I took a break, y’all. After writing myself into a corner and getting worked up over a nonsense conspiracy-laden faux-mystical tract about COVID vaccines in April, I realized that I had burned myself out.
I’ve lived a lot of life in the past three months. I took a somewhat secret trip to New Orleans, endured a series of dental procedures, including my first root canal and crown, and opened up a lot emotionally.
I like to think the therapy of writing in this space for those several weeks before my April break fed into the personal growth and spurt of activity I have experienced. Despite not gaining worldwide acclaim and not breaking the blogosphere, I proved to myself that I could hold down a part-time writing job. I proved to myself that I could focus.
But, y’all, I did burn myself out. I don’t know what the hell that last post was. Read it while you can–I’m taking that $%!+ down pretty soon.
Travel is a favorite balm of mine, and it’s been crucial for the past couple of months since I got my COVID shots. Cruises are my favorite, but I am going to wait until the cruise lines have all the kinks worked out of their health protocols before I go back to that life. In the meantime, besides my sneaky New Orleans trip, my partner and I took a fantastic trip to the West Coast.
We left on a Friday night, flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles. We spent a day in LA, exploring Little Tokyo near our hotel in the downtown area, along with the obligatory walking tour of Hollywood.
I have to go back. I want to explore the other 95% of the metro area we didn’t see. But we had a train booked on Sunday–to Seattle. We traveled most of the West Coast on Amtrak! We hit Santa Barbara, San Jose, Mount Shasta, Portland, and ended in Seattle, where we spent four days. Three days in and around downtown Seattle, and a one-day trip out to Mount Rainier.
The trip was just as culturally and visually overwhelming as I knew it would be. Life and landforms are so different on the West Coast than the rounded, deciduous world of the South. Just like a good unSoutherner, I took notes. Below are my takeaways, in order of prominence.
First takeaway: the East (inclusive of the South) is old, and the West is new. This should not be a shock to anyone who took elementary-school geography, but being plopped down in the middle of it just hits different. (Oh god did I just use that phrase.) The jagged Western landscape jars the non-native. Mountains just shoot up out of nothing, directly next to the ocean. We didn’t feel any tremors, but mere knowledge that an earthquake or a volcanic eruption was possible with little or no warning shifts one’s relationship to the natural environment. I can see why ancient peoples wanted to appease their natural gods; Allstate and earthquake codes didn’t exist.
Second takeaway: homeless people in Los Angeles are professionals at what they do. My anecdotal experience is that homelessness is just as ridiculous in LA as it is represented to be. Skid Row is a real place in Los Angeles where you can navigate in Apple Maps, not a euphemism. But: these folks have rolled up their sleeves and made a career of being permanent outside citizens. They hail buses, patronize stores, and maneuver their carts down the street. Their tents are lined up, organized, and efficient. It is a way of life, and there is a dignity that–in my mind–eludes the homeless in Atlanta and so many other cities I’ve been. What factors converge to create this difference, I’m not sure and will not venture to speculate here. But it was a fascinating discovery.
Third and final takeaway: diversity is diverse. Atlanta distinguishes itself as one of the most diverse places in the South. My visits to Chicago, New York, Denver, Minneapolis, and Miami have all yielded the same diversity vibe. Los Angeles also reminds me a lot of Atlanta (except for the homeless thing).
Seattle, though, is its own animal. The specific mix of ethnicities, the mix of income levels, the subcultures that were on display and the dynamics among the people there–it was all peculiar to me. Granted, I was there for fewer than five days, and most of our time was spent within a one-mile radius of downtown, but there was something quirky and off-kilter to my unSouthern sensibilities.
Before you dismiss this as delusional, though, consider that the Seattle music scene made superstars out of both Kurt Cobain and Sir Mix-A-Lot. If that does not qualify as quirky, I don’t know what would.