Of Kings and Vagabonds

By Jaron Zanerhaft

When we had decided to leave, I knew approximately how much the trip would cost, how unlikely it was that we would make it back to Los Angeles in time for work, and how much physical strain I would probably contend with when faced against the hills of San Francisco and Berkeley. Nevertheless, the value I placed on the expected experience greatly outweighed the price of our collective sacrifices. I knew I would face consequences, and I think highly enough of my companions to believe that they knew what they were getting themselves into as well (though I now know differently). In fact, I believe that part of why we were driven to make the voyage so grand was to securely overwhelm the negative reactions we would encounter upon our return.

The road stretched out before us like the aged ink ribbon on a typewriter, taking the imprint of our tires as confident key strokes. It was just before noon on Sunday, and Michael, Joseph, and I had set San Francisco to our horizon with the complete intention of showing up for work at 9 a.m. the next day back in Los Angeles. Sobriety had proved unable to shake the vagabondry from our souls, and our planning abilities were as we are— still in their early 20s. In just one evening, excitement and anticipation yielded to a degradation of consciousness usually reserved for psilocybin. It was one hell of a drive, and one hell of a ride.

We arrived in San Francisco at about 6 p.m. and crammed the next 10 hours with enough to fill a week. Shopping at Union Square, dinner in Chinatown, spending a couple of hours shifting between poetry and conspiracy theories at City Lights bookstore in North Beach, and mounting Nob Hill were just a few of our many adventures while in the City. By the time we were looking out onto the Bay Bridge and the light pollution dome over Oakland from a hilltop in Berkeley, all six of our legs were screaming at us, saying that it was time to go home. The highway appeared before us, a cool oasis—at least for the first hour.

At 4 a.m. and 80 miles outside of San Francisco, we obliged the spinning red and blue lights that we suddenly noticed were following us. Now, there’s something about that time of night that distorts your perception, leaving you overconfident, unaware of your loss of vigilance, and maybe even a bit paranoid. The speeding ticket was a small wake-up call. We still had about 5 hours between us and Los Angeles and 5 hours between us and work. It was a difficult decision, but our energy was drained. Thankfully, we could still see clearly enough to determine that we all were incapable of driving, so we got a hotel room for the remainder of the night.

We showed up for work on time—Tuesday morning. After shouldering the fallout from missing work on Monday, we took back to our normal lives. Yes, what we had done was irresponsible. We either deliberately or stupidly put respect aside for 24 hours and focused only on squeezing as much experience from life as we could. So the experience wasn’t completely positive. And the retrospect is far from pure. But like life itself, everything surrounding our escapade, though muddy and full of contradictions and mistakes, was entirely worth it.

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