As I sit here I struggle to find the words to begin this entry. It’s been over a month since I’ve been living in Tahoe and I’ve hardly written. This is due to many factors, including: living in a house that had no internet, working two jobs, being exhausted in the evenings, and/or partying after work. All are semi good excuses for ignoring my blog like a favorite toy a child grows tired of. As I struggle to find the words to begin, I also struggle to find the place to begin. The best conclusion I can arrive at would be the beginning.
The beginning started with an end. That end was Santa Cruz. After spending less than a week in town, engaging in total debauchery, I drove away from the place where I was educated, and where I simultaneously probably killed a countless number of brain cells. Every time I kiss Santa Cruz goodbye a part of my heart remains and I long to be there again. But when I am there I am in a state of limbo. In Santa Cruz, post graduation, I linger between past and future, unsure of what to do with myself. Although it will always feel like home, I no longer have any place of residence in that town. I spend my time in the most unproductive ways imaginable, with some of my favorite most irreplaceable friends. Being in Santa Cruz but no longer being a student, is like existing in an altered reality of what you once knew, where a bubble of academia exists, but you have been pushed outside of it.
We left town early on a Monday morning, after a hectic rush to get all of his stuff moved out of his dorm room, at the very last minute. But thats how it always is with him, pushing it to the very last possible moment to do something, and still getting it done, even if just by a hair. He has a way of making things work out, which never would if it was me in that situation, or anyone else for that fact.
As we left Santa Cruz, our destination (our including he and I), was South Lake Tahoe, a place I hadn’t been to in at least a decade. Moving to Tahoe after our previous commitments ended was his idea, but I liked it, and that is why I was sitting in the passenger’s seat, when only a week prior I was in an office in Washington DC. As we got closer to Lake Tahoe the trees outside the car window passed by more frequently, and they became taller and thicker. Snow started to cover patches of the earth, and my head pressure tightened under the rising elevation. The closer we got to arriving, the more breathtaking the landscape became. His truck wound around the curves on highway 50, and we climbed and climbed until passing a sign that read 6,000 ft above sea level. As we cut through the mountains a view was revealed that made my stomach jump. The earth dipped away from the edge of the road with little room to be forgiving. Valleys stretched as far as the eye could see and mountains reached for the sky. After about a four hour drive we arrived in South Lake, with no home and no jobs.
He had found a place that rented by the week for a ridiculously cheap price, and as we pulled into the parking lot I realized why. Instantly we named our temporary home the Crack Pad. When I first approached the front door of the Crack Pad he told me not to judge it by the outside, but when I stepped through the door way I found no change from the outer appearance. Due to some miscommunications with the landlord we got upgraded to the suite (if you could call it that). The suite consisted of a two bedroom one bath apartment with a full kitchen and living room. The highlight of the Crack Pad? The fireplace. That fireplace was the glue that held the place together, and made it bearable during the week we lived there. For a two bedroom apartment it had about eight mattress without bed frames, a mattress in the kitchen, bunk beds in the living room, and four TVs all stacked in the living room, none of them working. And that was just the beginning. The linoleum kitchen floor had white paint marks of dog paws tracked across it from a previous tenant. The lighting throughout the apartment were just bulbs screwed into electrical sockets with no covers over them, half of them no longer in service. The kitchen and appliances were by the far the oldest I had ever encountered, and while some of the appliances still operated, others filled the entire place with their smoky breath each time we tried to use them. The bathroom wasn’t much better than the rest of the house. When I first wrote about the Crack Pad in a notebook and asked him how he would describe the bathroom his only reply was “Oh My God.” From what I remember of the bathroom: the door wouldn’t shut, the light wouldn’t stay on without flickering the entire time, the shower wouldn’t drain without first filling up enough to be a bath, the faucet to the shower would get so unbelievably hot that we had to use an oven mitt when turning it off after showering, and the linoleum tiles oozed water when you stepped on them. It is a miracle that neither of us met our death through electrocution that week.
The best thing about the Crack Pad was the stray cat that came to live with us during that first week. He arrived on the first night, having run away from wherever his last home was, and he came crying at our door. I’m normally terribly allergic to cats, all cats, any cat, but this one particular cat was a good omen because I was perfectly fine around him. Over the corse of the week Mr. Fluffertins came and went as he pleased, and we always welcomed him when he wanted to visit. He was the sweetest cat I’ve ever met, and he was always a pleasant surprise. As much as we made fun of it, the Crack Pad was our first house, and it was the first week we ever lived together. That first week we spent every minute together, we made dinner each night together, we spent hours listening to music and talking about whatever came to mind, past, present and future, and we started to get to know one another again. We put up Christmas lights, had dance parties for two, and got dressed up fancy and went to a casino ridiculously intoxicated. The Crack Pad was the perfect way to begin our new lives in Tahoe.
The majority of our first week was spent at Starbucks, stealing the internet and searching for housing and jobs.
Finally, after maybe five days, we found a place in North Lake and we decided to check it out. Although we hadnt originally considered that area of Lake Tahoe, we were sold on the scenic drive there and the town we arrived in. In North Lake the touristy feeling of South Lake was left behind. It felt more like a town for locals, with locally owned small shops and almost no chains with the exception of one Safeway. All of the propery was close to the lake, and there were no souvineir stores or casions in our neighborhood. Once we saw the house we knew we weren’t going back to South Lake.
The place we started calling home was a A frame house, located in Tahoe Vista, and had all the touches of a snowboarder’s house. He and I joined a house of three other guys, two dogs, and the regulars who seemed to spend the night enough to live there. It was the first house we saw in North Lake and we were so desperate to get out of the Crack Pad that we instantly signed the lease without looking at any other places. While at first it seemed like a good match, the house fell apart over the next month and we decided it was best to relocate and try something a bit more— normal.
Earlier this week he and I moved into our new home, and it couldn’t be a better fit. We have really good housemates, no one is on, or has been on felony probation, our house is big, clean and respected by all in it, and our room is three times the size as the last one, with a backdoor in it that opens up to a wooded area covered in snow, with no houses in sight. Our room is a converted sunroom that was built as an extension on the house, and the entire back wall is lined with windows that fill it with natural light. Last night we started to put up decorations in our room and got settled in. We have found a home, and this is where we plan to stay. It’s good to have a feeling of slight permanence, when life has felt so unstable and in transition lately.
There are many many many details I am leaving out since arriving in Tahoe, but there is almost too much to cover. He and I both got jobs at Northstar, which is the ski resort closest to us. Half the week I work there as a board technician- don’t be fooled, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Basically, it means I set up the board or skis for people when they rent them from the resort. I make less money than I have ever made at any job I’ve worked, BUT, I get a free epic pass to all Vail resorts, which retails for over a grand. I have been boarding and have actually started to recognize my progress, but I still have an entire season left to get better and leave this place the best I can become. My job gives me ride breaks every time I work, so during each shift I can take up to three hours to snowboard. The people I work with are all really laid back, and my job requires very little from me. We have snowball fights at work, blast whatever music we want, and just goof around when not tech-ing boards. The guy to girl ratio in Tahoe is five to one, but in the tech shop it has got to be at least fifteen to one. I’ve had to defend myself against snowballs, giant rubber bands snapping against my leg, and other immature things that boys do. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy what I do at Northstar as it’s a nice break after working hard in college and finishing my internship in Washington DC. For the first time work feels more like play time. The other day we ended up challenging a bunch of little kids to a snowball fight and then ended up surrendering because they were so relentless.
I have also been working a second job as a nanny, so a few days a week are spent hanging out with a baby. I work for the greatest, most generous couple, who have two adorable boys. The baby is the one I spent the majority of the time with, and he is four months old, an age I’m not used to working with. Each day that I am with him I become more comfortable and more aware of what he needs and why he might be upset. It’s a different type of communication, learning to please somebody who can’t use language. Taking care of an infant is also a full time job, and I am so glad that for me it’s only a job.
Life in Tahoe is a lot slower than what I was accostomed to. The night life isn’t the same as DC, but that’s ok, because I’m enjoying this mellower pace. No one here is ever in a rush, hitch hiking is safe again (for the most part), and everywhere I go has a small town vibe. The town I live in has a residency of only a few thousand, and most people seem to work at the local resorts. I spend most of my time working and just hanging out with him, and enjoying being in his company. I’ve gotten to focus more on art and I’ve done a ton of writing- outside of this blog. The lake is incredible to see everyday and the scenery is breathtaking. Since snowing for the first time earlier this week the entire appeararance of the area has changed. The morning of the first heavy snow was the morning I awoke to a world covered in white powder, with more falling from above. I stood on my front porch and took in the new natural world around me, one where such tiny white flakes could fall with such heavy force. They instantly coated my head, shoulders, arms and the tops of my boots. The biggest difference about this new world was the silence. Every thing was perfectly silent. Unlike rain, the snow fell without making a sound. Not even a breath of wind could be heard. Silence covered everything. Tree branches sagged beneath white pillows which had grown over the coarse of the night. Walkways, driveways and gardens no longer existed. That first heavy snow fall was the most I’ve ever seen in my life, and it made a dirty and confusing world appear so simple and clean. After a month of living here, this was the Tahoe I had been waiting for. This was the reason we were living here. The first week of snow made the hugest difference at Northstar too. Riding became ten times as fun and we began to ride down mountain sides where runs hadn’t been opened yet and the power was untouched. The feeling of powering through a couple feet of fresh powder, your board lost under the snow as you glide down the mountain, is indescribable. It’s something you have to experience first hand, because nothing is comparable. And it’s hard to believe this is just the beginning. The snow has just begun.
My favorite thing about Tahoe? Everytime I get to the top of the mountains and exit the ski lift, I am greeted by a view that covers the entire surrounding valleys, and strecthes to all the other snow capped mountains. It’s the closest feeling I’ve had to the top of the world in a very long time. And it’s obtainable- Every. Single. Day.
I took a chance on coming to a place I knew nothing about. I left a place where I was just beginning to feel at home… and I wouldn’t change a thing. Life is short. Take chances. Let life be an adventure, rather than a plan you are living out.