowing EXIT signs. I imagine the process if there was, I don’t know, a fire or an earthquake, and what I’d do to get out. I don’t spend very long on it, maybe a few seconds at the most. It works.

The first time I felt that anxiety in the dark, I realized that I didn’t know where those little EXIT signs were. I had no idea of the layout of the room, having gotten disoriented from the thick curtains we walked through. I didn’t know how to get out of the room and that tripped my phobia into overtime.

I will be honest: there were a few moments when I nearly lost it. I thought about saying “fuck it, grabbing my cell phone out of my pocket, and using it as a flashlight, and to hell with the other sixty people who paid to have this experience.” But through some very calm and steady reassurance from Jenn, I was able to keep a lid on my anxiety and got through the first part of the event. I can’t really say whether the food was good or not as I mostly picked at things on my plate due to my churning nerves.

It’s intense. You have absolutely no real idea how hard it is until sight is taken away from  you. I’d thought I’d be fine with it, since I wear glasses and I’m about as nearsighted as a baby mole without them. But there’s really no comparison at all. If a person tells you “I’m legally blind without my glasses,” cuff them upside the head. Being nearsighted is a wonderful world of visual cues and data compared to having your sight taken away. My 20/200 vision can tell me where I am, where the exits are, and where people are. I’ll never take it for granted again.

The keynote speaker was excellent. His name was Rick and he’s been blind for (if I remember correctly, again, I was fighting off a panic attack for the first hour) most of his life. Having his voice in the dark to focus on helped steady my anxiety and his talk was a great one. He invited people to ask questions, anything at all, about blindness, about his life, whatever they wanted. He told us that the anonymity of the dark often encouraged people to ask things they normally wouldn’t in the light, which turned out to be true. Not that anyone asked anything inappropriate, but folks were able and willing to talk about blindness in a real, concrete way. My favorite questions were “what’s the rudest thing a sighted person does, either intentionally or unintentionally” and “do you think a ‘cure’ for blindness would damage or harm blind culture?”

I won’t spoil the answers here, both because I couldn’t do them justice and because I think you really had to be there, in the moment, to experience the profundity of it.

The night closed out with a few live songs. Music really does sound better in the dark. I was able to listen to it in a way I don’t normally listen; normally, music is a background thing, something I listen to while I’m driving or writing or cooking. I never devote my entire attention to it, but when you’re there in the dark, you feel the music in a wholly different way. It’s pretty incredible.

The night ended with the host lighting a candle in a the middle of the room. Just like that: sight restored. We were able to explore the room, which is when I learned that what I thought was an entire ballroom was really a fairly small meeting room with eight tables and a little stage. After that, people started to depart. We stayed around for a bit to recover and to talk with the host and with Rick, to thank them for the experience.

I’ve spent most of this post talking about my fear; how scared I was to be in the dark, how much it triggered my own anxiety. But that’s not really what the event was about and it’s not what I took away from it. It was an amazing experience getting to talk about blindness in a way that was real and deep and honest. It didn’t make me feel pity but it did make me aware of my tremendous privilege. It made me realize how much I take the smallest things for granted.

If you have a chance to take this experience, I recommend it. It’s not something you really do for fun. It wasn’t that way for me. But it was powerful and it felt meaningful. I learned some pretty deep things about myself. You may not be able to learn “what it means” or “what it feels like” to be blind in a few hours, because we’re talking about a topic much deeper and broader than can be encapsulated in such a small amount of time. But you’ll have the beginnings of understanding; you’ll have taken a few steps in someone else’s shoes.

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Review: Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest

Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific NorthwestStarvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest by Gregg Olsen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fun and thrilling dive into local lore that unfortunately fizzles out at the halfway point.

The first half of this book basically demands to be made into a horror movie (and that’s a good thing). It has all the trappings of the best horror tropes; naive, unaware victims, a scarily commanding and charismatic doctor, and then a spooky and remote location that serves as a backdrop. It’s great. Dr. Linda Hazzard operates a “sanitarium” in the backwater location of Olalla, WA, where she promotes her “fasting cure” which is really just starving people to the brink of death. Two English heiresses, Claire and Dora, are intrigued by the promise of perfect health and are lured into the doctor’s clutches and gradually weaken as the starvation takes hold. The tension builds and you feel the pressure as you try to will Claire and Dora to escape and then the desperate hope as someone attempts to intervene on their behalf. It’s an excellent story.

Unfortunately, around the middle of the book, the escape from Dr. Hazzard’s sanitarium happens and the book transitions to a courtroom drama in an attempt to stop Hazzard from inflicting her “cure” on people. This has the potential to be interest, as the case centers around the question of whether or not the deaths caused by Hazzard’s “treatments” were intentional, negligent, or the result of patients too far gone to be saved. Was she “really” starving people?

Well, we know that she was, because we just saw it happen through the proceeding action. The courtroom drama is then mostly a retread of ground that we already covered, with a few witness accounts and other details sprinkled in.

Had the story been arranged differently, perhaps with the courtroom narrative serving as the structure for the book as a whole, I might have enjoyed it more. It would have been excellent to have the reveal of Hazzard’s starvation “cure” come towards the end of the book, as opposed to in the first third. As it is, though, you’ve got half of a great campfire story and then a courtroom drama about it, which ends up making this merely a good book, instead of a great one.

Also, purely as an aside: some of the metaphors and similes here were very . . . odd. “He turned two shades closer to the color of a holly berry” as a way of describing someone getting mad is . . . well, it’s certainly unique, though not to my taste. Your mileage may vary.

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Rainless Days

I was told that it would be rainy. I would even say that I’d been warned. One could then say I’d failed to heed the warning. “You’re from the desert,” my hypotheticl interlocutor said. “You’re used to the sun.”

“I have blue eyes and I’m very pale, perhaps even translucent. The sun is my enemy,” I said. “And I love it when it rains.”

“You won’t love it,” said he. “You will long for a glimpse of a blue sky, shivering and crawling like a goblin, and it will be denied you. The rain will be your tears. The rain will be eternal.”

“Well, we’ll see,” I said.

And so we have. It hasn’t rained in weeks. Well, it rained once last week, for about a half hour. The grass around my condo has all turned brown. When I was out for my morning walk yesterday, I looked at the brown, dead grass around me and I thought I was back in Tucson. It was a flashback, although of course I wasn’t in Tucson, because it was midmorning and I was outside and my skin wasn’t on fire.

I’ve been told this has been the driest year in Seattle history. People are looking for someone to blame.

I think it might be my fault.

“Pacific Northwest Dries Up,” the headlines will read. “Local man who moved from Tucson quote ‘brought it with him.'”

My bad, guys. Maybe it’ll rain again someday. But maybe not.

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.

A Moving Diary, Moving Day

The long-awaited (maybe?) conclusion to my move from Tucson, Arizona, to Issaquah, Washington. For those who don’t know where Issaquah is, just substitute “Seattle” instead. It’ll give you the basic idea.

My original intention was to blog daily during each step of the journey. That was wonderfully naive. Long distance moving is like backpacking; when you’re doing it, your entire focus shrinks until there is absolutely nothing in existence other than the road (or trail) ahead of you. During the journey, I didn’t care about anything except for how many miles a day I was clearing and whether I’d make it to the end before I exhausted my music collection.

Emotional fatigue kept me from writing the first few days after I arrived. There was a lot to get done, including settling two houses and carrying many, many heavy things. Even though we arrived on Wednesday, we didn’t return the moving truck until Friday. Then there was a weekend of unpacking and then two days of pure sloth on my part and then . . . holy shit, it’s already Wednesday and I realize that I have to bang this out before we pass the point in which anyone will care. So, without further preamble, let’s wind back the clock and I’ll take you through the process of packing up four lives and all relevant belongings and transporting them to the great Pacific Northwest.

Our cast includes your humble author, my girlfriend Jenn, and my good friends James and Ashley. The final member of our team was Bob, James’ father, who came along for the ride and to help out with getting his son and daughter-in-law moved. Which also extended to his helping carry many of my ridiculously heavy boxes when the time came, which was supremely cool of him to do.

Jenn was the trailblazer and pathfinder of our team, having moved to Issaquah a month before me to take a great job with the local library system. We decided that she would travel fast and light and rent an SUV to tow her motorcycle and carry enough boxes so she’d be able to live for a month until I could bring the rest of her stuff. This plan hit its first snag when we learned that no rental place ever in the world would allow us to put a trailer on the back of their precious rentals and threatened to execute us if we did. My assumption is that there is a rental policy book somewhere that states that people who don’t own tow-capable vehicles are too stupid to know how to tow things. So that meant that both motorcycles (hers and mine) were now in my care when the time came.

This brought us to snag number two. I was desperate to avoid working with a Uhaul truck and really wanted to go with Penske or Budget or one of the other options out there. Unfortunately, only Uhaul would rent out the kind of trailer that I needed to tow two motorcycles. It was briefly discussed putting the bikes in the back of the truck but I vetoed that idea, believing (correctly) that we’d need every foot of space for stuff. So we rented a 26 foot Uhaul and an open-air trailer, and I confidently assured everyone that I knew exactly what was doing and that I had “tons of experience” towing stuff.

Let it be said that I have towed a trailer. Once. It was when I still had an SUV and I borrowed a jet ski from a family member. I towed the jet ski to the lake for the day and succeeded in launching it without driving my car into the lake. This, then, made me the only qualified person to wrangle roughly fifty feet of moving truck and trailer through cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Seattle! Fifty feet is also the length of an adult spinosaurus. I pointed out this fact several times during the trip.

Why did I need such a monstrous rig? Well, when Jenn took the job in Issaquah, there was a different plan at the time, but of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy. At the time, we decided that she would move first because she had to start her job and I would move in June with the truck and the stuff because my brother’s wedding is in May and it would be silly to move all of our stuff and then get back on a plane to fly back to the city I just left. Right?

That lasted until I priced the cost of a truck, trailer, and fuel. Ouch. Suddenly, I was very eager to consider any possible alternative. I saw an opportunity when I learned that my friend James had decided to do his move at the end of April to be with his wife Ashley, who’d been in Seattle since January (if you’re confused, just realize that no couples in our generation move simultaneously these days. It’s very passe to do such a thing; staggered relocations are much more in vogue.)

“Hey, James,” I said on the phone immediately after learning about his move and not bothering to congratulate him on his new future or anything decent like that. “I would desperately like to share the cost and burden of moving with you, so let us intertwine our fates and move together and ignore the fact that this now doubles the workload for both of us and focus on the sweet, sweet fact that we can each save $2,000.”

“Goddamnit!” he cried, but only because he was playing League of Legends at the time and had just gotten ganked by an enemy jungler. (I think all those terms are correct, but I don’t really know).

“Oh, yeah, sure,” he said after a pause. “Sounds great.”

And that was my solution! I would move up my own plans a month, share the move with my good friends, be reunited with my lady a month early, and make everything beautiful and wonderful along the way. And even though I will now be flying back to Tucson literally two weeks after I moved away from Tucson, I still saved money since plane tickets cost considerably less than $2,000.

The other weird thing was that my farewells to friends and family became a little odd. “Goodbye, my beloved family,” I said during my farewell dinner with my mom, my brother, and my sister-in-law to be. “I will never forget you. You will be in my heart always. I will see you in . . . two weeks. Which is actually less time than if I was still living here, because we usually only do this about once a month.”

Then there was just the packing, which I’ve already detailed. And then came the big day.

Sunday, April 26

We got an early start and picked up the truck and trailer. I learned how to attach the trailer, which I already knew how to do but I made an effort to pay attention anyway. I had my first experience driving the monster vehicle and quickly learned that a 26 foot Uhaul truck and a Kawasaki Z1000 are very different driving experiences. But on the plus side, my motorcycle riding experience has made me an intensely paranoid driver and that served me very well over the next few days.

I drove the truck over to James and Ashley’s house first. Ashley had flown back from Seattle to help with the move; Jenn wanted very much to do the same but she was already taking time off to come back for the wedding in May and couldn’t get so much time off so close to starting her new position.

We loaded their boxes and furniture first, since my stuff would have to be unloaded first. Oh, yes, that was another little wrinkle: we would be arriving in Seattle on Wednesday, but they weren’t able to get the keys to their place until Friday. So we’d be roommates for a few days! But all of that meant my stuff was going to be last in, first out.

I went back to my house after James’ parents and brother arrived and I realized that I still wasn’t quite ready. Whenever you’re packing, there are always the easy boxes first: all the books go here, all the electronics go here, etc. But eventually, you run out of stuff that goes together and you get the “fuck it” boxes that include things like two screwdrivers, a thing of Pinesol, and the Brita Filter you forgot about until the last moment.

The loading of the truck progressed well, except that very quickly, we realized that even with the largest truck available, we weren’t going to have enough room for everything. Cuts would have to be made. This wasn’t an unforeseen outcome, but it still meant a few bookshelves had to be left behind. Worst of all, though, I had to choose between my recliner and my couch. The recliner was my gaming throne and although it was worn, torn, shredded by zealous kitties, falling apart, and really just the ugliest thing ever, it was comfy. Although I think it was the right decision to leave the recliner behind because when I told my mom I was keeping the couch instead of the recliner, she said, “oh, thank God.” So there’s that.

Monday, April 25

Jenn had already bought a new bed in Issaquah, so I hadn’t packed the old one, which gave me a place to sleep for my last night in Tucson. It’s a very surreal experience, sleeping in your mostly packed up house. But surreal or not, suddenly it was time to go. Farewells were said. Tears were shed (but really, it was just dust in my contact lenses. It was very dusty, you know.) And we were off! James would be riding with me in the truck, while Ashley and Bob were driving their Prius. We would rotate drivers between the two groups the next few days, although I did solemnly and sincerely promise Ashley that I would not ask her to driving the monster truck at any point. As an infinitely more reasonable and sensible person than me, she was not keen on driving the spinosaurus-truck.

So it was me and James in the truck cabin. Well, actually, it was me, James, Maize, and Morrigan. Maize and Morrigan are my two snakes and they were along with me for the entire ride. I’d bought little plastic carrying cages for them a few days before and I set them up in the middle seat of the truck. They were my constant companions for the entire journey.

And if you’re wondering how much snakes love to be in a loud, vibrating truck, the answer is that they do not love it. They were rather miserable the entire time. Poor babies. But it had to be done and I did the best that I could taking care of them. That was Team Truck. We were ready to go!

Except maybe not. Almost immediately after firing up the truck, the Check Engine Oil light was on. We called Uhaul Customer Service and they told us, after some discussion, that “yeaaaaah, that truck was already overdue for servicing.” Which, you know, no big deal. It’s not like they knew we were going to be driving it 1,500 miles based on the reservation I’d made a month in advance, a reservation which required all relevant destination information.

I really didn’t want to switch trucks after it had taken us an entire day to load this one, so we popped the hood, checked the oil, saw that it was low, and added oil in ourselves. The light went off which was good enough for me. As long as the truck survived all the way to Seattle, it could implode on itself afterward for all I cared.

And then we were off! Except once again, not really, because we had to get gas since the tank was only half full.

Here’s the thing about driving a motorcycle daily. You get really, really used to the fact that a week’s worth of gas is $10. But in a monster Uhaul? $10 doesn’t even get you a tick mark on the gauge. Filling up that thing caused me actual, physical pain every time we had to stop and that was with the knowledge that I was splitting all fuel costs 50/50. Had I done this on my own, I’m sure that fueling the truck would have given me a brain aneurysm.

And then, finally, we were off! We hit the road, ready to roll out for new adventures and new lands. Except that the first part of the drive was Tucson to Phoenix up I-10, a trek that every southern Arizonan has made so many times you can do it in your sleep. And based on the driving skills of my fellow travelers that day, I think at least a few were attempting to do exactly that.

Once you get past the Phoenix and Tucson corridor, though, you break into the long, uninterrupted stretches of wild desert and mountains that make the Southwest what it is. Outside of Alaska, the Southwest is the least densely populated region, particularly Nevada, and believe me, you feel that isolation when you’re out on the road.

There wasn’t much to report from this leg of the journey. We stopped and ate lunch in a town called Wikiup. Which isn’t to say that we bought lunch there; there didn’t seem to be any actual restaurants in Wikiup. Instead, we ate food I’d brought along myself: cold pizza and sandwiches. We parked the truck at a pull-off for a “historical marker” monument that earned my vote for the most bullshit metal plaque ever. Here’s a tip: if you’re going to enshrine a historical event forever, don’t write on your bronze metal plaque that “Spanish explorers were probably the first people to settle this area.” You’re writing this down in metal, people. Don’t say “probably.” You really should know.

Our destination was Las Vegas and our route took us past Lake Mead and over the Hoover Dam. All I have to say is holy shit and not for the reasons you’re thinking. The dam was fine. Easy, even. It’s the lake that had me freaking out. Everyone in the Southwest has been hearing about the catastrophic drought for years but to actually see how low the water is and to realize that shrinking lake is the majority of Tucson’s water . . . it’s freaky. I’m honestly surprised that more people aren’t freaking out about this the way they are in California. I guess it’s because Arizona is still more than a year away from complete water catastrophe. Regardless, it chilled my bones. I’d advise stocking up on water. You know, just in case.

Onward to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas sucks.

The roads are nightmarish, the drivers are ferocious, and everywhere, you see the kind of excess that makes you wonder, “wait, you guys know this is a desert, right? And the lake over there that supplies all of your water is dangerously low?”

We stayed with James’ friend’s sister and her husband for the night, which was interesting. Their house was lovely with plenty of space for everyone to crash. The reason it was a little less pleasant (and why I’m not mentioning their names nor planning on sharing this post with them) is because she was absolutely terrified of snakes. I didn’t want to leave the snakes in the truck overnight and I was too tired to consider other options, so while James provided a distraction, I brought the snakes in under a blanket and quietly set them up in the corner of one of the guest rooms and kept the door shut. It worked out fine, but all evening and throughout the night, I kept having nightmares that they would escape and end up killed by our well-intentioned but uninformed hosts.

This post is running far, far longer than I expected, so I think this is where I’ll pause for a bit. I suppose this is the downside of saving the entire story for the end rather than posting as I go. Ah well. We’ll continue our tale tomorrow! Thanks for reading!

A Moving Diary, Part Two

It’s almost here. Moving day. It’s almost here and I’m ready.

It’s almost here and I’m not ready.

It’s almost here and this is the best decision I’ve ever made.

It’s almost here and this is the worst decision I’ve ever made.

I think about all the little annoyances I’m going to leave behind and I grin smugly to myself.

I think about all the little wonders I’m going to leave behind and I try not to cry.

I think about the people to whom I’m saying farewell and I do cry, but I pretend that it’s because of my contact lenses. They are very dry and dusty today.

Packing.

Packing is all there is. Packing is love. Packing is life.

These are my collapsible cardboard boxes. There are many collapsible cardboard boxes like them, but these collapsible cardboard boxes are mine. My collapsible cardboard boxes, without me, are useless. Without my collapsible cardboard boxes, I am useless. I must pack my collapsible cardboard boxes true.

Tomorrow is my last day at the library, but today feels like the true finale. Tomorrow is a Saturday, which means a skeleton crew on staff. Tomorrow is the epilogue. Today is when I’m saying goodbye to co-workers. No, not co-workers. Friends. I’m saying goodbye to friends.

I remember the first book I checked out when I started as a new library employee in December 2007. It was The Accidental Time Machine, by Joe Haldeman. My library card had lapsed years before, so this was the first book I checked out on my new card that I created on my first day. I’ve read nearly 600 books since then and checked out hundreds more than I never finished.

The last book I checked out is Fragile Things, by Neil Gaiman. I’d often wondered which book would be the last one I’d borrow. Now I know.

I should be packing.

A Moving Diary, Interruption

There’s probably never a good time to get sick, but there are certainly times that are worse than others. On Friday, I acquired what I would later call Death Flu and yes, I do believe that is the scientific name. I was bedridden for four days and even after I was upright and ambulatory, it still took a few more to really get over.

I pride myself on keeping things classy around here, so I’ll spare you the (actual) grim details and relate my experience entirely in ridiculous comparisons. This is how sick I was:

  • It was like my body was a retail outlet having an end of year clearance sale. Absolutely everything had to go!
  • I reflected extensively on the works of Jackson Pollack and attempted to recreate his style . . . in my bathroom.
  • Usually, being sick means staying home from work and binge-watching Netflix; I was too sick to look at a computer screen, let alone go all the way to the living room to retrieve my laptop.
  • Several times as I lay there, hurting and shivering, I considered mercy-killing myself, but I couldn’t muster the energy to get up out of bed to go about it.

So that was all of last weekend and a good part of this week. I’m finally over it and over the intense dehydration that resulted.

But where this leaves me in relation to my upcoming move is that prior to being sick, I felt like I had plenty of time to get everything packed; now I am certain that I have absolutely already run out of time and I won’t get everything packed and ready and I’ll have to leave things behind which means I’m going to have to abandon most of my possessions on the side of the road and my girlfriend will hate me for having to abandon all of that stuff, much of which is hers and she’ll leave me and I’ll die alone and unloved somewhere, probably from another bout of Death Flu.

Or something like that. You know. Reasonable stuff.

I suppose if you’re going to come down with something like Death Flu and you have a schedule like mine, it’s better that to get this out of the way now. If it had struck while we were in transit from Tucson to Seattle, I’m sure I would have gotten left on the side of the road in the deep Nevada desert. If it had struck after the move was done, well, that would run right into my brother’s wedding and if I screwed that up with something as base and unreasonable as my body’s complete inability to function, I think he’d never speak to me again.

So . . . better that it happened now. Hopefully my immune system is prepared to keep me upright for the next two months, at least.

But that also means I’m panicking because I have to pack and I’m out of time!

If you’re wondering how I have time to do this right now, well . . . this is what you do with your lunch break when you forgot to pack your lunch.18

A Moving Diary, Part One

(This is a diary about moving as opposed to a moving diary, which I imagine would be a personal account so poignant that it might move one in an emotional context).

In the late summer of 1996, my family moved from Rochester, New York, to Tucson, Arizona. I was ten at the time, old enough to remember Rochester quite vividly, but it is Tucson that has been my home for the majority of my life. I elected not to travel out of state for college. There were reasons for this: cheaper tuition, few other schools around offered the particular major I wanted, and I had a good job at the time that I didn’t want to leave. But I suspect that the deeper reason was because at eighteen, I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I stayed close to home and only ventured out a few degrees at a time. That was ten years ago.

In twenty-four days, I’ll be leaving Tucson and moving to Seattle.

It’s odd to think of time in such disparate sizes. Ten years. Twenty years. Twenty-four days.

I was asked to blog about the impending cross-country move that will involve me, my friend who is also moving and also to Seattle, his wife that he hasn’t seen in four months, his father, and two snakes. There is the assumption that there will be misadventures and hijinks in the upcoming journey. If there are, rest assured that I shall report them in this space.

But even before that, as I begin the slow process of packing up my life, I find that this puts me in a reflective mood. Everything seems to be changing all at once. In a little over a month, my younger brother will be getting married. I’ll be leaving the library system that I’ve worked in for eight years, far, far longer than any other job I’ve ever held.

Change is inevitable, of course, but it is not often that it all happens so quickly. This is why I want to capture these moments in time, because so much is changing and I don’t want to lose these moments as they happen. In ten years, twenty years, I want to be able to look back on this moment.

That I am not writing these thoughts privately is a testament to the nature of the times in which we live, the zeitgeist that is “everything worth doing is worth sharing.”

I suppose we shall see.

I don’t know that I will having something worth recording every day, but I will write every time I have something worth saying.

Departure: T-minus twenty-four days.