Monday, December 31, 2012
“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
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Monday, December 10, 2012
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 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.