Just got to my hotel in Santa, Clara, Calif., with a few random memories shifting around in my head — memories that illustrate who I was and who I am now.
It was July 1991 and I was with Sean Marley on my first trip to the west coast. I didn’t really want to go because I was afraid of everything and everyone. But Sean was red h0t about the idea, and back then I was always out to impress the man.
So off we went, on a 10-day California trip that would take us as far north as Eureka and as far south as Los Angeles. We lived in the rental car the whole time except for L.A., where we stayed in a friend’s apartment.
I remember the plane going in for a landing. I looked out the window and saw the Bay Bridge below. It was a gorgeous sight from that height, with the bay glistening in the summer sun. I saw the same view this morning and felt warm and energized. Back then was different. I thought of the Bay Area earthquake two years before, with TV coverage that included a live shot of a piece of the bridge collapsing and a car driving off the newly created edge into the abyss.
I knew we’d be driving over that bridge at least twice.
I was afraid of talking to strangers. I was afraid to go to clubs at night for fear we might get mugged so far from home.
In L.A., we hooked up with a guy who used to live in the Point of Pines in Revere. I didn’t remember him, but he and Sean were tight as kids. Michael was his name. Michael took us to visit a couple of his friends who were living the stereotypical Hollywood lifestyle. They had a band, but sat in their cramped bungalow all day, surrounded by towers of empty beer cans and cigarette boxes, watching all the bad daytime TV they could feast their eyes on.
One of them asked me where we were from. The Boston area, I told him.
“Dude,” he said through the cloud of cigarette smoke encircling his head. “That’s a pretty long way from here.”
The statement filled me with more terror.
A pretty long way from here. From my safe place in the basement apartment at 22 Lynnway, Revere, Mass.
That’s pretty much what the trip was. Sean ate it all up and had the time of his life, despite me.
I didn’t know back then that I suffered from OCD-induced fear and anxiety. I was still many years away from the therapy, medication and spiritual conversion. I had no idea what the 12 steps were when I was 21. Too bad, too, because I SHOULD have had the time of my life on that trip, too.
But that’s what fear does. It robs you blind. Robs you of everything that should make life worthwhile.
Thank God I’m done with that shit.
I’ve made this flight many times since then, always on business. But I’ve gotten the chance to enjoy the surroundings and experience the culture along the way.
In small steps, I’ve tried hard to make up for lost time. That gets me in trouble sometimes, because I forget to pace myself. That happened last time I was here in February, and my family paid the price.
Let’s see if I can do better this time.
And maybe one of these days, instead of coming here for work, I can come here for fun. Maybe Erin will live out of a rental car with me for 10 days.
What do you say, honey?