That last night at work dragged by. My car was packed, down in the parking garage, and when 10:00am finally came I was ready to roll!
Then I started to remember half a million things I needed to do at work. I wasn't exactly leaving; I was transitioning. A better job, with better pay, but with the same organization.
I was lucky.
I worked for a radio network, writing and producing for their morning show. When I went in to give notice, the show didn't want to lose me, so they made a deal to hire me directly (with help, actually, from my soon-to-be former boss).
This almost never happens in radio. I really was very lucky.
So I needed a ton of things off of my work computer, which in my haste to get everything else done, I'd completely forgotten about. If you've moved from one city to another even once, I'm sure you can relate.
I spent more time than I wanted to, loading up an external hard drive with all my stuff. In my over-excited state, I made dumb mistakes and this took much longer than I wanted it to. Or than it needed to.
Finally, I was able to toss it, my laptop and my headphones into my car, and finally hit the road.
I had tried to plan as best I could, knowing I'd get a late start. And that I'd be tired. So that first day, ten years ago, I had a short goal. I just wanted to get out of the states where I'd been living, so I could really feel like my new life was beginning.
I had worked in DC, first living in Maryland and then in Virginia.
I was exhausted, forced to stop at a Hardee's to load up on Dr. Pepper. The jolt of sugar and caffeine helped me keep going. And then I passed the sign that instantly reinvigorated me.
It's hard to describe how good that felt. Suddenly, it all seemed real. The old life was back there in my rearview mirror, and I was really on my way.
I chased the last rays of sunlight west, and briefly considered dumping my plan and going further that first day. The lack of sleep started to take its toll, though, and once I started seeing signs for Pittsburgh I was ready to call it a day.
When I was three-going-on-four, we lived in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, which is just outside of Pittsburgh. I don't remember much about it. In fact, I only remember two things clearly.
I remember that one night in the winter, there was a deer standing in the snow on our front lawn. This is not that deer. Or our lawn. But he (or she) did look right at us, while we watched from behind the curtains inside. Then the deer took off into the nearby woods. Which looks like what this deer is about to do.
The other thing I remember is that my favorite show was Sid and Marty Kroft's H.R. Pufnstuf. If I remember right, in the episode pictured above, Jimmy was trying to get off the island and go home, and the witch was after Freddie.
Obviously, with images of snowy deer and talking flutes in my head, it was time to get off the road.
So I did.
I had a reservation at a Hampton Inn just off the highway, checked in and got on my laptop to book my next night's stay. My plan was to get up at the crack of dawn and get to St. Louis in time for dinner.
I was also talking to Lisa often on my cell as I traveled, and wanted to at least be in Ohio by the time she woke up the next morning.
I listened to a lot of Maroon 5, Dashboard Confessional and Styx on that first day. The Styx was actually Dennis DeYoung, performing the Music of Styx with an orchestra. Amazingly, I didn't get sick of any of the music on this trip. In part, because I had so many CDs with me, but also, I think it was due to how excited I was to be on this journey.
I've liked Styx for a long time. Their music used to remind me of good times in high school (when Paradise Theater and Kilroy Was Here came out). Now, a lot of what I hear from them reminds me of an October evening in Pennsylvania, when I was driving toward the sunset, toward Lisa and toward my new life in California.
"Best Thing" was their very first single, released back in 1972. It barely dented the charts, peaking at #82. Styx released it again in a couple years on their fourth album, Man Of Miracles.
So quite literally, it meant that there's more than one "Best Thing". And if the first one doesn't turn out the way you'd hoped, there's always opportunity for another.
Ken Kessler has always been interested in psychic phenomena, and like Mulder on the X-Files, wants to believe. But like most, he tends to look for, and accept, rational explanations. (More)