Monday, December 31, 2012

Ecology's Ecology

“I don’t know if I can afford this,” I think to myself looking up at the night sky out here in Fremont California. Lately, the night has been clear and cold, the sort of weather that looks beautiful but lends itself to the kind of thinking that is accompanied with lots of sighs. Either, you’re bundled up but still feeling the cold creep in and thinking of someone who could be with you, someone who’s absence is all the more profoundly felt in the presence of the cold, or you’re bundled up looking out over the horizon, thinking of a place less dark than this one where it never seemed to get this cold. Either way, you’re thinking about what you don’t have. Because I’m back where I want to be and with someone I love, my thoughts about what I don’t have drift to the most ordinary and boring topic. It almost makes me wish that I were alone on the other side of the world again, sighing much more profoundly. I try to chase the thoughts away, but nothing will come in their place. “1,400 dollars, how was it that I thought we’d be able to afford that?” I think to myself. The night is so clear, I can practically hear myself muttering it. I thought we could afford that because it was the going price for apartments around here. In San Francisco, nothing is under 1,000 dollars and if it’s not a couple of hundred dollars over a thousand it’s not going to be any good—the thousand dollar studio I went to see in someone’s garage in Daly City can attest to that. The reason the problem is so disconcerting to me is that it’s not one I’ve ever anticipated having. Since the day I moved out of my parents’ and rented out a place in Chicago my all-consuming thought has always been “I don’t need all of this,” and the next time I’d move I’d try to find something starker, cheaper. Depending on who I lived with the level of amenities went up and down slightly. Living with my friend Mikey in the Tenderloin, we went through unhealthy periods of almost conspicuously lacking soap. When I came back from the Peace Corps and lived in a flop-house type of place in Eureka I didn’t have anything, and the few things I did own I had to take with me when I left for fear that someone would steal them. And living in a hostel in the Once
district of Buenos Aires, I kept two plastic bags, one with my toiletries and the other had my food and cooking supplies. The change from the mendicant’s life was very subtle and came from two very reasonable desires. The first came after living away from my friends and family for so long. Having no one familiar to share an apartment with, I often had to find people, college students, meth addicts, willing to pay a share of the rent. After meeting Gina and moving in with her, I realized how much I’d missed sharing my room and my house with someone I genuinely wanted to be there, not just someone I had to put up with. The other change came after the second time I’d lived in an apartment from which the sole view was a brick wall. Anyone who’s ever had to live with such an unsightly obstruction more than once will understand. Considering these two factors, when I began my apartment search, I found that I didn’t want to share the apartment with anyone and that I wanted to have at least a little natural light in there so on Sunday morning I could stay in and have my coffee and not feel like shooting myself. These two specifications, as you can imagine, drove the cost of living up significantly. Even with the price being what it is, I was still unable to find anything that I’d really call habitable. A lot of the cheaper studios are usually in-law units, almost all of which are in direct violation of my rule about sharing the apartment with someone, not to mention certain building codes. I still consider it sharing, when you live in trailer in someone’s driveway or in someone’s basement that you have to walk through their living room to get to. Besides, as you can imagine, these places almost universally, had no view, no light and windows that were so tiny or close to walls they may as well have been painted over. After looking for a few days, I expanded the price range on the search. Suddenly, I seemed to have a few more options, but I still wasn’t seeing anything that looked very good. I decided to go and check out everything that wasn’t an in-law unit anyway. One place is out in the Richmond with its endless rows of houses and torrential leaden skies and notable obscurity. There is no picture for the rental. Just a sentence or two, written in hurried capitals. “APARTMENT FOR RENT. 1,400. STUDIO. CALL FROM 9-5 TO VIEW.” I’m not very enticed by the ad, and on the way over I’m starting to wonder why I crossed town to see this place that’s not going to be worth my while. My fears are confirmed when I step up to the address I had been given that morning. For the last twenty blocks or so, all the houses had been in a straight row. Nothing tucked away in the back or half-sunken into the ground. I am now standing in front of a gate and way back behind it there’s a little building, almost hunkered down in the shadows of the larger homes on either side of it. It’s going to be another closet with a sunless view of the underside of some much more affluent person’s porch. Seeing no one around I go through the gate and head toward the building, I’m thinking to myself, maybe I can just take a quick glance and get the hell out of here to not waste any more of my time. I see that, once I’m inside, the building has a certain antiquated charm. It only looks small compared to all the new houses around it, which they build too large anyway. The interior reminds me of an old house that someone has taken good care of in the Midwest. There’s more light in the building than you’d expect. The landlord meets me as I’m coming back down the stairs. “Oh, y’ found it already, did y’?” His brogue is pretty thick and his bright red face is welcoming. “T’will y’ see the unit?” I’m hoping he’s going to lead the way upstairs but he reaches behind me and unlocks the door that I’m standing in front of. “First floor in the back,” I think to myself, “there’s no way there’s any light back there.” He opens the door, the place is being painted, that’s the first thing I notice, but almost immediately after, the window, the huge bay window and the little patio area behind it. “Would we get to use that?” I ask pointing to the patio outside the window. “I can’t see who else ‘t be using ‘t,” the landlord replies quite matter-of-factly. A patio of our own, a large window, it’s more than I’d even expected. I fill out the application right there. A few days pass in anticipation as to whether my credit scores will be good enough and when I’d almost given up the idea of living in such a nice place, the landlord calls me and Gina and I go over to sign the lease. Before we’ve even moved in, in fact, almost right after I’d signed the year-long lease, I began to wonder how this was going to work financially. I finish my cigarette out in the cold and open the door to head back inside. With the screen door in my hand I pause before opening the main door. The great thing about going out into the cold is being able to return to a warm house. As long as you can do that you can dispel any gloomy thoughts. I linger in the doorway a second longer, watching the bright and cold stars and thinking about how nice it’ll be to have my own place to watch them from. I just might have to pick up a few more hours a week to be able to afford the vantage

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Creation of a Myth

I. It will take me awhile to become fully American again, I think. While going all over the city to show up for vacuous interviews, I remembered an Armenian restaurant that I had been to once or twice, never actually to eat, only to say ‘hello’ to the owners who are, obviously, Armenian. I accidentally, met these people years ago, when I first returned from Armenia. There’s actually nothing to suggest that the restaurant is Armenian in anyway. It is merely another nondescript Mediterranean place on the outside. When I first returned to California, I went to this place because a friend of mine was working there. She had said that she thought the owners might have been Armenian. I obviously didn’t put too much stock in this because I’ve been introduced to all kinds of Albanians, Kurds and other Middle Eastern people over the years that acquaintances of mine had thought were Armenian. It’s very awkward approaching them with a hearty ‘Barev!’ only to me started at blankly. Of course, knowing that on the other end your friend has told this person that you speak their language; they’re waiting for you to say something intelligible, in Abkhazian or whatever, but getting nothing but gibberish. I was happy to find that the owner, when he came out was indeed Armenian. I think I started the conversation by saying something like “neretsek, bites inchu kilikia-i gaijur chunek stegh? Ays kotayk lav@ chi” (Excuse me, but why do you not have Kilikia beer here? This Kotayk is terrible!). I think he was really surprised to hear some un-Armenian-looking guy suddenly berating him in eastern Armenian (the diaspora speak the western dialect, for the most part) about his choice of Armenian beer selection. It was the beer selection that tipped me off initially that he was Armenian. If you weren’t Armenian, I don’t think you would ever go to the trouble of tracking down Armenian beer to serve. I think it’s a point of pride, even at the best Armenian places; I can’t imagine anyone orders that stuff, at least not more than once. After I explained that I had a preference to Kilikia because I drank a lot of it in Armenia, and in the states all I could find was this terribly sweet Kotayk that was nothing like the Armenian original, we began to talk about what I’d been doing in Armenia. I had only been back for a few months after living there for over two years. It was the first time I conversed face-to-face with someone in Armenian since I had left, and if I had had a few drinks before going over there I probably would’ve been pretty close to tears. The owner and I had a nice conversation. He’s had things to do, but he kept darting back over to the bar where I was sitting to ask if I needed anything. I wouldn’t have to pay, he said. I kept telling him ‘no’ and he kept asking. It was very much like being back in Armenia. Eventually, I decided to get back to my friends. I thanked the manager and started to go out. He yelled after me to come by any time I’m back in town. Since then, I’ve been back once or twice for a Kotayk, still no Kilikia. It occurred to me to stop by the place while job hunting, but I’d been trying for years to stop into a café where I used to work and see the owner there. We always missed each other. Owners are very elusive people. I decided to call instead. See if I could set something up. When the phone began ringing, I realized I had no idea what I was trying to set up. “Hello,” bright sing-song waitress voice. “Yeah, uh, hello, is the owner there?” “Can I ask who is calling, please?” “Uhhh, yeah, um, well, I met him a few years ago, uh, I used to live in Armenia and he and I spoke to each other. I’m actually looking for a job now and, uh, I thought I’d see if he, um, could talk to me.” “Well he’s not in now, but I’m the front-of-the-house manager, if you’ve got a resume why don’t you drop it off with me in the morning.” ‘Yeah, sure’ I thought,’ just so you can get a look at the weirdo who just made the strangest call to your restaurant. Maybe his resume will be equally amusing: experience: I once talked with your boss.’ I wasn’t even going to go in the next day. In fact, I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t ended up being way too early for another interview that I had out in the Marina. The interview was at 1 and I wasn’t particularly thrilled about it. It was 11 and I was already out in front of the café where it was to take place. It was an incredibly bland kind of place. I had applied for the job because the ad made it seem like the café was in the middle of the Presidio park. I had pictured some little forest ranger’s station that had been converted into a café, a place that few customers ever found, but that was preserved in complete tranquility, sunlight filtering through the pine boughs and that sort of thing. The reality was a concrete block of a building on the marina green that had a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but almost no other redeemable qualities. As I sat in front of this place whiling away the time until my interview I suddenly remembered the phone call I had made, and how I had told that manager that I would be in before noon. I had my bike with me and decided to drop by, I certainly had time. The front-of-the-house manager was actually really nice. Perhaps she had mentioned the strange phone call to the owner and he had actually shown some interest. Every time I have gone into a business looking for work I feel odd. I am not there for the customary activity of buying something. I am there to ask for something and it makes me feel like a bum. In asking for a job, one essentially has to look at the employees and say, “I want what you have.” No one every responds well to this statement, no matter the context. The odd feeling descended on me as I asked for the manager. She came out and looked over my resume, very briefly, mentioning a delivery job. Hmmm. I hadn’t expected that, but OK. She says the owner’s not in, but that his son is. She went and got him. He comes out speaking Armenian; I walk up to him speaking Armenian. We are happy to see each other, although we met only once before. I tell him I’m looking for work. He immediately offers me a shot at the delivery position. I have no experience with deliveries. He says it doesn’t matter. I don’t have a car. Again, it doesn’t matter. He says it’s only a couple of days a week. That seems to be the only catch. I walk out the door already beginning to think it over. It’s funny. Since I’ve been back here, I’ve applied to probably 30 cafes and have gone into interviews at a few of them. I’ve got a lot of experience in cafés—but I couldn’t manage to get a job at one of them. On the other hand, I’ve got absolutely no experience working as a delivery driver and now I’m doing it. I can’t help but to wonder if a bunch of guys with years of delivery experience applied to the job I have now and are currently at home, scratching their heads, trying to figure out why they never even got a call back. II. Between deliveries, my co-worker and I have lunch at the restaurant. It’s free, not even any of that 60% off stuff, it’s just free; also, I can take whatever I want, so it’s more like a free buffet. After we finish eating we have one more delivery to do and then it’s time to go home. After work, I stop by and see my friend at the bike shop where he works. I need a few things. When I get there he’s out for a smoke. We stand around and talk for a while. Then we go in and I tell him the things that I need. He gives them to me and we keep talking. After a while it seems slightly uncomfortable to continue the conversation because he’s now sitting behind the counter and I’m still standing in front of it. The customer/clerk relationship keeps trying to assert itself and interrupt out friendly banter. Every time the conversation fades, I find myself toying with the items on the counter, like, ‘you wanna’ ring me up for these?’ While he keeps looking everywhere but at the items on the counter. I finally take the hint and pocket the things. Before we part ways I ask, just to be sure, if he wanted anything. ‘No,’ he says. I go to pick up Gina from work. I’m waiting outside reading a comic book when she comes out with a whole bag of baking mixes. “What’re all those?” “Cookie, bread, pancake mixes, the owner gave me all this stuff to try.” She got about four big bags. All labeled ‘gluten-free!’ and ‘vegan!’ “That stuff looks like it would’ve been expensive.” “Yeah,” she says, “it would’ve been, but she just gave it to me.” I think for a moment before I ask her if she’s eaten already. “Yeah, I get my lunch for free every day, don’t you?” “Yeah,” I say, “yeah, I guess I do.” III. I haven’t really been driving regularly since I was about 17. When I lived in San Francisco years ago, my roommate Mikey had a car and we took turns going out to the Western Addition about twice a week to move the thing to a different parking spot. Other than that, I’ve only driven rental cars driving back and forth across the country before and after I left for the Peace Corps. Naturally, having a job for which the main duty is driving, I had a few concerns, the main one being parallel parking. “I used to be able to parallel park pretty well,” I told Gina the night before I was to go in and drive up to Marin county for my first day of deliveries. “But now I’m nervous about it. While I was driving around with my co-worker the only time he really had to parallel park was right in front of the restaurant. There’s only one spot there and it’s hemmed in pretty tight by other cars. You know how the parking is here in some places.” “Oh, you’ll be fine,” she tells me, much as she always does when I’m worried about something. The next day, I’m getting everything together for the deliveries with my boss. He tells me to go out and get the car, which was parked a few blocks away. “Just pull right up front here,” he tells me indicating the spot, which is barely a spot, wedged as it is between two rather large SUVs. I try not to really think about it as I’m getting the delivery car, but when I’m having trouble even getting out of the spot the car’s parked in, I start to feel less sure of myself. I pull up in front of the restaurant and the boss is already there on the sidewalk, motioning for me to park right between the two monster cars, completely oblivious to the fact that he’s going to have to fire me in a few minutes when he realizes that I can’t properly parallel park. I flash back to my first driver’s ed. test. When someone had told me that I didn’t need to worry about parallel parking because as long as you did OK on everything else it wouldn’t really matter. “OK, now let’s try the parallel parking section,” the instructor says. I groan and pull up along the orange cone. Somehow, as I’m backing up, I end up perpendicularly parked in the spot. I give him a nervous smile. “Let’s try it again,” he says. And I do, twice more until I’ve failed the test. I’m imagining my boss telling me something similar after two or three unsuccessful attempts to park the delivery truck. I’m right up against the car ahead of me. I sigh, and begin backing up. A minute later, I’m outside the car, beaming. Somehow it’s almost a perfect job. The truck is flush with the curb, almost a textbook example. Probably beginners’ luck, but who cares, for now, I act like it’s something I do all the time and I go inside to get the deliveries, hoping that the next time will be just as easy. IV. ‘I hate this place,’ I think to myself, ‘why do I keep coming back in here?’ Niles, California, a small town that’s sandwiched between two larger suburban towns, is the exception out here in the southern East Bay in that it’s got both a walkable downtown and stores that are smaller than warehouses. Niles itself is nice; it isn’t Niles I hate, not at all, it’s this bar, really the only bar near where Gina and I live. As far as I know, there are only two others within walking distance. One is to the north, and since we have to walk that way every day to get on public transportation, it’s not very appealing. The other is an almost perfect little place that seems to be exclusively Mexican. We once tried to order a few cans of Tecate in there. “Cuando vale la cerveza?” “Cinco.” “Cinco!? Cada una? Verdad? En las latas son cinco?” “Si.” “No, es demasiado.” The bartender was not in any way annoyed. She hadn’t actually opened the cans so she was still able to put them back, while giving us an inscrutable-kind of smile. One that could have either said, ‘stupid gringos; come in again and I’ll tell you the beers cost ten dollars!’ Or, ‘yeah, I guess these are expensive, but, hey, if people pay that much what are we going to do?’ I liked the place, and as we walked by it again last night, I thought about stopping in to see if the beers were still five dollars. But then I realized that I would feel like a moron if the same bartender came over and told me that the beers cost five dollars. If she remembered me, which was likely in an all-mexican bar, she’d probably wonder why I was asking the same question again. It’s not like I could reasonably expect the prices to have gone down within a few weeks. Thinking this, Gina and I walked past the Mexican place. There’s a little pizza place where one can get a Blue Moon for something like 4 dollars, but I didn’t feel like sitting in a pizza place. I wanted to feel like I had gone out and done something when I got back home. When we last had a beer at the pizza place, it was less memorable than stopping to have a soda or something. There didn’t seem to be any reason for us to be drinking a beer in this pizza place. It was a place for eating greasy meals and maybe lingering for a while after. It was a place to eat with your family, or a group of your friends. It was not a very good place have a single beer with your girlfriend on a Saturday night. It felt like even passersby were wondering why we didn’t just stay in and have a beer at home. We passed the pizza place as well, and I started to complain that I would’ve liked to have done something that night. Gina reminds me of my options. I don’t like the sound of them. There’s only one choice left, the biker bar. It’s coming up on the left. We’d been to the biker bar exactly twice before. The first time was great. Gina’s brother and sister and brother-in-law were all in town. We had ourselves only just moved in and hadn’t even been to Niles yet, when it was suggested that we go. We went to a nice restaurant and had a couple of beers and, since it’s been a while since we’d all seen each other, we decided to change the venue rather than call it a night when we paid the bill. After a couple of beers and some pleasant conversation, the biker bar wasn’t a bad place to find oneself. We ordered some more beers and were soon dancing to the ridiculous covers the band was playing. It was slightly ironic, but still we were dancing and enjoying ourselves a great deal. When we went home, I remember thinking to myself, OK, there seems to be a few places to go right down the street. About a week later, Gina and I went back by ourselves. It was lightly raining and the walk was somnolent, but relaxing. We talked about looking for jobs and the future. I opened the door for Gina knocking down a wall of sound that should’ve stayed intact. The door was practically blown off its hinges by bassy classic rock, slamming glasses and the raucous, shrill shouts of drunken, middle-aged women. Right away, I was annoyed. The bar didn’t have anything cheap, so I bought Miller High Life or something that had a slight malt-liquor taste to it. We sat down over in a corner. I couldn’t hear anything, everyone was yelling. Not like classic bar it’s-loud-in-here-I-have-to-yell-to-be-heard, but rather an I-think-I’m-just-going-to-yell-for-the-hell-of-it. Most of the yells were sharp, yippy almost and made me feel jumpy, like when someone comes up behind you and honks an air horn. I wanted to smoke. It’s the kind of place that still seems like it should be filled with smoke, even after the ban. You can’t take your beer outside; you can’t smoke inside. The only thing to do would be to leave the beer and go smoke, which didn’t make any sense. So I just stayed in there, feeling annoyed and drinking my beer as fast as I could without chugging the thing. We left the moment we were finished. On the way home I tried to explain what I had felt. “I don’t know what happened; I suddenly just felt extremely annoyed with everything going on in there. The way maybe a child or a cat will annoy when it does the same annoying thing over and over, only it was like a whole room full of people doing things like that.” “Yeah,” Gina said, “I know what you mean. It’s just sad, they’re all middle aged people acting like they’re teenagers.” “That’s not even what annoys me,” I added, “it’s like the whole collective feel of the place. It’s like it’s stupid, depressing and agitating all at the same time.” This talk went on for a while. I think by the time we had gotten home we agreed that we wouldn’t go back there again. And, accordingly, a few weeks later, here we were again, in front of the door. “Well,” I say with a sigh, “we might as well go in.” It’s even louder and more stupid in there than it was before. There’s lots of yelling, there’s a band playing that has too many songs with the phrase ‘hoochie-coo’ in them and this time we end up paying over five dollars apiece for our beers. Almost before we’ve sat down I’m irritated to the point where I can no longer possibly enjoy myself. I launch into some kind of invective against the place that I can’t seem to stop. When we left about ten minutes later, I felt an almost tangible sense of relief. The strange part is, as we walked back home I tried to think of what it was that really annoyed me so much about the place. I’ve been to plenty of places with bad music and people yelling, but whatever it is that upsets me about that place is much deeper, deeper an apparently ineffable.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Response to Whole Foods Job Inquiry

I came back home and found that the resume that I had sent to Whole Foods had been rejected and was almost immediately inundated by a wave of apathy. I went and raked some leaves up in the yard to get the shot to my self-esteem out of my mind, but it seems that it’s something on which I want to brood for a while. I want to brood on the whole farce that has been my job search since I’ve been back here. When we got back to the Bay I was resigned to live in the East Bay for a while. Rent was free, the area was quiet and we would be able to help out Gina’s family if they needed us. We got into town the Friday after Thanksgiving and I decided that it would be best to relax before going out to look for a job over the weekend. On Monday, I got all dressed up and set out toward Niles, which I had seen a little of over the weekend. Upon arriving in the townlet I found everything to be closed and figured that I would walk into Fremont proper and see what was available. Fremont, when I got down town, was little more than shopping complexes strung together down a double-wide boulevard. It reminded me a little of unwalkable suburban Detroit, only here there were bike lanes and sidewalks, albeit unused. I had only been back in the country about two weeks at this point so I was still enjoying the newness of the area. Personally, it was new, as in something I hadn’t experienced in a while and it was also new, as in brand new. Everything shone, everything smelled of fertilizer, warm plastic or new car smell. It was the America that people who don’t like America complain about or the America that tourists are happy to leave behind but also happy to return to. For me, ut was just another permutation of America. It didn’t represent the majority, nor could it be called an under-represented minority. I was still thrilled by the variety of stores and the variety of things they had inside them. On one corner there was a Safeway, a Trader Joe’s and the future site of a Whole Foods. Inside Safeway there are now something like 10 varieties of Wheat Thin cracker. I walked around for the morning into the afternoon walking toward businesses, peeking in, and usually walking away. It wasn’t the look of the places that deterred me, but rather the age of the employees. It’s much easier to work at a place you feel overqualified for when you’re in good company. In San Francisco and other large cities, grocery stores and cafes are usually full of twenty-somethings waiting for something else to come along. The job would really be a career and everyone who came in would know that you didn’t think of it as such. In Fremont, it felt like something more permanent. I would be working with a bunch of high-school students. Either they would try to promote me to management right away or I would remain a grocery stocker, happy, but annoyed that I hadn’t at least been offered the promotion so I could’ve turned it down. I dropped off one resume at a little café. The owner happened to be in and he gave me a little impromptu interview. I felt I did OK and after finding little else decided to go back home. That night, I decided to check out Craig’s List for the area. It hardly yielded anything: mostly driving jobs, very little service industry stuff. All the businesses hiring were chains and I could guess what the majority of their staff looked like. I checked in San Francisco, out of curiosity and found a flurry of jobs, mostly independent cafes in hip neighborhoods. I decided then that I would look for a job in San Francisco and that I would commute until we moved. It seemed like a good choice. I had once found a café job there with no experience within a week. If I moved my search over to the city I could be working within no time, or so I thought. The next day I began checking Craig’s List. I have been checking it ever since. Every day there are at least 3 new barista jobs posted. So far, I have applied to all of them. I’ve been called in for two interviews. Both of them ended with face-to-face encouragement and then an e-mail a day or two later that broke the news that I had not been selected. With so much café experience, I am surprised that I am having such a hard time convincing these people that I am qualified for the job. I could understand if there were a serious dearth of jobs, but with so many posted every day it seems like I would be the right guy for one of them. Most employers don’t even get back to me. I write concise cover letters for each position, attach my resume and then never hear anything back as though I had sent it into a void. And that’s how it’s beginning to feel, like a void. Whole Foods was a desperate act. I hadn’t really even considered it, but Gina mentioned maybe trying to get a job there. When I found a store that was hiring online, I decided to send in my resume. I wrote that I had complete availability, years of experience in customer service and knew my way around a cash register. ‘No,’ they said, ‘you’re not what we’re looking for.’ What are these people looking for? Do I need a PhD to work there? Should I have left the degrees out of my education section? The promptness of the rejection made it even worse. I sent the application out this morning and had a rejection e-mail by 4 pm. They obviously saw something about my application that actually made it STAND OUT as unworthy. I don’t care about working at Whole Foods, and I’m actually not all that concerned about getting a café job, but dammit this does not bode well for getting any kind of professional work. Along with my café search, I have been applying for editing positions as well as internships. Often the requirements to apply for these jobs take me all morning to get together and/or write. Since I have begun applying for these jobs I haven’t heard a word back. You’d think that a local guy with complete availability and a Master’s degree would be qualified to work at an entry-level position for free, but no one has even bothered to tell me ‘thanks for trying.’ So, I’m back where I started again, practically addicted to Craig’s List, searching the classified about three times a day. New ideas keep popping into my head throughout the day and I want to rush back home and send an e-mail to a place I used to work, or send a Facebook message (a Facebook message fer shit’s sake!) to a Georgian restaurant that’s going to open in the Spring, just saying something like, ‘Gamerjobot, how about a job?’ Even now, I am consumed by the idea that perhaps I have missed a job posting in the time that it had taken me to write this. I don’t want to let the Whole Foods thing get me down, but I am tired of looking for jobs. I’d like to have some kind of work, so that I could continue the job hunt with a little more peace of mind.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Way You Don't Look in The Rain

The ride back up doesn’t evoke any emotion. I didn’t think that it would so I’m not surprised. After what is beginning to feel like months of constant traveling, going back up to Arcata just feels like another long trip. The first few hours are engaging enough, but eventually, I tire of my book. I tire of being in the car and I start to feel annoyed that I decided to come up here. The further north we go, the more beautiful the scenery becomes and the more disinterested I feel. What I’m looking at is much more beautiful than a lot of what I’d seen in South America. The stands of pine sweeping up and down the remote hills induce a calm that is tinged with melancholy. I cannot look at an endless forest without feeling what it would be like to be lost in the middle of it somewhere. It’s a familiar feeling, yet I don’t pay it much attention. I concentrate more on the fact that it’s been four hours and we’re still in the car and how the road winds relentlessly and how I haven’t had a job since the beginning of October. Arriving in Arcata, there is only the relief that comes of arriving at a destination, and destination, after a long drive. I take a second to stretch in the garage and I look around a little. Yeah, it’s the old neighborhood; the last place I lived before I moved to Argentina. For a moment, I remember how I missed a few things when I left. The first month in Buenos Aires when I thought about the clerk at the grocery store and the hidden paths that surreptitiously connected neighborhoods. For a time, I had thought about these things a lot. Even after Gina came down and I had the most important part of my life in Northern California with me, she and I would still reminisce about the smells and the colors of certain trees at night. In the city of 12 million people, they were the memories that were unique to us and we kept them until we forgot what we needed them for. As I stood looking around, I only thought, ‘here is another place I have already been.’ I felt neither positive or negative about that. When I went to sleep the thought was still there, unchanged and almost oppressive. It’s always nice to have coffee ready and waiting in the morning. I waking up, I smelled the coffee in gradually cooling in the kitchen, a smell that had always reminded me of the early mornings of my childhood and, thus, of Christmas. I take a cup and settle into a chair. The sun had only recently come up. I have nothing to do. I contemplate reading and drinking coffee throughout the day. I don’t have to find a job here. There’s no reason to hurry into town; I know from experience that there’s not very much there. Everyone at my old job will be different. It will be awkward to go in and look around for the one familiar person. The sights will be more or less the same and thinking of going back to campus makes me feel ashamed that I have done nothing with the degree I earned there already over two years ago. I read on the couch for a while, listlessly drinking coffee. My concentration begins to bounce a little and by about eight I’m beginning to want a long walk for the air and for the introspection that I may find in it. Right now, I can’t even concentrate on this National Geographic article. Gina and her mom are going to a dentist appointment. I am going to take a walk. Outside, the fog is beginning to burn off. The smell is something that seems to clean everything. It provides all the satisfaction of throwing a bucket of mop water onto dusty concrete. Walking through the fading fog, I think it pulls at you a little as it evaporates; it’s a lifting kind of feeling. I begin to pay a little more attention. I pass the old house and decide to walk up the driveway and take a closer look. Without even trying to summon the memory, I remember riding my bike up this way and how happy I always felt to be returning. There is the sound of the bells on the front door. The feeling of ‘Honey, I’m home.’ There is the warm panel of light hanging in the dark and the wet stars always looking so new like the gauze that covered them for so long had finally been ripped away. I go back to the road and feel the nostalgia a little for the first time. I walk with that slow gait of recollection, in which you feel like you’re being ferried through a place. When I cross the major street and the sun is fully out, I start to feel welcomed. I feel the familiarity of the place, not as something mundane, but as something fruitful. The trees, the clop of my shoes on the sidewalk, the car exhaust in the morning, it’s like they all combine to make up one thing that I’d nearly forgotten about. At the end of Baldwin, my old street, the nuance becomes absolute and there, in front of my old house, there I am. The way I was. I’m looking at myself, writing on the front steps, having a beer on the curb, talking on the phone in the parking lot. I am sitting inside the room with the shag carpeting, writing my thesis, the books scattered around me. I begin to feel the cold air in the room and decide that it’s time for a break. I walk outside and am confronted by myself, standing there, watching all these scenes that have passed. There is a brief moment of irreconcilability and then we walk off together, my past and present selves, to view the town where we parted so long ago.