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.