Movin’ On

A week or so ago, I bought a plane ticket to L.A., departing Nov. 8. I’ll be going there to see my girlfriend Kari, who’s a native Angeleno, and we plan to do some dining out, a bit of sightseeing, and spend some much-needed quality time together, since our two-year relationship has been a long-distance one.

I‘ll also be looking for a job and a place to live. Because the plane ticket was one-way, and I’ll be going to L.A. to stay. Kari is the love of my life, so I want to do whatever I need to do to spend the rest of my life with her. Logically, it just makes more sense for me to move and not her; she has family and an awesome job there, and the opportunities to advance in my writing/journalism career are infinitely greater in Los Angeles than here in Key West.

That being said, my heart is unbelievably heavy as I prepare to leave my beloved Southernmost City. I’ve lived here for almost three years, and…I’ll relay something my friend Patrick, a fellow Key Wester with whom I lived when I first moved here, said once that’s stuck with me ever since: “For some reason, Key West has great healing powers.”

I don’t think Pat realized how spot-on that statement was. My guess is that most people associate Key West with Ernest Hemingway (a famous alcoholic), Jimmy Buffet (whose songs all seem to be about alcoholics), and…hell, just being drunk in a bar. And if you know my personal history, you know that I myself am an alcoholic, one who should be dead several times over.

Matter of fact, I came to Key West in January of 2012 figuring I’d end up drinking myself to death. Instead, as I sit here typing, I’ve been sober for two years, four months, three weeks and one day. That’s because part of Key West’s “healing powers” is a fan-fucking-tastic Alcoholics Anonymous program. I went to my first AA meeting after being here only three months or so, and from the get, it was like coming home.

AA serves many purposes for different people, and for me—like a lot of us in the program—it helped me stop running. I was able to quit using booze and other chemicals to make me forget about my pain, and I’ve turned and faced my problems head-on (I’m “clearing away the wreckage of my past,” in AA-speak). I decided early on to do anything and everything I could to change what I so desperately needed to change…I simply had to fill the monstrous hole in my soul. And because of AA, I’m doing it.

Another of the countless benefits of my sobriety is peace of mind. And with that serenity has come the ability to make immeasurably better life decisions than I used to. Of those better decisions, probably the best one was when, in November 2012, I sent a Facebook message to Kari expressing my adoration of her.

We hardly knew each other, and our only previous contact had been through email when she edited a piece I’d written (she’s a writer too) for the webzine for which she worked in 2007. But after we became FB friends several years ago, I noticed from her posts and reading some of her blog that there was something special about her. Something…angelic. (Plus, the fact that she’s gorgeous made my decision a little easier.) So I sent her a message, something to the effect of “it sucks that we live so far away from each other, because I have a major crush on you.”

So we started corresponding by email, then talking on the phone, and then we met when she visited Key West several months later. Here’s the cool thing: when we first started our courtship—online, remember—I had no idea she was disabled too. It wasn’t until about a month into it, when I read a blog post of hers in which she talked about having cerebral palsy, that I put it together. And by then it didn’t matter. I was head over heels for her at that point.

In the eighteen-odd months since then, we’ve become inseparable. (Well, as inseparable as two people living 3,000 miles apart can be.) We text each other about 700 times daily, we Skype every night, and we’re accompanying each other through life. We have tons in common (both writers, both musicians, etc.), and our differences seem to complement us well. One “difference” is that Kari’s lived with her disability all her life, and I with mine for only the last twelve years. So we often talk about gimposity issues we both face, and the often-contrasting ways we view and deal with them.JKL

All that being said, I don’t know if it’s possible for two people to know each other better—even though we live on opposite sides of the country. We’ve spent several days at a time together during our visits, but…the idea of living in the same town as Kari just makes my soul feel good.

And as you can imagine, L.A. (pop. 4,000,000) will have tons more to offer than Key West (pop. not quite 25,000). I’ve been perusing the L.A. Craigslist for employment, and though I’ll wait until I get there to apply for anything, I’ve already seen numerous jobs—writing jobs, mind you—for which I qualify. (The L.A. Craigslist “Writing Jobs” section has 8-10 listings per day, while the Florida Keys one has maybe one per week.) And in the immortal words of Navin R. Johnson, the Lord loves a workin’ man.

I’m also looking forward to peddling my book, Confessions of a Gimp, at independent bookstores, book fairs and writing conferences. Key West’s one bookstore, meanwhile, caters mainly to the tourist crowd, so they told me my book wouldn’t be a good fit alongside best-sellers like How to Parasail and Not Die or Drinkin’ Like Hemingway: A Key West Bar Guide. I told them that’s fine with me.

I truly believe that God brought Kari and me together. She’s the sort of lady—intelligent, funny, good morals, good values, and beautiful as all get-out—that I’d always figured I was unworthy of. So deciding whether or not to move to L.A. to be with her was a no-brainer. When I finally wrap my arms around her in LAX on Nov. 8, I’ll be home again. And it will be the beginning of the answers to a lifetime of prayers.