Places I slept, 2018

Hong Kong view

The year ends with a new view. For the first time since twenty fourteen, we have a new address. For the first time since two thousand nine, we live in a new city, and for the first time since two thousand eight, a new country. That is what will summarize twenty eighteen in my memory: we moved to Hong Kong.

Looking back across things I wrote while living in San Francisco is the only way to understand how long the transition took. The earliest mention of moving on comes in two thousand twelve, written as we were moving from the Sunset district to the Richmond district in SF. My lasting memories from that year, without the aid of recollection, are of Obama’s second win, celebrated on Divisadero, and welcoming Mr. Squish, who also caused the move. It feels a very long time ago.

As I wrote at the end of last year our decisions in twenty seventeen shaped most of this year. The desire for different, long present, began for real with Tara’s flight to Spain the day after leaving Tesla. It became fact on the first of October, when we landed in Hong Kong. The gap between those two events, some ten months, will fade with time and deserve more recognition. Our ability to move was grounded in Tara’s freedom and our ability to be patient. Living for a possible future rather than a present takes an amount of self-belief that can be hard to sustain, and both of us struggled with it at times in the spring. Those difficult moments of self-doubt and fear are what will be lost in the grand story of our time in San Francisco and Hong Kong. The weekends we spent making plans A through E to have enough options to fall back on are rarely the highlights of our adventures, nor are they filled with laughter. Those plans, though, were what sustained us and stopped us from staying the course in San Francisco. Moving abroad, as adults, without sacrificing careers or facing too much financial uncertainty, is a challenging game of logistics, desire, and luck. Writing this from our Hong Kong apartment is proof we managed all three.

Despite that move, or more accurately because of it, my list below of places slept is smaller than it has been in years, and focused tightly on neighborhood hunting in Hong Kong, work in the Shenzhen Dongguan Guangzhou Zhuhai area, and family in the US. In many ways this list, started to aid my memory, has succeeded in defining, quickly, the shape of life. Scanning the previous entries I can spot friends’ moves and the slow shift of job changes. I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings, with a new home base and some familiar stops already planned.

As always, thanks for reading. Twenty eighteen feels like a fresh start, both in writing and in learning. I’ve been sending physical mail again, trying to get back up to my five pieces per month target of the early part of this decade. If you haven’t gotten any, send me your address and you will.

Here it is then, the list. Previous years can be found here, back to 2009 when this project began.

Portland, OR
Mt. Shasta, CA
San Francisco, CA
Henderson, NV
Newport, CA
Malibu, CA
Phoenix, AZ
Bao’an, Shenzhen, China
Zhuhai, China
Kowloon, Hong Kong
North Point, Hong Kong
Austin, TX
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
San Po Kong, Hong Kong
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Bellingham, WA
Aurora, IL
Ft Collins, CO
Elko, NV
Rio Linda, CA
TST East, Hong Kong
Cherry Hill, NJ
Rumson, NJ
Brooklyn, NY
Tai Hang, Hong Kong
Doumen, Zhuhai, China

And as for Mr. Squish? He made it farther than any street cat from the East Bay ever expects to go, and we’re so grateful for his company. As I write this he’s asleep in his chair in the living room, finally relaxed in this new country.

Portland, OR
Mt. Shasta, CA
San Francisco, CA
Tai Hang, Hong Kong

Napping creatures

In the long rays of afternoon light on the last day of the year I read through words from the months past and stare out the window. On the sofa Mr. Squish sleeps with his face tucked against the blue cushions that were a gift to ourselves this past April, when we were in sore need of a space to lie down. Since then it has hosted friends from New York, from Denver, from San Diego, Detroit, and Portland. In 2015 hopefully many more will visit and find it welcoming. Today it is my home, at least until nap time.

In 2014 we mastered a new skill: napping. Whether from injury, exhaustion, jetlag, or illness, we were often forced to sleep when able rather than when dark, to rest when the day became quiet, even at 3 pm. And so we did, all three of us, with great frequency. Mr. Squish is pleased with this turn, as he misses my ritual of Thursdays at home from the two years previous, when I would avoid the commute to Petaluma and instead pace our bedroom on long phone calls as he slept on the bed in the slim beams of sun those east-facing windows provided. In those afternoons he would nap on the bay window seats above the floorboard heater as I sat nearby at the desk. In 2014 he has the luxury of our new sofa and an expanse of north and west facing windows perfect for a sun-loving cat. He is not alone in this love, and often times has to share the couch. It’s an arangement that suits everyone.

In these last short days of winter we have managed to wring from 2014 more of the smiles we had hoped for at the year’s start. A few days on the North California coast gave us sun and the sounds of the ocean. A few days in the mountains of Colorado gave us the peace of being snowed in beneath thousands of stars. And now, at the end of the year, we have some time at home to curl up and reflect, to make art and to sing. Buried in the joy of these early afternoons and short evenings is a lesson about hopes and expectations and the challenges that will fill the rest of our lives.

The year started with a new job, with a new house, and plans for a wedding. It ended with five weddings, four bachelor/bachelorette parties, a huge number of new destinations, new trips, and new experiences. Also the worst injury of each of our lives, the longest break from ultimate, and the most hours of work we’ve ever clocked. 2014 was grueling, swallowing us with the feeling that we could do nothing but grind, do nothing but heal, and do nothing but celebrate.

In between these moments it has been a year of naps. A skill once learned on Tokyo trains and long haul flights has been perfected in hospital chairs, airport lounges, and on this exact sofa.

So, after both lunch and work emails are finished, Mr. Squish and I retire to the bed. The house is finally warm, and the sun streams in the windows. Later we will rise, welcome Tara home, and prepare to celebrate with friends. For now we curl up tight together with a furry blanket and surrender again to sleep.

Rest

From a comfortable chair in Colorado I watch the house fill and empty. Cousins enter the room, play, read, and leave. Aunts, uncles and parents call questions and advice from the kitchen. Groups bundle up and head out into the cold, to shop, play, walk the dogs and shovel snow.  These are good days, filled with long mornings and multiple pots of coffee shared by all. The dogs, happy to have attention from all fronts, spend the early hours sneaking from room to room and bed to bed, taking several minutes of snuggles from each occupant before moving on. Eventually they demand release into the yard, where they bound back and forth in the fresh powder, hide beneath the pine trees, and bark at passers-by. In good spirits we can not be too stern, and instead usher them back indoors with smiles, coffee in hand. For the first time in months “good morning”, is an earnest welcome.

My hands are weak as of this writing, dry and cracked from the climbing gym and the mountains of Colorado. One new habit for twenty twelve and one family I’ve become comfortable with. The weakness and torn skin are a good feeling, a sacrifice I’m becoming used to.

In the span of a few days we ease into ourselves and into our families. Cousins sit on the same couch though they live thousands of miles apart. They relax with the comfort of having nowhere to be, no schoolwork to finish or reports to complete. These are the compromises of the holidays, a lack of privacy and a lack of urgency, the comfort of a warm home and the chill of the snow.

The gift of rest is that it comes in different ways to each. To the father napping in a chair near the fire while his children play cards, to the boy asleep on a bed in the afternoon sun while the house is quiet, all others having gone shopping. It comes to the younger cousins unbundling after building a snow fort for hours. To the same boy after an hour’s basketball at the chain-link netted courts of the local elementary school.

At the end of another year, in groups or families, by oceans and on ski lifts, quietly and with great laughter, we come together around the celebration of survival. For at its heart the ticking over of the calendar is a reminder that we are still here, still alive and awake. We will go farther, and make new memories, leaving behind this old year and those lost in it. For a few days though the holidays are a time to remember, and to let go.