Monday, September 08, 2008

Making It Home

This weekend, Andrew and I went to San Francisco overnight, which is one of my very favorite things to do. We drove down Saturday morning and headed immediately to the de Young museum to see an exhibition of works by Dale Chihuly, glass-blower and sculptor extraordinaire. It was an amazing show—I especially loved his Ikebana series, not least because I’ve got Japan on the brain lately, what with our swiftly approaching trip. Chihuly makes glass look as fluid and malleable as clay, though the documentary being screened at the end of the exhibition revealed the work to be less delicate and more physically arduous than one might expect. It took two men (in full-body, heat-resistant garb that looked like silver beekeeping suits) to lift some of the larger spheres. I’ve definitely been inspired—though setting up a glass-blowing studio might be a bit difficult in our apartment, what with the need for a large, white-hot oven and all.

The exhibition was one of two reasons we had for visiting SF this weekend, the second being a Pirates/Giants game on Sunday with Beth and Nate and the babies. (They’re always an inspiration to us—they make it look downright easy to take a weekend trip with two one-year-olds.) We had dinner in the city; and once the babies and their parents headed off to bed, Andrew and I had a drink at the bar on the top floor of our hotel, overlooking the sparkling city. Long days spent in Sacramento sometimes make me forget how different a city makes me feel—and being back in one is like waking up from a nap. A bit startling, but then the realization—hey, I’m back in the world! I don't know if it's the comfortable familiarity of being surrounded by towering buildings and crowds, or the comforting certainty of being surrounded by like-minded people in a time when the entire country seems to have gone off its rocker, but it was definitely nice to be back in a big city.

The game on Sunday didn’t end well for the Pirates, but I’ll never, ever complain about sitting outside for a few hours and not turning into a rotisserie chicken.

Sunday afternoon proved to be an "adventure" for me: Andrew had to fly from SF to NYC for a business trip, so getting back to Sacramento was up to me. The challenge was two-fold: first, take the BART to Walnut Creek, where we’d parked the car; then drive home to Sacramento from there. Andrew wrote out directions for me, he went with me to the BART station to make sure I got on the right train, and we reviewed the directions up to the moment I left. I made it home without incident, surprising both of us. "Oh, thank goodness," Andrew said from the airport when I called to report I had made it to the apartment.

I recount this unexciting story because it is ridiculous. SF is one and a half hours away from Sacramento. I had to get on one and only one train. All the road signs are, obviously, in English. So why, why, was this such a challenge for me, such a white-knuckled journey? It’s mystifying, and frustrating. I've navigated the often unwieldy NYC subway on a daily basis! I've traveled to pretty far-flung places by myself—Iceland! Poland! Ireland! Scotland! I've made my way from NYC to Iceland despite a cancelled flight and an unexpected rerouting through London. I've forewent the easy tour-bus way of getting to Polish tourist attractions and braved Polish public buses, where not one sign was in English, let alone a familiar alphabet. I've made my way from Galway to Edinburgh to Barcelona without a hitch, using a staggering array of trains and buses and single-leg flights. I've voluntarily stranded myself overnight in Amsterdam and managed to get home in one piece.

So why on earth can’t I make an easy drive, straight down one highway, in my own car? It’s like the independent traveler and adventurer in me decided to skip town once I hit California soil. Maybe it’s because I got married, and now happily yield the driving and navigation tasks to Andrew. Maybe it’s because I went for eight years without driving regularly, though now that we’ve been here a year, that excuse is becoming a bit flimsy. Maybe my resistance to living in CA is carrying over into other areas as well. Who knows? What I do know is that I am ready for a journey like this to stop seeming like such an accomplishment. I’ve done far more difficult things in my life. Managing to stay on one highway and make it to my front door without calling Andrew in tears from a gas station is not one of them.

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