Schmuck. I didn't move to Seattle from Boulder. I moved here from Reserve, New Mexico. Or at least that was the nearest town. I moved here from The Retreat, rural property owned by TH and his community. So I'll start with the story of how I got there. Let's see, "We left our antihero…" nah, that's too cool and sexy. Schmuck is more like it. OK:
Unkillable: When we last heard from our schmuck, he was living in Salida and commuting into Boulder. Things were going well for him. There were a lot of things he liked about that arrangement. He felt like his life was beginning to make sense for the first time in twelve years. But that came to a screeching halt when from out of nowhere it was announced that the Salida property was to be sold, and the five word processors were to move to The Retreat in New Mexico. This did not sit well with our chump; he had a bad feeling about it all. But he knew it was a gorgeous place with a much warmer climate, and that part was appealing. So he packed up his relatively few possessions and climbed on the caravan heading south. And it did go well. The canyon country was even more lovely than he remembered, and there was amazing trail running, his favorite thing to do. But things soon took a turn for the worst for our schlimazel. He found himself in the worst possible community meeting, one that never ended, but odiously propagated itself from one night to the next, an unkillable horror.
Unmasking. His misery and repugnance grew so great that he took off his mask. He only pretended to be TH's student. He came to Boulder to train as a healer. That became a spiritual community. That became a cult of running. He never was TH's student except in Tallahassee, but he pretended to be because he saw the value in being there. There was no better place to go. He came to the odious meeting one last time to unmask himself, then he turned and went back to his room to get some sleep. The meeting from hell had restricted sleep to an hour or two, sometimes none, part of the effort to break people so they could be reformed in TH's image.
Civilization. It would be several days before he could get a lift to Socorro, the nearest place where he could catch a bus headed back north to civilization. He He had no car, the fool. Well, it was practical. His little Civic would've drowned. The road to The Retreat fords a river. He'd been pressured into lending his car to a more faithful student. He had to go to Boulder to reclaim it. He was cool with that; it felt absolutely wonderful to have that fucking mask off at last.
Love is not an ingredient. In the meantime he cooked his own meals using the ingredients at hand; it was a relief to cook food the way he liked it. Yes, the meals he cooked were maybe not quite so clean and healthy, but they were meals he loved, and love is an important ingredient, one that had long been lacking in his diet.
His ride to Socorro finally materialized, and our schmuck headed out across the Plains of San Agustín, past the Very Large Array, on his way to freedom. They dropped him at the Socorro Greyhound Station, and—hey, wait a minute… Yes, here I am in first person!
I took the bus to Albuquerque, where I'd arranged to be met at the station by a friend who left The Community some years earlier. I stayed a few days with her and her husband. Then I got back on the bus and went to Boulder.
Where to? My car secured and possessions sorted out, I could no longer avoid the question: where to mister? It was May of 1991. I decided to go on a big ol' road trip to consider my options, visiting possible places to live.
Heading out. I drove from Boulder to LA. I already had a leaning toward Seattle, but wanted to look at other possibilities. Moving to a town where I knew no one was intimidating. I headed for places where good friends lived: Pacific Beach and Seattle on the coast, plus Austin.
Cultures. I had stopped in Albuquerque was to consider settling there. Ever since I moved to from Tallahassee to Boulder I'd had a crush on northern New Mexico. I loved the food, the high desert landscape, and the clash of ancient cultures, from the Anasazi on down.
I talked it over with my friend and her husband. The crush was still very much alive, and would linger for decades. But the very clash of cultures I loved made it a terrible choice. The Native, Hispanic, and Anglo communities are all insular. People who moved there decades ago are still newcomers. They're cultures you had to be born into. Moving there would be like moving into exile. I thought it might be different in Albuquerque, but no.
Pacific Beach was where Jane lived with her daughter. I met Jane in the Boulder community, and we became lovers. Making love with Jane was a revelation. I thought I'd known hot before, but I had been mistaken. Our lovemaking shook me to my bones. Jane was already lovers with another guy in The Community so I was in a poly relationship with her despite all my reservations. This was after Doña. I knew the other guy and liked him a lot so that helped. But mostly is was just how intensely hot she was. She fit none of my models. She had congenital problems that left her legally blind with a deformed face. She wasn't gorgeous, she didn't have big boobs, she just didn't fit. But she was so intensely alive. She made me realize that most of the people in The Community were not. She made me ache with desire. When we made love it was explosive, for both of us. She left Boulder not long before I did, and I still had a big Jane jones. I hoped we could pick up where we left off. But once I was there it was clear that would not happen. I didn't fit into Jane and her daughter's new life.
Coast. My plan was to stay on the coast, take my time, enjoy the ride. I drove the whole way on US 101 and Califorina Route 1. The west coast was gorgeous, but didn't seem like a place to live. More like a national park. Arcata was alluring, Eureka to a lesser degree, but they felt atavistic. I was ready to move out of the past. I fell in love with the Washington coast when I saw it in 1988. I hiked to Cape Flattery. I never saw a wilderness coast before. It was better than anything I could imagine. That day I saw a puffin. It was a talisman. The spirit of the wild coast. I didn't know a puffin was a rare sight; haven't seen one since. I camped on the beach at La Push. You could camp for free. You could build a big bonfire. Nobody cared. I hiked on Second and Third Beaches and both boardwalks at Ozette. Then I drove down the coast, hiking in the Hoh Rainforest, at Ruby Beach, and Kalaloch. I was looking forward to seeing all that in the opposite direction on my way to Seattle.
When I left Seattle for Austin my goal was to take my time, travel a scenic route, and see the country. I headed up US 2 and drove across the coulees and wheat fields. Then I took I-90 to Missoula. I turned south on US 93 then forked back west through the Sawtooth National Forest. This country was all new to me, and I was reveling in it. It was easy to find camping spots along the way. I checked out Craters of the Moon then took 26 to 93 down into Nevada. I headed east into Utah to see the Great Salt Lake, driving by the Bonneville Salt Flats. I was a tiny dot in a vast landscape, just drifting along. I got to drifting about 80, and it took a Tooele Highway Patrolman to slow me down.
I stayed on I-80 through Wyoming and into Nebraska, then turned south through Kansas and Oklahoma, into Texas. I was tired of being out on the road and wanted to see my friend. I skirted Dallas and was glad to be out of my car for a few days in Austin. We ate some great Tex-Mex. She introduced me to migas, a breakfast treat I made for for decades. But being in Austin made me realize I wanted nothing to do with the south. My destiny waited in Seattle.
No ringing. I was two days' drive from Suwannee Riverhaven. I wanted to see Gail. I also wanted to drive across my home state Louisiana to see if it rang any bells. I stayed in a motel in Lake Charles Louisiana.
No more easy camping spots and too buggy. I'd been away too long. I'd forgot some of the realities of southern life. Before I checked out I went outside to meditate. It was early, still cool. I found a spot and sat down. I felt something tickling my leg and looked down. Both my legs were swarmed with fire ants. I jumped up, swatting myself furiously. Not a single sting. No meditation that morning.
The visit at Riverhaven was sweet, but I was ready to settle down. I took the shortest route back to Seattle. I put over 9,000 miles on my little Civic that summer, but I made it home to my new forever home, crashing temporarily at Keith's house.