Monthly Archives: September 2013

Independence days

The feeling of relief upon getting a job after twenty-three months of unemployment is nearly worth twenty-three months of unemployment.

Nearly. Long-term unemployment — particularly if you are single, with no health insurance, no unemployment benefits, and no second income to use as a safety net — is a very particular kind of malaise that I hope never to experience again. I had my reasons for leaving my last library job, and I stand by those reasons, but the chronic anxiety of financial insecurity is a nasty burden to bear.

Last Monday I was offered a job with the Mid-Continent Public Library, and last Tuesday I drove a car full of stuff and two miserable cats for thirteen hours. I’ll start my new job on Wednesday and I’ll write about it soon, but the topic du jour is Independence, Missouri.

Independence is way the hell on the far side of Missouri, which is one of those blocky states in the middle of the country. It is nowhere near the arch thingy, a monument that I was only able to glance at briefly, because traffic in St. Louis was snarly and I had to concentrate on driving. It is however near Kansas City, which is a much bigger city than I had realized. I don’t have to drive very far to get a view of the KC skyline.

I don’t have internet access at home yet. This condition, though temporary, has reduced me to a state of savagery unknown in the modern world. I am communicating mainly through grunting, and for dinner I gnawed on a squirrel.

Without an internet connection I am unable to get hard numbers, but to judge from the size and number of the buildings, I would guess that Kansas City is a bigger deal than Raleigh or Charlotte. I know very little about Kansas City, but I know that it is famous for music and for barbecue, though its barbecue is different from both western North Carolina barbecue and its inferior cousin, eastern North Carolina barbecue. Or at least that’s what I remember reading. I haven’t tried it yet.

ImageIndependence is famous for Harry S Truman and the Oregon Trail. Harry S Truman — I know this without looking it up, because I paid attention in high school — dropped the bomb on Japan. The S in his name doesn’t stand for anything, so technically you’re not supposed to put a dot after it, but everyone does anyway. The Oregon Trail is famous for giving people dysentery.

For my first few days, I was terribly homesick. Even when I was quite young I would travel to distant places, often with semi-distant relatives rather than my parents, and I never felt a pang of sadness. Unless I’m forgetting something, this was my first case of full-onslaught homesickness. It was horrible.


Part of the problem was that I was leading a lovely existence. (Except for being unemployed and having no money. That sucked.) I lived in a charming townhouse just outside of downtown Asheville, one of the most beautiful and enjoyable cities in the country. I was able to walk to the gym, the library, my hairdresser, the grocery store, and the homeless shelter where I volunteered. I lived near my parents. My roommate was a good friend who appreciated space as much as I did.

The other part of the problem is that I know I’m not going back.”You can’t go home again,” said Thomas Wolfe, an Asheville resident. (I think he said it. Difficult to fact-check without an internet connection. But he was definitely an Asheville resident. I often walked by his home and his gravesite, back when I lived in paradise.)

Independence doesn’t have any mountains. That is drawback number one. Drawback number two is that everyone drives. I will be the first person to walk in this town, much like Neil Armstrong was the first to land on the moon. The other day I timed the walk to work. During the walk, one truck slowed so that three gentlemen could wave at me — they were very enthusiastic — and another driver stopped to ask if I needed a lift.

The duplex I’m renting is adequate. It’s a bit ramshackle, honestly, but it’s spacious. Plenty of closets, and I have a garage and a basement. The kitchen is tiny, but I have converted the living room into a kitchen extension. It’ll do for a year. Wish I had a washer and dryer but I think there’s a laundromat nearby.

Though I haven’t started work yet, I met my boss, and so far she’s wonderful. And I’m living about twenty minutes away from my long-time library buddy Kaite, who plied me with food and cats and beer the evening I arrived. She works in the library system next door.

Work starts Wednesday, because I’ve got to be at home on Tuesday to meet with the internet guy. (Also because I left my social security card in storage. Whoops. Thankfully my parents were able to dig it out. Should arrive today.) I’m eager to start, because there’s nothing quite like moving 900 miles to make you hemorrhage money. I’m also eager to sink my teeth into the new job — I think it will be challenging in all the right ways — and, while I will miss the freedom of setting my own schedule, a bit of routine will distract me from the part about how I no longer live in Asheville.