I’m not religious, but I have quite an affinity for religious iconography and songs. There is just some sort of strength, some sort of connection that comes out of spirituality that tickles me. There is a song I enjoy where one verse describes a girl on a subway who takes out a toothbrush and starts combing her hair. The song continues the story with, “She explained, I’m never sure if today’s the day I will die. I want to look good if I get to look God in the eye.” I can’t exactly find the words for it, but that concept touches me. I think of humanity and of the little things that get everyone through the days. I think of my upcoming work with poverty and gain an understanding and respect for religion and spirituality’s place in an uncertain world. I think of comfort in times of discomfort.
I think I cried myself into an eye infection today. Well, not really, but I’m sure it didn’t help. It turns out that I’m developing a mild allergic reaction to contact lenses. I’ve been having troubles for the past couple of weeks and had already been into the eye doctor once. Today, before I left my home in California, I stopped by the doctor once more when my left eye would not settle down. He said my contact had a lot of build up on it. It was new. But like I said, I had a lot of emotion in me.
These are some weird times. They are good times, but weird times. I had this beautiful idea of just relaxing at home and leisurely finding a job after graduation. All of a sudden, I found one, right away, and it felt perfect. So, here I am now in Napa with my grandma, a five-hour drive away from home, preparing for my big July 29 journey east. By the time I find Internet to post this, I may already be on my way. It all feels so weird. That is truly the best word to describe it. Weird. I want this, I’m excited about this, but my heart is so tender with California love and loss that I cannot feel completely settled in it all. It’s my epic journey across the country to begin the next steps of my life. It’s the stuff they write melancholy country songs about.
For many years, my dad and I have joked about one of these very songs. It is the flawless combination of corny lyrics, religious references, true life, and country twang. We have relentlessly teased and acted out a particular verse in this song time and time again. In fact, it is why, despite not being a religious person, I have traveled with a Bible in my glove box since my freshman year of college. It was all part of this twisted, humorous, ongoing joke that we riffed on and secretly loved. However, today the laughs fell in tears.
Baby, don’t forget
Before you hit the highway
You better stop for gas
And there’s a fifty in the ashtray
In case you run short on cash
And here’s a map and here’s Bible
If you ever lose your way
Just one more thing before you leave
Don’t forget to remember me
By mid-afternoon, my little Chevy was loaded down heavy with the life I would bring with me across the country. We took it on a test drive to make sure the car could handle the load. I tried to straighten up the stuff I was leaving behind a bit. It was at that point where there wasn’t really much else to do except say goodbye. Yes, I’ve done it before. I left to go to college. I left to go to Greece. I left to go to New York, to Atlanta. I’ve left home before, but for some reason, this time it just felt different. It felt bigger. I showered my dog and cat with love, trying to take my mind off of what was coming next. My dad and I exchanged a little banter, but then I couldn’t hold it in anymore and 22 years of West Coast love began to fall from my eyes. The night before, my dad put a map of the United States in my glove box and a couple twenties in my Bible — you know, in case I run short on cash. He went to go tell me this, our veteran joke, but he couldn’t get it out. Neither of us could without getting a little choked up. I pulled out of the driveway and thought of the little things people hold onto for comfort in times of discomfort.
Next, I visited my mom. Once my emotions were on, I couldn’t easily turn them off, and so I entered through the door and immediately fell into a “please hold me” warm embrace. My mother makes the best potato salad this world has ever seen. That’s just the truth. Knowing my love for this dish, she made me some for my last lunch at home. I ate with her out in the garden under the warm sun and soaked in how much I love to listen to her talk about her plants. When we went back inside, she showed me the snacks she had prepared for me for the trip. They were delicately packed amongst fresh cut flowers in two handmade African baskets. Somehow, some way we managed to fit them in the high-capacity, artful packing job that was my backseat and trunk. Before I got in the car, my mom handed me one last thing and told me to keep it close to me up in the front of the car. It was a small, colorful, wooden figure of Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity and son of Shiva and Parvati in Hinduism. She explained that Ganesh was the remover of obstacles and would assure me a safe journey. I placed Ganesh in a compartment near my steering wheel and as I pulled out of the driveway, I thought of the little things we all hold onto for comfort in times of discomfort.
I reached the Alexander Valley early this evening, the last stretch of the drive before I reached my grandma’s house. The setting sun blushed against the valley’s hills and across its vast vineyards. For the millionth time, I fell in love with the Golden State. When I cross the border into Nevada tomorrow, the gold will turn to blue, but there will be so much adventure and good times ahead. I will be ok because I have a map, the Lord, and Ganesh on my side. If I ever lose my way, I’m sure those three can devise a route to get me back on track.