Have Vagina, Will Travel: Adventures of a U-Haul lesbian

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Obviously, having relocated several times, I’ve rented a moving truck before. But this was the first time I drove a U-Haul truck on my own. Normally, I’m not considered responsible enough to handle such heavy machinery. This time there was no alternative, however.

So I hopped into the cab of the truck with no hesitation and hauled ass – well, as fast as a full U-Haul can go – down US 19, content with the thought that, for once, if there was an accident, I’d do more damage to others than they’d do to me. Behind me, my father drove his tiny red car, with my many plaid shirts and cats in the back seat.

For the first time in my life, I was a U-Haul lesbian, though not in the typical sense of the term. For the first time, I was confident in my move, very clearly in control of where I was going, in control of the massive truck I was steering.

I moved to Florida from New York exactly one year ago last month. Normally, people wait until they’re about to die to make this move.

I’m often asked why I did such an insane thing. It’s usually the first question I get whenever I meet someone. The job interview response: I wanted to be closer to my family, who moved down here five years ago. The bar room, stranger-on-the-street, friends-I-make-in-odd-places response to the question of what brought me down here? A Venn diagram, poor lifestyle decisions, a failed relationship and a subsequent broken heart and minor nervous breakdown. That’s all.

Mostly, though, I wanted the great American road trip, and was completely willing to uproot my life to get it. And I didn’t think much past playing skee ball amidst Pedro statues and souvenirs at South of the Border. So I stuffed every piece of clothing I owned into a canvas bag that I strapped to the top of my car, and packed it up with my best friend, my three cats (one of which comically got out of his cage five minutes into my trip, hopping on my shoulder as I barreled down the Long Island Expressway) and several boxes of books. Everything else went into storage, where it remains to this day. (I have no doubt that attempting to get these belongings that are in storage down to Florida will one day yield an entirely new U-Haul adventure.)

So we played our skee ball at South of the Border.  I drove through the Smoky Mountains at 3 a.m. in torrential rain, screaming as truckers passed us, pulling their air horns loudly and spraying us with water, while marveling the entire time at the clouds hovering so low above us that I felt like I could reach out and grab them. We ate at a vegan restaurant in Asheville, NC, followed up by karaoke, where my friend channeled his best Phil Collins. We realized exactly how dirty Charlotte is, found what looked like part of a syringe in our motel toilet, and went to a folk music show in the only awesome neighborhood in that city. And we did a shot of whiskey at the border of Georgia and Florida. “To us,” we said, “to adventures and life in the South.”

My best friend flew back home the morning after we arrived in Spring Hill. “It’s hot and I hate Florida,” he said. When he left I had nothing to do but sit up late outside, trying to enjoy the sticky, sweet nights and the quiet, reading or writing, realizing how incredibly alone I was in this new state. Nothing would be the same ever again.

It took a few months, but things got better.

I met people, made friends. I started going to local shows. I started dating again, though women in this state tend to baffle me immensely. I discovered Ybor City. I discovered Seminole Heights. I discovered St. Petersburg. I drove to Gainesville for pizza and to hang out at a tiny bookstore. I went to a psychic in Cassadaga. I shot a gun, smoked a cigar, and went to the casino at 5 a.m. I haven’t been to Disney. Eventually, after boring temp jobs and shady dealings with local companies, I found myself armed with two great jobs at two great companies.

And now, I’ve driven my U-Haul down US 19.

One month ago I moved for the sixth time in as many years.

The list of locales is pretty varied. An Irish neighborhood in the northern Bronx, bordering on Yonkers and Westchester. Bayville, a small, blue collar village right on the Long Island Sound, amidst Long Island’s storied Gold Coast. Cambridge, Mass., where I had many adventures during my short-lived stay just outside Boston. The quaint, quirky, and incredibly haughty Hamptons. Middle-of-nowhere Spring Hill, Fla., where I moved in with my father and experienced culture shock like never before.

Now, finally, I’ve landed in wonderful, bizarre, dirty, artsy St. Petersburg.

And I rented a U-Haul to do it.

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