No Particular Place To Be

Unemployed Again 

I was laid off from my job the other day—the business closed its doors. It’s a strange feeling, after seven years and four months, to wake up on a Tuesday morning with no place to go. I wandered around half the day looking at trees, watching the way the sunlight falls on the property during those hours when I am typically off site and trying to look industrious. Not that I don’t see that sunlight, on those two days a week when the job doesn’t require me— but during the weekend I am rushing around like a madman trying to fit a four-day list of tasks into a 48-hour window, failing miserably, getting drunk, then collapsing into the couch in despair as time marches toward Monday morning, relentless, merciless.

But now things are completely different. I spent yesterday on a host of tasks. I took Archie in to the spay-and-neuter clinic for the cruelest cut, ate breakfast at Jack’s, and scavenged a truck-load of plywood, particle board, and two-by-fours. I drove back to Los Molinos and unloaded the wood. Then I spent an hour or so in a state of confusion, puzzling over how to navigate the California EDD bureaucracy. I think I figured it out. Then I tagged along with Trish, back to Chico, to a ceramics date. We had an early dinner at Tres Hombres where we sat outside for an hour and watched the passersby, then hit up the ARC thrift store for reading material, and finally picked the puppy up from the vet. He is an anxious dog, and not accustomed to being on a leash or riding in a car, but he seemed surprisingly unfazed by the operation that rendered him a eunuch.


My mind is spinning. Without the confines of schedule, my time is my own. The clock on my computer screen here reads 4:06 a.m., and I’ve already had a bath and read several chapters of T.C. Boyle’s World’s End.

It is dead quiet out here on the stoop; only the clacking of my keystrokes and an occasional rumble of a distant truck rolling up or down I-99 perforate the silence.

The possibilities and potential of the pending day stretch out before me like a road paved with diamonds. I can write, I can sing, I can dance, or forge iron. I can wander around the yard and ogle the trees—I can act like a monk who had been lost, but has finally found his way to the altar. I can drop to my knees in supplication, I can laugh, or I can weep. I can build great piles of tree limbs to burn, but I can’t light them up until the county says it’s okay. I can clean out the garage, build cabinets, or punch a new window into the shop. I can cut grass, plant crops, and pull weeds.

But first things first—I can shoot this rambling to Sara, and then go back to bed.

Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.