Hello, Suburbs (Los Angeles: Fall. Year 4)
Decisions were made. Be they partially out of fear or finally accepting the facts that are readily known, decisions were made. The last few strands of forever-young are lightly hanging onto the ideas of old, however, the gray hairs and weathered eyes clearly tell a different story in the making. Suburbia glows in the distant horizon. You, my friend, have crossed the line from the ‘fast-paced, 30-something, figured-it-all-out machismo’ (that the eternal children of Los Angeles looked up to – perhaps looked forward to accomplishing in some similar purposeful manner), to the silver-streaked realm of pot-bellies, can’t miss TV, and burnt sienna minivans. On weekends you’ll trim down the small plots of green that carpet the lanes of personalized castle and keep. The sidewalks are swept. Appearances are kept. Wouldja look at that… The Jones just bought a new Infinity. Shit, did I take the garbage to the curb? This, my dear sweet old friend, is your five to ten year plan.
You see, when you have a child things change. Life changes. Some of your priorities change and time is made for the things that really matter. Though the drive and the dreams never die, you make time to share those dreams with more than your significant other. You’ve got a Jedi in training and if you don’t spend time training that little Padawan – it will turn to the Dark Side. If you’re new to this game and have never seen a little Jedi without a nap, well, you still have a lot to learn, Jar Jar. When the news comes that you have yet another little Jedi bump on the way into this crazed galaxy… well, you have to fucking leave Tosche Station and go be a moisture farmer like every other grownup with little nerf herders in this goddamn desert. I miss having something green.
So, we moved to a rim planet named San Gabriel. I was against it all. I didn’t want to move out of the city. I’d spent plenty of time in the outlying areas. They seemed like nice places, but they weren’t for me. We were the hip parents, with the mid-city apartment and walkability. Sure, our 1920s apartment was a steam sauna with shitty electrical that would go out several times during the month of September and probably burn down the building and kill everyone in it when one of the wall unit air-conditioners decides to short out a plug and send the horsehair and plaster building aflame, but I digress. It was a good place when it wasn’t Summer or Spring. Winter was okay but for the most part it was Stanley Kubrick murder-hot. Therefore, my lovely pregnant bride went on an extremely depressing house hunting spree (that lasted 2 years – but we’re not doing math here). We looked far and wide. We searched mostly for a place that we could afford. I considered moving back to my old job in San Francisco – but the cost of living has grown so atrocious that I couldn’t get the money to work out. I’d considered Colorado, I’d considered Portland, Oregon. I began to take a good hard look in the mirror of mid-life crisis and realize that I may have to give up on my dreams and stomp what was left of my soul into a bloody sticky pulp.
Eventually, Christine found a place she liked. Again, I wasn’t sure. It seemed like I was giving up. It seemed like we’d be cut off from life, interests, friends, and the only things about southern California that I half-heartedly enjoyed. Decisions were made. If I’ve learned one thing in my 8 years of monogamy, you don’t argue with a pregnant woman (“Let the Wookie win”). Begrudgingly, it’s growing on me. Tonight, I finally figured out why. Tonight was one of the first times it felt like Fall. The day before, it had rained. The air was cool. The sky had turned gray and the last few twinges of fading light were being strangled to death by Daylight Savings Time. I was wearing a jacket and breathing in brisk clean air. It was a change that I needed but was painfully unaware of the problem. I needed something green – or gray and overcast and kind of depressing. It reminded me of the blurry years of Memphis and bad decisions. It reminded me of how I fell in love with life in San Francisco. It was just a short burst of nostalgia… and not 103º murder sweats.
You see, beyond our driveway too narrow for an SUV, hangs a gate. Beyond that gate is a garage. Beside that garage is the most beautiful little spot of land I’ve had the pleasure of renting. We pay $2600 a month for a small plot of green blades of grass, tightly woven together into pure childhood joy. It’s large enough to kick around a small soccer ball, lay on a blanket, host dinner parties and cookouts, tea-parties with my daughter, spin, tumble, play, and fall crashing down while singing about the Black Death (children’s nursery rhymes are unexpectedly terrifying). Although California may be in a deadly drought, these outlying suburban communities are still watering the shit out of their lawns. The streets have lush trees – perhaps soaking in some of that lawn runoff. I can see the mountains in the distance. There’s a breeze. I run every other day. There is green… and for once it’s not 98 fucking degrees inside of my home.
Sure, the neighborhood doesn’t have as much walkability – say, a bar I can occasionally frequent and be able to stumble home without the fear of being stabbed. Maybe I drink at home too much. Maybe. This carved little middle-aged community is not my beloved Pacifica or the urban beauty of all that is San Francisco, but it is a stark difference from the crumbling four-plex sweatbox in which we had been silently plotting each other’s deaths. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Add the fact that you can’t turn down the heat because your two-bedroom one bath convection oven has been slowly cooking your brain inside your porcelain skull – and it doesn’t take much to go full blown REDRUM, Mrs. Torrence.
I’ll keep chasing dreams. I’ll make new dreams and perhaps make this move to the 40-something suburban horizon a small block in the foundation of that new-dream vision. Maybe I’ll buy a DeLorean or god forbid another camera. I’ll work on carving out a space to keep in shape amidst all of the plastic bins and clutter that the heart cannot purge from storage. Maybe my neighbors won’t pitch too much of a fit if I put my drum kit back together and occasionally purr away percussion soundscapes. Maybe I’ll find some further throes of success before I hit the 40,000 mile marker and maybe, just maybe not have to worry so much about how we’re going to pay the significant raise in rent (because even the outlying suburbs aren’t cheap). Maybe. Maybe.
For now, my cancerous fear of having to sacrifice my dreams has been stymied, if only until my son is born and brought into this terrifying election year. It’s good to be in a house again and I suppose we’ll be here for a while. Unless this racist, gerrymandered, corporate slave-of a country elects a Republican to be President of the United States… If that happens, I will be promptly moving to any other civilized country until this place can screw its head on straight and stop acting like a brainwashed cult-child.