It had the potential to be a pretty forgettable night, mushed in with enough other things going on that it would be meaningless. Last night in town, observing an audit, and the supplier offered to take the auditor and myself to dinner. Choosing a location halfway-ish between the hotels we were staying in next to LAX, and the desert home the supplier lived in, we ate at a steakhouse in what I now know is Pasadena’s Oldtown. Late January, and a heck of a traffic pattern to overcome, the sun set long before we rolled into town but the route we took brought us over the Arroyo Seco valley, a small water wash valley that runs along Pasadena’s west side. In the dark, the lights from the Rose Bowl and the Colorado Blvd Bridge gave a sense of structured beauty, in a way that seemed completely out of place for Los Angeles County. When left to drive back to the hotel, I took my time over that valley again, amazed how something so pretty could be tucked away in the hills around such a big city. The night in 2007 was otherwise forgettable because I had only just returned from my first visit to Hawaii, spent a week before deep in meetings on Redondo Beach, and 12 days into a 13 day trip. Still, the lights of that little valley etched into my head.
That bridge is a mile and a half south of where I work every day. Same with the Rose Bowl. I don’t cross Arroyo Seco everyday, because JPL is on the west edge of it … so I only park right next to Arroyo Seco, like literally right next to it. Ten years since, and here I am. In all honestly, back then I probably didn’t know what JPL was. If I didn’t I sure as heck wouldn’t have known it was Pasadena. But just recently, I got to think a fair bit about that day, when I brushed through a town that now is becoming a center of my universe.
In a way, rethinking about that night was sparked by random news. On occasion, I read the Alaska Dispatch – the daily news site out of Anchorage. You can say, it just goes to show how I haven’t lost my want for returning to the 49th state (mostly because in comparison, I don’t read the Boston Globe, the Wichita Eagle, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, or the stall-worth of newspapers from Southwestern Wisconsin, the Courier Press). Recently, there was a crime at a small hotel in Anchorage near the airport. I knew that hotel, not from the two years of living there – but for a night I spent in the hotel back in 2006. It started with that one memory.
It was a vacation I took to Alaska, and after arriving late night, I crashed at a cheap place on Seward before picking up a RV for the week. That morning, the day was cold & dewy. I wrapped myself up in one of the few sweatshirts I had for the poorly packed tripe and went for a walk to Connors Lake Park. At the time, I was about four months into what became a four year addiction to Geocaching (long story, for later maybe), and went in search for something hidden in that park. What I found was my first moose, and it freaked me out a little. Spent the rest of the morning back at the hotel then hit the road for the rest of my adventure.
When I moved to Alaska, I got to know Connors Lake Park pretty well … mostly because it was the closest leash-free park to the house. It is still to this day the best dog park I ever visited with Auggie, and remember the year round visits we took when he could just run, be stupid, and run a little more. The park barely changed in the gap between 2006 & 2014, and it even had moose that freaked me out from time to time. The way Sewards winds from the park never changed. Heading along that road brought me back to how the first time I was in Alaska, I saw this little tiny part – but what I ended up seeing and experiencing was so much grander in return. But it started with one memory there.
I can say that I moved around a lot in my years since high school. I can’t say that those experiences with Pasadena and Anchorage are consistent with the others. In fact, it seems like I am split down the middle – a random first memory of a place true with Boston and with Milwaukee. But on the flip side I moved to Wichita, Houghton Michigan, and Watertown Wisconsin without much of a visit at all. To be fair, and my Yooper friends may take offense to this, those I arrived at out of the blue weren’t exactly vacation destinations. Yet, I guess that isn’t the point I am trying to make here.
In that moment, in that first moment, when I look back to that memory of that time – I had no idea that the world would spin me to the place it became. My first trip to Pasadena wasn’t to consider living and working there someday, it was to have a free dinner. I wanted to visit Alaska once in my life, so I vacationed there; never without a thought that it became a life I loved and a life I chased since then. In that moment, that single first moment, you have not idea what would become of things.
That is part of the fun of remembering it. How it seems that the story of our lives were at one point just on the first page.
How it’s possible that today is the first page of the rest of our lives.