Going to California

Michael Jackson ThrillerWoke at 7 AM, got last items together, Mom packed us some food…

THIRTY YEARS AGO today I started my first-ever journal with those words. It was also the day I started my driving trip to move to San Francisco, a trip I took in my pale-yellow Subaru with my sister. Culture Club, Prince, Toto, and “Billie Jean” provided the cassette-and-radio soundtrack to the cross-country drive. Without getting too dramatic about it all, February 9, 1983, could also be seen as the start to my real adult life, since I’d be living on my own for the first time. (In some respects—most, maybe—I was a late bloomer.)

I don’t think I saw it as such a big deal at the time. I had been on a few cross-country driving trips already, and so this felt like another one of them, except the car was loaded with all my worldly possessions. (Well, not quite all—I had my books and records shipped.) I had bobbing-head animals glued to the car’s dashboard and a set of pink flamingos I’d set up for a photo in every state. I was going to California to live, though, and the closer I got, the more I realized I was taking a big leap, leaving the house in Americana Terrace I grew up in and nearly everyone I knew for the opposite edge of the continent.

Gone are the days you can just load up the car and head to San Francisco with a few dollars in your pocket and no real prospects. A college friend had been living here, and she introduced me to her friends who in turn lent me a couch and pointed me to Roommate Referral…and the rest is, as they say, history.

It’s embarrassing to lDave X Robb in 1983ook back through the pages of that journal, to see how dumb and green I was. I even spelled espresso with an x, for god’s sake! But it’s not the spelling errors and writing style that make me wince so much as the evidence that I was pretty clueless about everything, including especially my own cluelessness.

So, I won’t be serving up excerpts from those pages. It’s just too awful, too unconsciously self-conscious in the worst possible sense. It was 1983, so even the fashion was bad. I was trying so hard to forge some kind of post–art school, post-punk, post-breakup (with a girl!) identity, trying to find myself. I earnestly wanted to do something with my life, which was pretty much a blank slate at that point, at least from today’s perspective.

Although I wouldn’t begin coming out, even to myself, for another year or so, I find it impossible to imagine that I didn’t choose to move to San Francisco, at least on a subconscious level—I was very deep in denial—in order to explore my sexuality in a city that offered acceptance and support for that kind of thing.

I’ve come a long way in 30 years. I joke about what a loser I was back then, but I realize it was just me doing the best I could with what I had, as we all do. At least I knew how to cook a chicken or grilled cheese or spaghetti and meatballs. I knew how to do housework. I bought good records. I knew how to use a library and how to type a resumé. That’s about all. But, as it turns out, that was enough.

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3 thoughts on “Going to California

  1. So glad you got in that car and drove to California! I bet you could work your journal entries into your novel and it would be authentic and wonderful. Love you and your blog, Dave Robb!
    P.S. I would undoubtedly love your grilled cheese restaurant too.

  2. I agree with Sharon! I bet there’s some great material in there. You’re so hard on your young self! (Everyone is ashamed of their youthful posturings — surely they are a part of our own evolutionary process, like the stages caterpillar has to go through to get to butterfly, if that isn’t too hackneyed a metaphor . . .)

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