90,000 Miles to Me

21,801 Miles • Los Angeles

When I finally arrived in Los Angeles, far later than originally planned, it was the beginning of November yet the weather felt like August. I had just come through a torrent of emotional turmoil and was still feeling raw and open and like more was getting ready to come out. (That’s this post.) 

I was feeling restored after my stay at Laguna Mountain, but then got shook up by the worst campsite-finding experience ever followed by the Worst Road Ever and subsequently nauseated from only 40 miles along Highway 1 (which took fully two weeks to wear off, by the way). In short, I was ready to collapse into the secure hug of my long-time friend who is the closest to a big brother that I’ve ever had.

I haven’t seen him in years, and since then he married and I was a little nervous about meeting his wife and step-son for the first time, but figured that if he was going to marry her, she had to be all right. She was so open and honest and down to Earth and awesome and we got along extremely well! Their whole family has a great dynamic and I am so glad they are in my life again.

The photo at the top of this page is my friend in the aquarium at the California Science Center. He is one of their volunteer divers, taking care of the aquarium and the fish, and does dive shows to help explain the ocean ecosystem, marine life, and CSC aquarium to visitors. 

Everyone wave to the diver!

Los Angeles also brought up lots of those “this was my story” feelings, as I spent more than half of my youth here. 

I took some time to drive around to the old haunts. When I got close, I turned off the GPS to force my memory to work for me. I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t remember the way, as it has been more than 10 years since I’ve been here, or that things would have changed so much that I wouldn’t recognize enough, but I found my way surprisingly well and although there were some changes, there was plenty that I did recognize and that felt good.

At the old burger joint across the street from our old house, I got a small order of memory-laced onion rings and ate them in my van while staring across the street. 

I almost didn’t recognize the house at first. They tore down the front wall and replaced it with a wire fence covered with greenery and replaced the front door with a wooden one. Our tiny speck of ignored front lawn is now a tended garden. There were the same bars on the upstairs windows.

I can almost see myself coming home from school, walking up the street from the bus stop with my backpack on my back, turning into the gate and going inside.

I grew up in this house. My entire adolescence, from about 12 years old to college, was in this house. I came home from college breaks to this house. My dad got sick in this house. My dad died in this house.

The neighborhood is remarkably the same. Same old, wheezy neighbor nextdoor. The flower shop on the corner changed owners and styles but is still there.

Drove down to the ocean and walked around a little and watched the waves.

I also visited a couple of old friends and mentors, and a cousin who lives in the area. It was good to reconnect, and it brought up a lot of complex feelings as well. Nothing bad, just, “this is who I was” feelings. 

It would be no surprise to say I’ve changed a lot over the years, but in the last few months I’ve changed so much—peeled away so many old layers—that I don’t feel like that me anymore, and a part of me feels like an outsider looking in at that other life. 

Yet in a paradoxical way, I feel more like me than I can ever remember feeling. Like the part that I’ve shed has been my pretenses and defenses and insecurities and doubts, and what is left is more authentically me, since the Me can now get through a bit more. Is a bit closer to the surface. To the light.

On a more practical note, my friend who was hosting me in his driveway also helped me with a van project that I’ve been putting off because I couldn’t do it on my own. We took everything out of the van that had any contact with the floor, peeled up the carpet, and added extra layers of insulation under the carpet, then put everything back in. It took about half a day, and the part I needed help with was peeling up the carpet, since it was stuck down to the anti-mold/mildew/rust coating I had slathered everywhere, and which acted like glue. It really did take two of us to yank it up.

Now my floor isn’t nearly as cold in the mornings, and I’m sure this will help my insulation a lot soon when I drive out of LA and into winter. 

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