The upheaval of moving across the country for the summer will be complete by the time this post is published. I have moved a lot around the country for work, either mine or my partner’s and in the past on a whim. There is an unsettled feeling about not keeping roots, especially after growing up in Texas. Every city or town has its own vibe; some are cool and some are strange in their ways. This time we are leaving the DMV (the first time I heard about the district, I thought it meant Department of Motor Vehicles instead of DC, MD, and VA) to go to the Space Coast of Florida. The chaos is temporary, so we are traveling light. It feels good to start anew. There is something freeing about taking off for a new destination.
The first time, as an adult, that I moved away was quite an experience. It was the spring of 1992, and I was 21 and not out of the closet at the time. Things were getting complicated, at least in my head, so I bought train tickets for myself and a fast friend, Leroy, whom I had met at a neighborhood sports bar. I packed way too much stuff and even took some dumbbell weights so I could work out. The destination was Santa Cruz, California, a spot where my crazy thoughts drove me to go west and discover a new world where I fit in.
The train trip was interesting with its stops and starts in small towns—one where the James Dean movie, Giant, was filmed in Texas—and a switch of trains at Union Station in LA to continue up the scenic California coast. There is something magical about a locomotive; the sound of the whistle and the whir of the wheels on the tracks is quite calming. I did not know Leroy well, but he was a good road companion at first. He insisted we stop in Antioch to visit his mom. We were not allowed in the house and had to sleep outside under the stars. He told me we should skip our destination and go to San Diego and work for his father. Leroy was cool, but he didn’t know my secret, and he was straight. I was dead set on Santa Cruz, and a riff was formed. We continued back on the train to San Jose and switched to a Greyhound bus for the rest of the way.
Santa Cruz was a small town that had a strong beach vibe with its boardwalk surrounded by redwood forests, and cliffs in the distance. The Loma Prieta earthquake had destroyed a lot of buildings in1989, and there was still a lot of damage with broken streets and wooden walkways connecting buildings in town. I thought it was cool and added to the mystique, along with the morning fog and lighthouse.
I found a dive beach motel for us and got a room with two beds. After exploring the carnival atmosphere of the boardwalk and beach, we argued about leaving again, and I crashed. I awoke the next morning to find half my money and a portion of the open-ended train ticket gone. I was upset (there is no worse feeling than being robbed), but ultimately glad he didn’t take everything. After an embarrassing phone call to my mom, I was able to get more money wired from Western Union and ended up staying for about a month. During that month, I met a stranger and we talked of living in different worlds as we drank beer on the railroad tracks where the vampire Lost Boys hung off in the film, I sang “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane with a homeless girl at a bowling alley, and I got hit on by a guy while laying out at the beach. I was finding myself, even if I was too scared to act in most cases.
Santa Cruz was the runaway capital of the United States at the time and had an influence on my picking it. The adventure ended with a motel room blowout party that almost got me kicked out completely. I convinced the owners to let me stay a few more days, and a couple of homeless teens I helped out with food and showers returned the favor by leading me back to the train station to go home. The journey was a reset and gave me lots of time to think. I returned to Texas and faced my truth head-on.
Today, moving is more adult stuff. I have found myself as much as possible, but I do wonder about that lost boy I used to be—the one who ran away and came back many times. These thoughts come to me as I move again into a new life.