Pre-COVID-19, I recently made one of the biggest decisions of my life…
…to relocate from Southern California to Northern California. It was not an easy decision, unlike when I moved from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles in my 20’s; I’d lived in L.A. as a little girl and always knew I wanted to go back. Sure, I would miss family and some good friends. But two of my best friends were already in L.A. And I had no qualms about leaving rain, snow, humidity, and mosquitos; old brick buildings covered in soot from burning coal; streets full of potholes from snowplows; and what had come to seem like the angry pinched faces of people who didn’t get enough sun. Plus, like I said, I was in my 20’s. I was up for adventure. And I was made for L.A., baby! Beaches and mountains and deserts. Nightclubs and museums and poetry readings. Camping and hiking, dancing and karaoke. Friends and enemies and frenemies. Men. Lust. And love.
But as I’ve gotten older, L.A. has gotten harder. Like pollution, which got better after the environmental regulations of the ‘70’s (which, by the way, Trump is in the process of destroying, and it’s gotten steadily worse). Then the heat, which with global warming gives more and more days of 100+ degree temperatures – whew! There’s urban sprawl: electric lines and billboards and strip malls and apartment buildings and massive housing developments spreading like a blight across the landscape. Yeah, I saw that ugliness and how it’s hard to even take a decent snapshot with all that crap in the way, but I guess I looked up at the mountains more. Because those were not big factors in my decision to leave.
What’s gotten hardest for me relates to all those things, though. It’s the sheer number of people who, like me, have chosen to live there. And nowhere is it more representative than in cars on the freeways. Freeways which people joke are like parking lots. But which are no joke when you’re stuck on one, crawling along or even sitting still when you need to be somewhere else (and who has the algorithm on how much time to allow for THAT?) Or when surrounded by SUVs and monster trucks who guffaw at concepts like 65 mph and turn signals. Or when – and fortunately this never happened to me, but it did happen to people I know – something really serious happens, like a fatal accident that shuts the freeway down for five hours (always carry water!), or an earthquake that sends an overpass crashing (EXTRA WATER!!!)
That’s what got hardest for me about L.A. My adopted home of so long ago. City of the Angels which I have loved all these years for its sunshine and color, diversity, languages, ethnic food, jazz and salsa. I got so I dreaded going anywhere that involved a freeway. And so much of L.A. involves a freeway, or two, or three.
Still, even traffic wasn’t my reason to leave, either. It was just a factor. The real reason is that I don’t have family in L.A. I do have many friends, and colleagues of many years, and something more recent, as I got back into creative writing, a literary community. Friends and colleagues and community are great! They bring so much joy and meaning to life. But here’s the thing: they also have lives of their own. Their own friends and colleagues and communities, and especially, family. For most of us, when we need help with whatever, we can call on those others. But for the big stuff, and especially as we get older, we need family.
My family is now in Northern California, and that was the main reason for my move.
I wasn’t entirely happy about making that decision. Besides the people I have in SoCal, I would be leaving a home I loved. It was in a location I never thought I could afford, tucked away in a hidden little corner of the foothills with a view of the mountains; I was fortunate to buy when prices in that area were still relatively low. It was also nicer than any place I’d had before – spacious, with a big kitchen (I love cooking), master en suite, huge party room (that previous owners used just for TV – WHY???) and plenty of space for overnight guests. Over time I was able to personalize it to my taste. I put in a lap pool and jacuzzi, privacy walls for nude swimming-or-whatever, colorful cushions and shade to escape that SoCal sun, music system with indoor/outdoor speakers (my poor neighbors), and a funky/classy/homey mix of art and furniture. The bar was always stocked, there were three crockpots for my semi-famous chili, and karaoke could be fired up in a hot minute.
Oh yeah, I loved that house. And all the many memories I bring from there. Because I sold it. The good news is that I sold it to a friend. I’ve had mixed feelings looking at the pictures she sends of how she’s decorating differently. At first she thought she had to ask my permission! But I told her I want her to settle in and make it her own, like I did. As long as she always has a bed available for yours truly to visit. 😉
Now I’m in NoCal. Another interesting twist to the story of how my friend bought my home is how another friend up here just happened to have the house next door to her (which she owns and rents out) come up vacant. And I moved in! It’s an adorable 1923 cottage. My quirky belongings fit right in. So, I’ve got a pal next door. Family nearby. And even a couple other friends not too far away. I’m all set to create a new life, explore my environment, meet new people, start building a writing community, maybe even find love again.
And then … a coronavirus pandemic struck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
(to be continued)