By lex, on January 9th, 2010
We’ve been here in Sandy Eggo now for, what? Almost nine years. Which is three times longer than we’d ever lived anywhere else. Kids have grown up here, gone away to school. It all seems so unreal, after 20-odd years of living as gypsies. But it still feels like somewhere we live, not somewhere we’re from.
I don’t know that any city of 1.2 million is the kind of place you can really wrap your mind around, call it your own. Maybe the best we can do is carve out a piece of it that we understand. Make it our own. But that’s a little hard here in Southern California. No one is really from here, it seems. No one’s grandparents live here. Toqueville’s voluntary associations that make for a self-governing community are still on display at the churches, soup kitchens, shelters, etc. But for most of us in every day life – or maybe I only speak for myself – these seem somehow marginal, episodic, ephemeral. We smile outwardly, but are inward facing, too wrapped up in quotidian problems of our own. Life as it is lived here seems like all those ubiquitous treadmills you see in the street front window: Everyone running hard, no one getting anywhere. There’s a certain tendency to hunker down, while bragging on the weather. Meanwhile the sand is running through the hour glass.
City-data.com – along with controller.com – is one of those places I go to dream on a Saturday morning before heading down to the airport. It’s somehow all tied together, the airplane I’ll own and make my own, the little town I’ll fly it out of. With the airstrip by the river, the trout kissing the pool tops, the elk bugling, the bird dog slumbering by the fire, my girlfriend by my side. The kids all grown up and successful, leading happy, productive, satisfying lives. Nothing left to worry on.
Bend, Oregon has somehow captured my imagination. But the reviews from locals there say that there’s no work, and too damned many Californians. If you expand your horizon to the outer burroughs of the Willamette Valley, you read of meth gangs and crime. Places you wouldn’t want to go or be after dark. Harsh winters and abbreviated summers.
There have always been drugs, always booze and there have always been young people whose moorings have been cut. Who have rejected the stolid placidities of their parents, and replaced them with a kind in self-destructive nihilism. Maybe I’m just the age at which one worries about such things, but it seems to me as though we approach some kind of tipping point, with lotus eaters racing themselves to an undefined bottom.
Everyone who wants out of that seems to be searching for Mayberry, RFD. With a guy named Bud that runs the local hardware store that has the same breadth of inventory as Walmart, at the same low prices but who knows you by your name. With a coffee shop that serves the routinely excellent quality of a Starbucks or Peets, but which lacks all of that big city franchise homogeneity. A house with a porch that runs around the front and an acre (at least) of land, and friendly neighbors who know you well enough to stop by uninvited and yet be welcome for all of that. Where all of the kids are above average. A community of maybe-never-was and almost certainly never-will-be. The world having touched a kind of grace and then, unimpressed, moved on.
And have you considered Bellingham?
Down to Montgomery for a quarterly safety meeting at the Barnstormers. No paying flights today, so I turned my meager aviation wages into an hour or so in the club Cardinal. The usual route: Flight following to Carlsbad for a practice ILS, VFR to Ramona for some landings, back to Montgomery again for an ILS full stop.
Flying is a bit like trout fishing: You cannot, or do not, think of anything else but what you’re doing. When you fish for trout in a mountain stream, the waters burbling around you, you are entirely immersed in that moment. The tic-toc of the rod from 10 to 2 is like a metronome, there is a zen-like aspect to it. Sometimes a fish comes up to play, but mostly you fan the water fruitlessly. And you just don’t care, the binary relationship of fish-on/no-fish are equally valid, equally valuable, non-overlapping magisteria. When flying the focus is ever on the basics: Altitude, airspeed, attitude, engine health.
There’s little or no room for career considerations, politics, mortgage payments, taxation burdens.
It’s cleansing, but ultimately meaningless, to try and escape. If we want to live in Mayberry, it’s useless trying to find it on a map.
We have to create it.