One Year Ago Today

We actually have a home in North Carolina!

When we left California, our loan had not yet closed and being between holidays meant that it was impossible to even give an exact date when our new home would be registered in our names – something they do in NC but not in CA. We did not have keys, we did not know the exact day when we would have keys and we wouldn’t have even been able to find our way back to the house without a map app. But we were on the road and knew that if we just kept going, eventually we would have a home to go to.

As we entered North Carolina from Tennessee on December 29, 2020, we got a call from our real estate agent that everything was done and she had our keys in her hand. We made arrangements to meet her at a QuikStop (even though we had no idea what a QuikStop was, it’s a gas station/mini-mart btw). Four hours later we drove into our new town and stopped off at a supermarket and a pizza place. We got groceries to last us a few days and a pizza as our inaugural meal. Ten minutes later we drove into the driveway of our new home. Keys in hand we moved everyone into a room where we could close the doors so that we wouldn’t lose a cat to hiding and settled in for the night.

It is hard to believe that one whole year has passed since that day! Some days, it feels like we have been here for a very long time but most days it feels like we just got here. So much is different in our lives and North Carolina is an entirely different experience from a lifetime in California. I’m not going to go into all the political issues but suffice it to say that life in Los Angeles is not what it once was. I’m often asked if I miss California and I do but I’ve been missing California for a long, long time. I miss what LA used to be, I miss the California that was my home a decade ago. Change is inevitable but we should all strive for change that is positive and the changes that have been happening in LA are mostly positively awful.

Instead of bashing Cali though, I’d rather focus on what drew us to the Carolinas. North Carolina is known for its incredible beauty, it is covered in lush trees and gorgeous farmland. We’ve got big cities and Charlotte is growing by leaps and bounds. Charlotte is a beautiful traffic free 45 minute drive from us and when we need city-things, a fancy mall, big box stores, etc we head out there but we are also a drive away from Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham and our state’s capital, Raleigh (which we now pronounce correctly, thank you North Carolinians for the pronunciation lessons). In four hours we can be on the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean and in less than three hours we can be up in the ski slopes of the mountains or driving the Blue Ridge Parkway and off to the Great Smoky Mountains. Closer to us are numerous lakes and rivers, a national forest, and Morrow Mountain. Door to door, I can be mountain biking deep in the forest or on a paddle board on a lake in fifteen minutes. I couldn’t get out of my driveway in 15 minutes in Los Angeles. Okay, okay, no more bashing. But seriously, I’m not kidding. The four season are amazing yet mild. Just this week we had bright sunny days in the seventies and it was wonderful to wear shorts in December in North Carolina! Our town is small but lovely, we have all the stores, restaurants, and activities we could want, especially things that get us out of doors!

Life is very different as it has slowed to an extremely pleasant rate. It’s easier to enjoy the moment and the small things in life when they aren’t flying by you from behind a closed car window or from a cubicle in a high rise. Each leaf off a maple tree is a treasure and each deer in the backyard is a special treat. Coffee on the porch is a daily ritual as is a walk around the neighborhood before supper. Politeness says that we now wave to everyone we see and stop to say hey y’all, how ya doin? Strangers are friends, neighborhoods are communities, and this change is a glorious adventure here in our new home, North Carolina.

Waiting for Fred to Poop

An Exodus from California to North Carolina

Our trip from Los Angeles, California to Albemarle, North Carolina was a long one. Amazingly enough, it’s pretty much a straight line across this enormous country of ours and the changes from state to state are truly amazing. If you’ve never gone on a long road trip, I highly recommend it. It’s really cool to see how environments change from place to place, deserts, mountains, forests, plains, it is quite something. In a pick-up truck with your most valuable belongings that you don’t trust to the moving truck, a dog, and two cats is not something I will recommend though. It’s rather nerve wracking to tell the truth and doing it in the dead of winter is also not the best laid plan. The safety of our much loved pets was really important to both of us, if any of them had gotten loose and out of the truck on the road, I would have had to be sedated right there and then, that’s for sure. The cats road mostly in a large dog crate and Fred had a safety harness but every now and again for long stretches of road, we would let the cats out of the crate so they could move around a bit more. Sophie was born a warehouse cat and came to us because she had an accident when she was just a little baby kitten that resulted in her losing her tail. She remained undaunted in spirit though and she’s just the bravest nutter of a cat you’ll ever encounter. She actually loved the trip and her favorite thing was sitting in Carboy’s lap while pretending to drive the truck, although I don’t think she thought it was pretend. She was equally amazed and impressed with everything going by our windows. At each stop before a single door was opened, I would crawl back into the back seat and put the cats back into the crate, ensure that it was locked and that Fred’s harness was attached. Only then could we get out to get petrol or go to a rest stop and never did we leave the truck out of sight. Fred, of course, got to be walked as often as we could manage it. He did really well on the road especially considering that freeways sometimes make him carsick. The real challenge came after day 3 on the road when he suddenly became constipated. I can totally related, my body often refuses to cooperate in places where public toilets are my only option, like airplanes and trains. Don’t even speak to me of port-o-potties. Nope, not happening. Each rest stop was a challenge of waiting for Fred to poop. And when he did it was time for celebration! Fred pooped, good job, Fred! It was ridiculous.

It gave us time to contemplate what we were doing, all that walking and waiting for Fred to poop.

Monday, December 21st, we went to work for the last time, at end of watch went up to the 9th floor to say goodbye to the Chief, and then rode the elevator down to the basement level. I kept fingering the LAPD ID card hanging around my neck, the one with my photo, name, rank, serial number, the one that allowed me to swipe in and out of this building every day. We walked out the security doors, hearing them click hard behind us, up the ramp into the sunlight and out the glass security doors for the last time. As we rounded the corner headed for the truck, we squeezed hands and looked at each other. Was this real? We stopped for just a moment to take it all in, the sun shining against the glass building, the steel barricades, the dog park at the back of the building. Here we were, last time, on our way out.

“Are you okay?” he asked. I let out a breath, not quite fully but enough, “let’s go.”

Retirements are a big deal at the Department but due to the pandemic all retirement parties had been canceled. It really sucked because so many people were retiring and it seemed like so many friends were just silently drifting away. Carboy didn’t want one, in fact, he didn’t want too many people to know that he was retiring, he wanted to just say “later” and ride off into the sunset. I wanted something though. I wanted an old fashioned steak-fry. When I worked a specialized division, we used to have ‘the steak-fry’ all the time. It’s just an outdoor BBQ up at the Academy in Elysian Park with friends and family, people bring their kids and their dogs. It’s just grilled steak and tortillas to make tacos, nachos and guac, beer or Diet Coke. Some music and all the friends you can fit into the BBQ area for stories and jokes, laughter until you can’t breath and watching the sun go down over Dodger Stadium and the stars come out over the hills. I wonder if there will ever be the opportunity to go back and have my steak-fry or if I did go back will I already be forgotten?

Tuesday, December 22nd, the moving truck came. With the exception of a few pieces of furniture, we had staged everything in the driveway under our enormous metal carport that we had lovingly dubbed, the hangar. The movers were literally giddy with how prepared we were and loaded us up in record time. The driver was taking the same route and gave us some tips for the road. Never start out too early in the day, wait for the sun to come out to melt any ice that may be on the roads. Never drive too late into the evening when the ice starts to form. He also mentioned to good truck stops and rest stops and then they were ready to go. Our moving truck headed out and we spent one last night in a nearly empty house.

Wednesday, December 23rd, we finished loading up the last remaining things into the back of pickup truck – we had a camper shell put on it especially for the trip. We put the cats in the carrier and Fred into his harness. We walked around our house hearing our footsteps falling loud and with an echo from the emptiness despite the small space. The tiny kitchen that Carboy remodeled for me as a surprise when I was away on a trip. The dining room with the built-in cabinet that I loved and the wonky draws that I never got around to fixing. We looked out to our little backyard, magical with all the trees, cacti, and flowers that Carboy had planted. He doesn’t have a green thumb, he has green hands. The fig and the plum trees had been amazing in the summer and the hummingbirds had built nests in the grapevine. We stopped in the living room, that ridiculously small living room, I couldn’t help it, my heart broke a little for leaving this stupid, perfect place. The girls were starting to complain about being in the cat carrier and so we picked them up and taking Fred by the lead, we left. We closed the door, got everyone settled in the truck and drove away. With the kids, we had no idea how long it would take, if everything would close with the new house by the time we got there, where we would stop along the way, we just got in the truck and started on our adventure to a new life. All we had to do was drive and wait for Fred to poop.