10 months ago…
Places can wear you down over time, and that’s how we’d grown to feel about Philly toward the end. California was, at first, a much-needed mental reset button for us.
The first time I can recall being sold the California dream was when I saw the 1997 hit(?) animated film Cats Don’t Dance. In the film, protagonist Danny (a cat, obvs) makes it to California and shares his “I want” dreams and how Hollywood is going to make them come true:
The streets are paved with gold! Who wouldn’t want that?
For the first few weeks, it was just me and Ripley, as Lance was off galavanting in Las Vegas, flying to Tulsa to see Dolly Parton, and heading back to Philadelphia one last time for his brother’s wedding.
Our apartment complex in California sat at the base of a hill, and every few nights, Rip and I would head to the park at the top, which overlooked downtown Riverside, CA, and the surrounding Inland Empire. When the smog was clear, you could see for miles and miles.
My mind was clearer, too, with a new job and a new place, where things were so quiet! I could take a book (The Charm School, which I still haven’t finished) and a glass of wine out onto the balcony and just relax, which it felt like I hadn’t done in years.
Lance and I were excited. Seemingly well-positioned, an hour drive from LA, the beaches of Orange County in one direction and Palm Springs in the other, we were itching to explore a locale so much different than what we grew up with and were used to. On weekends, we’d drive to Disneyland or Laguna Beach, go to a film festival in downtown Los Angeles or visit the Santa Monica Pier. We’d hike Mount Rubidoux or head up to Big Bear.
It was the promise of new possibilities, new opportunities, new stuff to discover (new favorite restaurants! New favorite malls and drives and beach towns!) that energized us in those first few weeks. They comprised, I suppose, our Californian Golden Age; we were rich in hope if not in money, when everything was in front of us and for the taking. And that feeling? It’s exhilarating–terrifying, yes, and daunting, but those new possibilities are what we moved for in the first place, and it’s something I think so many people should try. Shake things up and make yourself do new things.
Still…there were imperfections from the beginning, cracks that seemed manageable at first but slowly opened up into crevasses we couldn’t avoid. Lance and I took a risk by moving to California, and as thrilling as it all was, not everything was working out the way we’d hoped.
Next: The Darkest Timeline