Sunday, September 17, 2006

 

Moving out of a comfort zone.

Not caught up, but still trying.
It's been almost a week since leaving the county that has been my home for seven years, and it's slowly feeling less like a vacation and more of journey.
Sorry about the delay on blogs from the Farewell Tour, but it's been a bit chaotic and sleep deprived time for us, so I'll catch you up on recent musings and events for now.

Eureka, California
We spent the first night at my friend 'Sunshine's' house in Eureka with her fiance and his son. It took several days for me to fully realize that my good friend was essentially a parental figure.
"Wow. You're a Mommy," I said as she grasped the toddler around her neck.
"I know. I'm so sober," she said.
We had lunch at the Lost Coast Brewery, which was covered with kitschy decorations, the most grotesque being a stuffed black widow approximately the size of an eight-legged Great Dane. The glorified furry pinata was rigged to the door, lowering itself ominously over unsuspecting patrons entering the dining room. Strangely enough, the rope wasn't long enough to scare the customers. Instead it just kept creeping out our table, which was a few feet away from the entrance. The spider's languid bobbing motion triggered the primal urge in me to run away from dark, furry objects.
And of course, the toddler wasn't even fazed by the motion.

Life on the northern coast of California seems extremely relaxing. Part of it might be the high unemployment rate. (As we've recently learned, it's easy to be lazy when you don't have to get up for work in the morning.) According to Sunshine and her fiance, Eureka is in one of those cycles where the cost of living is so low that it attracts the unemployed or unemployable. However there still seems to be room for strippers, since there are only two at the club downtown, and according to our hosts, they took their vacations at the same time. And think about it: what's a strip club without the strippers? Just a club with cheap juice, dim lighting and a bunch of disappointed men.

I could see why Eureka appealed to my formerly Chicoan friends; everything was in walking distance, the people were extremely nice and the downtown had a lot of character. Instead of headache-inducing fluorescent lights lining the streets, glowing lamps gave the streets both a classic and modern feel.

And most importantly, I didn't feel like I was being dominated by corporate America, unlike some areas like Tulare, CA, which gave me the synthetic creeps--a town that didn't understand the concept of a restaurant that doesn't have a national headquarters.

Ashland & Medford, Oregon
I had mixed feelings about crossing the line from California into Oregon. I was excited that we had finally crossed a state line, but I also felt like that we were entering enemy territory.

The first hint I had of a rivalry of sorts between California and Oregon, came from my high school history teacher who indelicately said "California should just bowl over Oregon and make it a giant suburb for California." This was a teacher. No wonder Oregonians hate us.

Anyways, we decided to catch a play at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, but we decided to try to beat the system and got a motel room in Medford, where the economy wasn't as strong the the room rates were cheaper.

The last time I had been to the Shakespeare Festival was in middle school, and my most distinct memory of that trip was daring John the Canadian to bang his head as hard as he could against the fiberglass "rock" wall of the outdoor theater. I swear the actors did a double take when John actually smashed his noggin into the wall, causing a weird rippling vibration effect to the surrounding seats.

We were much calmer this trip and watched a play called "Intimate Apparel," which, appropriately enough, involved a woman trying to make it in New York City. I'll refrain from giving a review of the play since this is a blog and not a freaking review site, but I will say I enjoyed myself and yes, it did involve lingerie.

I was nervous at first about going to the theater in jeans (my travel jeans, no less). But everyone else was casual. Except of course for the middle school children dressed in their plaid and khaki uniforms. I wondered if any of them would be willing to smash their head in a theater on a dare.

Let the gas game begin!
On our way back to Medford, we stopped at a gas station to fill up the tank and came across our first anxiety-ridden task: Do we tip the gas attendant for filling the tank up? Something we'd be willing to do ourselves if the law allowed.

After two minutes of standing around outside the car waiting for someone from the seemingly abondoned but unlocked gas station to appear, a shaggy-haired gas attendant wearing shorts and a T-shirt came out to dutifully fill the tank.

"So are you heading to California?" he asked.
"Just left there actually," Jeremy said. "We're heading to New York and visiting some friends along the way."

It was an explanation that has gotten so well oiled in my mind, I feel like it'll slip out of my mouth at the mere probing of how my day was going.

"So why is there a law against people pumping their own gas here?" I asked.
"I think it's some law to keep jobs out there for the people," Shaggy Hair Guy said. He also gave a brief explanation that even though there is no sales tax, the citizens of Oregon get screwed over with a hefty property tax. I asked how long the law had been in effect and the shaggy hair guy said it was around as long as he remembered.

Shaggy hair guy had just gotten back to Oregon after spending six months in Hawaii. Before that he spent a few years by Lake Almanor in California. I was getting curious about this guy's life and why he returned to the land of high property taxes when the tank finally topped off and Jeremy and I stood there in an awkward dance of "To tip or not to tip." In the end, Jeremy gave him a handful of change, mostly silver from what I could see, and we were back on our way to the cheap motel room.

The next day we had to stop for gas en route to Portland. This time there was an organized system with one gas attendant swiping cards and filling up the tanks for four stations each. Twelve stations with six attendants total. It was almost hypnotic how our gas station attendant, a portly woman in her 40s, could gracefully weave her way through the tubes to fill the thirsty vehicles. Jeremy tipped her a dollar and she seemed surprised but happy with the tip.

I had to wonder if being a gas station attendant was a career or an in-between job. Was it the equivalent of working at Wal-Mart or being a small-time methamphetamine dealer in other states? An undesirable, but safe bet for work?

It wasn't until we met up with my friend "Di" and some of her friends in Portland that we were told they don't usually tip the gas station attendants.
"Well I guess those two were the lucky ones," Jeremy said.

Living across state lines and beating the system.
Even though Di technically lived in Washington, in the town of Vancouver, the closest metropolitan city was across state lines in Portland.
"I can do my shopping in Portland with no sales tax and live in Vancouver for the low property tax rate and cheap rent," Di says.

Even though the commute was less than 30 minutes, Di said she still had the urge to move to Portland because there wasn't as much to do at night in Vancouver.

Walking around the Hawthorne area of Portland, something Di had said earlier rang loud in my head. She had mentioned a friend saying that the girls in Chico all look the same. At first I dismissed this comment as one that came from a man who only saw pretty blondes in short skirts because those were the only ones that registered on his radar, but walking around Portland I began to see what he meant.
There were was an Asian girl in slouchy boots and prairie skirt, a striking brunette wearing leggings under short gym shorts and a laid-back African American girl wearing loose jeans with her hair pulled back in a puff.
There wasn't the usual California sheen of glittery makeup and shiny lip gloss, and there were no sets of best friends wearing the same outfit in different colors with similar haircuts. I must admit, it was a nice change.

Next Edition: "Snakes on a Plane" for cheap, the proliferation of Sex Shops and a historical reenactment.

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