With a jumbo pack of Scott Extra Soft tucked under my arm, I fumble to stuff the Walgreen’s rewards card into my wallet, crammed full of coffee receipts and a Post It reminder to pay a parking ticket.
It seems my welcome to California will cost us $68.00.
“Hey, it could’ve been worse. You don’t have your California plate yet. And she could’ve cited you for blocking the fire hydrant.”
Especially since I’ve just asked the ticketing officer exactly that.
“So, just for my own information,” I ask, kicking an imaginary leaf and looking down at the cracked pavement like a chastised child, “is this for double parking or for blocking the hydrant?”
The weary officer adjusts her iPod earbuds and prints out the ticket from her holster machine. I wonder if the road cracks are from earthquakes.
“Oh, I see. Well, I’m sorry.”
“Well, I’m sorry I have to give you the ticket. But I’d already recorded your plate when you came outside.”
I’d been so close to escaping. Yet so far.
The workmen sanding down our building’s now exposed hardwood floors stare on from their battered Previa across the street.
The wind gusts just so, rattling the tall palms, making their lanky trunks swagger a bit–like the legs of skittish Landstriders.
And it also happens to blow the ticket right out of the ticketer’s outstretched hand.
Like a silly country mouse trying to impress my city mouse friend, I make a go for it–hoping she’ll think, Wow, what a standup guy. I’ll cut him a break.
“Don’t worry about it. I can print another.”
I begin to say, “But, that’s littering.”
Then think again.
The second time’s the charm. (Damn.)
I take the ticket and watch her Prius motor on, then jump into my car–full to the brim from yet another run to the storage unit in Gardena, a fifteen minute drive south on I-110 if I miss rush hour.
That’s when Andy calls.
And while I inform him of my parking maleficence, I take a breath and look around.
A very pregnant woman emerges from our building and dumps bags full of diapers into the already overflowing dumpster, while pulling along the toddling author of said diaper deposits.
A hipster couple down the block disappears into a nearby restaurant, the sign overhanging the entrance spelled out in Korean.
A tattooed man walks on the other side of the road, letting his coned poodle–shaved a bit on the side–pop a squat on a well-manicured, tiny patch of grass fronting a neighboring Art Deco building.
So, this is city life.
Two days after arriving at our 450 square foot studio apartment in the heart of Koreatown, Andy and I meet the movers at the Gardena storage unit. And watch as a 28-foot U-haul pulls up to the facility’s side entrance.
As does a pickup truck close behind, with a few unmistakable pieces of furniture in its bed.
The whole rolling shebang, including the truck bed’s contents, is ours.
And while we’re both shifting slightly uncomfortably with the idea that all of our stuff couldn’t fit into such a massive U-Haul, we can breathe a little easier since we snagged one of the largest storage units the facility offers.
Double-plus bonus: it’s right by the massive side entrance.
Had we not nosed into this exact unit on our way out the day before, then requested that one instead of the painfully small units we’d been previously assigned, we’d have been, well, fucked.
And as we watch box after box, chair after chair, sideboard after sideboard get unloaded from the truck, that sentiment is reaffirmed.
“Can you imagine what we would’ve done if we hadn’t gotten th–”
“Let’s not. It’ll give me a panic attack.”
Because, honestly, I’ve sort of underestimated how much stuff we have. I mean, sure, everyone usually does so–at least to some extent–during a move.
But this hasn’t just been a move. This has been a game-changer: A move that has not only required excessive overpacking on the movers’ parts, but stalwart emotional stabilization on our parts.
This move hasn’t been easy.
But it’s gradually sinking in that we live here now.
That realization began creeping into my mind as we sat watching The Great Gatsby last Saturday–the first night we spent in our new apartment. Because we’d intended to see this movie on our first cross country trip. While we were entertaining thoughts of one day living out here.
And now we are.
Having been here for nearly a week, we just now made our last run to Gardena for a while.
The apartment is no longer piled to the ceiling with boxes. (And when I write ‘piled to the ceiling,’ I’m not being sarcastic. I mean this little apartment was so piled full of furniture and boxes that the heat the cardboard retained was absolutely sweat-inducing. And the risk of embarrassment so high that we coordinated our leave from the apartment so that no other residents could peek into and see how disturbingly close a candidate this place was for Hoarders. Because the look on the maintenance guy’s face while he checked the gas line for leaks–there was one, by the way [hooray!]–was humiliating.)
Now, though, I just turned off the portable A/C unit because the apartment is cold. (An A/C unit that’s been a lifesaver, even if its purchase triggered a not-so-fun fraud alert from our bank [yay, for not informing them of a 'travel hold/relocation'!])
And Andy’s on the assembled bed, reading a book from the assembled bookshelf, and drinking water from an unpacked glass stored in an organized cabinet in an uncluttered kitchen free of gas leaks.
And I remind myself to double check about getting the June parking permits from the parking deck operator. Because, despite its grunginess and the verbal spats we’ve already had with The Fast and the Furious-inspired valets working for a nearby restaurant that uses the same deck, having available parking just a few buildings away makes the transition to city-living a little bit easier.
And, all the while, the city hums.
A pop rings outside.
“Was that a gunshot?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
Andy goes back to reading his book.
I type away.