Travels with Jack

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Jack investigates the sink beneath the cabinet on our first day at the new apartment in Seattle. He would spend a good part of Tuesday morning hiding in that cabinet while a Comcast employee installed our Internet for us. Jack did not much care for the Comcast man.

I’m in Seattle.

To most of you that might not mean much, but to me it means that everything and everyone I know is 1,000 miles away and I have begun the rather daunting (and exciting) task of attempting to build a new life in a new city and state.

Getting here was not easy (for me, I imagine there are hardened road trippers out there who would laugh at my experience and dismiss it). Jack and I left San Luis Obispo after work on Friday. My car was loaded on Thursday night, crammed so full of clothes and books and blankets that I couldn’t open the trunk or see anything behind me. The front seat was reserved for Jack’s carrier and litterbox. And just before I left I had to add a garbage bag of clean litter, a bag of road trip goodies from my coworkers (which included Goober, Arbor Mist, and chocolate frosting), none of which I had room for, but none of which could be left behind for obvious reasons.

The first leg of the drive was just a five and a half hour trip up to Sacramento. Unfortunately, this was before Jack and I were properly settled. He sat in my lap rather contentedly while I tried not to forget how to use Google Maps (this was, after all, my first trip with a Smartphone). At one point toward the end of the trip I was forced to hit the brakes pretty hard and a bottle of Arbor Mist flew forward and hit me in the back of the head. Less than half an hour later the bag containing Jack’s litter split open, spraying (thankfully clean) cat litter all over the car.

That night was rough. I couldn’t get the idea that my car would be towed or broken into out of my head, so at 4:30 a.m. I left my brother’s apartment wearing my footie pajamas in order to confirm that my car was a) still there and b) unmolested. Jack was completely beside himself because he knows what packing means and I think he was afraid I would leave him behind.

I spent the better part of the second day of driving freaking out over how green Oregon is. It didn’t feel natural, and I spent the better part of the drive writing episodes of Twilight Zone in my head that would be filmed in the places that I passed. We also passed more religious billboards than I could count, giving me the overall impression that it was in my best interest to keep driving. I had been a little more clever in packing the car that day so everything mostly stayed put but Jack was beginning to recognize that this was no ordinary road trip. We stayed at a Motel 6 in Roseburg, because that was the only cat-friendly lodging I could find, affording me the opportunity to discover that Jack hates hotels. He hated the smells and the noises. He kept trying to hide under the bed but because the area beneath the bed was blocked off he just wound up cowering beneath a dust ruffle that didn’t really cover half his girth. I discovered my car was leaking some kind if fluid but it was Saturday night in a small town and we still had hundreds of miles to drive the next day so I tried to pretend I hadn’t noticed it at all.

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I’m not really certain how the Arbor Mist was supposed to fit into the roadtrip, but my coworkers at the paper banded together to provide me with a farewell roadtrip feast. Also diabetes. But that’s been a given for a long time.

Day three began with a man at a gas station drawling, “You aren’t from around here, are you?” when I tried to pump my own gas. (Apparently against the law in Oregon?) But I did get to drive through Portland, and found myself surprised at its size and proximity to Seattle. It had been my plan to pull over and get a photo with Jack at the “Welcome to Washington” sign but it was just a small notice on a draw bridge leaving Portland so stopping the car wasn’t much of an option.

When we’d arrived at our apartment and I had unloaded everything I told Jack that we were home, but he gave me a dubious look. I couldn’t blame him. It doesn’t feel much like home without Colin and Cat Cat. But I managed a trip to the grocery store for supplies and a trip to Target (which I’m not proud of) for the supplies I couldn’t find at the grocery store (shower curtain, garbage can, etc.). And I got my insurance switched over to Washington and finished unpacking.

I’m beginning to realize that I need to focus on the small victories right now–finding a gas station near my apartment, locating the laundry room and mailbox in my apartment, going to the DMV to get my Washington license (which somehow felt the most like relinquishing my status as a Californian).  I’m now registered to vote in Washington. I don’t even really know who the major political players are yet, but I’ll be able to vote.

There have been a lot of friendly people along the way, like my AAA agent who suggested I go to a 420 party at the beach, saying regretfully that he wanted to attend but couldn’t because he had kids. The drivers here are less aggressive and I’ve been told they’ll be even nicer once I get ride of my California plates. I think it was partially a joke, like the guy at the DMV telling me he couldn’t exchange my license because Washington already had too many Californians.

The question is: At what point do I cease to be a Californian? It’s a lot like asking whether I consider myself a professional writer. Even though I’m ridiculously excited about what’s to come in this new life, I’m not ready to not be a Californian. I’d happily take on dual citizenship though, if anyone’s offering.

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