The week-long birthday

I turned 26 a couple weeks ago, and I did it in style. Well . . . there were different kinds of style involved. I actually celebrated twice: once in Portland, a week prior to my birthday, and again in Humboldt County. Podunk is a good word to describe the latter–no offense intended for Humboldt or the friends I visited while I was there. The word came to mind as I spent that Saturday evening shooting pool, having a milkshake at a greasy 24-hour diner, and seeing my friends run into their acquaintances everywhere. Contrast that scenario with an evening of dressing up to have expensive cocktails at the Portland City Grill. There’s a difference between the old life and the new life. Then again, my trip to the Portland City Grill was preceded by a sweaty day of hiking in the Gorge. I’m not an upscale kind of girl; I just like to make sure that my dresses get worn once or twice per year. And I like fruity cocktails.

The hiking and drinking expeditions were shared with my friend Jenny, who visited from Washington the weekend before my birthday. I was able to meet her new boyfriend and they got to spend time with my fabulous friend Audrey, who dressed up all shiny-like and joined us for dinner and drinks. I felt pretty luminous even though my black heeled shoes were the only shiny part of my ensemble. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant, and for some reason my friends chose not to embarrass me by having the waitstaff sing “Happy Birthday.”

A week later, I took a four-day weekend from work and rented a car to make the drive down to Humboldt. It wasn’t the first time I’d been back to California since I moved, or even the first road trip I’d been on, but it was the first time I had been behind the wheel for a long drive since I sold my old car in April last year. There’s always a wonderful sense of freedom about it until I’m a few hours in–then I begin to feel pain and stiffness in a variety of body parts. Apparently you’re never too young to be hobbled by backaches, provided that you sit in one position for an entire afternoon. You’re allowed to take a break, but the drive takes nearly eight hours, so you have to spend the evening in that position too.

There were no shiny clothes or pricey drinks involved in my Humboldt trip. I spent a lot of time alone, visiting my favorite places and then visiting them again because I was running out of things to do. My rental car was a portable home between the evenings when I slept on friends’ couches. I sullied its exterior with a trip to the beach, where it sat parked in a muddy lot while I spent a blissful hour feeling the warm sand and watching people fly kites. The ocean is what I miss most about living in Humboldt County. It’s an astoundingly beautiful place, and I know people who lead great lives there. For me, though, it holds more memories than promises.

Arcata Bay at low tide

Arcata Bay at low tide

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