Sunday, January 31, 2016

Michigan Ho!

Today I am an hour later, a bit calmer and in a totally different mindset.

On Friday, we packed up our car and a rental van and headed to a new future. Now, I had lived in Illinois for the majority of my life. I've only taken a couple trips here and there but I had always felt land-locked by whatever job I was doing at the time.

I've been to Wisconsin a few times. One time I got lost there.

I've been to Missouri but that was for my grandma's funeral.

And, or course, there was our trip to Pennsylvania.

But I've visited Michigan before. I liked it.

So we took the I-290 through Chicago. We left at Noon and quickly encountered heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic. And in that traffic, I started to get anxious. It was 30 degrees outside. I had my shades on, my red baseball cap and a coat that I borrowed from my father.

Right then, a loud voice shouted inside my head "THIS WILL NOT WORK!"

Then my stomach kept rolling into knots, warning me that I was going to throw up. I started breathing deep, in and out, just to stave off my upset stomach. Desperately I started turning the dial on the radio, thinking that if I heard a song I recognized, that would comfort some part of my brain with familiarity. But, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that this was a big change. I didn't want to have a panic attack right there on the road.

In the lane ahead, my wife was driving the rental van with my daughter in the child seat and my mother-in-law in the back seat. It was then that I began reliving my days living next to the windy city. It does have character, but it also has scars. Everything is cramped and foreboding. But on other days it's bright and scenic. I guess my whole life I've been weighing the beauty of Chicago against the ugliness. I can honestly say that I've had a love/hate relationship with Chicago.

Sure, I loved driving to different book events to see an author I admired and get a book signed. But when the rest of the nation is calling your city Chi-raq, you tend to take notice. The news would debut each night with a shooting (Gang activity, stray bullet, etc). I've heard guns fired so many times it became normal. Now, I know there's violence everywhere, but this felt like in was in our face daily.

Michigan held a new start.

My wife pulled over in a gas station after an hour and a half. We had taken a wrong turn and I needed to take a breath. I got some gum, some water, went to the bathroom, hopped in the car and we took off once more.

When we passed the sign saying welcome to Indiana, I started to breathe easier. I was basically following the van, only had to look at the google map and directions a few times. So from Noon to 5:30 all I did was drive, all the while listening to the radio. This time around I didn't mind listening to songs I had never heard before. Like a Prayer from Madonna came on along with Hello From The Other Side from Adele.

Then, the first change. My favorite radio stations were noticeably disappearing. 91.5 (Npr), 100.3, 101.1, 101.9, 103.5, and 104.3 were giving way to static. I had to scan through to find some new stations. An unhealthy amount of country songs flooded the radio. And as we were passing into Michigan, I found NPR was now on 91.1, featuring an interview with Carol Burnett. Heard she was recently receiving an AFI Award. Listened to it for a while and found out Burnett had a chin job done during the filming of Annie (A movie my daughter watches like crazy.) If you look for it, you can see she has a different chin when she comes out of the mail room and starts singing with Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters.

There was also a segment where a son recounted how his father stopped speaking Spanish in his family because he was dismayed every time someone treated him differently when he spoke it. But now, with his son grown up, he wanted to see if his father still spoke it.

I connected with this story a little bit. I was raised with my Papa speaking both Italian and Spanish. I understand very little of it. As I was growing up, I noticed that Italians were sometimes stereotyped as obnoxious, loud and under-educated. (That Jersey Shore show didn't help, either.) I may be loud at times, but I read constantly and love researching history and learning about different cultures. And I had always heard that Michigan was different; a different way of life altogether.

The stress was gone. Our target was Bay City.

We stopped at a gas station/McDonald's to refuel. Then we got back on the road from 5:50 to 8:30. Hard to believe we had driven over 300 miles.

Things are not only different, they're better.

I don't hear sirens constantly.

The sidewalks are wider.

It seems like every thing you need to get to is only 5 minutes away.

People are friendlier.

The city has a lot of history, some buildings dating back to the 1920's.

You can actually park in front of a house without getting ticketed.

I've spent 3 days here and haven't seen one cop car.

I, along with others, needed a break from the hustle and bustle and just needed to slow down. Meanwhile, my budding career as a Voiceover Artist has been speeding up. I also wanted to focus on my own writing, as I'd like to format those into audio books as well. So yes, this has been a big change. But I feel rejuvenated and optimistic about the future. With narrating audio books, you can be flexible and record anywhere. Also, the best thing about being your own boss, you don't have to beg for days off and you can work at your own pace. I'm happier now and it feels great. More news to come.

Oh, and keep writing...


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