Cross Country

This week, I move from Brooklyn, New York to Portland, Oregon. At first, I processed the move as “across the country” in a vague sense. Later, I realized that I was moving almost exactly from coast to coast. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with a moving company and they were walking through a script that I learned that I will be moving about 2900 miles.

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I’ve actually made the coast-to-move before – in the summer of 2009, my family moved from Buffalo, NY to Berkeley, CA. My mom and brother flew there with our tranquilized cat in tow; my dad and I were tasked with getting the family car to our new home.

We took the I-80 almost the the entire way. We sped through familiar territory, at first echoing the Buffalo-Oberlin trip I’d memorized during my freshman year. Our first night was in Joliet, Illinois, next to a Bob Evans. The only vaguely watchable TV was Shark Week.

In Iowa, gliding over gloriously verdant rolling hills dotted with windmills, I had a strange moment of clarity. Miriam Fried was playing Bach sonatas and partitas and I had my favorite sunglasses on and, until my driving shift ended, everything was in a state of perfect peace.

Kearney, NB. We saw sod-roof houses and learned that it’s car-nee, not keer-nee, and I kept having not-quite-deja-vu thanks to my memories of Fort Kearney from the Oregon Trail computer game. We had finally started trading cornfields and hills for ranches and buttes.

Salt Lake City, UT. Everything was made of light granite and marble and it all was weirdly clean, but the air was filled with dust. Between the bad air and the hazy ring of mountains surrounding us, it reminded me of Mexico City. But with Mormons.

Reno, NV. I woke up from a nap to find us in the middle of dazzling salt flats, shining otherworldly white in the sun. An old-style racecar sped past us; later, two similar cars followed. It turned out that we were in town the same night as the annual classic car show. We walked through arches of mirrors and flashing lights. We ate dinner and I let a sugary Jarrito warm my throat and stomach as we watched vintage cars cruise by, covered in waving rockabillies.

The Sierra Nevadas were all that separated us from California. The air got so cold up there that it triggered the Low Tire Pressure Warning in the car. We stopped at Donner Pass; there were no reenactors. I took the wheel on the way down and had a slow, prolonged heart attack as I learned the subtleties of sharing a narrow, twisting, downhill mountain road with eighteen-wheelers.

That was the first time that I really saw California. I’d been to Los Angeles and San Francisco to visit family, but I knew nothing of the state itself. We fought and waited our way through traffic jams outside of Sacramento. We found the house that I’d only seen photos of, and this was my home.

From Bernal Hill, SF

This move will be a bit simpler. Tomorrow, I’m packing my stuff into a Portland-bound moving crate, and I’m flying out with my suitcases and trusty violin on Thursday.

On the other hand, this is the first time I’ve had to do a move of this complexity by myself. I’ve had a lot of emotional and moral support from others, which has been invaluable. But the act of moving itself takes an incredible amount of choreography.

Pack these boxes, but make sure they don’t take up more space than x by y by z feet. You can mail this ahead, but not that. You need to be at home between 10 and noon for this, and again from 2 to 4 for that. You should really bubble wrap that. You can donate your furniture, but place A doesn’t accept Ikea and place B doesn’t take mattresses, or even sleeper sofas.

I think it’s been working. I’ve been using to-do lists like my life depended on it, which in this case, it actually kind of does. I’ve been keeping better track of my receipts than biologists do of endangered species. I’ve learned to stop worrying and love the voicemail.

I’m also struck by how overwhelming moving is even though I’m childless, don’t have a ton of possessions, and am being reimbursed for a lot of my costs. Those first two items bring simplicity; the third brings peace of mind. In spite of this, I’ve been bubble wrapping, calculating rates, juggling calls, waiting, e-mailing, and folding for a week solid now and I’m very, very glad that it will be over soon.

From my last plane flight.

So see you on the other side! I’ve had some great times in NYC and I will always have those memories, but I’m excited to be moving forward (figuratively) with my life and moving (literally) to Portland.

And someday I’ll be back.


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