July 4, 1976. Our nation’s bicentennial. On the shoulder of I5, signing a speeding ticket. This is my first memory of living in Washington State.
My stepfather was in a hurry to get to Federal Way before dark and was pressing a bit outside Centralia. This was the first moment of the 2nd stage of my life.
It was dark by the time we got to our new house, but I still knew our new neighborhood was different than the one we’d left day before yesterday. Though I could not see it, I knew it was different. It sounded different. It smelled different. It was only 800 miles geographically removed, but it felt like a different world altogether.
It was different. We were rich!
What other explanation was there? On July 2nd, we’d left the only neighborhood we’d ever known – a narrow grid of greasy streets literally on the wrong side of the BNSF tracks, sandwiched between the Bayshore Freeway and San Francisco International. The view from my 2nd floor bedroom of the 2+ bedroom 1-bath postwar bungalow I shared with my mother & sister was of the UNITED AIRLINES sign at SFO. The jets roared up and down the terminal night and day as did the trains on the tracks and the cars on the freeway. All night and day.
And then (almost) literally overnight, we were reborn. There was no fence in the new yard—only a giant hedge ( Stepfather proudly told us it was called Rhodonendron ) and a cropped green lawn stretching as far as the eye could see. Like the streets, the yards twisted in impossible angles with wide sidewalks and curbs baring such ridiculous addresses as 33519 327th Court SW. This was our address, after coming from 527 4th Avenue. How the fuck were were supposed to find our way around? There were no telephone poles…
My sister and I didn’t know what was going on. Our previous neighborhood was 70% Mexican, but everyone on our new street was white. Still, they all played soccer. No one in our old neighborhood played soccer! All the houses had garages, so there were no cars parked on the street. There were airplanes, but they seemed far up in the sky. We didn’t know where the closest store was.
We understood the bicentennial was a big deal. We’d heard about it on TV and they’d made a special 25-cent piece for it at the mint. There was a lot of flag waving at a time when flag waving wasn’t an every-day passtime, not like today. These days you have to wave a flag so people don’t think you’re a socialist. This was the mid-1970s…