Now on our own, Curiosity looks out over the world. I try not to care about speaking the fragmented obvious but often times I regret not having done so.
Home; the tinder nest of birch bark and bees wax. True meaning of home.
The reflection under my hat was that of a bluewhale-painted uhaul pulling away for good. Apple Cider Red for-lease signs covered the peep holes in the doors, and the picture I took in the late evening looked ghostly with a hint of motion blur. There are still things in those rooms on the floors behind the doors, but the sign screams irreverently in advance of an announced Sunday 5 a.m. departure. It will mark the 4th time they had moved in 7 years – all of the previous 3 within the west side sector of Los Angeles. My neighborhood, my neighbors. They are leaving one life to find another and in one regard are effecting a ripple of personal journeys to be explored by us all – their friends. Their family. They’re leaving. They don’t linger. They make a plan and do it with such authentic intention. The Cuban will drive the truck, and Whittier will drive the follow car with 2 cats and 2 hefty dogs. Their chosen route across country is the southern one in attempt to avoid the bluster of atmospheric chaos; as if packing up a life is not chaos enough.
While they were trying to get a flat fixed on the uhaul, I spent the prior three days creating a somewhat chronological photo book for them to take and to have upon their arrival on the east coast. And in doing so washed over every year of my life since the early nineties when the bonding was set. 0 The daunting infinity of the far far far-away east coast. It looks like a welcoming place on the map for a gay Cuban legal immigrant interior designer and my closest friend, his white husband retailer singer songwriter artist fellow from Whittier. The photo book turned to rock on several occasions over those days and I would be forced to turn my attention back to the present, or even the future. The future. A place full of snakes and lizards and foretellers of weather. A contact sport involving 50 fancy words. A blind spot. A legendary story without a determinable explanation. A field manual of dreams. I couldn’t really listen to Patty Griffin or most other music else face dehydration from major loss of tears. I cried when I was not in front of them and acted happy behind my shades under a sun hat on moving day. The photo book mapped the major events in our lives from Album Covers to Children being born; from Pets dying and other violations to every hilarious Thanksgiving in between the compress of years from then to now. Sure seems like a short book.
I knew Whittier before I knew the Cuban. He was dating another friend whom I had known for several years. This is who he is: Whittier went online in 2002 and became an ordained minister so that he could perform his younger sister and her husbands’ marriage ceremony. His sister and her husband now have two amazing kids. He and his younger sister were in a Band when I first met them and my photographer boyfriend at the time filmed their music video, I art directed it, and another friend edited it. Twice I have made a painting that became album art. Probably the closest family I have ever known, his parents adopted me and they became my surrogate Los Angeles family on the occasions that I could not get to the Midwest to be with my bio-family on the holidays. His parents have since moved to Illinois. This was not an easy separation. The Cuban was simply and easily accepted into this extraordinary family 15 years ago and is a permanent structure. LA can seem so cracked at times, and in an epicenter every fissure has to lead somewhere.
What are you going to do out there to survive? (As if to insinuate that the far far east coast only exists on a romantic postcard somewhere as an oddity or it’s existence should be supported by some evidence…) “I don’t know maybe this maybe that”, they say.
Yesterday at 4pm I answered the phone so excited to see that it was Whittier calling. His voice was shaking and one of the cats was howling in the background. He was on the side of the road with his flashers on somewhere just inside the border concertina of Texas trying to keep an eye on the Uhaul. The Cuban had been detained at the El Paso checkpoint and for what reason only Galileo knew. I felt inclined to check my horoscope but not my blood pressure. Having been born in Texas my mind immediately went to an irritatingly helpless yet protectively familiar place. For about 4 hours the world stood still as represented by a bird without wings, a bluewhale without an ocean, a Uhaul without the freeway. Whittier was asking advice and I was plugging in to the emotional bubble on the other end of a snappy crackling cell tower somewhere between close and far far away. In retrospect what was most remarkable about those 4 hours was the ease of concentrated focus for me when it comes to true friendship minus the genetic factor. This seems like a natural phenomenon until you really look at it hard – Stare at it, dissect it, ponder wonder investigate. I was so intensely concerned that I could feel it on a biological level. The beginning snapshot for a new photobook. Whittier in Texas; Cuban detained. Not only did this couple already have a non-affinity for Karl Rove or the red states, but the countries’ largest winter storm in years is parallel and just ahead of them due to land in Dallas where they are now planning to hunker down for a few days. Whittier drove to the nearest town to wait to hear from Cuba. They had him in immigration detention trying to tell him that he was not in fact a US citizen. The truth however, is that he had come over from Cuba as a child on a “freedom flight” or “los vuelos de la libertad” as they had come to be known – us citizenship guaranteed –landing in Miami along with 650 thousand other Cuban emigrants between 1965 and 1973. In minutes his life in Cuba had ended and his life as a US resident began. His passport now was unfortunately in a file cabinet buried deep within the belly of a perfectly puzzle packed blueWhale painted Uhaul truck now sitting idol at some unknown facility near the Texas border; no record to be found on their computers they were threatening him with some brand of deportation. Whittier was now holed up with the dogs and cats at a Holiday Inn in Van Dorn.
I had given them yellow walkie talkies good up to 16 miles to take with them. I had a mental picture of them advancing across to their newest home complete with a wandering band of wild turkeys, laughing over their walkies all the way. Not the weather, the detention, or the flat tire was in the picture. I of course was in denial for my own mental health up until 3 days before they left. It occurs to me now, just as they have let the Cuban go, that “home” is of the refugee experience; harshly uprooted if one dares to dream.