All good things must come to an end, they say, so I am ending my twelve month reign on wordpress and moving to ChicagoNow.
Before driving back to Chicago, an acquaintance who is also from the fair metropolis but vowed never return for fear of freezing his gottkes, long underwear or whatever, off, said that you can’t go home again.
Wanting to be polite, I merely gave him one of those California looks and stared around his chin, but inside I scoffed and thought, “You can, and I will.”
But in ways, he was right and wrong. You can go home again meaning that you can return to the essence of a place, but at the same time, you can’t because people change, and some in my case have become like a clip from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
First there is April, who always was a little off, though it was funny in high school. As an adult, she would wander up mountains alone only to have to be rescued by kind passers-by, walk in bad neighborhoods alone at night and refuse to lock her door. It was funny in a spacey sort of way, though I now wonder if she had a secret death wish.
Because she was basically nice and kind, I decided to contact her through Facebook. She was still nice and kind, still had that easy laugh and was still nutty. The light dawned when she thought one of my dogs was ignoring her, as if a four-legged creature with constant food cravings, could think rationally, that and some other things. After she failed to return a phone call and an email and then asked me to write an essay about how I spent a holiday, it was time to move on.
Then there’s Karen, a high school acquaintance, who I’d always been impressed with. I remember her bounding down the halls in hip huggers jeans, a megawatt smile and all that curly hair. She became a librarian who texts only when she doesn’t have other plans then fails to return texts or phone calls. Mama Mia!
But the dilly of them all, the icing on the cake, is Sister Margaret, the nun. We met at a teaching assignment, shared our feelings and thoughts and often met on the steps of the Art Institute for a bagged lunch. She reminded me of another sister, Sister Betrille, played by Sally Fields on the “Flying Nun.” My Sister was free-spirited, I always half expected her to turn a cartwheel. We corresponded throughout the years and her letters always contained notes written in the margins so I’d have to turn the paper at different angles to finish it. It was so her, so Sister Betrille.
We’d always lose contact, but I’d always pick it up again because I enjoyed her kind words and encouragement and support. I called when I came into town, and not only did she not remember me at first, but she was the total anti-thesis of the friend I knew. She was so was cold, formal and distant, it was like someone had sucked the spirit out of her.
Maybe you can’t completely go home again. People either change or become more of who they were or what they were going to be, but you can always go home to yourself and decide what you want.
I’ve thought of a way to make a handsome living in Chicago, or in most other cities where people drive cars; it is to own a parking garage. The ideacame to me after driving around to get to an event that I never made it to partially because I couldn’t find parking. I believe that the parking faeries, and whoever’s palms they greased in City Hall, converged to make it so. Everyone knows that their evil stepsister, the ever-present towing companies, are ready to swoop down on those who have either parked in the wrong place or whose meters have expired.
This came to me after eschewing those meters and being given three choices at different garages in downtown Chicago, herein after referred to as “the loop.”
Door Number 1.) All-night parking… $24.00
Door Number 2.) Three hours and a formula I didn’t understand… $21.00 plus
Door Number 3.) I forgot what the other rates were.
After pulling into the Grant Park (south) complex upon being in the wrong lane for the north entrance, I returned one half-hour later, inserted said credit card into a machine and got charged $20.00. Then barreled into the one open office and learned that I did not read the last line of the sign. Did some soul searching after pulling away and had a winter solstice epiphany.
Now, I have tried many things in my life. I’ve been a teacher, a cosmetician, an administrative assistant, even though I only type around 35 words a minute using three fingers and a thumb, and an order processor for an insurance company, which I was fired from for processing some orders incorrectly. D-Day came shortly thereafter the customer said he wanted a stoplight on his insurance form moved from the right to the left, and I, skipping over it altogether, left it where it was. And that was that. But life goes on.
So after that parking episode I came up with an idea and a dream. I am going to build or remodel my very own parking garage. I will charge the usual rates, but mine will come with incentives and perks like lotteries and gift cards to Nordstrom’s, Forever Twenty One and Target (Tar’jet), cookies, coffee and donuts and passes to some cool foot massage places.
However, there would be some mountains to climb than at my insurance and other jobs. One is I am not the kind to grease any palms. In fact, I am the type that enjoys blaspheming those who do, and the second is that I am more than someone who moved further east than west and is from the municipality known of as California (Cal’i’for’nyeah). I am one of thirty-three moderate Republicans in the soul and bosom of Democrat-land, which could be a problem in terms of joining the machine, unless they want a monkey wrench.
But there are many songs and sentiments to get me through. “I will Survive” by disco queen, Gloria Gaynor, is one, or is it “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen? Only time will tell.
So thank you, amen, over and out and y’all pray for me now, hear?
Never mind the expense of moving halfway across the country and how it may kill my credit score. Never mind having to adjust to a new place, even one I grew up in and know like the back of my hand. What annoys me about moving back to Chicago is that there’s no one to get annoyed with.
In California, I was annoyed almost from day one when I stepped off the plane, from the way they stood around in the grocery store casually clutching their carts waiting for a patron to move, to the way they refused to make eye contact. Instead, they’d look over your head, under your head, at your chin or around it. I called it the “California hello,” especially the over-the-head look. On the whole, I found the whole lot of them annoying. And if English wasn’t the semi-official language and it wasn’t part of the continental United States, I would have thought I was in a foreign country.
So I have been back in Chicago for three days now, shopping in their stores, standing in line with the natives bundled up for winter, ordering deli with the best of them, and I haven’t been annoyed even once, even the several times someone has honked at me on the Eden’s Expressway or in downtown Chicago, I haven’t gotten annoyed or irritated with anyone at all.
Maybe something knocked it out of me. Maybe it was the drive back here or the charge from the moving company letting me know that we may be back on the home turf of Kansas. I only hope that it doesn’t take off my edge or that my next post won’t be of me sitting in a rocking chair and painting pastoral scenes. Holy moly and heaven help us all.
This is a grand and beautiful country we live in. Before I first turned my key in the ignition to drive from LA back to Chicago, I
thought that America would be like one giant extension of LA, brown and graffitied with men with tattoos, shaved heads and spaghetti- strapped tees shuffling back and forth in house slippers.
But parts of it are so rich and lush and green I understand how Katharine Lee Bates wrote the poem later used for the lyrics for “America the Beautiful.”
“Oh, beautiful for spacious skies for amber waves of grain.
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plane…”
I would have been inspired to write those words myself had she not beaten me to it.
And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to drive across what is rumored to be this great country of ours; I didn’t want to gloss over anything from a window seat of a plane. I wanted to see, taste and feel America from myself from every damned mountaintop to every damned fruited plane. And see America I did. Driving east on the 40 I learned that Arizona is covered with soft lolling hilltops with pine and blankets of snow riding at their bases in parts and chiseled gold and pink rocks in others. Downtown Albuquerque has a western charm in adobe-styled buildings in terra cotta and gold and that eastern New Mexico has rolling farmlands that go on forever. Colorado has the grayish purple Rockies and Nebraska has snow-covered fields with grazing horses and cows. It is no wonder that so many people want to live here, even the graffiti mongers in LA.
Really, G-d has blessed America.
But when I saw those flashing red lights riding up behind me from a distance, I knew it meant trouble.
Perhaps from protocol or encountering too many drug addled and crazy drivers, the officer looked in and motioned for me to roll down the window.
I knew better than to talk first because perhaps he wanted to say hello or talk about a taillight.
“Do you know how fast you were going?” he queried? “I clocked you from way back there, and you were going ten miles above the speed limit.”
“I know you want to get somewhere, but you have to get there safely.”
I wanted to comment about the motorcycles that had passed me up but remained mum.
“Are we in Arizona?”
He smiled, leaaned a buff arm towards my window and displayed a California patch.
“But the mile marker back there said 44, so I thought I was 44 miles into Arizona.”
“No, you are still in California. Arizona starts at the 150 mile marker.”
I gave him all of my info that included a tattered registration card held together by tape, an insurance card and a less than flattering driver’s license photo.
“Is this your current address?” he asked displaying straight white teeth.
“No, because I am moving out of state.”
“Do you have a new address?”
“We’ll get to that later.”
He was gone for several minutes before handing me my exit visa from the state.
“I hope you’ll understand if I don’t thank you,” I said.
“Not at all, Miss Saunders, but I want you to drive safely.”
I said that I would, wished him a nice day anyway, and we both drove off. I understood that he was just doing his job, and that it might have been a California farewell.
One thing I have learned after all these years of yoga and clean living is that all my plans will eventually go to seed. It may take a minute, a second, a week or even an hour, but it will eventually happen.
The latest was after my planned escape from Los Angeles back to Chicago and a journey twenty years in the making. That’s why I was probably one of the few people living out there, aside from those who trek to Big Bear or Vail every year, with a collection of winter boots, coats hats and scarves.
As a final preparation for the trek out, I separated the clothes into piles, donated some then separated the piles again into “to be moved by car” and “by the movers.” I thought myself so clever.
Things began to fall apart after the movers said they didn’t realize what a job this would be and pulled away in the loaded can.
The night before my drive out, I went to pack more things into the already overstuffed trunk of my car. At 11:00 p.m., I ran into Glen, the ever loving and helpful security guard and asked him if I could park in guest parking because it is closer to the elevator. He agreed. Stuffed everything in and narrowly closed the trunk. Went back upstairs to sleep but thought about getting everything into the car.
12:40 a.m. Didn’t want any surprises on driving day so went back downstairs to pack more things. Glen said that he doesn’t think I can fit more things into my car and see out the window. We google Fedex.
1: 05, a.m. Call and ask about sending a box with curtains weighing under thirty pounds. Clerk says that sounds fine.
1:20 a.m. Arrive with eight black trash bags and the curtains. Clerk looks up and ignores me.
1:21 a.m. Clerk asks me if I expect them to pack them.
2:00 a.m. Pack the last of the boxes and fill out the forms.
2:25 a.m. Learn that the clerk is an actor/ writer/ lawyer/ former restaurateur with two grown children and is an all-around interesting guy.
2:30 a.m. Wise guy customer shows and wants to know if my slip-ons came several to a package and can be rolled up. Inform him that they regulation velvet from Old Nacy and cannot be rolled up.
2:31 a.m. Note customer’s slip on canvas shoes yet inform him that I have unworn stilettos in the box. Says he would take me out dancing in the stilettos but not the flats if I weren’t leaving the next day.
2:40 a.m. Leave the store and head to a Von’s grocery store to see if my blog appeared. Vons is closed.
2:15 a.m. Return to building and Glen drives his van over the sensor to let me in because I left my garage door opener upstairs.
2:20 a.m. Glen helps me load my car while a board member, Mark, and I wolf down vegan cookies. Glen doesn’t eat any.
2:45 a.m. Thank the security guard profusely and ask him where he shops so I can buy him a gift certificate. He says to forget about it because he helps everyone, bless him.
3:00 a.m. Go to sleep after watching an “All in the Family” episode where Gloria cooks horsemeat and Edith’s interest in Catholicism. Very interesting episode.
7:15 a.m. Eyes pop open because intend to leave @ 8:00.
8:00 a.m. Run into neighbor while walking dogs. Change time to 9:00 a.m.
9:20 a.m. Text Glen a thank you, do yoga and change time to 10:30.
10:00 a.m. Run into another neighbor while packing car again and decide to go back to Fedex. We talk about health and say goodbye.
10:15 a.m. Run into another neighbor who talks about her film project. Change time to 11:00.
11:20. Arrive at Fedex, ship more boxes and change time to 12:00.
11:30, a.m. In shopping center to eat and return some things.
12:30, p.m. Exit shopping center after mini shopping spree for trip and a trip to Subway where a family can’t decide between meat and veggies. Choose veggies and sit down three minutes later. I am in a hurry.
12:45. Return home and panic after looking at the clock. Do a final check of soon-to-be formal abode and stuff more things into trunk of car.
1:15 p.m. Get into car but realize can’t program GPS with address of hotel in Arizona. Call hotel and ask clerk if she knows how to program a GPS. She doesn’t own one so I ask for directions. She doesn’t know and I ask her if that isn’t her job to know these things. She says it is not her job so I think about changing hotels to one with people who can give directions.
1:30 p.m. Accidentally stumble onto GPS answer and leave with Arizona arrival time of 10:00 p.m.
4:30 p.m. With only four hours of sleep, settle in Best Western in Barstow, CA walk and water dogs and go to I-Hop for dinner happy to avoid any disaster.
And the moral of today’s lesson is pack lightly, appreciate security guards and neighbors and don’t leave Fedex and shipping for the last minute. Thank you, amen and over and out.