Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Didn't Frank Write a Song About This?

When I was seven years old my mother called me a smart-ass and my world, it crumbled. I’m lying, of course. My world didn’t crumble, my chin didn’t get quivery and my eyes didn’t fill with tears. I just got pissed and walked across the street to my neighbor’s backyard where I organized a neighborhood run-away program among my two girlfriends, Casey and Stacy. The three of us sat in Stacy’s backyard until dusk where we solemnly agreed to meet at the top of Quail Lane come midnight, armed with sleeping bags and fruit roll-ups.

That evening as I trudged home I saw my parents waiting for me at the base of our driveway, both of them sitting on the tailgate of my dad’s truck, legs calmly swinging back and forth. Wanting to convey the true depth of my hatred I kept my mouth firmly shut until I was on eye-level with their swinging knees.

“You’re not thinking of running away, are you? Because we haven’t got any bug spray to give you and you know the chiggers are out full-force this year.”

To this day I have no idea how they both knew about our plan but I blame Stacy’s mom for foiling our adventure. She was always stingy with her fruit roll-ups. And if I’m really honest, my chin might have been a touch quivery. Seven-year-olds are never half as sneaky as they think they are. Especially quivery-chinned ones.

So my first attempt at running away was scrapped in lieu of eating some watermelon while sitting on my mother’s knee. I never asked but I’m assuming the phone lines ran hot between houses that evening, warning of an impending strike on the seven-year-old front. I can’t say as we were ever a big threat, though. I never could keep my eyes open past ten o’clock and Casey never once managed to make it through a sleepover without having to be walked home in the middle of the night. That left Stacy, and lord knows she’d never have walked up a dark street by herself. She demanded four night-lights, a closet light and a bathroom light be left on well into her early tweens.

Theoretically I should have learned from that episode that packing up isn’t always the best option. But many years later and my first instinct is still to pull out a suitcase and run for the car. Bored? Run away. Angry? Run away. Frustrated? Run away. Preferably to a sunny locale with palm trees.

So I sit here today, knowing I’ve got the vacation hours and a hella huge credit limit, not to mention the residual shakes from a barely-survived Spring Fever combined with the full-on itch of Summer Wanderlust. All of that along with the mental screaming I just had to do, locked tightly inside my office’s hunter green bathroom stalls, has led me to the following conclusion:

I need to get out.

I’d say ‘run away’ but running away now implies a permanence I can’t quite fathom, one involving a bank account with no bi-weekly direct deposits, much less a shortage of bug spray. Also, my cats can barely make it through one morning without fresh food in their bowl so imagine the inevitable throw-down when they realize that Mommy’s last ten dollars isn’t going towards some tasty niblets but some Diet Dr. Pepper and a giant Star Crunch. They may look sweet and cuddly but don’t think they won’t claw my face off if I come between them and some tuna-flavored Cat Chow.

Besides the fact that if I did, just once, succumb to this Run Away Now feeling I get, what good what it do me? I lived in an indisputably fabulous city and was miserable 95% of the time, with the last 5% spent in the Museum of Natural History, a place that at least took the edge off my selfish moroseness. It was quiet and cool and I never once felt the prickle of fluorescent lights on my skin. I learned the hard way that my locale means nothing if I’m not near people I love and who obviously love me just as much in return. It doesn’t matter if it’s one or twenty; the love, it needs to be in the air tonight. Because the thing is, there isn’t a single person in the entire world that I can look at and say “Remember that time in the park when those clowns were playing the bongos?” Because the clowns, THEY WERE PLAYING THE BONGOS. No one can contribute in a discussion involving the lobster bisque from SoHoMade Soups on Houston St. and the bisque made by that crazy guy from Seinfeld, the Soup Nazi. No one can agree with me that SoHoMade is way better, not to mention cheaper, and their sandwiches are pretty fab, too. Maybe it’s a romanticized viewpoint but I truly just like the idea of shared memories, of being able to say, when asked where I want to eat lunch, “That place we had those crab cakes two weeks ago.” My point being that I’m a giant puss-n-boots and I’m too scared to pack up and move somewhere, to a place where nobody knows your name and certainly isn’t glad you came.

So if running away isn’t an option, then a vacation has to be. And maybe that’s really the source of this run-away feeling. I need a vacation that doesn’t involve taking off work to sit in my apartment and lint-roll the curtains. I need a vacation that doesn’t involve me driving four hours away, holing up in a hotel and turning off my phone. I want to go frolic among some palm trees or skyscrapers or vineyards and be able, months later, to look at someone and say “Remember when?”


Carl from L.A. said...

Funny how you should bring up "shared memories". I just e-mailed my class with a section titled "Were you there that time when...". It's a ploy to get the wayward ones back.

Palm trees and skyscrapers? I'm sure you'd want beautiful sunny weather and no risk of hurricane too, right? Somewhere that has lots to do, lots to see, rubbing shoulders with celebrities, with options to visit nearby cities like San Diego, Santa Barbara, The O.C., San Francisco, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, etc. Si?

Two words: Los Angeles.

tamtam said...

Ah New York........I'm about 20 minutes out of NYC and I've never been to the great Soup Nazi but they just opened a chain stand of his in the local mall and I've been itching to get there. Maybe this weekend. I love the museum, could spend days there. Running away sounds great but it's gotta be an all-inclusive island resort where I can just sit on my ass and be served for 2 weeks straight.

Chris said...

I feel your pain. I want to go on a long road trip to Yosemite National Park and San Francisco. I have the vacation time but just don't to head off on my own.

It is so refreashing reading your blog. You are such an excellant writer.

Drunken Chud said...

i just got back from vacation, and lemme tell you. it was so fucking worth it. got another one coming up in a month. yes yes, i am a lazy vacationing fool.

YoJ said...

Mmmm vacation! Far away from responsibility, where you can lose your identity and do as you please (to some extent).

Where ever will you go? Maine? NYC? Napa Valley?

extra*time said...

i love your running away story. now i have a seven year old i realise how obvious it is to parents what you're about to do.

beautifully written...

oakland heidi said...

Oh my dear. I "ran away" with one of my best friends for those two weeks and it was heavenly. Only, it didn't quell the ache I had, it inflamed it.

Now I can barely sit still.

I agree with you on the place versus people business. Its always the people that matter the most. Moments only happen once, but memories live on forever when you can make them come back alive with another person.

Nothing like a good inside joke.

"Make new friends, but keep the old, some are silver, the others are gold"- girl scout tune I remember from way back when.

Come to California...