The following excerpt is from a forthcoming memoir, as of yet untitled. I hope you enjoy.
Part I: Seattle
As my elbow rested outside the window, a chill raced up my arm. But it wasn’t because of the wind. To my right, the city’s skyline stretched upwards like giant fingers reaching for clouds of gold.
Beside me on the passenger seat sat my 1995 Rand McNally atlas, opened to the Washington page, empty Pop Tart boxes and Gatorade bottles, and a shoebox filled with cassettes. The backseat was stuffed to the brim with everything else: books (Vonnegut, Kerouac, and a newcomer, C.S. Lewis); a 4-track recorder; my Ovation guitar.
Driving through the tunnel, a Pearl Jam song came on the radio, “State of Love of Trust,” from the Singles soundtrack, a film about the Seattle music scene. That had always been one of my favorite songs by the band, which was the reason I was driving along the 90 Freeway now—chasing a dream. I turned the radio up, then turned it up more, and sung with everything I had. Surely, this was good sign.
As the sun began its western slide, I followed the flow of traffic into downtown. Was rush hour, just past 5 p.m., and there were more cars than imaginable. My adrenaline shot to a new level, and I leaned forward in the seat.
The freeway led me onto a steep road, so steep that it looked almost straight up. The light turned red. Cars stacked behind me, others stacked in front of me … like a train. My knuckles flushed crimson, my fingers tightened around the steering wheel. Would I be able to put the car in gear without slipping back? One foot on the clutch, the other on the brake, my legs quivered as my Toyota Celica idled. All around, vehicles were honking. People were filling the sidewalks.
The light turned green and I revved the engine. The tires squealed and the engine roared, but I managed to accelerate without damaging the car behind me and sped through the green light, saying a quick prayer of thanks.
A sign ahead read Highway 99/Aurora Avenue. That seemed as good of a street as any, so I turned left onto it. I drove along Highway 99 for a few miles then saw a string of hotels, all cheap—exactly what I was looking for. One advertised a free breakfast, so I pulled into its parking lot then paid for a night’s stay.
The room featured muted yellow curtains and a full-sized bed. I brought in my valuable items—the guitar, the four-track, the CDs (I’d done this packing and unpacking routine so many times during the past month that I’d streamlined it to perfection) then walked the city blocks.
Near one intersection, a trio of women stood, all wearing lacy stockings and sharp heels. My eyes widened. Wait a minute … were those? Meanwhile, the cars whizzed by. The Subaru wagons. The Jettas. The Hondas. The hum of the traffic filled my ears. This city was alive, I could feel. I ran my fingers through my hair, brown and shoulder-length, and rolled down the sleeves of my flannel shirt.
As I took in the sights, a rush of emotions came over me—scared, hopeful, anxious, energetic, prayerful, and, always, alive. The perfect combination. I didn’t know anyone here, had no idea how to tackle my dreams, but that didn’t deter me. I was ready to embrace this city and was sure it would embrace me. All the stops along the way—Tennessee, Texas, Colorado, that disastrous 10-month stay in Los Angeles—seemed like short detours now, ones that had brought me here, my new home.
I ordered a burger and fries from a fast food joint and brought them back to my hotel room. From there, I spent my first night in Seattle, Washington, 2,200 miles from my hometown in Northwest Tennessee, reading a book, The Screwtape Letters, while outside, prostitutes strolled the sidewalks and life went on as usual, as it tends to do.