Tag Archives: California

Murphys Pt 6

There are levels of problems. I think I worry a lot but only to a limit for primarily no more than 2-3 things at a time. When I was in the bay area it was sometimes more than this because you think you have all you want to worry about and then something unexpected happens. I hate surprises and there were always surprises there that in time led to my decision to come out here to the middle of nowhere.

Some of these things were little things, like not being able to find parking at Trader Joes or taking up smoking again and all of the consequences involved in that and the look my dad gave me when he found out and reminded me that my grandpa’s last words were asking for a cigarette.

Some of these things were bigger, like the DUI, and the near fatal accident that caused it, and the crazy lady craigslist move into the city, and the mugger in Berkeley and alcoholic neighbors in Oakland.

Some things were continuous. The traffic. The Alpha type A personality people and the lack of sincere friendships. Maybe it was me. Maybe I couldn’t hold down to a friendships because I was too wrapped up in my own problems. And the effort involved in seeking and holding onto a friendship wasn’t ever inspired there. The first month in the bay area and I had run from the farm and used the money mom wired me to find that little basement apartment with the manic depressive girl. The first month I was unstoppable and exhilarated to be free, so I got a job and befriended the creative artsy girl and soon after walked around Halloween night with a cute coworker who was also a Triathlete at Cal and had pretty eyes. I became close to both of them and just as soon as it started it was over. She was jealous and flighty, as I learned most of my artist friends were, and he had a girlfriend abroad who would be back in December. So it was over by the end of autumn and I never carved out any potential long-term friendships after that. Just acquaintances and small gestures of affiliation like a concert here or a one night stand there. It wasn’t always by choice and I’ll probably talk about that more later.

But back to these problems and how I tried to leave them behind and remain in the bay area. The last year of grad school I moved to the north bay, at the foot of Mount Tam and only a 40 minutee drive from the ocean and the redwoods. I could hike and explore. I could park without too many problems. It seemed like the perfect solution and the weather, though one of the driest years recorded in California, seemed closer to how I remembered it in Oregon with mist and fog. The only snag was the price of everything, from rent to food to gas. I couldn’t afford it and so I graduated and I came here for $1 a month. The parking is even more incredible here. I can park anywhere I want, within reason, and only once have I seen a sign for $3 parking and that was for the Fourth of July when the town park played free music and had a fireworks show I could see and hear from my hilltop on Saturday night, the day after the 4th.

The land here isn’t covered in mist and fog. It’s dry dry dry. They said a dry year, watch your water usage, and I see signs of this everywhere. Yesterday the soil around my camping chairs in front of the house started smoking. It was literally turning black and smoking. I couldn’t figure out what it was from or the accompanying smell that reminded me of toxins we’d studied in safety class at the beginning of entering my fine arts school. Here was a little black spot next to another little black spot mysteriously starting to catch fire and I grabbed the hose behind the house and soaked the whole front lawn down. And by lawn I mean patches of gold grass I’ve been watering morning and night since no one is here to scold my water usage and I want a garden. The black spots blended in to the rest of the soil, and everything turned a dark brown but I couldn’t figure out what the smell and smoking was caused from, and now I have a little problem with only a couple of hypotheticals. Is it from the two stumps I brought from my MFA exhibit? The dark spots were near enough one of the stumps and so maybe it has chemicals on it. I found them in a junk yard after all. The other idea was that it might be something already buried in the ground, but if that is the case, and this is the second time the soil has smoked, then I am in trouble. I’ll have to be near most of the time just in case it happens again and I need to hose it down. I’m not sure if this is a big problem or a little one. It seems like a big one but that’s only in relation to the lack of problems I have here, which are this, a problem receiving my mail, and the problem of knowing no one and doing nothing social, which are both problems I can fix if I just go out and do something about them. The latter, regarding mail, I’m working on. The former, regarding people, I will get to when I’m sufficiently tired of being alone, but with a dog and cat seeking other accompany and the problems they could initiate seems unnecessary.

It’s early and the sun isn’t out with full form yet, so this could be a good day to drive to Yosemite. The drive would be about the distance it used to take me from Eugene to Portland, and with less traffic and more winding roads. I fill up my camelback and nalgene, and a ziploc bag of dog food. I’m still debating between that and watching the tour de france in England online. Each morning is a decision like this- remain on the hilltop and do little rings, or go out and explore new unknown things. I think today I will explore. Every other day seems to be good for an exploration. The sky is still calm and the rooster down the hill is still sleeping (I think it doesn’t come out until the heat is unbearable) and a humming bird is occasionally dropping by my cup of coffee as if asking for a taste. My dog is grumbling at every little noise and the mouse is still hiding in a corner of the house ignoring my death bucket of water and peanut butter held by chopsticks

If you are quiet and sitting right at the edge of the hilltop looking over Murphys, you can hear the clouds moving. I’m not sure if it’s the clouds or if it’s traffic or a plane in the distance near Columbia, but I always assume naturally that it’s clouds, and they’re rumbling in the distance, and that maybe it will rain and it will be the greatest welcome surprise of all.

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Distractions

I have many things I have neglected explaining lately and I want to but I’m super distracted by the caffeine high from the Espresso Roma on College. And the man that just walked by me with a large mop of pubic hair on his chin. It was long enough to sway precociously in the wind. I had to put my iced americano down and look at the blue sky a moment to cleanse my head and palette.

It has been a whirlwind of a month, or two. It’s streaming together. Have I already said whirlwind? I think I say that to everyone who asks how I’m doing. Martha has been untrackable due apparently to a lost cell phone. Everyone on the farm, if they listen anything to the lying cheat who runs the place, have an idea through false rumor that I had sexual relations with a professor in Spain, which is funny because the craziest I was in Spain was to seduce a high strung Catholic law student Spaniard two years older than me, and go to discotecas and museums together. But when I confronted my dad’s friend, the farm “charity” man, he just blamed a woman who used to live on the farm years ago and, again apparently, has no number or phone or something, so he has no way of contacting the rumor-creator. However, as I am pretty sure I never spent more than half an hour on the farm after my trip to Spain in 2003, until recently of course, than I think this is hogwash, from my innate detective intuition anyway, (based on Sherlock Holmes, a dreamer’s intuition, not to be trusted).

The funny thing about the farm and the mercantile and the New Jersey experience is what people say when I explain it to them (people such as my new roommate in Berkeley, and my mom, and Andy in New York and Jens in Germany)….I forget who I told what, but I try to make it clear that I wanted help to get to New York and quit a damn good art school in Portland to go at the request of my dad’s old friend (they were in the military in Spain together, he introduced my parents). And so I went with him to New York via Guatemala (which is why my cat had to stay in California with a stranger and he never sent her for a month), and yet it was New Jersey and not New York, and the job I had didn’t really exist. I guess a young, struggling organic chinese food company has no need for a creative director, especially one that wants to do more than be bullied by a taoist ex-wallstreet businessman who thinks he knows more about art and design than you because he has been given like a thousand business cards over the span of his career and can tell you what they should look like, and what a chinese-style conformist would wear to a Whole Foods tasting at the New York headquarters…
But all that aside I didn’t expect my dad’s friend to recommend writing an email to the head of the company/ taoist businessman is response to his demanding artistic needs that would immediately get me dismissed as creative director, and I further didn’t expect him to never pay me, to call me self-centered, to throw my dad’s achievements in my face, and to guilt trip me into going to his other failing business in a little town called Angels Camp (yes creepy) in Eastern California that was being ran by emotional retards into oblivion. I had made it clear from the beginning I was not interested in being a member of Buttercup Farms(ok creepy) and that I only was requesting help, only if it was given willingly, to get to the east coast and find a connection with a creative job. That was the only incentive to leave my kick ass, however pretentious and expensive school gig in Portland. And trusting that this day in Guatemala and this stint in New Jersey with Chinese workaholics was leading to something good, and that all of his talk about my parents’ unhappy marriage and negativity was leading to something, I dived into the initial job with only a few nightmares and regrets. I mean i did have a limbo relationship to leave behind in Oregon, and this was half difficult and half exhilarating…complicated.
Anyway, this is probably not making any sense. I should have written more before now but I was worried about the implications. I had to get out of Angels Camp to begin with.
When I was guilt tripped into going there I was asked if I was happy, and I said, no of course not, I didn’t want to be there. I was young, I was finally out of the Oregon limbo and I wanted to find love, find a good job, get on with my life. He said I was unfocused, confused, didn’t know what I wanted.
Really, John? (That’s his name).
I said I love photography and writing. I have been studying them both for years now. I know two places I would love to live, San Francisco/Bay Area or New York. I know two things I would love to find a career in, photography and writing.
So, I’m unfocused? Or I just don’t share your focus. And I’m negative? Because he said in an email titled “Something you need to hear”: “I think all you are going to do in Angels Camp is spread your negativity. I don’t think it is the place for you. It has helped a lot of people and they love it. I think you are way to self centered to get any value out of being there. I am so fed up with your lack of gratitude and self righteousness.” If he is helping someone than that’s great. I know a girl there from Senegal who feels lost and bored and forced into volunteering so a $25 weekly stipened and empty promises to work at a company in New York are really just not fulfilling her dreams. I know a lady who was promised a bakery and has been talking in circles and waiting for a year. I know I personally asked not to go there and was dragged there and then told it wasn’t the place for me which I had already said if I had been listened to…and so “stick with me for a few years and you’ll be a rich woman” is not an incentive for me to scoop ice cream and dust shelves in an old store in a ghost town. I was never raped as a girl, I never had mad sexual relations with a professor, I never felt insecure and lost and unfocused enough to need the provided direction of a spiritual counselor businessman…so Buttercup Farms, so called charity that has yet to help anyone but likes to talk alot and associate itself with real charities like 10,000 Girls….please don’t try to capture me in your web and then call me negative and selfish for having different interests than you. And if I did call you a commune I was just feeling emotional. You can be whatever you want to be, just leave me out of it, all of the christian science bullshit, all of the empty promises, all of the charity associations, and love and smiles talk.
I hope that I can make an honest salary soon, and I hope I can afford to save all of my belongings which are currently trapped on the farm (near Mt Diablo actually)…before someone discovers this off the web waves, and burns it all!

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My life sucks

I’m being guilt-tripped into moving back to California to work in a small town at a Mercantile Store I never wanted to work at. Ever. I have always said that. And I asked the family friend “uncle” to help me find something I love related to my art that could help me get out of more pretentious art schol in Portland. I wanted the real thing, a school in Ny, or maybe a job in Ny. So he mentioned a job in Ny and I came and it was actually a job in NJ, that’s cool, except it wasn’t a job at all, because the boss of the company didn’t want me or anyone here in the first place. He just wanted to make the “uncle”, also chairman of the board feel like he had control of the situation. And so I fucked up at every turn so he could say to “uncle” I needed something else, perhaps more school or an art job in the city. But not this. So family friend “uncle” took that to mean I am failing at what he wants, and what he wants is someone to help with his businesses, one was this young food company in Jersey, another is this mercantile in Nowhere, California. I love the coast of California. But I have been aching to be in New York. Not eastern California ex-gold mining towns with hicks. So I said I wanted to stay but he is wealthy and powerful, and I am broke. So he says I’m selfish and self-centered, if I don’t do this. Do this for 6 weeks. Except really why should I do this for six weeks if I’m just going to leave right after, what help would I be if I’m stuck in a place I never wanted to be with a group of religious, conservative emotionally confused people? But he says I lack focus. Really? Because I don’t want the same thing that you want for me, namely to work for you at this place?

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The Neighbor Upstairs is Leaving

DId I ever tell the story about quitting my job and slamming the door on the way out? I think I did but I deleted it because it wasn’t that good. It was a good story but I was bad in it and I prefer being the good protagonist if I have to be in my story. So I guess we miss that one, but here is a pseudo story about a stranger. He would be a good guy in any story. Clean cut. Pretty. I heard him upstairs packing. I imagined he would be in California tomorrow. And the room upstairs would be empty. It made me feel incredibly empty inside, like a part of me was about to disappear and I was prematurely feeling it. And it wasn’t a rotten part, like a tumor, but rather an exciting bundle of possibility deep inside me that was creeping away quietly, with a few thuds from the ceiling, to remind me, this was it.
He would be gone, and I felt like it was my fault. I met him the night I moved into the complex. Adam was here and he insisted that I needed to give him more space. From living together, to loving each other everyday, driving together, and working together, to well it’s a long story, and I’ll get into it later, but we were down to a visit with a little sex once a month. And it made me lonely and feel crazy inside, because I knew I needed something more.
I still need something more, because I’m back with Adam, but I’ll get into that later. As for the first night I moved in, Adam and I were on the stairwell outside, the fire escape I mean, and it was this bright rusty red color, and the house behind the complex was under construction (it still is), and was being torn into from all sides. Out from the fire escape door just above us came a guy that looked around 27, so around my age, but he had this look of adult confidence to him that I still am missing. And he looked a little like Salvador Dali, so part Spanish, with whiskers, which is what I like to call a mustache. And I thought he was handsome, in a hopeless romantic way, which I guess I picked up an impression for as he began talking ravenously, like he wanted to eat us, or rather eat Adam, because most of his eye contact went to Adam. Except I had a feeling everything he was saying was directed more with me in mind, because he kept talking about loving romantic things, like the orange trees around his old home in California, and surfing (the adventurous side of the romantic), the art deco style of the old apartment, and photography. The photography was definitely a comment meant for me. And so I mostly sat there. By then he had directed us up to the rooftop overlooking northwest Portland, and I was staring at the clouds. It was September, and it was still warm but with the slightest breeze enough to make my mind wander and feel a little restless outside without a coat. I also was uneasy being myself in a company of three because I act differently around Adam when we’re alone, more girly or more blunt, but not really in between. And when I meet most strangers I have a giant wall. And then there are the few exceptions when I feel a connection with someone and if it’s someone of the opposite sex maybe I open up and act flirtatious. Naturally I’m a flirt when I’m comfortable, and so it would come out of me, but then here were two guys of comparable ages, doing most of the talking. And somehow the talking had migrated to spirituality and philosophy matters, which was Adam’s doing. And I was mute, and felt invisible, and then a little hurt. The conversation wasn’t for me, it never was. And when he invited US to hang out with him and friends a two bars he liked he made it a definitive US and the next day Adam was gone, and it was just me, and US and him never happened. But I still could hear him, walking around everyday.
And I could hear him when he got a girlfriend and started having sex. I didn’t want to believe it was he but then I had no choice because I realized it was him, it was from directly above my apartment. When she visited her stilettos would pound and click on the natural hardwood floors, and I felt an anger broil up inside me, and I would occasionally bang the handle of my broom on the ceiling. I tried once going upstairs to tell him it was loud, and the poor walls were so thin, and so I could hear him more than I really wanted to, and I’m sorry to sound like an old cat woman but could you keep it down? And he was apologetic. But that was months ago. And that was before they really were serious and began having sex, after which I could lay in bed and hear her screaming and scrambling around like a wild animal. One night Adam was over, and I mused, hmm, I never am so loud. Would he like to be with a girl so loud? Would it turn him on? He said he didn’t really thing it was authentic. It sounded like a put-on. I thought so too. But I bet the guy upstairs liked it.
I forgot his name.
Well he came by the night before last. His knock startled me because I never have company, but when I realized someone was at the door, I inched it open and there he was. His face looked a little older, or maybe scruffier. He was moving, he said, back to California. So it would be loud the next couple of days, but then it would be extremely quiet for at least a little while until someone else moved in. But my whole hall was empty. I wondered when that would happen. I wondered if I could bare to stay here with him gone. No one around. I didn’t really like hanging out with anyone anymore. After Adam and I moved to the country when I graduated college, it was just us two and the nearest neighbors a mile away. And then I went to Korea to teach and the closest English speakers were ten minutes by cab, at least. I had turned into an introvert, especially as my private and closed tendencies had offended all of my old college friends, most of whom were here in Portland. It was just me mostly and these sporadic visits from Adam. I tried a boyfriend and a job selling computers. But the herpes Adam gave me crept up and climbed into the new boyfriend, without my even knowing about it. And then the computers. Ugh. The coworker/new boyfriend hated me and the computers were mind numbing, and selling required acting happy even when you weren’t and so I felt like going crazy again. And I returned to Adam, but things were just as I left them. I was ok, and the truth is he loved me, but just to be around once a month, and that seemed to be elongating, that short visit. And when he left, I felt like an old, depleted river, drying up. The summer is hard, when you quit your job because you can’t stand your coworkers, and school is in recess. It’s nice to get up late, and not worry about deadlines and time constraints. It’s nice to take an hour to get ready when you do get up and to go to bed late watching movies. But when it’s everyday and there’s nothing in the way of meetings and social commitments to get you out of bed at a certain time and to remind you of what date it is, then nothing seems to matter at all, and your head gets fuzzy, and your heart feels sad. So when the neighbor upstairs is moving out, and the cute three year old girl next door and the wonderfully energetic gay engineer across the hall have both already moved out, and everything is quiet and empty around you, then the emptiness inside you feel bigger and blacker. And it is a numbing sadness. And it’s choking and claustrophobic because you kind of want to move to California, and you regret that you didn’t meet the neighbor upstairs when you were alone, and when your head was clear, and you had been open and confident. Not that you ever have been, unless you were drunk, but that’s another story.
He will be gone and moving on and you will still be here.

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