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North Platte

It was a cold, dark drive to Nebraska. I arrived in a snow covered parking lot. My first plan was to sleep in the car until the morning. But staff saw me and invited in the office. I met Job and Sage the first night. Sage was welcoming. “We’re glad you’re here,” she told me. And I believe she meant it. Job paid for a hotel for the night.

Before leaving Colorado I had talked to a few people about renting. At least one place felt good already. The next day I made a couple stops and moved into the house I had expected would work. The long term plan was for me to rent out a basement apartment. But it wasn’t ready. So for the short term I was in the larger part of the house. It was a big house, and just Baby Girl and I.

The landlord was a friendly couple. The man worked for the railroad. Like half the people in North Platte. But they were both involved in buying houses, fixing them up. Then selling them at a profit. At least this was their business model before the bust. After the bust prices were low. So they began renting out houses. I lived in the same place the whole time I was in Nebraska. I remember the lease was very detailed. It had Baby Girl in it, not as a cat, but by name. I couldn’t get another, and couldn’t replace her.

The apartment when I moved in was great. I stayed cool in the summer. And it wasn’t too cold in the winter. Soon people lived in the house above me. But it was never a problem. While I had my own washer and dryer. The electrical system often burned out when they were used. The space was a small kitchen, a bathroom, a small living room and a bedroom. It was just the right size. Most of all since I still didn’t have my stuff from storage.

The town of North Platte is flat. One of the nicknames of the town is Flatrock. If you’ve lived in San Francisco and Portland, it is a small town. Highway 83 ran through town. It ran from north to south. About half the route was two one-way streets. I walked on these streets with Sean. While our ride was in the hospital.

It was on these same streets we lost our ride. I lived a block from the gas station. If you recall I was going to the gathering. We stopped for gas. I went for a sandwich. After coming back the police arrested the driver. Leaving six of us without a ride to where we were going. Not a smart move.

But this time there wasn’t any of this kind of trouble. I was a reporter now. A person of some respect.

This was really only my second newspaper job. When I started I worked on the education beat. I covered a range of school issues. One of the big stories was the hiring of a new superintendent. And I met a lot of good people. I didn’t just write the news, I also took some great photos for the paper. In one case I set up a shot for the TV news. It was a story about a book drive. I took some books out of a box to use in a photo. But it didn’t work out for me. But the TV station made it work as a prop for their coverage. And didn’t even help put the books back.

Education was a great beat. And while struggling through the fog of depression made everything hard. I really liked my job. Another story was about Bobs. Some kids in a class had started making pets out of rocks. But they weren’t rocks. They were Bobs. The Bobs had names like Justin Bobier, or Selena Bobmez. But the amazing thing for me about the story was the response from the teachers. Instead of telling them, don’t play with those rocks. Or leave those dirty things outside. They embraced their play and integrated it into the classroom.

But due to my own problems the paper took me off the beat. One issue was my clothes. And this had been talked about before. There was fair ground for the criticism. And I had taken steps to improve. I even got an ironing board and used it a couple times. It really was a lack of caring on my part. Not about the job, but about life. A lack of caring about myself. But fair or not Job moved me from being a reporter to being a copy-editor. At first I would do some news coverage. But I made a few mistakes early on, and I guess he didn’t trust me.

Most of my time in North Platte was lonely. I never made any friends. Most of my time was spent alone in my apartment. Or at the library. There were times when I think back, and I don’t recall any light in my life at all. I worked to late at night a couple nights a week. I’d shop at Walmart in the middle of the night. I was just alone. I was just depressed. And I didn’t have much to live for, since all I had was my job. And for much of my time there I felt like a failure at work. It is in North Platte I started therapy on a regular basis. I have so many problems. Being in North Platte triggered most of them.

I moved and worked closer with Sage. It is hard to explain how I felt about Sage. She is such an amazing person. One of those people who seem to have their own cloud around them. She was a great designer, an amazing editor, a photographer, reporter and friend. She could do it all. And it was all amazing. At some level I was in love with her. But she was also like a rock star, because I was in such awe of her. I learned to both fear and trust her. There were times she made me want to cry. Times she made me want to fly. I’ve known very few people in my life with such raw power. She’s not perfect by a long shot. But there was a magic in her being I have always wanted for myself. I’ve met so many people in my life who try hard. But Sage never seemed to have to try at all. She was also stunningly beautiful. All these things were just a part of who she was a person. Like a thunder storm on the plains. You love the feeling of the rain. But fear the spark of the lightning. I miss Sage still in ways I have never missed anyone else. Now she is on her own path, not with the newspaper. She had the bold courage to start her own business.

Working as a copy editor wasn’t easy. When I started there was two of us, plus Sage. But later the second person quit and I had a lot more work. Laying out pages and pages of text, copy editing and working images. There was another meeting in the winter. It was a dark period in my life. And maybe I should have talked to someone at work. But while I wasn’t comfortable. So, they told me I had to shape up or get fired. And I did. I got the job done, not on time. But they didn’t know how many hours I spent working off the clock. Over time I was making fewer and fewer mistakes. I even started to feel good about the job I was doing. But I knew it wasn’t the right job for me. I had plans to look for something else.

Then I got fired. Job blamed it on my using my phone at work. But, I think it is more complex. Working with Job himself was never easy. He had the annoying habit of sending an email from the next room. Emails I would often ignore because it felt rude to me. He would also push a lot of his work off on Sage. He was at heart a lazy man. And he got away with it. In the end their was no notice. They didn’t tell Sage what was planned. They just fired me one day. I was shocked, upset and lost. I was also very along because the only people I knew were at the job. Once I left, it felt like none of them cared about me at all. With the exception of one person: not Sage. Now, of course this is just my perception. I know it is hard when you work with someone and they leave. You may miss them, but at the same time you are very busy. I’m sure Sage had even more work pushed onto her shoulders.

I’d been looking for a job. And found one working for a newspaper in Texas. I drove down to meet the staff and interview. It went well, the job was a better fit in many ways. And I was making more money. It really was a win for me. Even if the new job wasn’t perfect. And not long after I was fired, Sage quit. I don’t ever imagine being able to work with her again. I’m not sure I have the skills. But I would do it in a heartbeat.

A short vision exercise

This is set a few years down the road. I included some of my friends too.

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The sun slips through the rain clouds. Spring smells drift through the downtown air. Dante rolls over to hit the snooze button. Sure, he might be late. But people are used to him being late on his day off. Baby Girl stirred as he rose and went to sleep in the window.

In the other room She is reading her novel. A cup of warm tea waiting for him on the table. She had an hour before leaving for work. When Dante’s sleepy brain remembers this fact he rolls out of bed and into some clothes.

“Good morning,” he greets Her.

“How was work last night,” She asks him as he picks up the green tea.

“Thank you for the tea,” he tries to wake up. But gratitude is always the most important thing. As he sips he explains the previous day at the store. Being an assistant manager isn’t as easy as some made it appear. There are a lot of problems people could solve themselves. People who try to do too much, and people who try to do too little. But last night was a good night. The store was busy, but he had a good team.

With a kiss She popped out of her chair. Well time for work. Dante motioned to the fridge. “You see your lunch?”

“Aww, lunch, thank you,” She gushed. Clearly also understanding the value of appreciation. “What are your plans for today?”

“Well it is my hiking day,” Dante said. “Me and Rhonda are going to hike Mount Hamilton. It has been a couple weeks since I’ve been to the summit. One of the best views in the area.”

“And how is Rhonda doing at her new store,” She asked.

The move for Rhonda was a good one, it got her closer to her home. And it put her into a department manager position. Dante explained how she was enjoying her new store and co-workers. But the move was also triggered by his own promotion, to avoid any appearance of favoritism.

“Are we still on for the art show later this week,” She asked getting dressed. He couldn’t help but sneak a peek. She was amazing, a breath taking image he hardly believed to be real on some days.

“Yes, and she’ll bring the kids too. I think Michelle will also be going: it is going to be a fun night,” Dante told Her.

“I’m glad your friends are going to be there to support your art,” She said. “I know it means a lot to you, and so do they.”

“Kara said she would try and make it along, but since I got the night off she might have to close,” Dante explained. Kara still worked in the same store with him. She was also an assistant manager now. It has been fun he would think to himself to grow at Walmart with his friends. Even if for some of them the growth took them to other stores.

On the table his phone buzzed. It was Rhonda messaging him to see how late he would be today. They had planned to meet at Fisher’s Landing. It was an easy drive for her from Ridgefield. Her new house was just down the street from where Bobby used to live. Of course Bobby was now a department manager in Longview.

Quickly he finished his tea. Then gave Her a hug on her way out the door. Getting dressed, he sent a reply saying he was almost ready. Since he was driving against traffic he imagined it would be a smooth ride. Of course driving was easier in his new car. The Hyundai Tucson was a good car.

The car had been his first purchase with the money from his book deal. Some days he still didn’t know how he ever found the time to write the novel of his life. But he wondered more about the courage. Where did he find enough to have it published. Was it really such an interesting life. A publisher picked it up, and sales have been good. Not A Million Little Pieces good. But he also wouldn’t have to go on Oprah and explain why he lied.

His next novel was due out next year. Still in the writing process, it would be tales of travel. Something like On The Road, but not as boring. There had been many tales left out of his first book. The girls in Burlington and the pizza too. There were so many friends on his path. When he did a reading at Powell’s for his first book people asked about the next book. It felt good to be read. For so long he felt like his words were just there. And now his words had a new life. And his life has new meaning. His publisher suggested a third book based on his short life as a journalist.

But now he had gotten lost in thought and was going to be even later. Lets get moving he snapped to himself and picked up his keys. The Planet Fitness membership card struck the door as he locked up.

Baby Girl

Baby Girl was one of her cats. And I didn’t think I could love her. And not love her cats. The other cats were Frank, Tazman and Francesca. Baby Girl had actually been left with her by a friend. And the friend was never able to return. When I was a small boy I had a pet cat. One of the only pets I really loved. I remember moving and fearing losing Smoky. I would call for what felt like hours, in hopes he would come back. He always did. In the Fifth Grade he disappeared. I don’t know why or how.
So getting to know her cats was easy. I like cats. I am much more of a cat person than a dog person. They were easy cats to love. At times I spent the night at her house they would sleep on the bed with me. I watched her house, and the cats, while she was out of town. Often they would all be on the bed. I recall one night waking up in the middle of the night. I couldn’t breathe. Then I open my mouth and it is full of cat hair. Frank was sleeping right on my neck. Was he trying to kill me? I doubt it, she said he did the same to her.

I think Baby Girl liked my more than the rest. Frank had a strong bond with her. She had gotten him as a kitten and raised him. Baby Girl and Frank always got along. Except once when she had been gone for a long time. Frank went after Baby Girl a little, just to mark his human. Francesca was always the wanderer. She would hunt mice and birds. It wasn’t uncommon to find their remains in various parts of the house. Baby Girl was a mellow, mostly indoor cat. She could go outside like the others. But spent most of her time on the couch. When I was there she spent most of her time with me.

The first time she caught a mouse I was shocked. To be honest I don’t know what happened outside. I know she came in and was meowing at me in a strange tone. She is normally a quiet kitty. So I look over and see she has a mouse. It is still alive in her mouth. When Frank comes in she lets the mouse go and he starts to play with it. Baby Girl stays back and respects Frank as the boss. They chase the mouse around the house. I follow to watch and keep it out of Her bedroom. After a short time Frank gets bored and his attention drifts. Then Baby Girl killed it and ate it.

I wasn’t sure if she had really caught the mouse. And I am still not sure. It was Francesca who was the hunter. One time we found Francesca with a dead humming bird. Another time I had just pulled into the driveway. Both Baby Girl and Francesca were circling a small tree in the yard. Then I see they have something cornered. I think it was a mole. I’d just gotten off work so I went into the house. In a little while Baby Girl comes in with the mole in her mouth. She drops it in the middle of the living room and eats half. The other half sits for a while. At some point I am too grossed out to leave it. I pick it up and throw it away.

But then Francesca comes into the house. There was a cat door going out to the garage. This is how the cats got in and out. Francesca came through the cat door and went to the spot where the mole had been. She smells around. You can tell she is looking for the mole. After a minute Baby Girl starts through the cat door. Francesca looks at her, and Baby Girl sees Francesca. In a moment Francesca dashes toward her and Baby Girl has taken flight. I get the feeling Baby Girl may have stolen her prey.

While I was at the house Taz died. She had been old and unhealthy. We had a small service for her in the backyard. Frank came out with us and sat next to the small grave. It is hard to know if cats are aware. But I think they know when a friend has gone. Taz and Baby Girl used to be close. They would sleep together and Baby Girl would groom Taz. But Baby Girl wouldn’t leave the house. She stood by a window inside and watched.

When it came time for us to move my friend wasn’t able to take Baby Girl. “You take her,” she suggested, “she likes you.” And it was a good idea. Sure I started to love the cats as a way of loving my friend. But Baby Girl had won my heart. She has always been a sweet and gentle cat. Of course taking her meant I needed supplies. One of the luckiest things I found was a litter box. Yeah, you can get a litter box at any store. But this one is special. I got it from a thrift store which supported the animal shelter. It looks like a plastic igloo. It is large for a litter box and round. I knew it was perfect for Baby Girl because it was covered.

At my friends the litter boxes were in the garage. And Baby Girl has always been a modest kitty. If you walked into the garage while she was using the box, she would run outside. I knew she would like having the privacy of a covered box. What I hadn’t thought about was how much a cover would keep litter inside. When she digs, she really digs deep sometimes and roughly. My friend thought Baby Girl was going outside her box. But this has never been the case since she has been with me. The boxes in the garage weren’t covered. There were piles of litter with some droppings outside the box. These show Baby Girl is a very neat cat. And the litter was no doubt thrown out of the box while she was digging. Frank on the other hand once used the liter box while I was talking to someone right next to it.

Years ago I read a book of odd poetry. It was written by a woman, and some were for a man. The message of a couple amounted to, my dog still loves you but I don’t. In a way I felt like if I loved Her cats and they love me – so would She. But it didn’t work. But I am happy to have found Baby Girl. She has been a good friend to me the years we have been together. And I fear the day I will lose her. I have no reason to believe it will be soon. She still likes to sleep on the bed with me, and keep me company during the day.

New Friends and Old Friends

Back in Arcata there were new friends. But also old ones.

Karen was someone I had met before I left. But it wasn’t until I came back we spent time together. When I left she was dating another friend. But now she was single. She’s a smart and attractive woman. There was an attraction from the first time we met. I recall meeting her at a party. But she was drunk. The music was loud. We didn’t talk much. While I was away I stayed in touch online.

Before I moved back I wondered if anything was possible. However back in town the relationship with Simone grew. Karen and I grew to be close friends. We chatted about life. And shared poetry. When I tried to start my own blog. She was the other person on the team. There was a good connection.

If I look back to my accounts online I could pin-point when I met Milk. I know where I met her. Sleeping in my car of course meant no internet. So I would use the wifi at the Co-op. I wasn’t the only person using the internet. One night a strangely attractive younger woman was at a table. On the table was a half gallon of milk. I posted online about her. Did she plan on drinking the whole thing. Milk is gross to me. I will eat cheese and ice cream. But I will not drink milk.

Later we were walking out together. I started talking to her. Like me she was living in her car. We spent more time together. Got to know each other more and became friends. Things weren’t going well with Simone when we met. And there was a spark of hope for a new person in my life. But the winds changed with Simone again. And as a result the spark died.

For a while Milk was sleeping in my car. I offered her the space since I worked at night. And it was bigger than her car. On most days I would get off work, and get my car. I’d drive and park and we’d sleep for a while. Later I would take her back to her car. But one morning Simone wanted me to come over after work. I felt a bit like a jerk, but I had to wake Milk up. I didn’t want to drive back from Simone’s and it was too far for her to walk. Besides I wasn’t keen on the idea of Simone knowing Milk was sleeping in my car. We weren’t having sex. But it just felt odd.

There was no spark but we were friends the rest of her stay. We lived together in a small house in Manilla for a while. It was the house of a friend of her’s. We were house-sitting. It was a neat little place, and close to the beach. But the bathroom didn’t work and I drove into town for my business. One day we tried to have a party, but no one showed up. Simone came and a friend of Milk’s came: that was all. But I miss this time period. Again things weren’t going well with Simone and Milk was a good friend to me.

And she was a good adventure pal. She tried to help me learn French. She tried to get me motivated to jog. We would go on road trips to the coast and visit small towns. On one trip we went on an impromptu run. I’m not sure how long the run was, but it felt like miles. We also visited the redwoods, and once I took her to run in a race. I didn’t run, I took a nap while she ran. Then we went to Gaberville and had lunch.

It wasn’t just women. An important male friend was Dave. He was in his 50s. A homeless man who didn’t look homeless. I’m not sure what was his exact arrangement. He didn’t go to the service center in town. Though he told me at one point he had gone. He walked every where and just spent his days about town. There were a number of times we talked. He told me about his medications one day. And we talked about women and loss, depression and aging. It made me feel better. There were some times during my stay in Arcata I had strong doubts about my future. I felt like a loser. I felt like I would always be a loser. Alone and broke with no prospects.

Writing for the local news paper I covered the homeless service center. Something I shouldn’t have done since I was a client. But no one knew I was sleeping in my car. No one, except staff at the service center, knew I had gotten a camping ticket. And they had helped me get it removed. I had to serve community service, which I did at the service center. In Arcata this place was a point of a lot of debate. Like many other communities which want to help people. But also feel like the same people are dirty and cause problems.

The director wasn’t always a friendly person. While I covered the center and was a client he told people he thought I was a spy. One time I was talking to him about a flier for a public meeting. The wording seemed vague to me and I was trying to understand. This upset him, and he hung up on me. A move which I later heard upset a few people on the board of directors. One of the workers at the center was John, also the director’s name, but this was a different John. He helped me in a couple ways. At one point he talked about buying a local paper and hiring me to work. But it never came to be.

As a reporter I believe I wrote some good stories about the service center. I spoke with a wide range of people. And at one point got a statement from a city official critical of the center. Something my editor told me no one had done before. But I also talked to students, community leaders. And a couple of my new friends on the board of directors. The push while I was there was to serve lunch again. When it had been served before it had caused problems. Part of the issue was the center’s location. One it was in a building owned by the city. Two it was located next to the bus depot. And bus drivers said the clients caused problems.

They were granted the right to serve lunch. But soon after I left the center was closed.

Wendy is the wife of a pastor who served on the board of directors. Her heart was so open and caring. It made her attractive in a way you wouldn’t expect for a married woman at her age. We got to know each other talking about the center. But also a few other issues in the public debate. The begging issue was one of these. A law to limit the activity was up for a vote. While writing about the issue I talked to Wendy. It passed.

Towards the end of my stay I moved in with Simone. She lived outside of town. And I spent less time working for the news paper. When it came time to leave. I didn’t feel like I was leaving many people. But at work I had a good friend. We worked together for over a year. And we talked, and spent many nights working the same shift. Toward the end a new guy was hired. He was a bit of a drunk and a douche. I remember my friend telling me before I even talk seriously about moving: “If you quit, I’m going to have to quit too.” I didn’t think he meant it. But I talked to him later and found out he did quit.

Working at CVS was great for a few reasons. We didn’t get much theft at night. But when we did, against policy, we chased them down. One night my co-worker chased a guy down the street and into an alley. The guy heavy guy running with beer stopped. My friend had the phone in one hand, and his pepper spray in the other. The police later told my friend they guy wasn’t heavy. It was all muscle. Another one of my co-workers packed a gun under his shirt at work.

But it was also crazy. One night a guy was giving my cashier a hard time. I went down and asked him to leave. He resisted. I kept asking him politely to leave. But he was getting more and more upset. Until he finally threw his change at me and left. Another guy I tried to get to leave the store because he was causing a scene. We had to call the police. I don’t think people understand how easy it is to get removed from a public store. As the supervisor though I was the captain of the row boat. On most nights it was me and maybe one other person.

Then I got the job in Colorado.

If Only…

If only I hadn’t gone to the job fair. I’d recently moved to Vancouver and needed a job. At the job fair I met Tye. And we talked about working at Walmart. Three years later I am doing good at Walmart. But if…

If only I hadn’t had the crazy roommate move in with me. I thought having a roommate would help. But she was crazy. Thought I worked for the police. Ate all my food. And then wanted to have sex with me. Craziest thing of all really. But then I wouldn’t have moved to Vancouver.

If only the weather hadn’t been so cold in the spring. If only the workplace hadn’t been so cold. And then so loud. If only I hadn’t had a great friend in Vancouver.

If only I hadn’t stayed in touch with Michelle. We met years ago. And had been close ever since. She’s been an amazing friend. And I’ve been a wandering fool. If only she hadn’t stayed friends with me all those years. I wouldn’t have had the option to move to Vancouver.

If only I hadn’t met her at Burgerville. It wasn’t a place either us belonged at the time. But we were there for a short time together. We got to know each other. Became friends and became close. If only when she asked to be my friend I had said, “no.” It would have been a sad mistake. But it could have happened.

If only I hadn’t gotten fired from the deli downtown. I worked for a Korean couple who barked at me. The man said women were trouble. The woman said I made her feel stupid. But I worked and worked. Coming in late every day. I didn’t know the clock was set fast. If they hadn’t fired me one dark day I wouldn’t have gone to Burgerville. And I would never have met my best friend: Michelle.

If only in the wet of winter I hadn’t moved to Portland. Starting out in the city wasn’t easy. I had to really work hard and rent cheap places. When I could rent any place. I had at one point planned on moving to Seattle with a woman. But it didn’t work out and I landed in Portland. Why Portland, I didn’t even know the place. But I knew, M, the girl hated the place. And it was close enough for me to afford a ticket on the bus. If only she hadn’t hated Portland. If only I could have afforded to move to Austin. If only I would have moved to another town.

If only I had stayed a week longer. I had been camping by the river. And the night I left the water flooded my tent. A couple years later I went back and found it. It was under a deep layer of mud. I’d never thought the river could flood. If only I had stayed another night. It might have been my last.

I had met M on a lonely night in San Francisco. I had turned while walking to talk to a friend behind me. But bumped into M. She was looking for someone for talking. I sat down and we talked for hours. We blew smoke bubbles. My heart was feeling light like a bubble. If only I hadn’t bumped into the strange girl. If only I hadn’t fallen in love. If only the night was just the night. But we stayed together for weeks. And then later went on a long trip. If only we hadn’t been so close. I would never have made plans to move to Seattle. I would never have moved to Portland. If only on one night in San Francisco I was walking on the other side of the street.

She had left home to see her favorite poet. Allen Ginsberg, was alive when she when she left Seattle. But he was dead when she got to San Francisco. If only she had loved a different poet. If only she hadn’t been feeling lonely. If only she had never left home. There are so many unknown if only’s in her story. If only her family had been closer.

If only I hadn’t been cruising around the Bay Area. If only I’d never started on my experimental life. I left college to be on the road for a while. But I never left the Bay Area until I met M. If only I had never met her. If only I had stayed in school I would have a totally different career. But there had been a longing in my heart for something different. If only I had been happier with my life choices. If only I had ignored the call of the wild.

If only I hadn’t been in San Francisco. If only I hadn’t met M. If only I hadn’t moved to Portland. If only I hadn’t worked at Burgerville. If only I hadn’t met Michelle. If only I hadn’t moved back after many years. If only I hadn’t gotten a job at Walmart. If only so many more things I can’t count or recall. And a few I am not even aware of right now. I wouldn’t be here writing this, and you wouldn’t be here reading it.

I for one am happy all the “if onlys” worked out the way they did.

Being Back

So I was back in Arcata. But it wasn’t going to last. I would walk across the stage and then out of town. Well, plans change.

Simone was someone I knew before. As a fellow student I found her to be interesting, and attractive. But there were a lot of students. Few as interesting and attractive but I was moving. While in school I had focused on school. Then as it wound down I was looking outward.

And then I returned. We met again in the computer lab. She was working on a project. I helped her. We talked. And talked and then more. I was happy for a moment. At first we were friends.

When it came time to walk, she choose to go with me and the journalism students. She had two majors. Neither were journalism. It was her minor. But they let her. And we sat together. At this point I felt myself wanting to stay longer.

I got a temporary job at a local flower company. One of the hardest jobs I have ever worked. The flowers were dumped and fed through a spinning wheel. It tore the bulbs off. From there the flowers dropped onto a long conveyor belt. Higher and just in front of this belt was a second. But this one had a flexible range of perfect mountains. As the flowers traveled down the belt. Our job was to bunch them and place them in the valleys of the other belt. The bunches would go along and through a machine which wrapped a string around the stems. Then they were bagged. The last step was to put them in a bucket. A running count was always rolling above us on a reader. The line boss would be yelling. Faster and faster we would be working.

All of this was in a giant warehouse. On other lines the flowers weren’t the same. Or the bunches were not the same. A couple times we would be moved from line to line. But for the most part we spent all day on the same line. A couple times we even were sent outside to work in the fields. We didn’t do planting. And I don’t recall on what they had us work. The job was temporary to cover orders for Mother’s Day. A bunch had gotten hired. Each day after Mother’s Day was a new rumor. Some would get to stay. Then it would be about some being let go. It wasn’t long before I was let go from the job. And then I was staying.

Working with me at the job was a strange girl. She lived in Eureka. And she loved cheese burgers. It wasn’t a long drive to the hospital. So we would drive there on lunch and she would eat cheese burgers. I say we because she didn’t have a car. I drove her for lunch. But I also picked her up in the morning and dropped her off in Eureka. The job started early in the morning, 5 a.m. We got off in the afternoon.

She was a young girl. In her late teens and dealing with the first struggles of real life. I just wanted to help. There was someone I was becoming attached to during this time. It was Simone. On my one day off we would go on walks along the river. I’d never been to Blue Lake before. She showed me an amazing trail. It was the start of summer and a good time to be in love. A good time to be walking in the fresh air.

After the job at the flower farm didn’t work out I got a short-term job. It was something I was so sure would not last I filed “exempt” on my tax paperwork. It was in McKinleyville, and even though we weren’t talking while I worked at the store. Sometimes Simone would come in and say hello. The job itself wasn’t stressful. But I didn’t like the hours and I didn’t like my manager. She was difficult in many ways.

My shift overnight. And for most of it I worked alone. This was one of the biggest problems. Working alone isn’t great for me. But I would man the station. Which meant I sold gas, cigarettes and general store items. One task I hated was counting the cigarettes. A task unique to the job. But one I had to do each morning. Overnight I would try to stock the cooler between customers. Often it was slow after 2 a.m. But until then it was steady. There were no real breaks, or lunches. How can this be legal. There is a loophole for jobs where there isn’t someone to cover. But there was often enough of a break to eat and relax. Each night there was also a lot of cleaning.

There were a few regular customers. One would often bring a dog with him to the store. On the Fourth of July the dog came alone. Many animals are scared by the fireworks. Well he got into the store and I was trying to get him out. He bit me. Not a bad bite, just a nip because he was scared. Another funny story was one of my co-workers finding a counterfeit bill. I believe it was a $20. He insisted on calling the sheriff and turning it over. Which is the “right” thing to do, I guess. But in my experience most people would just return it. I don’t know it was worth the officer’s time to drive out and pick it up.

The area around the gas station reminded me of Silent Hill. While I know it is a video game. I never played the game, but I have watched the movie. There was often a dense fog. My life felt like it was in a dense fog. I was sleeping in my car at the time. Unsure about how long I wanted to stay in town. And unsure how long I would stay in town. If I had only known.

But after working there for a couple weeks I went back to my old job. We talked and they offered me a better job. So I agreed to go back to CVS. The hours were the same, but the pay and the work was better. This is when I started to feel like I would be back for a while. But not long enough to get a place. And I wasn’t making enough money for rent. Even as I moved to a full-time job as a night supervisor at CVS.

Eventually I started a blog to write about town. I had a couple people I could talk to about news. Also a friend of mine was going to help me. This wasn’t Simone, but Karen, also a journalism student. But she had gone to HSU before I started. She had already worked for a couple news papers. While the blog didn’t work out, I did get offered a free-lance gig from the local paper. The Arcata Eye was the local news source people loved to hate. The owner and editor was said to focus too much on pot crimes in the area. When A&E did a documentary named Pot City, they talked to him. And this made people unhappy.

While working at the newspaper a former HSU student I knew tried to mount a boycott. Not being direct friends, but a friend of a friend I found out about it early. I’m not sure I made the right choice looking back. But I alerted the editor about the page the student had made on Facebook. I guess it was about gaining some respect with the editor. But it was also about letting someone I thought of as a friend know someone was attempting them harm. I imagine if it had been the other way around I would have done much the same thing. Even though the student was less of a friend. News of the page spread to the small staff at the paper. Then it spread to local media types. Before long they had flooded the page turning it into a joke. This is why I regret my part in the site being known. I don’t believe it would have lasted or worked. It turns out others had tried a similar move in the past. But it did earn local media attention. Much of which focused on the fact the first people on the page were an editor of the paper itself. And in the end I guess the student was okay.

I knew people from living in town before. But Arcata this time also had a new batch of people. Milk was one of these people. Many were people I talked to as I worked for the paper. One person thought I was a spy. But most became new friends.

People I Love

There are people I love so much,
I wish they had never gone away.
But moments pass
like a sweeping tide.
There I people I miss so much,
I wish I could be with them again.
But our lives push us forward
like a rolling wave.
There are people I want to be with today.
People I want to hold.
I want to talk to them. Laugh with them. Be with them.
And today I miss them the most.
Because I feel like I am pushing on alone,
into a world new and full.
There are dangers and joys.
And though I feel more comfortable alone
as I get older.
There is a sadness about the moments of joy,
and the moments of danger,
which will be unshared.

People of Humboldt

My years at Humboldt were full of people. Some of them I recall well. Others I have slim memories of now.

Before I lived with Rose, she had lived with Heather. And I met her through Rose. She was also a student and cute. No cute is not the right word, she was hot. But I got to know her over the time I was in Arcata and we became friends. It was through her I got to know other circus people. Heather and the Humboldt Circus crew were fun in the way I always wanted to be fun. But could never allow myself.

Another woman from the circus was Aryana. She was also beautiful. Like Heather she was creative and fun. They seemed to emit joy. Like the sun shines and stars twinkle. Just a part of their nature. I’d never known people who were so natural and happy. Later as part of the circus crew I met and got to know Teri. For a brief moment I had a crush on her. But she was younger, and had a boyfriend. But we are all still friends, on Facebook at least.

Following the circus path. There was Shea Free Love. When I think of him I think of his work in town. He did shows at the Farmers’ Market. And while he worked with many of the Circus Club students. He had graduated soon after I arrived on campus. Another magical man in the Arcata performer family was Shantaram. I met him on campus talking to Tony Snow. I was amazed by his card tricks. He lived in Arcata and owned a business.

Moving along from the circus to the other circus on campus. Tony Snow had been the student body president. I believe it was in 2006. Later I talked to him about his term. He said I didn’t understand the events. So I will just say it wasn’t an easy time for him. But Tony is a great person. The kind of person who has a charm. It makes him a natural people person. And in my opinion gives him a strong potential in politics. As a student covering campus government I was lost. Many times he helped me to understand.

A good friend of his was Noelle. I was supposed to talk to her for my CASA story. But in the end I had more sources than I needed. But I did work with her on a number of campus governance stories. And for a short time after graduating we were friends. I feel like I made a mistake with her. Well, maybe mistake isn’t the right word. We take many paths through life. And when we look back it is easy to think how another would be better. But we don’t know. For a moment there appeared to be a path for us. But I was scared. When I was working on the paper she was in campus politics. One of the sane voices on campus. She also helped me a lot to understand events and players.

At the end of my first year on campus there was a big election mess. Jason had been put on the ballot. But right before the election it had been declared he couldn’t hold office. Doubts were raised. Some wanted a new election. But this wasn’t affordable. Jason was someone I respected. But I often didn’t agree with him. He was a friendly person. Just on many issues we held different views. He was the person with the 9-11 Truth signs. The one pushing for pot to be legal. Early in the summer he took a trip to Boston. I’m not going to pretend to know what happened on the plane. But he made national news when he was arrested. Police claim he put stickers in the bathroom. And he wore a shirt comparing Bush to Hitler. He was flying out of Boston. The same airport as three of the 9-11 airplanes. In the end I believe in Jason. The world needs people like Jason. People not afraid to stand up and say what they believe. Because he may or may not be crazy. But sometimes the crazy people get things right. They can see things our sane minds do not.

The person who won the election was Sofia. A woman of classic beauty. I found her deeply attractive at once. Over the summer we talked. And I had a huge crush on her, for a moment. We sat in my apartment and talked until the sun came up. She is a very smart woman: she will do much with her life. But her time in office wasn’t easy either. After it got started things began to calm. We remained friends through the semester. And stayed in touch about events. Once she shared a bit of info about a reporter at a meeting. I asked him about it later. He was always confused how I even knew. But I didn’t cover her time in office. I never told anyone we were friends, and clearly couldn’t say I had a crush on her. But I stayed away to be honest and fair. Like Tony, Sofia has a magical charm.

One person not in student government was Jerilyn. She was an odd one for Humboldt. A supporter of Sarah Palin. She came to my notice my second year on the paper. Her group has posted a memorial to the troops. It was in the library and soon a counter was posted by Jason. I loved her for having a strong spirit. You had to be strong to be at Humboldt and not be liberal. She was also a pretty woman. We talked a few times about politics. And she always made sense. Though I don’t know I always agreed with her. She was another of the people I knew was going some place in life. Now I wish I could call her and discuss events.

And lastly but not leastly was Crystal. She was another of the amazing women in student governance. I don’t recall her exact role. But I know we talked a lot. She was close friends with Noelle. I always liked her for being bold. We were all students on campus. But at times it felt like they were already on their path. And I was just watching and hoping to find mine. Crystal is one I remember for her smile. Her courage and her work for the campus.

I think I could write a whole book about my Facebook friends. It would be 180 chapters long. Of course some chapters would be longer. But there is no space to write about all the people who touched me. And I know I’ve missed people. If I missed you in this short chapter I am sorry.

Humboldt Journalism

I spent two and a half years at Humboldt. Starting in the fall and ending in the fall. Looking back now there is so much I have forgot. And so many people I remember. I am still close to many of my fellow students. Most of those in the journalism program. But I connected with a lot of other people at college.

In my first semester I met a great teacher. She is¬†Marcy Burstiner. My first class with her was on media. But it wasn’t from the inside. But an outside look at media. It was more about media theory. Marshall McLuhan and his ideas of media were taught. But I wasn’t supposed to be in the class. It wasn’t a class for journalism students. Marcy told me this later in the class. But it was fun.

It is the journalism classes I recall the most. The first publication I worked on was The Osprey. The student magazine. For this class we each had an article. Humboldt is a liberal campus. My topic was other ideas on campus. What was it like to not be a liberal. Conservatives are rare on many campuses. So, how do they feel? It is a topic I choose because I am not liberal. Maybe not conservative either. I was going through a change on campus. Becoming more center right then I used to be.

I remember my editor. In my mind she was so hot. But she was also friendly and helpful. The class met like others at school. We would get together discuss the magazine and work on stories. Towards the end of the class we started layout. Students did it all from start to finish. They even sold ads. But most only had one story in the magazine. And not everyone did the same share of work. It was a good introduction to the process. The next step was the student paper. Unlike the Osprey it was put out each week.

My first time on The Lumberjack was fun. My editor is one of the coolest people I know. But there are few stories I recall from the first year. But there are two which made an impact on me.

One was about a local woman’s business. To be honest I had known her before. And thought she was interesting. And cute. So, when I wanted to do a story about her. It was also about getting to know her better. The story went well, and we are still friends. Her business was designing clothes. But she is a deeply creative and fun person.

The other story was kind of a lark. It was a wet day like many in Humboldt. My mood was down and I felt like I was not doing well with the paper. I’d gone to a local art event and was walking around. A local non-profit was at part of the event. CASA, is about helping kids. It stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. What they do is provide someone to speak for children in court. Many of the kids are in families with problems. Some are abused. But in some cases the parents are ending a marriage. The group speaks for the kids.

I talked to them for a few moments. Then I went home. It wasn’t until later I thought of a story. It may have been one of my better stories. I contacted the group. They were interested. It was a hard story is some ways. Not just the topic, but getting information wasn’t easy. But I talked to volunteers. And I even talked to a former child of the program. It was a cover story and set the tone of an issue. It also got me the attention of a soon to be editor.

The next semester on the paper I was the managing editor. A role I wasn’t sure of at first. There were many questions. Could I perform the job was one. But what was the job was another. The editor-in-chief said she liked my CASA story. But also how I had gone out and got the story. This was a fun time for me on the paper. And in some ways the height of my career as a journalist. I had spent the summer in town. And got to know some of the campus power players. As much as you can call them power players. They saw themselves as being power players. But also I got involved in the issues of campus a little. The politics of student government.

I found out about the job before the summer. And over the summer I put some work into creating a work flow process. One change I brought to the paper was using Google Docs. I was a Google Fan Boy for sure. But it made the whole process easier. It meant copies were not emailed around. Then edited and emailed around more. There was one copy and everyone could access it.

One issue I covered was the structure of some campus bodies. At the time few seemed to understand. And I tried to make it clear. Which wasn’t always a success. But in the process I came to know many of the staff with authority. One person I recall was Paul Mann. The media contact for the school. And I remember one time in his office. He was on the phone with someone and told them, “I have to go I’m with a reporter.” He could have just said he was with a student. It made me feel good. But I also went around Paul at times. Because as the media contact, it seemed he didn’t know much at times. So I would go and talk directly to other people on campus. A practice I found out later was discouraged. But it worked for me. And people seemed comfortable talking to me.

One of the first stories of the semester I wrote with my editor-in-chief. We interviewed the University President. He was a person hated by some on campus. Not just by students who disagreed with him. But there was also a split among the staff. While I could see why people would dis-like him. From my view he cared about students. And he wanted the best for the campus.

But there were many fun stories I did for the paper. A couple big names came to campus. And I got to talk to a few of them on the phone. Tegan and Sara was an example. And I got a free CD, and went to the show. It was a great show. And if I hadn’t been a fan before. I would have been after. But I also talked to a member of Cowboy Junkies. A band I still love. Like Tegan and Sara I was a fan before.

It was a busy semester for me. Besides working on The Lumberjack I was involved in a website for travel stories. And I was the Editor-in-Chief of the alumni newsletter. It was a productive time for me. I was working, going to class, involved on campus. This meant I was busy most of the time. But I had no social life. Which was okay. I also didn’t have time for depression. Except over the summers which were hard times for me.

But my proudest moment from college was the debate. The town of Arcata was having an election. And many students were bound to be voters. So I worked with each of the six candidates and the student radio station to set up a debate on campus. Due to previous problems one of the campus had banned one of the candidates. But with the help of a friend, a judge allowed him on campus for the debate. I remember asking a friend to meet the man. And to make sure police didn’t try to block his access. The debate itself was a success. And I got to know people in the community. Before the debate I talked to all six. And I put together a small story on each of them. I am sure this helped me later.

Leaving Humboldt I felt better about my career than I have since. I had worked online, in print and done video. I felt sure about where I was going. And sure about my life choice. But my first job changed a lot, and not in a good way.

What I haven’t talked about is the other people from Humboldt. And I guess I’ll need a new chapter. Because there was a lot of them. This is when I first met Simone. But I didn’t get to know her until later.

Arcata

Moving to Arcata felt like a bold change. But it was daring and fun. The last time I had made such a move was 1998. I didn’t know anyone in Arcata. And in 1998 when I moved to Portland I knew no one. But at least I had school. And soon I hoped to find a job.

I remember the first days of orientation. When I am in a new group of people I do a set of things. One is I try not to talk about myself. I’ve had bad reactions from new people. Maybe bad isn’t the right term. But when people find you’ve traveled they treat you different. There is an idea you might be different.

I guess one example would be when I went home to the mountains. This was a few years before I moved to Arcata. I was with Mother and at her friend’s house. I’d been listening and paying attention passively. But at some point her friend said, “I guess you think you’re special since you’ve been to all these places.” This has never been true. I’ve never gone anywhere which made me a different person. Never lived anywhere which changed me. Even Yosemite. I’d always been a person who loved nature. And this part of myself grew while in the park. But it wasn’t a change.

So, I try to avoid myself as a topic. Besides I am much more curious about others. And you only find out about others if you listen. This relates to the problem above. If people feel like you are different they may not want to share. They may feel like you’ve seen so much and you don’t want to listen. But this isn’t true for me. I love to listen to the stories people tell. This is one of the things I love the most about news.

The only person I recall from orientation a cute girl named Monique. She was an odd one though. We are still friends today. Her role was to help new people get to know the school. And the help them feel comfortable. She did her role well. I always felt comfortable with her. During my years at Humboldt we were good friends. And I miss talking to her often. But she was set in her ways. We didn’t live far apart and I recall a debate about the best way to walk to school. Well, there was her way and the wrong way. I usually took the wrong way. But if I wanted to walk with her I had to take her way. Maybe I was set in my ideas too. Soon after I met her, she laid out a plan for her life. The age of her wedding was set. The ages of her first and second children also set. And I smiled. Because it was perfect. And she found out life isn’t perfect. Thinking about her now I wonder if I took her friendship at the time for granted. I’ve done this before.

The experience of school will be a chapter of its own. But I loved my time at Humboldt State.

Living with Rose was curious. And while she was an amazing woman, it didn’t last. After a couple months events pushed us apart. I was focused on classes and work. While there was a point I had thought we could be more than friends. Many things were happening which made it feel like it wasn’t an option. The apartment we rented was from a management company. So when it came time to move I called and asked what they had to rent. Looking for places in Arcata isn’t easy. Like many college towns there are few places and many faces. In the end I posted an ad looking for a roommate. I knew the company would rent to me if I could find a roommate. It worked. And I moved to a new apartment. Rose and I stayed friends and spent time together after I moved. But she was dealing with her own issues at the time. We are still friends today.

The new apartment was a better place. It was closer to school and work. We moved in during the winter. My roommate got a job at the same store I worked at in town. It was one of the local health food stores. Working at Wildberries was something I enjoyed. In an odd way, the only job I can compare it too is working at Walmart. I worked hard, I was dependable and I did a good job. Until things changed and they let me go. In the future I’ll talk more about work. But while some of it was an immature attitude on my part. It is also true I believe I had real concerns. The biggest of which was my own health. And losing the job cost me dearly. But in the end it was better for me. The next job I took was with Long’s Drugs. It is a funny story because they were hiring for overnights. And I applied for the job. But before I got it I went in to talk to them. I’d told them I changed my mind because of the shift. I didn’t think I could do school and over-nights. They told me they’d hire me anyway.

The town of Arcata is a neat place. It took me a while to get into the community. But it is one of the places I wish I could be forever. While I lived there I never owned a car. While there are buses. It is also small enough to walk basically everywhere. At the center of the town is The Plaza. Around the plaza was a couple bars where locals and students drank. In the years I lived in Arcata I went into the bars less than ten times.

But having lived in Yosemite it was the parks I loved. It has a community forest with miles of trails. And some of my first memories are of hiking in the woods. I did this often for the years I lived in Arcata. But there was also a marsh. It sat along side the bay, and just south of town. Both the marsh and the forest were within walking distance of the center of town. I did a lot of walking. Most of it alone.

I got the job at Wildberries soon after getting to Arcata. It was the summer, and one year later I lost the job. It didn’t help my roommate also moved out during the summer. I guess I am a poor roommate. Because my next roommate also moved out over the summer. Though in her case it was in part due to wanting to live with a boyfriend. They had met and I allowed him to stay with us. But I didn’t date anyone in Arcata. There was one date with a girl. But it felt so awkward. Women make me feel more and more awkward the older I get. After the first date we didn’t even talk. Another woman told me we wouldn’t be a good match because of my blog at the time. I was going through a time when I focused on celebrity gossip a lot. I remember the day Lindsay Lohan crashed her car. I spent the whole day online reading and blogging. Looking back I feel it was silly. But also a silly reason to not even want to meet someone. I also miss being so active with news and blogging. Even if it was just celebrity news and gossip.

There wasn’t much of a break between the two times I lived in Arcata. But the tone of each period was different. During the first period I was in school. I was focused and working and had little time or concern for much else. There were moments when I was deeply lonely. Even though I had good people around me. It is part of my nature not to be open with people. And I think this makes it harder for me to create bonds with others. The kind of bonds where you call someone just to talk about a bad day. It was school and work which kept me moving. And distracted.

Most of the friends I have on Facebook are from this time. Mostly because I this is when I got on the site. It had been the case before where you had to use a real name. And until recently I’ve never used my real name online. I had been using the internet for years. Even since I was at Bethany. And the common practice on most sites was to use a handle – not a real name. I also think college is a unique space. One easy for friendship. And Humboldt is a small college.

I’ve now been on Facebook for a number of years. And have added more friends. A good number from my first years in college. And I have only un-friended four people. Three of them being people who were too close to me. One was a pervert.

When it came time to leave Arcata I gave away most of my things. I had bought the car I still own. Moving to Wyoming would be a big move. Taking a lot of stuff with me wasn’t an option. I packed as much as I could into the car. Then after making a stop in Stockton and Santa Cruz left the state. The car was a rolling brick.