Monday, March 31, 2014

Strange Days Have Found Us in the San Fernando Valley

Cafe Donuts, The Valley, California

We landed in California last Tuesday with bittersweetness and relief. The three-plane trek to come home crossing an ocean for over fifteen hours after three weeks of news splaying Missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 all over the front pages did not make for an easy journey. We were sleep deprived, dehydrated and completely upside down. No cell phone service, no American coins to make a payphone call, just a limited free wifi signal where we tried to use Facebook messenger to get in touch with my future sister-in-law to pick us up.

Preparing for Engagement Party with Bride-to-Be!

We met up with my brother and my Dad and went out to Bob's Big Boy to eat hamburgers and drink root beer. I ran into an old friend from high school who had gone around the world the opposite way we did it. She looked at me and said, "Fucking awesome." And for a moment we both wore our miles like badges of honor, inductees to a club with one direction- whatever the "other" is.

We then headed to the grocery store where I ran into an old teammate that I had not seen in many, many years. She introduced me to her seven year old and all I could manage to acknowledge was how tall she was which was probably another way of me trying to believe that in seven years she created and was raising children while I was not. I was in flip flops and a tee shirt and suddenly became very aware of it. I twiddled with a necklace and hoped I made sense with the heaviness of jetlag pushing complete thoughts further and further away from each other.

The 101 Freeway, Northbound

After lots of catching up with family and chit chat with old friends I played soccer with, I found myself alone in a grocery aisle with the small task of choosing a bread for a sandwich I would eventually make. For the life of me, I couldn't even think of what I would have in this sandwich. But first things first: the bread. I felt like a character out of a Hunter Thompson novel. Organic, seven grain, white, wheat, spelt, sourdough, pumpernickel and many more all blinked their googly eyes back at me as I tried to figure out what the hell was the difference in any of them. I couldn't remember what kind of bread I used to like. I put out my hand and just grabbed a bag, still not knowing what kind of bread it is and we are down to the last four slices.

At the deli, my dad asked me what I wanted in my sandwich and I couldn't think of that core "thing." The adjective/noun before the word "sandwich." He suggested turkey. Of course! Turkey! He then asked if I wanted cracked pepper, oven gold, mesquite. I asked him to choose and I decided I would find mustard. I turned to corner and instead found three shelves of pickles. Pickles, pickles, pickles, pickles....Isn't it all the same thing?

Popped and unpopped, microwaveable

So many options, choices and most of them seemed so ridiculously unnecessary. But I suppose this is freedom. The paradox of choice. But after 8 months of travel, these choices left me paralyzed, undeniably dumbstruck, abandoned in a grocery store aisle with a bag of bread and a brain trying to make sense of three shelves worth of pickles. My dad coached us through the grocery store with simple questions and suggestions. Chips?

"Organic" strawberries

We hit the produce section and I felt like I'd never seen such good-looking fruit. My dad asked the young man stocking the produce which batch of strawberries was organic. He pointed to the strawberries on the left which looked exactly like the strawberries on the right and all I could think was Organic does not look like this. We still have yet to crack into them and the strawberries are still plump, bright red, without the slightest hint of spoil. I thought of Vietnam, Monsanto, Dow Chemical...adjusting has been weird to say the least.

I threw myself into my brother's engagement party, a welcomed focus. An anchor in my very fragmented mind right now. I can do flowers. And I can do wedding.

I signed up for a free week of heated yoga classes and felt myself sobbing in one, on the verge of puking in another, and towing the line between both feelings in the next two.The heated yoga is a bit punishing and at the same time so purging and releasing that it has become the one thing I can actually focus on here without feeling like I'm completely spinning.

Untethered. Unsure. Buttered microwave popcorn and high heels and toasts. Freeways and sitcoms and pickles. I look forward to the tap water only to be reminded that I can have even better water, cold, filtered water, if I open the refrigerator. Running into old teammates and shaking off anxiety as I get behind the wheel of a car and hugging family that it is so, so good to see. Babies and beers. Cable and couches. Yoga and yogurt. The valley I grew up in, the valley I know so inside and out is foreign right now and yet is beautiful in the strangest of ways.

So many more posts to write, but I have to write this one now, because I know one day the spinning will stop and while I'll be relieved, I will miss it and all of this strangeness so dearly.

 

The Valley at Dusk

 

3 comments:

Carmen said...

welcome home

Anonymous said...

freedom was the word you were looking for... a freedom sandwich. welcome home.

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