thirteen steps from the door to the street; two hour flight from portland, oregon to las vegas, nevada; a three day car trip to huntsville, alabama, the city in which i was born; a two hour drive to birmingham, alabama; and finally a six hour flight from birmingham back to portland. when about to embark on such an extreme journey, from the west coast to the heart of dixie, when you find yourself faced with the deep expanses of the continental divide, you truly understand exactly how far you live from the place you were born and grew up. and i have to wonder, was i running from something? why do i live so far from the people i love?
i arrived in portland, oregon on october 3rd, 2008, the night of the vice presidental debates four years ago. i have lived in that pacific northwest city now for four years. i’ve traveled back to alabama, too; i’ve visited my family there several times over the years, making the six hour flight there and back with lay overs in houston, and dallas, and phoenix. but this is different. this trip does not following the expedient logic of flights to atlanta or birmingham and home.
the plane takes off from portland, the sun setting in the west over the hills, the bright light at the end of the day and the end of the continent striking in through the oval windows of the plane. dots and saucers of white appear on the opposite wall of the cabin as we begin to lift off; ufo’s psinning and bouncing above the head of the other passangers. out the window to my left we rise up and i observe the inter-costal mountains far to the end of the willamette valley, the river directly beneath us. we fly north then turn east and i see mount st. helen, brown and rounded, exploded, and another whiter volcano past that. mount jefferson perhaps?
we fly over mount hood: dull, forest green half way up the slopes then brown to the peak with only patches of shiny glacial white now on this summer day. on a clear afternoon like this, i would have seen from the west side of portland mount hood floating over the east half of the city, a hazy mirage in the distance, a promise of warm, dry weather. i’m leaving portland during at the very end of the season, with one more week of clear, beautiful weather promised to the northwest.
let me try to explain why i’m on a flight to las vegas. it’s a little confusing. my cousin recently found a job in wyoming. he’s moving from atlanta to jackson hole, and has driven his father’s car with all his belonging from the southeast to central northern united states. i was six when my uncle moved to japan. he has a wife and children there, and though they do not have any immediate plans to move to the states, he bought a car here last year that he keeps in alabama for the trips that his family makes every year or so from japan. my cousin has driven his father’s car from wyoming to las vegas where my uncle and i are meeting him. my cousin will then drive back north and my uncle and i will drive his car back to alabama. make sense yet?
in short, my uncle needs someone to drive with him from the southwest back to alabama. i have a lot of vacation time accrued, no other plans, and a constant desire to see more of the country. so i said, sure, why not? drive from last vegas all the way across the southwest through texas and most of the southeast to alabama. i’ll get to see the country and my family back in alabama.
today i found myself nervous. i did not understand why i am making this very, very, very long trip; why am i driving across the united states. i did not want to fly. i did not want to spend two days in las vegas. my cat is sick and just wants to lay around with me, and i just wanted to lay around in bed, watch cartoons and read. i just wanted to stay home. it was too late. the southeast calls to me. in other words, the plane tickets had already been purchased.
i’ve never seen the hoover dam. i’ve never seen the grand canyon. i’ve never traveled across the southwest united states. and i constantly miss my family. i love madre. my sister and i are closer than any other pair of beings living on opposite sides of a continent. my father loves me greatly and wants to make the drive from atlanta, georgia to alabama to see me while i am in the region.
i’m repeating this litany because really, if i love my family so much, why did i move so far away from them? while i find my family integral to my identity and personality, i found myself thinking today that perhaps i needed to be away from them. if i say that i loved birmingham for so many reasons, i still found it imperative to move. today i started to worry that in moving away from alabama i really just attempted to move away from all the problems i had there.
these worries seem unfounded. i did inheret a constant anxiety from my parents if no other personality trait, but if there’s one thing i’ve learned from my time with friends it’s that sometimes you have to take the leap, let whatever happens happen, and wake up the next morning to say, “that was interesting” or “that was that.”
just like i expect to say, “well, that was las vegas.”