November 18, 2003

Relief for Hardworking Hands

Over the last few weeks this town has managed to make me really cranky, and I never realized how cranky until I unloaded a full barrage of ranty goodness on a good friend. I feel like ever since November came about I’ve been living in a different town, which really isn’t far from the truth. The process has been a creeping devolution ever since the end of August, when everyone started clearing out of Hood River. Kelsey left for Canada, Sara went back to Duluth, Tons to British Columbia, Bobbie and Randy to Florida (and soon the Caribbean), Wyatt to San Fran, Dills to Dills-Land, Wayne to Baja… all the familiar Bee Dub faces scattered to their respective corners of the earth.

And along with their departures went Karaoke at Jack’s, late nights at Savino’s, and pretty much any act of cronyism that was worth having in Hood River. All these things are still right down the street; I could wander into Jack’s any Friday night and bust out the James Brown, but there’s no point now that my audience is gone. It was a lovely summer no doubt, and it even managed to extend itself rather deep into the fall. I went kiteboarding through October, took a trip back to Minnesota and climbed mountains. But Joe, a rugged pal and the only person that made this fall bearable, cut town for Salt Lake City a few weeks ago and left me danglin’ in the ol’ HR.

The activity level here has all but died, and now that things are really settling in I realize what makes this small town so unbearable when the influx of seasonalists disappear. Brain-drain. I noticed it during the summer but was busy enough playing outside that it didn’t really matter, but now that there’s nothing to do there’s really nothing to do. There is nothing here to challenge me intellectually or creatively. There is no room for growth beyond the thin prescriptions I write to myself, and without the influence of other crazy individuals I’m finding my mind dreadfully banal. When I finish a day at work I have five hours of my own time to fill with whatever I want to do, and I realize that what I want to do isn’t really what I want to do. Everyone else in Hood River goes home to their families and cooks meatloaf and shuttles their kids to late-night mud soccer. I digest music. I read Ayn Rand. I scan the blogosphere. I recode webpages. I fall asleep. These are things I enjoy, but not necessarily on an everyday basis, and not necessarily on an everyday basis all by my lonesome.

The things I do are not activities that are necessarily anti-social. God bless the person who can invent an establishment where intellectual nutcases collect in droves to drink blackberry tea, read beat poetry, discuss nerdy topics like semantic web design and who would win in a fight between Ernest Hemmingway and a monkey driving a monster truck, argue over Altoid flavors, and laugh about the abuse of sus4 chords in epic 70’s rock music. In a town that lacks others of a similar mindset there’s nowhere to go, but more importantly there’s no one to even go there with. What I’ve found, again and again in my travels, is it’s the people that make traveling and non-traveling worthwhile. You need people to travel from, people to travel with, and people to travel to.

And now that my people are gone, all the winds and cliffs and scented pine forests of the Columbia Gorge are not enough to keep me here. Which is strange to consider, because at one time they were more than enough to bring me here. But these things change, everything changes, and with everyone having moved away I feel like I have moved myself. Their lives have taken them elsewhere for the winter, and there’s no reason my life shouldn’t be the same way.

The wilds of the world alone are enough to draw me to the outer banks, and once again I stand at the brink of a journey. Wanderlust has ignited my soul and cast my eyes to the horizon. I need to see more, do more, feel more. The plan I have is the same I had half a year ago, when I first blasted across the continent from my midwest hotbed. I will go, and I will do this, and I will see where it takes me. I decided I wanted to live in Hood River less than a year before I ended up here. I decided I wanted to live in Bend less than two months ago. I move there in three days.

I have no idea what the next six months will hold, but I know it will be new and different and exciting all over again. And I know that in its own little way it will decide the next path I take.