California in April

April already. Where has the year gone?

I’ve talked to several people in Los Angeles who have all said the same thing: it’s hard to notice time passing when the weather never changes. I never considered that before I moved here but now I wholeheartedly agree. I also want to get ahead of the haters and acknowledge that yes, I know, I know, it’s still snowing where you live or it’s still snowing AND tornado-ing where you live or it’s still ping-ponging between all four seasons all the time where ever it is you happen to live. I’m sorry. To that I say, at least you can feel time elapsing. Right around Groundhog Day this past year, Tony said, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if we were living in Groundhog Day [the movie]…but in LA?” I responded to this by pounding my head against a wall and saying “BUT WE ARE DON’T YOU SEE?” A side note (or is this a foot note?) to this story is that Tony and I promised each other years ago that if one of us were ever stuck in a Groundhog Day, the other promised to believe them. That’s true love.

This is all to say: I blinked and three weeks passed.

I’ve filled my time with all sorts of things: An uptick in freelance work, a renewed commitment to volunteer work, the never ending slurry of emails that comes with reunions and weddings and trying to get Entertainment Weekly to send me my special edition Dawson’s Creek 20th Anniversary issue with Joshua Jackson on the cover. (By the time it arrives I will have waited a solid month to receive a copy of a magazine I’ve already read online. But you better believe my TERSELY WORDED emails to EW ultimately made this dream a reality.) I’ve also continued my new-year-new-me workout regiment, a sleek combination of yoga stretching, lifting 5 pound weights, and grimacing. I also like to “take advantage of the weather” and run outside, which is painful and I hate it but it makes me look cool and seem breezy. This, too, has much grimacing.

We also kicked off our Super Fun Spring Event Calendar, a thing I just formally made up but has existed spiritually for a few weeks. Events have included seeing Patton Oswalt discuss his late wife’s true crime book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, something that made Tony and me have a frank conversation about what becomes of each other’s writing should anything ever “happen” to us. (Let it be known, I said, “PUBLISH. EVERYTHING.” And then I laughed and laughed knowing that this just refers to a bunch of weird Word Docs from college that bemuse not being liked by boys.) We also drove up to the Bay Area (more on that in a minute) and saw the Indians get absolutely clobbered by the Angels in Anaheim. Going to a baseball game at Angels Stadium is the best for many reasons. 1. I bought tickets for 6 dollars a piece. 2. They have a home run volcano, which is a volcano in the outfield that erupts any time the Angels homer. 3. They sell cans of beer for 4 dollars, something that could for sure never be done in Chicago or Cleveland. I don’t know which scenario is worse, enabling fans with drinking problems to keep drinking or arming rowdy fans with the perfect object to huck onto a field of play. 4. The fans are the SWEETEST sweethearts I have ever been in contact with. We were sitting in front of two large, admittedly intimidating-looking men. They proceeded to have the following conversation (name* of minor has been changed/also big time dramatizing this, this is not a verbatim account):

Guy 1: I brought Michael* to the game last night. Just us.

Guy 2: Yeah?

Guy 1: Yeah. And it’s fun because like…he’s starting to pay attention. He didn’t used to. He asks who’s at bat, he asks what the count is. Like. He cares, man.

Guy 2: That’s awesome, man.

Guy 1: And he’s been in my life for years, man. And I love his mom with all my heart. And I love that kid. But you know, I’m not his dad…

Guy 2: It’s hard, man.

Guy 1: But I’m thinking. This can be our thing. Right?

Guy 2: Absolutely, man. You take him to the batting cages?

Guy 1: Not yet, I’ve had to work.

Guy 2: Then call off work! This is way more important than that.

Guy 1: You’re right. I’ll call off work.

Guy 2: You should. Yeah, that’s awesome, man.

END SCENE.

I was devastated in the best way possible after overhearing this. It negated all the other truly Overheard LA things I hear on a daily basis. (Like that one time I saw a man and a woman meet for coffee and upon being asked how she’s doing post-surgery, the woman said, “Good, good, getting back into my routine: working, seeing people, recreational drug use.” Cool cool cool.) As Tony says to me about once a day in reference to absolutely nothing related to baseball, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” How can I not, indeed.

As promised, I will now return to talk about our intra-California road trip.

Look, you knew California had farm land. I knew California had farm land. You know that because of TV or movies or Happy Cow commercials or John Steinbeck books or all the times I’ve said, “LA is great, can’t complain about the produce!!!” California is HUGE, of course there are acres and acres of green space that are neither beach nor mountain. Of course. I knew this like I know a heart pumps blood or like there’s red dirt on Mars or like people paid money to see the Emoji Movie. You just accept it as a truth even though you can’t really fathom it. So intellectually I understood that not all of California looks like Los Angeles.

But then I saw it.

We drove LA to Oakland/San Francisco, Oakland/SF to Monterey, and then Monterey back to LA over Easter weekend. (Now is also a good time to admit freely to buying a used copy of East of Eden on Cannery Row in Monterey. It’s like buying a hurricane while in New Orleans.) And dear reader, let me tell you, CALIFORNIA IS HUGE. This is coming from a woman who drove across the country but 6 months ago. But this was, for whatever reason, really shocking to us. We oohed and ahhed at every crest of a hill and turn of a bend. We pointed at trees and rows of agriculture like we’d never seen things grow before. We shouted out “Ooh, grapes!” and “Ooh, sheep!” like we were on some sort of bizarre scavenger hunt. And then other times we felt uneasy, surrounded on all sides by oil wells, robotic arms pumping the earth for miles down the highway, not a human worker in sight. Or we would silently drive past rows of correctional facility buses, lining the highway shoulders, waiting for its laborers to finish up their shifts in a farming field. We drove through an unexceptional intersection on Route 46 where I noticed a makeshift memorial on the other side of the road, an American flag strung up on a fence with a few flowers strewn about. This is nothing new if you’ve ever driven on any major highway or interstate, but I saw a man walking over to the flag from his parked car. I began to say “Huh, I wonder what–” when I looked up, directly into the sign that reads “James Dean Memorial Junction.” I guess this is all to say that the drive was overwhelming in an unexpected way. So often you look at the land and it only registers as “Nature.” That stretch of California is where Humans and Nature have met, and you see the ways in which we’ve monetized the land and preserved the land and destroyed the land and all the ways the land destroyed us. It’s incredible.

Those days didn’t feel the same. I was more than aware of the passing of time. It’s possible to un-Groundhog Day your life when decide to go look at something new.