A friend of mine once asked, actually, he insisted, that I tell him what the best day of my life was. This happened at a party with mostly French people, some of whom didn’t speak English all that well, so hardly anyone knew the answer off the cuff.
At first, I sloughed it off as a half-assed attempt at being social on the part of my friend, but he seemed genuinely distressed that I didn’t know the answer. So, I gave it some thought. I told him I could rattle off at least ten of the worst days in my life easily – they all came flooding into my brain at that precise moment – but the very best day of my entire life? That’s not so easy. That takes some reckoning. Perhaps it’s just my jaded outlook, but it seems easier to recognize the bad over the good.
First of all, how do you qualify that? You have to compare it to every other day, which given my memory, is a difficult task. Secondly, a twenty-four hour stretch of awesome seems pretty hard to come by. In every day, there are minor setbacks and brief challenges, along with the triumphs and victories and smiles.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had some supremely excellent moments in my comparatively short lifespan. I have. I have moments that make me smile. I have moments that can bring me out of a bad mood just by thinking of them. The best moments seem to be those in which I recognize that I’m having an excellent moment while it’s happening. But, I’m not sure I have one entire day that rules over all of the others.
If I had children or a doctorate, I suppose the answer might come easily. That seems like a cop out to me though. Other than the end result, I can’t imagine that shoving seven plus pounds of human through my pleasure hole would qualify as a good day anyway. It seems like having a doctorate would be better, but I don’t have one of those either.
I don’t even have a default sort of answer. I have no kids, no wedding, no doctorate; not even a lousy four-year degree. I’ve never won a race or broken a record. I never caught the Hail Mary pass in the final two seconds of the game. I’ve never been to the Moon. I haven’t discovered a new species, celestial body or a cure for cancer. I’m not listed in any trade journals. I have nothing published. In fact, I’ve not really done anything of note. So far, my life has produced nothing tangible that will remain in this stinking world when I am gone. When my body no longer exists, there will be nothing left in its stead. So, in the typically negative way in which I tend to approach everything, my friend’s question just depressed me more than anything. That was probably the exact opposite of his intent.
Perhaps I thought about it too much and was just supposed to blurt out the first thing that popped into my head. I still haven’t really come up with the proper answer to his question. At the time, I told him about first coming to Los Angeles.
It was three days before Christmas, 1999. The whole world was panicky with the Y2K bug nonsense (remember that?), but I was panicking for a whole different reason. I was driving cross-country to an unknown new city to start an unknown new life. It took four days to traverse the continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.
I lived in Boston for four years. Two of them were good years; two of them were some of the worst in my life. It was time to get the hell out of Dodge. My best friend was going through a rough patch as well. We knew some people in Los Angeles and it seemed like as good a place as any to make our escape. Honestly, I didn’t really care where we went as long as we went somewhere that wasn’t Boston. I had never been to LA before, at least, not since I was a kid, but I had never been to Boston either before I moved there.
I packed up my little car, still with the fist-shaped dents in the hood from when he had tried to kill me, and attached the biggest trailer it could pull. The trailer had enough room for clothes, books and sundries, but no furniture, not even a bed. I had to get rid of all my belongings again. I parted out furniture to friends who wanted it and gave away the rest. I’d have to start over when I got there. That was fine with me; it really was going to be a fresh start.
We took a southern route across the United States since it was the middle of winter. We stopped off at Graceland on the way as our one and only tourist attraction. Elvis’ house was littered with Christmas decorations. From Memphis, we took Interstate 40 all the way across. After three days, we were in Arizona. We decided to push straight through to Los Angeles, nearly to the ocean where our friend lived, stopping only a few times at rest areas.
It was late at night when we started seeing the lights of Los Angeles in the distance. My eyes were wide open. We were still a few hours from our destination, but the lights of the outlying areas were as bright as all the cities we had seen along the way combined. There were miles and miles of them, spreading out in every direction. It took us over two hours of driving through densely packed, suburban landscape before we reached the city proper. I didn’t realize how truly big the city of Los Angeles was until then. When I finally saw the skyscrapers of downtown, my stomach flipped. It was really happening. We weren’t just on vacation taking a road trip; we were starting a new life and we were nearly there.
If I close my eyes and concentrate, sometimes I can recapture that feeling a little bit. I can feel the anxiety, excitement and anticipation that come with starting a new life in one of the country’s biggest cities. When I was punch-drunk, running on the fumes of adrenalin and caffeine, before I even set foot on the pavement of Los Angeles, before I had a home and a job and friends, when everything was bright and new, when I was leaving my horrible past behind me, when the size of this city in which I was to live and the possibilities it presented were both endless; well, that might just be the best day of my life.