I just packed up two boxes of books, and in the second box I included volumes 1&2 of American Elf, the daily comic strip diary of James Kochalka. American Elf was where -- long ago, in the distant early-aughts -- I first heard of a town called Burlington, Vermont. Flash forward several suns, and I've been living on the outskirts of Burlington since last October. You can tell you're in my part of town when you see the spooky boat in the woods.
I came here most recently from LA, which is where I moved after grad school in San Francisco (with a stopover with family in Ohio for a few months in between). When I arrived in LA, I thought I'd be there for a few years at least (and at most), I thought I'd finish my book there, look into some freelance writing gigs, maybe even start teaching. And it's certainly not Los Angeles's fault that it didn't work out that way -- it's a big town with lots of opportunity if you can grab it, and I had a hell of a writing group during my year there. This is a sizeable chunk of said writing group on top of/inside of a giant ball made of sticks at Disneyland.
My reasons for leaving LA are becoming mistier the longer ago it was, but I do think it was the right decision to go. Most of the folks I knew were writers or stand-ups, and they were working their asses off to find/keep/create jobs that I would have entertained as day jobs, but that I would never want to fight for. And there are a LOT of people there who are willing to fight for those jobs, so what was I gonna do? My girl and I grabbed our cat and headed east to Burlington, "the West Coast of the East Coast."
Well, Vermont -- I hardly knew ye. Last week I took a job that will take me down to Baltimore as soon as I can find a place to lay my head down there. I have a cautious excitement about the move. I'm excited to be going back to a larger city -- they have zipcars there! -- but I went for a run yesterday along the Lake Champlain bike trail, and I'll definitely miss the water and the trees and the outdoors here. All the same, for reasons personal, creative, and emotional it's been a struggle to find my people here. Going through a break-up recently has made me feel especially island-like up here on North Cove Road, and a train trip last weekend to Baltimore to visit writerly friends was just what I needed and wanted to clear my head and reassess the next few years. And there just doesn't seem to be a downside to working a job that keeps me creatively engaged, living near people I love who are really good writers (hi Adam and Kate Lynn!), and, frankly, having a new town to explore. I've been moving around a lot for the past few years, and I thought with all my heart that Vermont was going to be home for the foreseeable future. But this weekend a friend said -- "You get used to that life after awhile, of moving to place after place." So maybe I just embrace that for now. I'm finishing a new draft of my book by early summer, and I'm looking forward to a break in the cold. In the billboard of life, Baltimore is the dude with one eye, and I am the girl with the bulbous head.