In a little less than ninteen weeks, assuming all things go according to (or something that resembles according to) plan, I will be moving to Salem, Oregon. Many/most of you already know this.
Some of you, though, may not be clear on Why, so I suppose it's time for a Story.
Just over four years ago, I was living in Wisconsin. Without getting into too much detail, the relationship I was in at the time came apart, and I found myself at loose ends.
By way of an online game I was playing at the time, I had a friend who happened to live in Salem. I talked with him a bit about where I was at, and he suggested I come to the coast. He offered to let me stay with him for a while, to get my feet under me, and he thought that a change of scenery might do me some good.
The best laid plans, and all that.
I decided that his idea was a good one, and made what preparations I could for the long solo drive from Wisconsin to Oregon. I got as far as Salt Lake City, when things started to slide. My van began to have mechanical problems; fixing them ended up taking several hours and a large, unbudgeted chunk of my money.
Undaunted, I carried on, and got as far as a little town called Grant's Pass, a short ways north of the California border, in Oregon. Mechanical trouble reared it's head again, and this time, it had teeth.
Big, sharp teeth.
The transmission in my van decided it'd had enough of this long, onerous drive, and it died. No warning, just... clank, and done.
So there I sat, in my dead van, on the side of the highway, about ten miles north of Grant's Pass. A state trooper stopped (I'd like to think someone called them on my behalf, and that she didn't just "happen by," but I'll never know), and called me a tow-truck.
At this point, I was screwed. I didn't have enough money to pay for the tow, and I was still four hours short of my destination. The tow-truck driver, though, was willing to deal, and towed I was, back to Grant's Pass, leaving me with a small coffee can of mixed silver coins and my packed possessions and nothing more.
I called my friend in Salem, and he said he'd come and get me. I spent the next 4+ hours sitting in a Denny's near the place where my van was dropped off, waiting for my friend.
When he finally arrived, I was exhausted, frightened, hungry- in a word, about as low as I'd ever been. If I'd known then what was coming, I might have given up.
My friend bought me dinner, and got us rooms at a nearby motel. He had health issues which made driving at night out of the question, so turning around and going back to Salem right away was out of the question.
A hot shower and something that passed for a night's sleep left me in somewhat better spirits, but still not great. We got up, had breakfast (at the same Denny's), loaded what we could of my things into his car, and set out for Salem...
...which is where I found out that the bottom ain't never really the bottom.
My friend lived with a room mate in a trailer. The trailer was right on the teetering edge of being a "hoarder house." The bathtub was broken and unusable. They had a cat, but they did NOT have a catbox. The place was filthy, the company was terrible, and it just kept sliding south from there.
I lived there for two months, during which time I completely and in all ways failed to thrive. I couldn't find a job to save my life, a situation made worse by my lack of transportation and the fact that in the two months I lived there, I wasn't able to shower or bathe. Even so, I battled on, trying to make friends, even trying to date, but it was a constant river of one step forward, two steps back.
As things deteriorated, another friend of mine gave me an out. Again, this was a friend from an online game, who told me that she, her son, and her roommate were going to buy a house together, and that said house had a finished basement, which I was welcome to come occupy. The idea had merit, I thought, and I started shifting my aim.
I wasn't done getting kicked yet, though. First, it turned out that I wasn't going to be able to transport even a quarter of my belongings with me on the bus I was taking to Kansas City, my new destination. I had to have my Salem friend come back to the bus station where he'd dropped me off, and pick up most of my things. The bus ride to Kansas City was long, and fraught with nonsense and unexpected diversions; suffice to say, I wasn't having a good time... even so, though, I felt like things were looking up.
I can already hear some of you, by the way: "Salem chewed you up and spit you out. WHY are you going back?!" Patience, kids, I'll get there.
The house that my friend and her room mate were buying didn't happen (he ended up in jail, if you have to know). We moved, moved again, and ended up living with her boyfriend. I got a job in Kansas City right out of the gate, thanks to her, and things were finally starting to look up.
Then, one evening, we came home from a night out with friends, and I found that I had a message waiting on myspace. (Heh, I know, right? Myspace. Heh.) It was from a lady who was moving to Kansas City from Michigan, and was trying to find some "cool people to hang out with." (I think that's how she put it.) Her profile indicated that she was an artist, a lesbian, and had a fetish for bald, gay men.
Now, I wasn't bald, and I'm not gay, but I was thinking that maybe a lesbian was a good place to start: a person I could establish a friendship with, without any of the stress and pressure that tends to exist when Single Guy hangs out with Single Girl. We agreed to meet at the park.
In what I told myself was a gesture of good faith, I shaved my head before going to meet her. I'd shaved my head before, so this wasn't really anything new or different to me; besides, my hair was growing thin, and I had a hefty bald spot anyway, so I was just accepting the inevitable. Right? Right.
So I went to the park, QuikTrip pop in hand, and there she was. I've always been a "hugger," and this occasion was no different. We took our beverages, found a shaded bench, and sat to get to know one another.
Funny thing... it turns out that "lesbian" was, uhm, false advertising of a sort. She was (is) no more a lesbian than I am gay. We spent the whole afternoon together... and the whole night (it wasn't like THAT- not entirely), and ended up spending only a few nights apart over the next handful of weeks. It wasn't long at all before our defacto status as a couple was formalized, and I moved in with her.
There you go again- I can hear you mumbling, "What's any of that got to do with Salem?"
Susan (yes, that's her name. You're very clever; now be quiet and let me tell the story) showed me a piece of fiction she'd written. It was a detailed and precise description of our first day together. So what? Right. So what. She wrote it five months before she even knew me, or even decided to move to Kansas City. She thought the piece was written about another friend of hers- a bald guy who lives in Salem.
(There, I made the connection; are you happy, now?)
It was a year and a half, two years, before her friend in Salem and I actually made contact with one another. When we did, we learned that we had a great deal in common, thought the same way about many, many things, and had a great deal to teach one another.
He was my brother from another mother; we were Tribe.
It didn't take long for us as a group (Susan, myself, Jeffrey, his wife, et al) to realize that living so far apart simply wasn't going to do... so plans began to be laid, and the Day is coming, rapidly.
I wonder, sometimes, whether, as I walked the streets of Salem, looking for work, I might have seen Jeffrey, either on foot or in his car, as he ambled about some business of his. Why not? It's not like my life will ever be weird enough.