Like most folks on Moving Eve, we sleep a combined total of two hours before agreeing to capitalize on our insomnia. It’s sometime around 1:30, and we’re throwing the last remnants of domestic detritus into our over-packed SUV. Toby prances around anxiously, and we load him into his blanket-plumped crate while we wrestle our behemoth 1980’s mattress and box spring to the curb.
Andy loads up Toby while I make a final sweep through the apartment, turning lights on and off one last time and flushing the toilet for safe measure, before pulling the door closed and listening to the last echo of our WeHo existence reverberate on the other side. I lock the deadbolt, and gather and fold the dog hair-caked welcome mat into the brimming garbage bag.
Minutes later, we’re winding up through Laurel Canyon toward the 101 – onward to Seattle.
Our cliff-side perch affords a scenic view up the rocky coast to Big Sur. Gravel dust blows from the occasional passing car and rustles the leaves of our broken bamboo plant – nestled in a hoarder-esque pile of luggage on the narrow shoulder.
Lefty loosey. Righty tighty. Right? Right.
I twirl the jack and ask Andy how everything looks.
“Alright, I guess. I just don’t want the car to plummet off the edge.”
“You and me both.”
We repurpose one of our massive potted succulents as a wheel wedge, along with a large chunk of petrified wood Andy’s toted around since childhood.
“HEY! Don’t put this under the tire, it’ll break.”
I roll my eyes as he shifts it out from under the tire, and rearranges Toby, whose fat rolls drip over Andy’s forearm like jewelry.
Sliding the donut on and tightening the lug nuts feels oddly rewarding, and I cross my fingers and toes that the whole thing doesn’t pop off and fly into the road, sending the car and most of our prized Fiesta finds into the crashing waves below. A cool breeze whips the three of us in the face, and clouds clutter the sky.
“It looks a lot like New England around here,” Andy muses, eyeing the sky and redirecting his gaze to the donut.
It’s the kind of weather that makes you envision Angela Lansbury rounding a mountainous bend on her bike, pedaling her way into a murder mystery. The gravel crunches under the thin rubber as I lower the jack, and we reload everything, casting aside the latest handful of destroyed plant stalks and fronds.
Before we know it, we’re back on track, glancing out at the water-enveloped boulders offshore – the former monoliths now resembling crumbled cookie bits. We putter through wind-eroded canyons and up mist-shrouded mountains as the line of cars behind us quietly grows. By the time we get to Big Sur, we’re praying to the gods of cell phone reception for a few bars so that we can slot ourselves into an appointment at a nearby auto maintenance shop.
We slow down when we see a gas station sign peeking above dense foliage, and pull into the service station – only to be told snippily by the hippie station attendant that there’s no maintenance shop close by. Judging by the crowd waiting in line at the small “Naturey Center” kiosk for homemade granola and hemp dream catchers, I surmise such requests are tantamount to kicking a puppy while eating a medium-rare hamburger and throwing the wrapper on the ground.
A half an hour later, we’re navigating through a maze of auto body shops and pull into the one whose manager has assured us that they have “exactly one tire” that’ll fit our car. After unloading the trunks’ contents yet again, Andy and I stand awkwardly while passing Toby back and forth. A few passersby eye us suspiciously, and then review our pile of possessions. I wait for them to haggle for the broken aloe plant, or the dollar store broom that always seems to make it through every move. But they just walk on. I try not to take it personally, and wonder aloud why it’s taking over an hour to change a tire.
“Hell, my incompetent self changed the flat in forty-five minutes,” I huff.
“Yep. Their service is for shit. Nice bathrooms, though.”
Toby grunts and struggles to get down, so Andy takes him on a short walk to the most well lit areas of the parking lot. I stare into the garage as a technician lowers our car from the lift, and pulls it around front.
And we roll along.
Our hotel for the evening has recently undergone a renovation to make its standard interior appear chic. And nothing says “chic” more than a Jacuzzi next to the bed. I motion to the yellowed bath mat suctioned to the bottom.
“Ooooh, classy. Let’s make some memories.” *Wink*
Just to put in his two cents, Toby lifts his leg on the bedskirt. Andy opts for a shower, and I devour our random assortment of Whole Foods impulse purchases – spicy sushi roll, veggie lasagna, and mac n’ cheese.
Early the next morning, I crouch in the hotel parking lot and collect dented canned goods and cracked bottles of rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide – the enclosing bag for which ruptured, spilling everything into a messy pool behind the car. As Andy returns the room key, I sandwich everything together with two soaked paper bags, and cram it into a garbage can.
While crossing the Sacramento River, an errant, spring-loaded curl flops behind my glasses and I tuck it back into the tightened welter atop my head. Drought-drained lakes and rivers pockmark the browned landscape, and hot air balloons drift up into the sky like forgotten fair prizes.
En route to Oregon, we listen to Sue Grafton’s “K is for Killing” and take in the local scenery. A semi trailer sits in a bed of overgrown weeds just inside a pasture fence, with faded lettering beneath crucified hands reading “His blood, your sins.” But the crimson droplets’ paint has flecked off, giving the appearance not of blood, but confetti.
We take some time in Portland to peruse antique stores, and snag a piece of Fiesta – all the while having Toby tucked in a tiny shopping cart. Then we pull into a service station to top off.
Conditioned by LA’s typically unpleasant gas station excursions, I expect to be accosted for money and check my wallet to see if I have any singles. A man with a 76 shirt approaches the car, and I plan to deploy my auto response.
“I don’t ha…”
“Ready to fill up?” he asks.
“Oh, uh, I can do it. But thanks.”
“Well, this is Oregon. I do it.”
Flustered, I stare blankly at Andy, who suddenly remembers that it’s against the law in Oregon to pump your own gas.
“Ah, right. Uh, then regular. Please.”
I feel rightly disappointed in myself for assuming the worst, and whisper conspiratorially to Andy.
“Do I tip him?”
“Of course not. It’s his job.”
The attendant re-tightens the gas cap and waves us on.
Seattle’s green hills are welcomed changes to LA’s browned, scorched earth – and the distant Mt. Rainier seems out of place and alien-like. Winding through Capitol Hill’s relatively uncongested streets, we ease up to our building, write the requisite checks, and get our new keys.
We dance around our new place, despite realizing that it’s a tad bit smaller than we’d remembered. But we’re too tired to care, as is Toby.
Hours later, we literally get a crash course in Seattle living by the driver of a Chevy Lumina, who doesn’t see us yielding to the highway traffic. With only minor scratches to the underside of the bumper, we endeavor on, order our mattress, and sleep fitfully on the hard floor – tossing and turning while Toby dozes contentedly in his plush bed.
Once our mattress is delivered the next morning, we traipse about and try to source most of our needed items from local stores – turning the usually annoying process of getting basic move-in essentials into a reasonably interesting game. Here and there we collect what we need, all the while wondering where in the hell our furniture is and how long it’ll take to get up here.
We get back and I futz around the building, trying my hardest to figure out what’s recyclable, compostable, and trashable – in that order. Three individually marked bags later, I feel like I’m becoming a local – especially when I smack cups and napkins out of Andy’s hands and into the correct containers.
Sun fills the apartment, and we sit in the empty living room, listening to the sidewalk conversations drifting up through our open windows.
We’re at the starting line of a new day.
And we’re just waiting for the bang – so we can take off and begin again.