Thursday, October 25, 2007

Beneath the Surface

There's a secret menu at the In-N-Out Burger, the ubiquitous California fast-food chain. Andrew and I have been there a couple of times; and last time we noticed people eating things that we certainly hadn't seen on the very short menu board. I remembered reading somewhere about a secret menu--perhaps it was in a Calvin Trillin book, perhaps not--and a Google searched proved this to be true. There's a whole list of things you can order--provided you know enough to ask for them.

Obviously, we must now visit In-N-Out and use our new knowledge. But for me, there's more to it than this; my intrigue extends past the idea that I can have an interesting meal. Andrew and I have been to In-N-Out--yet we've been missing out on the "real" experience. A whole world of In-N-Out was there, right in front of us, yet we couldn't see it; we were outsiders, not privy to the larger joys, the greater satisfactions. As I read through the secret menu that Andrew had printed out, I thought--Could it be possible that California itself is like this? Are there hidden layers here that we just aren't seeing, hidden things to truly love? For the first time I thought--maybe. Maybe there are. Maybe we just haven't been looking in the right places.

To be certain, Citrus Heights is not the right place to look. Yesterday, at around 4:00pm, I found myself leaving the Sunrise Mall and walking across an empty parking lot in unnaturally bright sunlight. The noise from the traffic on Sunrise Avenue seemed dull and distant as I made my way across the wide expanse of concrete; no one else was in sight. I'd finished my work for the day and had walked to the mall to run some wedding errands, a legitimate excuse for the trip; yet I felt unmoored. Where am I? I thought suddenly. What is this place? Though there were plenty of cars on the busy road, I felt like I'd dropped off the face of the earth. The feeling of unreality was so strong, and the disjunct from the much richer, deeper worlds I know are out there--I've lived in them!--so intense, that I almost lost my footing.

This is technically our last week in suburbia--when we return from the honeymoon, we'll be moving to our lovely new apartment in Sacramento. I am genuinely looking forward to moving into our new home; even our brief visit was enough to make me certain that it holds the potential for just the kind of depth and reality that suburbia is lacking. The neighborhood is charming; there's an organic food co-op nearby; and there's not a mall in sight.

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