Sometimes hard days are eased by dreaming of the future.
Someday I’m going to take the love of my life on a road trip up the West Coast. A proper road trip, finally do it right.
We’ll start somewhere far away. I’ll start the trip by planting a seed in her mind. “Do you ever want to visit the West Coast of America? See all the places you’ve only seen in movies? These are the places I lived and loved… the part of the country that’s worth loving.”
Maybe we’ll start the actual trip in Texas. See my family, whoever’s still living there. See my old friends, eat some barbecue. She’ll experience that most truly American thing: to look at the sunset, to dream of going west, to dream of what’s over the western horizon.
We’ll drive through the desert to Los Angeles. We won’t stop for a damned thing but the gas to keep us going.
We’ll start with LA because it’s big enough to see twice. The first time we’ll just take in the bigness of it all, the endlessness, the traffic. We’ll drive right up to the ocean and watch the sunset, first of many.
In a pinch we’ll take a detour to San Diego. I’ve still never been. We’ll see Legoland, and split right afterwards.
We’ll give LA more attention the second time. If my friends still live there, we’ll eat with them in Koreatown. Walk with them on the beach. Hang out with them in shabby bowling alleys in Gardena. Play like we’re living the Big Lebowski, before a quick tour of Hollywood and a long drive north. As we drive away, she’ll tell me those are good friends, that I’m lucky to have them.
In Silicon Valley I’ll show her all the little places I used to care about so much. My marshland, outside the NASA buildings. The little cliffside in Santa Cruz. The hill above 280 near Cupertino. Maybe I’ll still have some friends at Google; we can play on the statues of dead Androids and take pictures. Play a little piano near where I used to work. Sit on the hill looking down at all the offices, marveling that these buildings damn near run the world (if they still do).
We’ll spend a day or two touring San Francisco. Have dinner with an old friend or two. See the Bay Model, see Muir Woods. We’ll climb to the top of Mission Peak and howl at the moon. I’ll show her where I accidentally threw a tennis ball down the mountain.
Of course we’ll stop at the tennis courts and juggle. She’ll tell my old friends she’s heard so much about them.
From here we won’t head north, but east. We’ll go to Yosemite, and she’ll see what a holy place this sad country can be. How good it looks in the right light. I’ll still have never conquered El Capitan. She’ll tell me we need to do it, tell me it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. She’ll help me to climb the mountain.
We’ll think about driving east to Mono Lake, to Nevada. But we won’t go there. Fuck Nevada.
Instead we’ll drive north to Tahoe. I’ll tell her about the time my father saved me from despair, how we found the snow. We’ll look for the snow. Maybe we’ll find it, maybe not.
We’ll drive back west, then north into Oregon. We’ll finally take the time to see Crater Lake, after I tell her I’ve skipped it on every drive I’ve ever made through there. Maybe she’ll say it’s prettier than Tahoe, maybe not.
We’ll stop in Sisters. I hope my cousins still live there. We’ll hug my uncle. I’ll show her where my aunt’s ashes are scattered on Whychus Creek. We’ll have a picnic in the field under the soft sun in view of the snow capped Three Sisters. We’ll see Three Creeks, hike up Broken Top with my uncle. It’ll be a quiet, thoughtful hike.
We’ll head north, and again she’ll tell me I’m lucky to have such good people in my life. If it’s sunny in Portland, we’ll stop at the waterfront park. If not, we’ll drive right on through.
We’ll spend the longest in Seattle. Before we even get there, I’ll stop in Tacoma to show her where I grew up. I’ll show her what Mount Rainier looked like to a child, and why it has never, ever left my mind. I don’t care if it takes a week for the damned thing to pop out from behind clouds. We’ll wait. We’ll see it. Then we’ll drive to it, then hike right halfway up the side of it. I’ll tell her about the old time, the last time I did that. It will be hard, but I’ll tell it.
I can’t begin to tell you all the things we’ll see in Seattle. I guarantee it will be sunny, because I’ll time it right, and the city loves me when I come to visit. I’ll show her where my life was going, how it broke, where it went instead. She’ll remind me where it is, that very day, and where it’s going thereafter. We’ll talk on ferries, in parks, on little winding roads, in little restaurants and coffee houses, in friends’ apartments, in kayaks, on red swings, on benches looking at the setting sun over the Olympics. We’ll play foosball and take bike rides with very old friends, and as we leave, for the third time she will tell me I’m lucky to have the friends I have. Three is a good number.
Finally, only and finally we will reach the heart of the trip. We will drive north to Vancouver. I will show her how a city can be perfect. We will walk its every path and perimeter. We will get lost in the park. We will thrill to see the whole city beneath us as we snowboard down great mountain slopes. We will ache as we look north at the mountains, filled with the same longing we had when we looked west in the beginning. Only now we will know that our time here is drawing to a close, that we cannot go farther north. The great country to the north is a mystery and will remain so, for now. To know this feeling is to know America, to know the West Coast. She will know the West Coast, and I will remember it.
With melancholy hearts and strong spirits, we will return to the place we live, to Far Away, and dream of the future.