Tuesday, July 08, 2008

'Cause I Headed West to Grow Up With the Country

This is one of those posts where I'm going to recycle photos I've used in the past. I think this was taken in Iowa City in 1984. I've also probably touched on some of this material in the past too, but you know, whatever.

By the time I was nineteen, I had already fucked up a lot of shit in my life. A lot. I couldn't help it. I didn't know any better. After my mom died when I was ten, I lived with very strict and abusive legal guardians, and then the minute I turned, eighteen, BAM! I was on my own. For years I had been told I couldn't do anything. I was told I was stupid. It took me a long time to figure out that most of what I was told was bullshit.

You'd think that the minute I was finally free, I'd be happy all the live long day, but instead I felt totally lost. I wasn't allowed to go out much in high school and for sure couldn't date. All those mistakes most kids made in high school, I had to make in college. I had a lot of catching up to do, and boy howdy, did I catch up. I fucked up my classes, I fucked up friendships, I did all kinds of drugs and drank and went to hardcore shows at 10 S. Gilbert and Selected Works Bookstore. The one thing I never screwed up, though, was work. I worked at The Mill at night and at Amelia Earhart's Deli during the day. I was also restless and starting to get bored. If I was going to drop out of college, I wanted to at least go on adventures. My original plan was to move somewhere where I could make more money and save to go to Europe.

I had a roommate who's sister had been in the California Conservation Corps., before she met Dinah Shore's son and moved to a small town outside of Eureka. I've always loved hard physical labor and I wanted to be able to do work that I believed in. Turns out, it was pretty easy to get into the Corps. All I had to do was use a California address - my roommate's sister said I could use hers, but I actually had to go there to sign up.

Not only did I not have a car, I didn't even know how to drive. A thinking person would have done some research and figured out that going almost anywhere in California without a license and a car was asinine. Good thing I wasn't a thinking person, or I would never have left Iowa City.

I had no idea where to go once I got there. Luckily, there was a dishwasher who worked at The Mill named Mark who was from California. He was also a DJ at one of the country music stations and introduced me to Emmy Lou Harris and Graham Parsons. I asked him where he thought I should move once I got there and he said he thought Santa Rosa was a nice place. I went to the library and got out Santa Rosa phone books. I found a place called the Redwood Motel and called them to reserve a room, just because I liked the name. Once again, a thinking person would have checked it out a little more thoroughly, but...

I went to the army surplus store to buy a duffel bag and a backpack. I had to get rid of everything I owned, except what I could fit into those two bags. My friend Johnny Rater bought me a bag of those fake white crosses out of the back of a punk rock magazine. I thought they would make me more aware, but really they just made me more annoyed with people than I already was. Thank god, they didn't take up much room.

I left at the beginning of April. It was weird how little fear I felt getting onto the plane by myself to move halfway across the country to a place where I didn't have affiliations with anyone or anything. If someone could have shown me what I would experience when I got to California, I still don't know that I would have been all that scared.

15 comments:

-RM said...

That story was just like your picture....FUCKIN' AWESOME!!!! I loved both of them very much! Did you ever make it out to Europe?

Remiman said...

Churlita,
The adventure begins! I'm excited to read more of what made you who you are today. ;)
rel

Not Fainthearted said...

Well, that's a cliff hanger, isn't it!???!

Great set up. Looking forward to the next installment.

NoRegrets said...

Wow. You know, there's a lot to having an idea and making it happen.

Tara said...

I have a hard time moving from one city to another in just one state. What a scary, surreal adventure to go across the country to a state you've never been to before!

Poptart said...

Yea!

Now, what are the fake white crosses? Like caffeine pills, but not? And why did you need them, or was it just a going away gift?

See, not I can be all annoying with the questions. I love it.

DJSassafrass said...

And so it begins...

M. Robert Turnage said...

I had a big culture clash moving from Dallas to NYC to Baltimore. How was the transition from Iowa City to California? More details, please.

Susan said...

I'm very excited to read more..

booda baby said...

You call it a 'thinking person' - I call it a tomato. No. I call it cautious to the point of paralysis.

We are all very grateful you didn't ponder too long.

Obviously, you were my waitress at least once. Or were you bartending? In which case, you were definitely my bartender because that's what I did best at the Mill.

minijonb said...

awesome story. need to hear more about the Redwood Motel!

laura b. said...

Once again I am in awe of your bravery! It would never have occured to me at 18 that I could just go somewhere and do something I wanted to do.

stepping over the junk said...

wow, lady. that is amazing. i was too scared to do anything like that when I was that age. I want to hear more about Cali!

Tera said...

Churlita, this is awesome! I look forward to happy reading.

You know what's strange? Some days I still wake up in the morning thinking, "What the hell am I doing in KY?!" I only knew one person here when I got here too...I just needed a fresh start! Ahhhh don't you just loved structured disorder?!

evil-e said...

A very interesting beginning to the tale that is you.

I never see things that I did poorly as mistakes, I see them as experience. Makers me feel better about them.