California, Here I Come

At 2:30 today, I leave for California for a week, ripping myself away from my quickly-developing gorgeous child without whose daily attempts to bite my nose off and to ravage her stuffed sheep Lela and newfound ability to butterfly wave with her catterpillar hands I’m not entirely sure I can sustain a worthwhile existence. Here are some of my concerns:

  • Lennie will forget who I am or decide she doesn’t like me when I return. I know this is a stupid worry because a friend had to be out of town for two months with only a couple of visits home and his daughter, roughly the same age at the time that Lennie is now (a little younger) remembered him and was thrilled when he returned, etc. Still, I worry.
  • Hayseed non-travelled bumpkin that I am, I will be overwhelmed at the airport and will:
    • miss my connecting flight.
    • be taken advantage of by some greasy city slicker.
    • get lost.
    • have my luggage lost.
    • catch some horrible disease from the dandruff blowing like snow off a cab-driver’s seat as he drives me from San Francisco to Mountain Valley.
    • do something stupid like put my laptop somewhere where it gets magnetized and formatted or leaving it out on the airplane wing while I bend over to tie my shoe, where it goes rattling off to its destruction upon takeoff.
    • be subjected to a body cavity search because I’m a scruffy sort of burly male with a goattee and long, pointy and quite possibly sinister (but for the fact that they’re red/blonde) eyebrows travelling alone.
    • have a heart attack at the daunting prospect of managing all these really quite mundane but for non-adventurous homebody me utterly terrifying experiences on my own.
    • be laughed at by hookers and whinos for reasons I don’t understand but that really bother me for reasons I can vaguely grasp but can’t quite articulate, their being hookers and whinos and so who cares whether or not they laugh at me, but the fact that they’re hookers and whinos making their laughter all the more insulting and painful, though of course I don’t mean to belittle hookers and whinos, who mostly are in these horrible circumstances for reasons they’d undo if they could, which of course is why they’re inclined to laugh at bumpkins weeping fetally in the corner of an airplane terminal because their luggage has been lost and by gosh they just want their mommies or their wives or maybe some better-travelled friend to be there to tell them where to go and which line to stand in and to help hail a non-dandruffy taxi while telling jokes and pointing out neat bits of local color and generally putting them at non-fetal ease even though they’re way across the country, having never been further west than Houston, away from their caterpillar babies and comforting wives (or, if their wives are the ones directing and comforting and local-color-regaling them, their good friends).
  • Overwhelmed by the various airport debacles and generally terrified at the prospect of trying out new experiences on my own, I’ll spend the whole time I’m out there sitting depressed in my hotel room, afraid to venture out to see the bridge or the City Lights bookstore or all the weird cool people, much as I sat depressed and lonely and feeling really bad about myself one summer during high school at an athletic trainer’s camp I went to over a weekend, unable to venture out or to meet people unless it was absolutely required and supervised lest the icy hands of fear and social anxiety and something akin to but not in any way actually agoraphobia kneaded my heart and my guts and helped to shape the timid, trembling little traveller rabbit I’ve become today.
  • Because I’m so weird about trying new experiences, I’ll be viewed as strange and weak by those around me both on the trip and back at home and will be quietly and politely pitied.
  • I’ll get lost. This is inevitable, and I might as well prepare for it. As a result of my getting lost and being too embarrassed and frightened to ask anybody for help lest they think me a bumpkin and pity me, I’ll find an overpass and go to live there wrapped in newspapers and sheltered from the wind by a refrigerator box pretty much abandoned by a fellow overpass-dweller who does not sound well at all, but it’s a dog-eat-dog world, so finders keepers. In maybe twenty years, embittered by the loss of my by comparison pastoral life back in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains with the loss of my caterpillar daughter and the disappointment and sadness inflicted on M by my being incompetent to navigate my way back home, with a beard down to my belly button and straw in my hair and muttering gibberish and swatting at things no one else can see, I’ll find myself arm in arm with hookers and other whinos pointing and laughing at some new pathetic rube come down to our little hell on earth with his furrowed pointy brows and jeans tattered from getting caught on a loose piece of metal in a bathroom stall and a look of worry and a sort of inner hatred and utter, utter desolation that, twenty years past, was very familiar but that now is simply a little vignette of pain of the type that it is my only solace to make light of.

But it’s not all bad. If I can get around some of these concerns, there’s much to look forward to. I’ll be in meetings with some very competent and bright people hashing out things that we hope will make browsing the Web better for everybody. I’ll get to say I’ve been to the other side of the country, and if I’m lucky, I will get to see the bridge (here’s hoping I don’t soon find myself living under it) and the bookstore and the weird cool people. I’m really very much looking forward to it, but my eagerness is tempered by or more like surrounded by and buried in a dread that makes my chest and stomach feel acidic and weak and my heart beat faster and harder.

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