Here is something you may not know about me: I’m not very bright.
I know what you’re going to say (and not because I’m full of myself, believe me). “Leah,” you’re going to say. “What do you mean you’re not very bright? You’re getting your PhD! You’re a smart lady!”
So look. I’m intelligent. I can’t argue with that because I’ll look like a jerk who’s fishing for compliments – hey! look at me and my false modesty! I can do things like research, and I can write and teach and work hard, and I can read big books and use fancy words and have super great discussions on health care and organizations and 1960s soul and the importance of grammar and manners in a civilized society. I can sell pointy hats to the Pope. And I can win debates. Oh boy, can I.
(Potential employers? Hi!)
But y’see, intelligent and smart are two different things. And sometimes I am dumb as a box of rocks with the clever ones on lunch break.
If you want to be in my life, you should probably be someone with a sense of humor and a healthy dose of patience. Because when I’m not hyper focused on whatever task is at hand, there’s a small chance I will have jet-packed off to Clouds 9, 10, and 11. For instance:
It was a sunny, albeit slightly blustery day in February. The very last day of February, to be exact. I had been invited on a great adventure by someone I was excited to meet – the fabulous Chinako, who many of you will know from her incredible photos on flickr. It wasn’t just any adventure either. Oh no.
We were going to the Polaroid House.
Chinako had been before, but it was my maiden voyage. She was bringing two other first timers with her as well, Amanda and Andre. Because I was coming up from Orange County, and they were driving from Los Angeles, I decided it would be better for me to meet them there. This is where the stupid begins.
Have you ever looked at a place on a road you drive with some frequency, but because it’s a new destination, your brain doesn’t comprehend what’s going on and decides: THIS IS A TOTALLY NEW WORLD!! And you have to drive there as if you’ve never driven to such a location before?
No? Then you are smart.
Even though I very clearly knew where this location was, based on the map, and had basically driven by it many times, my brain didn’t get it. My brain said: This is somewhere far, far inland! A place you’ve never been! You must be cautious and careful. You must take the freeway you loathe.
You must drive… the 5.
Oh, it started out well. There were balloons on both sides of the freeway, and I was singing along to Brendan Benson and AC/DC and Jean Wells. But then it happened, like it always does. Traffic. And traffic. And traffic.
Over two hours of traffic later, I was finally on the other side of Los Angeles, and realized my mistake. My first mistake, I mean, which was taking the 5 in the first place. Because just up ahead the freeway split. The 5 continued to the left, and to the right, the 14.
Now, my directions were very clear. They were about four lines long, direct from the internet. Stay. On. The. 5. Nowhere had I written down “take the 14.” But somewhere, in the recesses of my brain, there was this panicky voice:
WHAT IF YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO TAKE THE 14 LOOK!! IT HAS THE SAME NAME AS THE PLACE YOU’RE GOING
Five minutes later, I’m on the phone with Chinako. “Am I supposed to take the 14? I’m not, am I.”
“No! Don’t take the 14″ I could hear her say through the phone.
“Um. Okay. I won’t. I mean, I’ll turn around. If I can.” Three miles later, I did just that. And zoomed back down to the 5, up over the hills and down to the unassuming exit I’d passed without a second thought so many times before.
While driving between Orange County and the Bay Area. Same freeway, same area, same everything. Just a different exit a few hundred miles south of my usual. My brain is so easily confused.
But I forgive it, because it does eventually get me to my destination, and it allows me to meet wonderful people. And it allows me to do more stupid things, like almost put my eyeball out while trying to help a friend get fabulous shots.
And it helps me think about the strangeness of sitting in a ramshackle abandoned house – almost no longer a house, the structural elements crumbling down around you as you gingerly walk through doorways and almost fall through porch floorboards – and feeling a sense of being “at home.” At home because you feel right being in the middle of nowhere. Being in an abandoned place. Being with people who are eager to explore and drift off into their own “hold on… I have to take a shot” reverie. Being inside something that was cast off – perhaps unwillingly – and has been resurrected. Being a part of something that feels like creation. Or creativity. Or maybe even art, if that’s how you’d like to see it.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the drive home took about half as long as the drive there. Including traffic. I may be dumb, but I learn right quick.
PS – there are more of my shots of the Polaroid House on my flickr stream. I also have a few more I have yet to upload, so if you’d like to see them, please let me know. Or heck, I can go back (you know I will), take more, and put them all together in a Blurb book.