Nearly 13 years ago I moved from Salt Lake City, Utah to Portland, Oregon. I peeled out of town at 5:30 in the morning blasting “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks (oh what a late-90s cliche was I) and thinking “SO LONG SUCKAZ”. In my mind’s eye I was giving the whole place the finger and if I could have mooned the joint I would have but dropping trou while driving is ill advised, to say the least. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there and thought that aside from the obligatory parent visits I’d never be back.
After a decade in Portland (minus a couple of months where I moved home suffering from, to use the celebrity parlance, “exhaustion” (mine was of the nervous-breakdown variety, however, and not the secret-trip-to-rehab variety)) I still never felt like it was home. I chose Portland not because I was in love with the place or had always wanted to live there but because it was convenient. My sister was already living there so we could be roommates and I was able to transfer with my job so why not? Why not get away from the place I had lived all my life? Away from my parents, my friends, and everything else familiar. I didn’t want to spend my entire life within 15 miles of where I was born and raised, never go anywhere, never see anything new, never live anywhere else. You can learn a lot about yourself after uprooting and getting the hell out of your comfort zone.
Sadly, Portland was never the right fit for me. I wasn’t weird enough, I wasn’t hipster enough, I wasn’t liberal enough (which believe you me is sayin’ something), I didn’t have a unicycle or a neck beard (and thank God for that, really) and I didn’t smoke weed. Plus, and this is the most annoying part, I was always lost due to a crazy road/bridges/rivers/freeway system that totally baffled me. I will freely admit that I have no sense of direction but still. After learning to drive in Salt Lake’s beautifully laid out grid system (props to Brigham!) I was always driving around in circles wondering where the hell I was EVEN AFTER A DECADE. Portland can baffle even Google Maps and iPhones as I discovered at my own peril. I got so lost one time that a friend had to find me on his map (like, an actual map, printed on PAPER), drive to where I was and guide me home. For the love, Portland.
When I (finally FINALLY) graduated from college in 2006 I seriously considered moving back to SLC. I had also just ended a long-term relationship and was thus unfettered enough that I could have made it happen. But I was also offered a great job opportunity. It was a dilemma but I ultimately chose to stay in Portland, obviously. And I’m glad I did because I met Jason at that job.
Fast forward a few years. My husband, a fellow transplant (and a gypsy at heart), and I, both tired of the weather and missing our families decided we should just up and leave. We picked Vegas for the same reason we had chosen it for our wedding – it was smack dab in the middle of all of our people – he’s got folks in SoCal and Arizona and I’ve got kin in both St George and Salt Lake. It was perfect! It was sunny! Jason could possibly get work playing his guitar! We loaded up and headed out.
If you have followed my blog for any period of time you will know that things didn’t work out as planned. I’ll spare you the details since they’re all around here somewhere but basically… we don’t love it here. I never have. My husband did okay for the first two years but sometime after having our daughter he began to see how raising children here is not ideal. There’s just so much… smut, for lack of a better word – in your face, easily-accessible, 24/7/365 smut. And it’s not like he/we didn’t notice it before it’s just that having children changes your perspective on a lot of things, for example, living in a place founded on and celebrated for gambling. Not to mention all the drinking, stripping and whoring. And just to digress for a minute, I want to make it known that I am not exactly anti-gambling. Or anti-stripper, porn, alcohol and hookers, for that matter. This is America, Land Of The Free, and If that’s your thang then by all means, do whatcha wanna do. I’m just saying the ease with which you can find pretty much anything in this town is disconcerting. And it’s not exactly confined to the strip, you know. There are mini-casinos in all of the grocery stores. And those newspaper holsters (what the hell are those things called?) on the street corner that in most cities would contain the local paper and a USA Today are here reserved for various “girls direct-to-you” ads featuring scantily clad teenagers. There’s no escape! And I know folks will tell me it’s all in how you raise your kids but listen, dude, I was a teenager once who managed to find pretty much any trouble I wanted – alcohol, drugs, sex – even whilst living behind the Zion Curtain. And while I am not naive enough to think that I can shield my children from these things merely by moving them out of Sin City I do know that I will feel better if it’s just a liiiiittle harder for them to find such things.
I think what I’m feeling is more a desire that this not be the version of reality my children grow up with. On our daily walks around the sprawling apartment grounds I see people in various states of undress accomplishing regular, everyday tasks – like, c’mon lady, do you need to put on hot pants and a bikini top to walk your dog? And you, sir, shirtless to check your tires? For real? And maybe that’s just a sign of the times and not the place but I don’t want my daughter to ask for new boobs for her birthday because everyone else is getting them. And I want people to wonder what preschool my daughter is attending not does she have an agent (actual question I have gotten in the grocery store. More than once!). I just want something better for her. And my son, for that matter. Let us not underestimate the amount of trouble males can get into around here as well.
So we had been feeling these feelings and discussing such topics as “um, do we actually want to buy a house here and stay forever?” and “where would we go if we didn’t stay?” and “man our neighbors are trashy” when we we decided to take a vacation to SLC to visit my folks. And Jason sort of fell in love with the place. In the mere five days that we were there he managed to find a gypsy jazz show, something that has never happened here in Vegas (okay there was ONE but it didn’t really count because it was loungeified and just plain weird), and a truckload of other music that interests him. Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, has no jazz scene. Essentially, if you like Cirque de Soleil, magicians, stand-up comedians, strippers or various has-beens from days gone by (Donny and Marie, I’m looking at you), Vegas is the place for you. If you want to play your guitar in a jazz quartet (or go see someone else do something similar), Vegas ain’t for you.
And then there’s me. Aside from the fact that I have two children under the age of two and would love a little help in the form of my own excellent mother, there’s the undeniable fact that I love Utah – its looming mountain backdrop, greatest snow on earth, various national parks, and even its quirky accent and notorious liquor laws. Plus which, generations of my family have been born and raised in the place. I can’t prove it but I’m pretty sure I had people on the wagon train with Brigham. It’s just a part of me I can’t let go (did I just quote a Chicago song?). It’s home to me and I feel like I’ve been trying to get back there since I moved away but for some reason or another it just never happened. So when, after our trip, Jason mentioned something about maybe moving there (yes! It was HIS idea!) I may or may not have burst into happy tears.
So why are we still here? Why didn’t we move a year ago when the lease was up on our apartment and it was the perfect time to git? Because on that very same vacation I found out I was pregnant again and we kind of suspected we might need to keep our health insurance. Obviously that was the right decision (see as proof: all of my previous posts about my incompetent cervix, my two-month hospital stay and my freak-ass labor and delivery).
But NOW. Now the decision is made. Yes, made. Done. We are moving. In four weeks. I have known and been looking forward to this for nearly a year and now it is finally happening. We have an apartment in Salt Lake City. My husband has given notice at work. So let it be written, so let it be done. We’re packing up and leaving. Again. Heading back to that place where I swore I’d never live again. An apartment fifteen minutes from the Barnes and Noble where I worked right after high school. Twenty minutes from my mom. Sixty minutes north of the scene of all of my pre-teen angst.
SO LONG SUCKAZ!