There must be some pioneer in my blood.
I traveled West for work in the 21st Century. The irony does not escape me.
To be fair, that's only partially true. I'd be a dumbass if I went to Silicon Valley to start a business designing websites. (There might be a few people here doing that already.) What brought me West was the search, the opportunity, the invitation. Rob and Rachel needed a third roommate to fill their Redwood City apartment. I said yes.
I've done this before. Like ticking off another box on the Americana checklist, I drove across the country for a few weeks back in September of 2011. I did it because I knew it was something existential Americans did. Either that or backpack around Europe, but I didn't have a passport then. I had a car.
I started seriously writing on that roadtrip. And by seriously, I'm only half-joking. I called my weekly emails to friends and family Explode into Space after a Steppenwolf lyric from the song "Born to Be Wild". But really, it had been the first time I'd been consistent with writing I'd share with people. The trip and the habit kept the idea of meaning-making at the forefront of my big, dumb head and forced me into new experiences, like sleeping in dirty hostels, navigating coded sexual advances, and locking my keys in the car in Vegas. I had no choice but to write it all down.
Fast-forward a few years and I reached my ultimate goal of living on my own in New York City. It was a far cry from driving through amber waves of grain, but like Sinatra said, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
I just wanted to carve my own spot out and own it. But once I was settled, irony struck again. I realized there was more to life than complete control. Sometimes you need to invite chaos in. Like a sexy vampire. That way you know if you survive it'll make a great story.
And so eyeing the end of my apartment lease in Astoria, Queens, I felt like I knew what life would be like if I went to another boro, or returned to Brooklyn from the year before. I needed something new. I needed something big and crazy and cool to force me back into the routine of writing, the kind of writing that could only make sense of all of it. I needed to confuse myself.
Where someone else might be scared at just the thought of moving across the country, there is always comfort in habits. Amidst the belly-flop of changing your life, you know you need to brush your teeth, eat some meals, and make money. There is a solid structure to every day and the move gave me the opportunity to mix around all the parts. I landed without knowing where to get coffee or do my laundry. Big problems on my plate!
But I find consistent peace of mind in the morning. I always have. I stumble out of bed and onto the foggy balcony. Through squinting eyes and a mug of coffee, I'm able to bang out some words, just to kickstart my mind for the day. Because, as Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living". And like the patron saint of Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, said: “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
Something did change, so, stumbling around Redwood City, I'm trying to take everything in. I've been here two weeks and what I've noticed is it's not just a name. There are redwoods scattered throughout the town, stretching so wide and so tall that if just one fell it would take out more than a handful of homes. And somehow you can see way more stars beyond the trees than you ever could amongst the New York buildings.
In typical fashion, we've nicknamed the apartment our Incubator. Instead of several buzzing start-ups, Rachel and I bounce our ideas for our businesses off Rob, who weirdly likes his job. Rachel is baking at Rachel's Bake Lab and I'm jumpstarting ideas into action by designing websites.
In the other times, we saw the super rare supermoon sit dark and red in the patch of sky outside our front door. We laughed uncontrollably (and oddly, soberly) about how my Target slippers look like those of a terminal Japanese man in a hospice. And then tweeted Target to tell them too.
We've made plenty of jokes in preparation of eating at a restaurant downtown called the Old Spaghetti Factory. We went to the theater downtown to see The Martian, and I was almost more excited to know you could bag your own candy, instead of grabbing prepared boxes of the junk.
I've caught myself staring into beautiful sunsets, and a single shooting star on the balcony one night. I bought a mattress and not much else, and interviewed for a job at a company called Wood Thumb and got bumped by someone internally. I also wrote an e-book called Squarespace for Weddings, and sold exactly one copy, to one of my best friends.
The chaos will continue, I'll make sure of it. And if all else fails, it's onto my next Americana Dream, becoming a writer on the road with a business and a motorcycle. Onto Lake Tahoe. Or Denver. Or somewhere between everything on Route 66.
And when it comes to haulin' ass, I'll take my mantra from Steve McQueen. The man who made the hills of San Francisco famous, hauling ass in the movie Bullitt with a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT, said, “I learned that life is a long and difficult road, but you have to keep going, or you’ll fall by the wayside”.