Tag Archives: My Life

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.

The Long Trip to Arcata

The move from Stockton turned out to be an adventure.

My first plan was to rent a van. This is how I moved out of Yosemite and it worked well. I did have a little more stuff. But it should be okay. Then I recalled my friend LJ had a van. A nice van with lots of room. I thought he would like the trip. And he would want to help me. When I asked him, he accepted.

But then it came time to move. He had traded his big van in for a smaller VW van. I was doubtful. But he believed it would work. And with a small amount of effort we crammed it all inside. And we hit the road. I didn’t know the way very well. The route I took, and never took again, was north through most of the valley. My logic was it would be faster to drive in the valley. And we had no problems. After Redding we started over the mountains. As we climbed the hills in the overloaded van. We started to have problems. At first the engine was getting hot. We would stop and let it cool. Then we started going again. But then it died all together. The last spot was in a parking lot in Weaverville.

This was still about two hours from Arcata. But I felt like it was close. So I started asking people for a ride. Eventually I ran into a guy who said he ran the local cab company. His first plan was to get as much stuff in his SUV and leave the rest until later. Then he came up with a better plan. He had a free-tow on his AAA card. I paid him, and he allowed me to use the tow to have the van (and my stuff) towed to Arcata. It was a life saver. And LJ just hitch-hiked back to Stockton.

Of course it wasn’t so easy. We waited and waited for hours. It got to the point he was going to invite me to spend the night at his house. Then the truck arrived. It was late and it was dark. But I was on my way to my new life again. I rode in the cab of the truck and we headed west.

Then more problems. While driving the tow truck was having problems with its lights. The driver pulled over and called his dispatch. He couldn’t get his lights on. This was a problem because it was dark. But also driving along a rural two-lane road you need lights for others to see you. Stuck again. The driver and his dispatch couldn’t solve the problem. They sent out a second tow truck. My friend’s van, and my stuff, was moved from the first to the ground. Then re-loaded on the second. After a short pause I was on my way again.

Finally in the wee hours of the morning we pulled into Arcata. After locating my new apartment the driver dropped off the van. It was late, all I could think was to sleep. The door was open so I went and slept on the couch.

The next day I moved into the new room. This was my first time actually meeting Amy. She is a pretty woman with a friendly smile.

The van stayed in the lot for a couple weeks. I talked to LJ about his plans for the van. It wouldn’t run until repaired. Eventually the property management company said it had to be moved. I called LJ and he said he’d contacted a garage in town. I’m not sure who called the tow truck, or who paid. But I know it wasn’t me. Later the garage called me about the van. I gave them my friend’s information. And I called him again.

In the end I don’t know what happened to the van. I would see it on the street by the garage for months. Then it got moved inside their gate. But it still sat there until it disappeared all together. Well, I never saw it again. And I felt bad because if LJ hadn’t helped me move he wouldn’t have lost his van. And it is probable he did lose the van. Like myself and many others he was living on a tight budget. With an unknown amount of repair work needed, and a astronomical tow bill to have to moved to Stockton. In the end the costs probably were too much.

A word in my defense though. If he’d had the small van from the start I never would have asked for his help. And I had my doubts and expressed them before the trip. He took the risk with an awareness of the danger. And besides I didn’t have time to feel too bad. I was starting off with a brand new friend of a roommate. I was in a new town, in an amazing part of the state. Soon I would be starting at a new school.There were lots of new things in my life. What I didn’t have yet and needed was a new job.

A short Chapter

When I left New York City I went to Pennsylvania. I had a friend from a gathering there. But I didn’t stay long. She is an amazing person. The person who told me about the effins. What are effins you ask.

Well, they are imps. They aren’t evil per se. But they cause problems. They go out into the world and just create havoc. And they are created every time someone uses the F-word. Just saying the word creates an effin. And you never know what nature of crime it will commit.

There was a small part of myself which though I might stay longer. A part wanted to be more than friends. But it was clear this wasn’t an option. And also clear she didn’t plan on my being there for long. But it was good to see her. Maybe there was a reason I believed things would be different. But I do not recall now.

From there I went to Alabama. I had a friend from college who lived in Huntsville. She was having problems with her husband. And needed a friend. Again I wasn’t there long, maybe a week or two. I do recall working at Labor Ready while in Alabama.

One site I worked at was a construction site. Which is typical for Labor Ready jobs. The one I remember most was in a kitchen. There were a couple of us on the job. I was working hard, but some of the other guys were slacking. And then in one moment I knew this would not be a repeat job.

One of the guys was pushing a stack of plastic racks. The racks were full of glasses. He wasn’t being careful and tried pushing it over a small crack on the floor. The whole stack fell over and several of the glasses broke.

I spent hours downloading music from Napster. It has just come out and was the big thing. The crime of it wasn’t clear at the time. At least not to me. Now being more of a content creator I understand better. I also have learned how bad it is for our market system.

The friend from Alabama was someone who went to Bethany after I left. But we became friends – and almost more. At two separate times we almost had sex. Once was in the back seat of her car. But it was so cramped. It was uncomfortable. I was not feeling the moment. The second time was in her bed. And we stopped because we didn’t have protection. At times I wonder about that moment. If we’d had sex. How would our lives be different today. If we had a child. If we had gotten closer. But now she is lost to me. I haven’t seen or heard from her since the visit to Alabama. When I think about her I feel alone.

The whole trip back was by bus. After Alabama I rode the bus across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. I recall thinking for a long time. Could I count Texas as I state I visited. Even though I was on the bus the whole time. This of course became less of an issue after I lived in Texas.

The bus took me back to Stockton. From there I returned to my second year working at Camp Silver Lake.

New York City

The idea of going to New York City was my friends. Come visit she said. When I left, she told me: I never had someone visit for three months.

I had just left my first year working in Silver Lake. With some of my money I bought a bus ticket. I arrived in the city just a month after Sept. 11. The whole city was still on edge. I met my friends at the bus station. The giant Port Authority Building.

While I was in the city I was one of a group living in a small studio. For most of the time I slept on a small couch. The friend who invited me was a part of a larger group. They were dreamers. And they were artists. The type of people who bring the city to life. My friend worked at a framing shop in Manhattan. She is an amazing artist.

One of my earliest memories was going shopping. I purchased food for myself and the rest. When I got to town my spirits were high. But the weather, problems with my friends, and just life got me down. In general it was a hard time for me. And not for any reason except myself. And depression.

These were friends I had met years before. When I met I felt like we were on the same page. But here I felt out of place. The larger group was one I didn’t connect with on a real level. They were all friendly. It wasn’t them. It was me. I felt different. While there I read Bill Gates’ book. When talking to one of the studio-mates I asked, “would you let Bill Gates join your group?” Based on his book, he sounded like a dreamer too. Now, granted in some ways the dreams were different. But I believed, and still do, all dreams come from a place of value. The answer was, no. The reason was, “he would try and take over.” But, you don’t know – he might not.

One of the group was pushing me to drink. Just one he would say. Just one, just one, just one. I would always say no. He made me feel uncomfortable because of this. And I had the strong impression he just didn’t like me. When I spent time with my friend alone I was okay. And there were a few of her friends I got on with too. I’ve never been a drinker, I wasn’t into looking for a party. And I don’t mean this to have a moral tone. There were times living in New York City I wished I was more like the rest of the group. But I wasn’t. And it didn’t feel right when I tried to pretend. When alone with my friend I drank some wine. I trusted her.

I didn’t trust her friend. It is easier to say no one the first drink. What I feared was he would push me to drink one, then two, and three. But my family has a history of alcoholism. And it just isn’t what I want for myself. It isn’t what I believe you need to have fun.

I love my friend dearly. But his pressure and the tone of the group made me feel alone. The more so because I wanted to be a part. Which is rare for me. I felt like this was were I belonged. But I didn’t feel like I fit in. So, I felt like there was something wrong with me. I started to grow away from the group and do my own thing. And it didn’t feel to me like anyone cared. I know this isn’t fair. And was a symptom of the depression.

Right now it is almost 2 a.m. A fitting time to write about New York City. I don’t recall sleeping much. What I do remember was being out all times of the night. There was a 24 hour internet cafe near Times Square. They had an odd price scheme. The price adjusted according to demand. In the middle of the night demand was low. The price was low. This was one of the places I spent a lot of time. I was there on New Years’ Eve.

But I also went to the library in Brooklyn a couple times. My friend lived in the Clinton Hill neighborhood. And I worked at Labor Ready.

I got to know the city working with Labor Ready. You have to find your way to the job sites. The people I worked with were good people. Though they loved to try and have extra hours written on the time card. I never tried it myself, but gained some cash from their efforts. I worked a few moving jobs in the city.

There was one I recall. We went on break and I left my coat, with wallet and money in the apartment. When we came back it was sealed by the Sheriff. The person was being evicted. It gave me a good scare, but I did get my things.

Before I got to the city Labor Ready workers had been at Ground Zero. But rumor was there had been theft. Also the nature of the clean-up was moving away from casual labor needs.

Another job I recall was tearing down a fire damaged building. But we were taking it down one board at a time. It was a bad job. The plan was having trash barrels loaded up with debris. Just the regular kind you buy at the store. Then there were dragged down the stairs. Five flights of stairs to the bottom. Outside a large dumpster was waiting for the buckets where the buckets were dumped. I was on the job for about a week I believe. And it drove me to the point of exhaustion. In the end they asked me to be removed. But I didn’t care, I’d had enough.

Working at Labor Ready at the time took some timing. It also took being a good worker. I was given good jobs because I did a good job. But I also got to the office an hour before they opened. The opening time was 6 a.m. But it wasn’t uncommon to find a line at 5 a.m. Sometimes I didn’t sleep, often I slept little. I am sure this was a factor in my depression.

One time I was riding the subway. I fell asleep and missed my stop. Okay, this happened a couple times. But this time I got off the subway, got on the train going back. I fell asleep and missed it again. I was tired most of the time I was in the city. Once at the studio someone came to pick up something. He wasn’t trusted and I tried to stay awake to keep an eye on him. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t stay awake.

After New Years’ Eve I took a short trip to Glens Falls. The last time I was there to see friends. It was early 2002. When I came back I didn’t stay long. I saved some money, bought a bus ticket and started home. But I had a few stops to make along the way.

When I first got to the city it was all strange. My friend and I had a discussion about the closest subway stop to her house. She was a little upset I questioned her answer. By the time I left I knew the subways well enough to help others. One day I walked through the maze of the Times Square – Port Authority complex of subway stations without getting lost. It was a shock. I told my friend about the experience. While in the city I spent a fair amount of time just walking around. Manhattan mostly because it felt safer. And the grid is pretty basic. A couple night I walked around Times Square. And sometimes during the day.

I told my friend Times Square was a funny place. Because of its location in the city, and the county. It would be easy to do something and be in the national spotlight. You were at the white hot focus of attention. But at the same time there are so many lights. Even at night it is bright like day. And there are almost always crowds walking around. So the average person would be totally ignored. There was something which drew me to Times Square.

I went to Ground Zero once while in the city. It wasn’t where I was trying to go at the time. It was the only time I rode the city bus too. My normal mode of transit was walking and the subway. But while looking for Greenwich Village I ended up at the site. A friend I met there said he was always lost in the city after the attack. Since they were the tallest buildings in the city. He knew once he located them, which way was south. Now they were gone. I wasn’t impressed deeply by the site.

There was an art show which touched me. It was a collection of photos. Personal photos which had been shared. Many were of the skyline before and after the attacks. There were a wide range of images. They showed the way common people were touched by the events. My friend told me she went to the roof of her building and could see the buildings fall.

One other place I spent time was Central Park. There are a lot of neat little corners. One I liked was the Turtle Pond. I explored a good deal of the park while living in the city. And on one occasion did some walking along the Hudson River. I had seen the city as a boy. On a trip with my father we had taken a tour around the island on a boat. But being back I wanted to see more of the city. It felt like an experience I wanted to soak in as much as possible.

Maybe someday I will go back to the city. I am closer to family in New York now. I should take a trip to see them soon. When I left the city I wanted to visit friends. And then go home.

Stockton People

I moved for college. But I could have gone anywhere. I moved to Stockton for family. There was an idea in my mind. We would spend time together. And we would get to know each other. Be closer. It didn’t workout.

I did spend some time with my sister. I know once we went to my favorite coffee shop. It is almost a chapter in itself. But I was busy with school. My sister was busy with her own life. There is no blame. This is just how things turned out. Rather, I am sure what blame there is, is mine.

In my apartment complex I knew no one. There was a neighbor who had problems. I never called the landlord or the police. But one night someone else did. My apartment was over the carport. You could see in the window a little. One of the neighbor’s friends did once mention: “I always wondered who lived there.”

Then again I was rarely home.

At school I made a few friends. There was a woman I was attracted to in one of my classes. We even went out to coffee. But I think she was younger. And she clearly didn’t seem interested. Over time we just stopped talking to each other. Like so many other people in my life. It wasn’t a choice, but it happened by itself. There were a couple others I would talk to when I saw them on campus. But we weren’t friends. But when I wasn’t in class I wasn’t on campus.

At the tax job I worked mostly alone. Though I did get to know the couple who ran the office. There were some friendly women working in the office too. And we got along well. But not in a deep or lasting way. Once the job ended I never heard from any of them again. Except for the couple. A few years later I went back and had them do my taxes again.

The woman who hired me at the gas station job was odd. It wasn’t her only job. As a result she didn’t need to cash her pay checks. But I can talking to her. Once I used the word “tome” and another time “epistle.” She had told me before how she was so smart. It was the only reason I would use those words. I thought if she didn’t know what they meant, she’d like to know. She didn’t know, and didn’t want to know. And got upset. She was one of the people who know everything. If you agree with her your smart. If you don’t then your wrong and dumb. She never had much respect for the owner. And while there were things he did which were wrong. He did start several businesses in his life. And I’ve never even started one.

There was a younger man who worked there for a while. He did things his own way. Sometimes he knew the right way, and just didn’t care. But he was just young and still growing. He had a lovely girl friend and a child. At some point he got a better job as a painter. He just quit without notice. The owner said whoever hired him wasn’t smart. Because if he quit one job without notice, he would quit another the same way. But I hope things turned out for him.

After he quit the woman quit sometime later. She cashed all her checks and caused the owner a little problems. I am sure it wasn’t as bad as she had hoped. But after she left a Pakistani man worked with me. He was funny. Once I joked about putting my head in the oven. “No, no… don’t do this, it isn’t funny,” he said. And I thought how funny you think I could kill myself like in an electric oven. The doors wouldn’t close with my head in the way. And surely it would take a long time to do any damage. But he was always there, and a good worker. At this point I was doing most of the cleaning. He would give me a ride home.

For a while a woman worked at the store. I had no interest in her. But her sister came around sometimes and we flirted. Then one night I took her to my place. I may have made too much of a point about it not being serious. She was a nice girl. And the attraction was mutual. But I knew I’d be soon leaving town. Her sister had already quit working at the store at this point. And afterward I didn’t see either one of them again. It was a lesson.

The next person I worked with was Asian. He would say, “I’m not racist.” But he was. When he talked about black people he said they were thieves. You can’t trust them, he explained. Maybe he didn’t understand what being racist meant. I got along okay with him at work. We covered for each other. But he wasn’t someone I liked. When he dropped his phone in the toilet – I told him to turn it on. Even though I was pretty sure it was the wrong thing to do. He had to replace his phone.

Once someone brought in a fake $10 bill. After we found it in the drawer we got scared. Getting rid of it seemed like the only solution. Otherwise the owner would be angry. So, when a couple came in arguing he gave them the bill in their change. The couple left. About 10 minutes later they came back. The guy tried to buy something with the bill. My co-worker had the guts to tell him we couldn’t take the bill because it was fake. But the guy forgot who had given him the bill.

Towards the end of my time working there I cleaned less. The owner hired a Filipino man to clean. He wasn’t here legally. A fact I discovered when he gave me a ride home one night. At the store he was a good worker. Focused and hard working. He looked Hispanic so a lot of people tried to talk to him in Spanish. But he didn’t know the language. Some would get upset. I’d explain he was from the Philippines. One night he was giving me a ride home. We stopped at a red light. A cop car was at the signal to our right. I made a joke about not running the red light. Then he did run the red light. We got pulled over and he didn’t have any papers. The police let him go, but said I would have to drive. I drove to my place and then he drove home.

But all this is just school and work. While in Stockton I found a cute little coffee shop. And there was a cute girl there too. A couple of them to be honest. But one I had my eye on more than the others. A small group of us would hang out at the coffee shop. One of the guys I had known while living with my mother. He had lived downstairs from her apartment. At the coffee shop we hung out. I took a lot of pictures. It was about this time I got a good camera and started taking a lot of photos. Camera phones weren’t common at the time. Taking selfies had not become a national past-time. I still have those photos.

The girl lived down the street. She was younger than me. At times I thought there might be a potential. A couple times we went to her house. She lived with her father. Once I kissed her on the cheek. But then we spent less time together. I was wrong about the potential. And it was okay. It was a bit disappointing for me. But I wasn’t planning on staying in town long.

In my experience there are moments which bring people together. They form bonds and groups. Small networks of people and relationships. But then the moment passes and people drift away. When I got to know these friends it was summer. I had more free time. Then school came and we all had different priorities. One of the girls went to my college. When I saw her around campus we would spend some time together. But age does make a difference.

The name of the coffee shop was Lola’s. It is closed now. A good friend of mine came to visit one night. We went to the coffee shop. We had also spent time together in Boulder. While in Boulder we were often at a place named Lolita’s. She mentioned the odd fact.

One of the oddest friends I had in Stockton was LJ. He would come to my job at first. And it was okay to chat with him at work. At work I feel like I am a different person. I put on my friendly customer service face. But there is some security there, because they are just customers. But one day he called me on my cellphone. One of my co-workers had given him the number. And at first I was pissed. It was a stupid thing for him to do. But me and LJ did become good friends. He was gay and hoped I was gay too. Not the first and not the last time. But I told him I wasn’t and he respected me.

Well one time he saw a photo of me. I was laying on the grass. The camera was over my face when I had taken the image. Like someone looking down on me. He told me this was what he had always wanted to see. Kind of crossing the line, but he never pushed things beyond flirting. Thinking back I am sure being a black gay man in Stockton was an odd existence. When I moved out of Stockton he helped me move – and lost his van in the process. This is a story for later.

There were a few other people I knew from the gas station. A lady who worked for the police department in dispatch. She came in every night for iced tea. This was a perfect example of the customer service me relating to someone. And there was a girl who talked to me. She seemed to take a fancy to me. We got together outside of work once. But it went poorly. I don’t recall the details. But she wasn’t the kind of person I felt with which I had much in common.

When I left Stockton, I left them all behind. I tried to keep in touch with LJ, but it didn’t work out for long. Once settled in Arcata I was busy again. And we never really got very close. There are few people in my life I have gotten very close to, including family.

Stockton

When I left Yosemite I was down. It was a dark time for me. A lonely time. I felt broken. And like a small bird forced to fly before it was ready. But I took my broken wings and learned to fly. I’d like to say I learned to live so free. But I learned to live in fear.

I hated the way the job ended in Yosemite. And being pushed out with no net. In a way I have been running from this moment ever since. I have focused hard on always having a job. On working hard. I hate looking for work. And the idea of being out of work again scares me. There have been a couple times I have been unemployed since. And I’ve took the first thing I could find. Actually working at Walmart was not the first thing I could find. I worked at Labor Ready for months. Walmart was a calculated choice.

I remember while moving listening to news of the tsunami in Asia. In a way it helped me to see my life wasn’t so bad. I had packed all my things. I rented a van and drove it to Stockton. I had the van for the weekend and thought I would need to find a storage unit. But I didn’t.

I looked up ads. While in a gas station I asked if they were hiring. The woman told me to come back the next day. I called about an apartment. And I called on a second job. Then I applied for school. It was something you could do online.

On Sunday I interviewed for the job, and was hired. Then I got the second job as well. I recall talking to the woman about the apartment. She said it was impressive I was able to find work so fast, and enroll in school. I think it helped me to get the apartment. It was one of the best places I have lived. It wasn’t all too expensive either. Though I don’t recall the rent.

So much to cover and where to start. Well the apartment was a studio. But it had a decent sized kitchen and bathroom. The bedroom was a fair size, for me. I had much less then. It was in a small two-story complex. All the doors opened into a courtyard in the middle. Two locked gates controlled access to the courtyard.

One of the funnier things which happened at this apartment involved my rug. It was old and dirty and I kept it just outside my door. But this was inside the courtyard, behind the locked gates. One day I went outside and it was gone. There wasn’t really any place to look. And I was short on time. So I rushed on my way to class. While riding my bike to school though I saw a figure sleeping on a bench wrapped in my rug. I figured someone must be pretty desperate to sleep in a rolled up rug. On my way back from class I found it on the bench and took it home.

The community college in town was one of the best times of my life. When I had been in school before I failed. Well, I passed, but just barely. And I had never enjoyed school. Even during my time at Bethany it wasn’t a joy. But this time it was a joy. And I was doing great. The teachers were great. The students were great. And it was sad for me to have to leave when I graduated. I always felt like I wanted to complete my education at San Joaquin Delta Community College. But I couldn’t. I was there three semesters. The first was the best in many ways.

It was at Delta I had the first math class I really enjoyed. The teacher just explained it all in a way my mind understood. For the first time in my life I liked math. And he gave me advice I didn’t take and still regret. He told me the next class I should take was Calculus. But I was scared and took Statistics. A bad choice. Another teacher at the school I enjoyed taught Health. She also taught some other life classes. I took as many as I could from her. It wasn’t the subject. She was just a great teacher. The kind of teacher I would like to be someday.

My day always started early with class. I had to rush out the door. After class the first year I worked with a tax preparation company. My job was simple. Dress as Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty and dance around for a couple hours with a sign. I would listen to music and dance and wave the sign. It wasn’t a great job. But it was a job and the people running it were good people. I rode my bike, and at first didn’t lock it up. But towards the end of my time there it got stolen. I had to buy another bike. I had saved money from Yosemite, but it was a lot of money wasted.

The second bike was also stolen actually. I had it parked in front of my sister’s house. It was on the porch, away from the street. I don’t know you could even see it from the street. But it was stolen. I still think it was one of her ex-husband’s friend’s who stole the bike. Then I was riding an older bike I got from a friend. It lasted for a while, but wasn’t great. Once while rushing to work I managed to wreck it and flip over the handle bars.

I went home and tried to get ready for work. But my wrist started to hurt. Being a guy about the pain, I tried it ignore it. But it was throbbing worse and worse. Finally I called my sister and asked her to take my to the hospital. It felt like it was broken. At the hospital I couldn’t sign papers. I couldn’t do much. But my sister was helping me. “It makes me feel like a diva,” I told her.

My wrist was put in a wrap. Riding a bike was out of the question for a while. Then when I could ride I still didn’t. I was a bit scared. At some point my bike disappeared again. But I didn’t care.

The job at the tax company was a good job. It was part-time of course. The ride from home to school was 1.5 miles. From school to the first job was about three miles. From home to school was north, and from school to work was north. But between the jobs I turned around and went over five miles south. I worked at a gas station in Downtown Stockton.

The gas station job was paying me well enough. But the owner could be a real ass sometimes. There are so many stories I could tell. Once he was yelling at me and a co-worker about something. A man walked out with a fountain drink. “Did he pay for that,” the owner yelled. We looked at each other and both said, “yes.” Later I asked my co-worker if the man had bought the drink. He didn’t know and neither did I. But we agreed if we had admitted it, the owner would just yell more. The owner used to pump his gas for free. Now, I understand this could be illegal. But he may have adjusted the costs in the backroom in a way to make it legal. One day he was on his way to the bank. Pulling out of the driveway he ran out of gas.

Maybe the biggest episode was a guy who paid for his gas and forgot to pump it. He came back and the gas had been pumped. It was $20. I called the owner, who was upstairs. His first response was to make sure I didn’t tell them he was upstairs. Then said don’t give him anything. The man was upset and wanted to talk to the owner. But I told him he wasn’t available. This went on for some time and I called the owner again. He could hear everything. He knew the scene going on, and again he told me not to let the man know he was upstairs. Eventually the man left the store. After the man left me and my co-worker were talking about it and mentioned the owner was upstairs. Then when he walked out of the store I heard someone say, “he really was upstairs.” The whole thing bugged my not because he was right or wrong. But because he was such a coward. First of all I would have come down and dealt with the problem myself. But I also would have been inclined to give him the gas. It could have been a scam, but it didn’t feel like one. And sometimes you have to take a loss to keep up appearances.

The job was simple really. Turn pumps on and off from a board inside. We made coffee drinks, some iced drinks and some sandwiches. Then of course there was the cleaning. When I started I had to mop the whole store. It was a real chore to get it all done. And I never really got done on time. But I worked hard. Later he hired another man to do the cleaning.

But I did prove the owner wrong once. It was a drink we made. For some reason the size of the cup had changed. We had been shown to fill the cup to a line. But when the size changed this wasn’t the right amount. One day he came down and told me I was doing it wrong. So I measured out the amount I was supposed to add. He agreed it was the right amount. And I put it in the cup and I was right.

It was just a gas station job but it was stressful. We didn’t sell alcohol, which made me happy. People would come in, scan the coolers, look confused, and scan again. Then I’d just tell them, “we don’t sell alcohol.” The owner had a business before, and it made him sad to see people lining up to buy alcohol at 6 a.m. He could also be a good man.

The woman I talked to when I got hired was strange. She had a second job and didn’t need the money from the gas station job. So she never cashed her pay checks. She told me she was doing it to screw over the owner. I bet your confused to how this hurts the owner. But I was confused to how someone could be so petty and vindictive. When she left the job after several months she took all the checks and cashed them at once. This of course emptied the owners account.

I stayed at the gas station job until I left for university. After I left someone broke into the store. The owner watched the video obsessively and finally saw a way to catch the man. But in the end the owner went out of business and I hear he got a divorce. I never liked the man, but it still made me sad. He was trying his best like we all are, and he did give me a good paying job. When I was leaving he told me when I was a success I could look back on working at the gas station. He was a part of the success. I think it gave him some pride and he was right.

Most of the time I was in Stockton I was moving. In fact there weren’t many moments I had free. But after my first semester there was some time. During the summer I didn’t take classes, so there were more. The last day I was in Stockton was odd. School was done, and I had quit my job to move. I had nothing to do, no pressing obligations. And then I moved. The move itself turned into an adventure for another story.

Yosemite People

I had friends in Yosemite. Which is a statement. Because in many places I have not had any. My roommate was one of the closest.

Not my first roommate. He was a quiet Asian guy. Not a bad person. But not someone I got along with as a friend. He owned a car and never drove it. Sure, you didn’t need a car in the park. I imagine if I had a car, I would drive rarely. But he didn’t even want to talk about the car. It sat for so long the battery was dead. I honestly do not recall his name. And I wouldn’t tell you if I did.

It was my second roommate. A guy from Michigan. I think when he first moved it things weren’t easy. And of course like roommates we didn’t always get along. Once I was listening to the TV and using the computer. He changed the channel and I made a comment. It wasn’t fair he suggested for me to be using both at the same time. Of course I paid for both, the internet, the computer, the TV and the satellite service. But he had a point. The TV show wasn’t even in English.

Some of the good times I recall were watching our shows. Every night we would watch four shows together. It was Ed, Edd and Eddie, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Powerpuff Girls and Dextor’s Laboratory. They were on together on the cartoon network.

Jordan is a person I am still friends with online. A creative person like myself. But in a different way. While living in the park I remember he made a coat of jean squares. Then he moved to another part of the park.

There wasn’t a roommate for a while afterwards. Which of course is the best roommate. I tried not to move into the space. Because I knew someone would be coming to fill it. One guy came and went so fast I recall nothing about him. Then there was a guy from South Africa. He sounded like a Brit. But was as racist as they come.

We got along, but we weren’t friends. One day I do remember we took a hike to Yosemite Falls together. I was always up for a hike.

In someways writing about people is getting harder. Because it isn’t so much people of the past. But some of them are people of the present. There were a number of women who earned my attention in the park.

But two were just friends. It was Judith and her friend and I who spent time together the most at first. Yeah, I don’t have a memory of her name either. One time I talked to her on the phone about a movie I wanted to see. It was Run Lola Run. “It is a foreign movie I told her.” And then she wasn’t interested. But when I talked to Judith, our friend had heard me say, “it is a porn movie.” Makes since she wouldn’t want to watch.

Judith was a good friend. Another person I went on a hike or two with in the park. She was good for me because she would drag new people in my life. Her job at the park was human resources. One of the first people many people meet. The perfect job for her. She was naturally friendly. I am not naturally friendly.

A lot of people came and went in the park. A core were there for most of the two years I lived and worked in the park. Most of them if I saw them today I would remember. If not by name then by face. But it has been years since I have gone back. Besides many of them left themselves over the years.

One of the first women I was attracted to was Michelle. A cute blonde who didn’t live far from me. It was probably through Judith we met. Also a friendly and out going person. But when I first met her I don’t think she was single. Later as I got to know her our relationship became good friends. It seemed clear to me she wouldn’t want to be more. I never really pushed the issue. And maybe I was wrong. But we were good friends.

One time she was having a bad day. I suggested she watch Dancer in the Dark. One of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen. When I watched in the in theater my girlfriend cried a lot. For me it helped when I was down because it was such a depressing story. There is some hope in the movie. Maybe it was easy for me to feel the sadness coming from a movie and release the emotion. Or maybe it just made me feel good in comparison. Whatever the case, it didn’t work for Michelle and she was upset.

Later I took an interest in a friend of hers. It was a brief episode in my life, but not one I feel good about today. We got to know each other over a short period. And once we made out in my room. But then she said those dreaded words. “Let’s just be friends.” I told her, no. The rejection was painful to me. And I didn’t feel like I knew her very well as a friend. And I didn’t get to know her any better.

Later some guys said they saw her with someone else. I must have shared liking her. I don’t recall much about how the joke was first told. I think I mentioned someone being named Lincoln – because everyone takes a shot at her. Well, then the guys would refer to her as Lincoln. It wasn’t a fair image of who she was, and I should have said something. But I didn’t. Sometimes it is easier to let things happen. And even people who aren’t bad allow bad things to continue.

There were a few other women. But nothing real during my time in the park. There was a deep part of myself still in love with M. Most of the writing during the time was focused on her. In fact it got to the point I felt like I had to quit writing. Every word felt like it echoed with the same lonely achy heart. And every word was tearing the wound open fresh. This began a period of years where I wrote very little.

I kept the journal I started in the park. And I still writing in it today. Since starting the writing process again I have tried to write more often. A number of the friends I had in the park were online friends. A chapter of its own, soon.

Two older guys became good friends. One of them had a few odd habits. I think his name was Walter. You would ask the simple, “how are you?” And Walt would say, “better now that I see you.” At first it was off-setting because people don’t normally talk in such a way. But he was an honest and good person. I worked with him at the tour desk. When mothers and daughters came he would wink and say, “let me guess, sisters?”

And he wasn’t hitting on them. Just being friendly. Maybe it was the shared male housing which caused the rumors. But one thing people would discuss sometimes was, “is he gay?” And these two guys I wondered about from time to time. It wasn’t important to me of course. People also thought I may be gay. No, just very unlucky in love.

This older friend of mine would often tell this joke about gay mice. The punch line was, “how do they know they are gay?” A joke I’d heard a couple times before I had a retort. They say things like, “better now that I see you,” I quipped. He laughed.

Roommate stories were also common. Walt told one about his roommate. Walt had used salt to thaw ice on the porch. “I’ll tell the ranger,” his roommate nagged. And yes, his roommate was right. We weren’t supposed to use salt. But it was a tiny space. I think it was a way of releasing tension. We all lived pretty close to people we didn’t know well. Of course his roommate was also an odd fellow. In his 30s and never learned how to drive. Sure, I hadn’t had a car since high school. But even I had a driver’s licence. But this guy had grown up in Boston.

One of the people I liked least in the park was Randy. Yeah, I recall his name for a couple reasons. One he was the player of the park. Always the first to be dating one of the temporary workers from another country. Made me think of how they use the word randy in England. But he was also a person who skirted the rules. Because he thought he was special. In the parking lot was a spot were a car fit, it didn’t block traffic. But it did make things tight. And it wasn’t a marked spot. But he parked in at all the time. Because he was too lazy to park and walk like everyone else.

I should state before long he was a part of the reason I left the park. It was something I had planned. But not the way it happened. I had just started working for the day. There was a new truck with an enclosed bed, and a better radio. When I got on I over the walkie-talkie to see if he needed help. The answer was no, he would be right done soon. So I waited. I asked the manager about if I should go, he said wait. But when Randy came in, he just left. Then he came back and wouldn’t turn over the keys so I could use the truck for my job. I got upset, and hit a door with a window. The window broke and I cut my hand. They fired me.

Today I am more bothered by upset I got over the issue. Though I still think Randy was being a prick. I needed the truck more to do the job I needed to get done. And he just wanted the truck with the better radio. Well, to be honest the job had broken me down. I tried every day to get it right. And I felt more and more like a failure every day. This is part of the reason I still hate unions. In this job it did nothing to help me and almost everything to hurt me.

A couple days a week I had to cover another guy’s days off. He didn’t seem to care about doing a good job. So when I came to cover his days off I always started far behind. I’d be running like mad to catch up. And the way the union worked, he got prime job choices because he had been there longer. And when I broke the window. They had to fire me, because they had to be consistent. I of course blame only myself for the poor choice to hit the door.

The manager I had there was a good guy. One of those good guys which can be bad managers. Because they never crack down on people. I remember a number of times telling him I didn’t think I could do it anymore. He was supportive, and I kept trying. Now it seems like I would have been better off if I had quit sooner. Quit in terms of trying to get transferred to another park job.

But like I said, it was time for me to go. And the moment was perfect for me when I did leave. I am just sad such a great job and fun time in my life ended on a sour note. And it also bugs me it had to be the one person in the park I didn’t like who pushed my buttons.

I loved all my managers at the park. One was a cute little brown haired woman working in the lodge. Her name was Lisa. Once some co-workers were chatting about a Lisa and how hot she was, and I agreed. They looked at me, “you don’t know Lisa.” Then they figured out who I was talking about, oopps. But I didn’t care too much. Another woman there was Darlene. She was someone I respected a lot. And someone who clearly respected me. Darlene was the one who told me, “you can teach someone who has a good work ethic anything, but you can’t teach someone to have a work ethic.” She was leaving the park at the same time I was, and tried to help me keep my job.

The big boss at the lodge was Bridgette. Not big in any way except position and personality. A little red haired woman who reminded me of Madeline. We got along great, until the end. But I don’t blame her, I don’t think it was easy for her to let me go.

And when I did go, it was good for me. On Friday I left the park broken and hurt and confused. On Monday I started a new life, with two jobs, a place to live and enrolled in college. This was where I wanted to be. And two years in Yosemite had been important to making it happen for me.

Yosemite Hikes

I did a lot of hiking in Yosemite. Short hikes and long hikes. One of the short hikes was to the top of Yosemite Falls. Long hikes were to Cloud’s Rest and Merced Lake.

There was a pattern to many of my hikes. I would start from my room. Or sometimes after a meal. Thinking to myself, just a short hike. Then I would get started and not want to stop. At some point I would see I was almost to a certain point. Then figure, why not.

When I planned to hike to Basket Dome for example. I left and went up the long switch-back trail to the top. There were still patches of snow. But I made it to the dome. Sitting there it was amazing. On my way back I saw a sign for El Capitan. Well, I already hiked the hard part. Getting over there wouldn’t be hard. So I hiked over to El Capitan.

Standing at the top of El Capitan was hard to describe. There isn’t a sharp edge. But there is a point where you can look down into the valley. This is more than 3,000 feet. I felt like I was flying. The breeze was soft, and I wondered about climbers coming up the side. I wanted to get closer and closer. But feared slipping off the face.

On the way back though it got dark. By the time I was on the switch-backs to the valley floor I was hiking by moonlight. No one noticed much when I wasn’t around.

The hike to Merced Lake was a planned hike. I got up and left early. It wasn’t a set goal, but a soft goal. Which means I didn’t know if I would make it to the lake and back. But I did. One thing I loved about hiking in the back country was drinking from small streams. I’d never drink from the Merced River. But small cold streams close to their source aren’t hard to find. The water just has a different taste to me.

The day I hiked to Merced Lake was a long day. And I got a rash. For days afterward it nearly drove me crazy. In fact there was a day I almost went to the clinic. I thought it would itch and itch forever. But it stopped after a couple days.

The fastest hike I ever did was half-dome. Most people take their time. Along the path stopping at the two waterfalls. Taking pictures at various points. Resting and eating and enjoying the views. And on most of my trips I did the same thing. But one day I decided to see how fast I could hike it. I took almost nothing so as to be quick. And I hit the trail early and hard. In about two hours I was at the base.

It was early in the day still, and I had energy to burn. So I pointed my hiking feet towards Cloud’s Rest. The sun was just setting when I arrived. Wanting to make it back before it got too dark I turned and burned. But most of the trail back was in the dark.

In my time in the park I hiked almost every trail out of the valley. Including a closed trail. At times I would be alone out in the wilderness. The fact if I got hurt no one would know where I was, how to find me, would sink in for a moment. I’d be stuck like Aron Ralston. One hike which was scary was to Mount Star King. Sounds like something out of Super Mario. My goal was the top. But I didn’t see a safe way to hike it. A climbing friend had told me you could hike to the top. I made an attempt but it was bare rock. I tried some basic climbing but I didn’t have the skills or the tools.

I didn’t always hike alone. Some of the best hikes were with my friend Sheree. We hiked Half Dome in the moonlight. And we hiked a closed trail to Glacier Point. One of the most adventurous was Mount Conness.

When we hiked Half Dome I had worked all day. I went home and took a short nap. It was the Harvest Moon. One of the last chances to hike Half Dome under the full-moon light. The granite of the valley glows in the moonlight. The moon wasn’t up when we left. But when we arrived on the top it was bright. We stood looking at the valley. The High Sierra bathed in the moonlight. It was just the two of us on top of the dome. We talked about the people in the cities far away. You could see the lights from Fresno or Merced.

Then the moon started to go down. We left and headed down the trail. It was dark going through the wooded sections. But I found the trail using my feet. You can tell when you are on the trail by the feel of the ground. Towards morning I started to get tired. At one point I fell asleep while hiking. I woke up touching the mud of a wall next to the trail. But we made it back just in time for work.

Yes, after hiking all night I worked all day without sleep. It was a long day and I didn’t get things done fast. Before starting work I had talked to my manager about calling in or not. He asked me to work.

The next two hikes with Sheree could have ended badly. The shorter of the two was a closed trail to Glacier Point. I’m not going to tell you how to find the trail. But anyone who has looked at Glacier Point can see much of the route. It was closed due to rock falls and it being dangerous. The trail climbs across the face of the point. This is the part I thought would be scary. But it wasn’t bad. After this you enter a ravine and a steep climb to the top.

It was here we had trouble. Going up the creek I was in front. A large boulder was blocking our path. No, there wasn’t a path. But we had to move around the rock. It looked loose to me so I advised Sheree not to touch the rock. And I was just getting around it when it slid. About the size of a small desk, it could have hurt her. But Sheree jumped out of the way. From there we made it to the top and hiked down the Four Mile Trail.

Going to Mount Conness was Sheree’s idea. It is on the east border of the park. While driving to the trail head I heard Jack Johnson for the first time. Things started out good. We knew where we were headed and making good progress. But near a small lake we lost the path. At this elevation, around 13,000 feet, you are hiking over boulders and rocks.

We could still see the peak. Somehow we had gone up the wrong side of a ridge. Now we had to climb over and down the ridge. The mountain was too steep going forward. Going down the otherside was also steep. At one point we couldn’t see any easy way down. We found a point and thought about jumping. Or looking for another route. In the end we decided I would brace myself and lower her down. Then she could help me down.

She lowered herself and jumped down. She landed and rolled over. She was fine, but now I could see just how far the fall was and it scared me. It was too far for her to assist me. Time to find another route.

From there we started to hike back up the mountain. I thought there was a good path and started to take it. She went another direction. Soon the path I was on got steep. And then I was climbing up cracks. Not real climbing, but a bit more than hiking. There were a few points along the climb I cut myself off for going back. Rocks were loose as I climbed up on them, and they slid. Meaning they wouldn’t be there to use if I tried to climb down. It was scary and I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t fall like the rocks. Sheree couldn’t see me and later told me she was scared. But at the top we found each other. But it was late and time to start back.

Going down we actually found the trail with little problem. Back on the trail we made our way to the car.

There are so many grand moments I will never forget in Yosemite. Things I will miss forever about working in the park. It was a place so big in so many ways. But also so small in so many ways. There was only a small staff of people year around. It was a tiny village. And it was 30 minutes to the nearest town. I had no car at the time. But the housing was also small. There are times it is tempting for me to return to the valley. And maybe someday I will.

Yosemite

I love living in Yosemite. It was a place I could have lived forever. If I could have been happy with less.
The first night there I stayed in a dorm by the Ahwahnee hotel. A grand building with a long history. My mother spent the night in a nearby room. In the morning we had breakfast. New places are always fresh. But also uncertain. This one reminded me of my first days at college. But I was ready. The land around me was amazing and I wanted to explore. My job was the worst. Well, not at first.

The first day at my job I don’t recall. But I was the pot washer. And sometimes I also washed the dishes. There was a long dish machine. You put the dishes in and they came out clean. Only a few dishes needed more attention.

There was an older black man who was also a dish washer. We became friends. At the end of the night we had to spray the floor with water. And the use a squeegee to dry. I’m not sure why, but we all bought our own valve for the hose. Sometimes I would borrow his.

I hated the job. It was all the things I hate. It was too much. Piles and piles of pots and pans every night. They wanted them clean and fast. It was wet. I worked with two or three sinks and a sprayer to get the pots and pans clean. It was dirty. The food and grease never came off for days at a time. And it was worst of all maybe, loud. The pot room had its own machine and it made a lot of noise. It was worse because of the size of the room.

It was always a scramble for me. Maybe because I was not good at the job. Scrub, wash and rinse. Then put the pots and pans in the machine. Run the machine. Scrub, wash and rinse. Then take the pots and pans out and place them on the shelf. It took a lot out of me and I hated almost every day. The days I got to work the dish machine were the best.

Over time like other jobs I learned other positions. First was the dish machine. Then serving hot food to the customers. It was cafeteria style dining. And eventually I became a cashier as well, and worked in the coffee corner. This was all in my first job in the park.

Another person I became friends there was a manager. His name was Joe. At one point he gave me a phone number. Told me he had a boat in L.A. and I could stay on it anytime I needed. I took the number and lost it. It was funny because I knew I would lose the number. And I thought even if I didn’t what are the chances it would work out.

It was while working in the pot room still I spotted Lisa. She was one of the managers there, but she was cute. It was my secret for a long time.

When not at work I spent my time in my room. After the first night I moved to a small cabin. And I had the coolest roommate, Jordan. The room was 11′ by 11′ if I remember right. And we each had our side of the room. There was one door and a window on each side. My side was crowded with my things. There was much less than now, but still a lot of stuff. His side at first was meager. Over time he brought more into the room.

The computer and the TV were mine. This was the first time in my life I had consistent access to the internet. For a short time living with my mother I had access, but it was poor quality. A free dial-up service. But this was high-speed internet. And I got DISH TV. Though the climate in the valley caused untold number of problems with the service.

I don’t think I ever did anything outside the room with Jordan. But we would watch cartoons together. He used my computer and TV with my permission. Like all roommates we didn’t get along all the time. But more often than not. Like me, he is a very creative person. An individual who doesn’t fit into any one box.

I also started hiking in my time off. When I lived in Silver Lake I got into the habit of hiking in sandals. In Yosemite this became even worse. Image you leave to for food. But on the way you change your mind and think of taking a short hike. Starting down the trail you never plan to go far, but then you keep going and going. It happened to me a couple times. I hiked all the major trails in the valley. And a few which weren’t on the map.

This is what I loved the most about Yosemite. Being able to step out the door and take a hike. There was a free bus service in the valley. Most people did not have cars, or did not drive. I walked to work on most days to be out in the air. The bus only ran during the day, but a van would do pick-ups and drop-offs after hours. Yosemite is the perfect place for some people to live.

You get paid a decent wage. It is a union job, which some like and some do not like. You can buy the meal plan, they take a small amount out of your check every week and you eat at the cafeteria. The food is cafeteria food. Rent is taken out of your check, a small amount. Mine was $16 every two weeks. And then the rest is yours. You can choose to buy phone service and TV like me. But if you didn’t you would have no bills. You could spend all your money, and not worry about anything except showing up to work to keep your job. A lot of young people and temporary workers from other countries worked in the park.

After a couple months working in the dish room I knew I had enough. After almost getting fired for taking some bread it was time for a change. The next job I worked was at the tour desk. There was a tram which did a tour of the valley floor. It was our basic tour. Then a couple other tours were available by bus.

My job was simple. Make reservations and sell tickets. Then when the tram came go out and collect the tickets. It was on one of these tours I met Leonard Cohen. I had spied his name on a co-worker’s screen. Then I saw him, I thought it was him. At the time I just didn’t know for sure. And my mind couldn’t come up with the right words. He was there with other people. I took his ticket and he left on the tour. But I wish I had said, “thanks for inspiring me.”

This job only lasted for the summer. Due to the fact the tour desk closed for most of the year. People are keen to tour in the rain and snow. After this job I went back to the cafeteria. I’m not sure what my job title was going back. I know I cashiered and worked in the coffee corner and served food. But I wasn’t a pot washer, or dish washer. I may have helped out from time to time.

Eventually I got the job hosting at the fine restaurant in the lodge. It was an easy job. Take reservations and seat people as they came to eat. The wait staff had areas and our job was to seat people evenly throughout those areas. But they would never be happy enough. Once doing this job a guy gave me $20 to bump him to the top of the line. But there really wasn’t a long wait. For kids we had crayons and a coloring picture. Part of my job was to wrap those crayons, when itw as slow. But it got busy at times and then the manager would come and help.

It was a good job, and I liked the hours. But when the cashier job at the restaurant opened I changed jobs again. Working as the cashier I was right next to the service bar. And I learned a little about keeping bar and serving drinks. One night when they were short I did both jobs. But probably not very well. But being a cashier is stressful for me because I always want to be perfect. And I was most of the time. The other stress was time. It was a six hour shift, but if I went over I would get in trouble. Because the law said I couldn’t work more than six hours without a lunch. I never wanted the lunch because I would then have to be at work six and a half hours.

When a manager job came open I applied. But I didn’t get the job. Feeling a little stuck and ready for change I requested a new job. The next job I worked was with housekeeping. No, I didn’t have to clean rooms. But a quick story about the restaurant. After switching to cashier I had continued to wrap crayons when I was not doing anything else. Also since they got busy before I did, I would help them seat people. A short time before I was moved from the job the manager asked me to stop wrapping the crayons. She explained the host staff wasn’t doing it anymore and needed to start. Then a couple days later they asked me to stop helping with seating. This was the managers job (not the position I applied for) and he wasn’t doing it anymore. It was kind of funny.

In housekeeping I had the second worst job in the park. My job was two-fold. First was to stock all the closets for the housekeepers. And second was to go around and pick up the dirty linen. It sounds harmless enough but I never was able to catch up. And a big part of the problem was the main person doing the job was a slacker. When I came back I always had to make up for work he did not do. This job drove me crazy because it was so hard for me. I tried as hard as I could and had a complete breakdown.

In the end I broke a window and got fired. I went home and bought some alcohol and sleeping pills. It was one of the lowest points in my life. But things work out for the best even in the darkest of moments. I didn’t take the sleeping pills, even though it was a thought in my mind for days.

I packed up my things. I moved to Stockton. I started college again. And I found a place to live and two jobs over the weekend. My life was going in a new direction. While living in Yosemite I had saved a fair amount of money and was able to afford some nice things.

Over the years I have thought many times about going back to Yosemite. And there are a few more chapters coming about my time in the park. But in the end I don’t want to share a box with a roommate. The bathroom and the kitchen were both separate at the time. Though there are new dorms now. If I went back I would have to be a manager because I don’t want to work for the union. And I would want more money than I was making at the time. It just didn’t and doesn’t feel like a place to live. There is a limited potential for growth. While I was there I loved it more than anything. And I saved money. But like when I lived on the streets: a time came for change.

Dante

Dante came into my life when I lived in Portland. It was the first time I lived there. I used his name on a dateline. A phone number you called to meet singles. I didn’t think much about it. And I only met two people.

One of them however became friends with a friend of mine. She shared the name with him. And he started using it. I didn’t have much of a relationship with Dante. For years it stayed this way.

When we traveled across the county. I used the name Dante all the way across. Meeting the women in Upstate New York, I was Dante. It was there I got the addition of Prince.

We had planned to go to a festival. Before hand I hand been singing a song. One of the lines way about going to the festival, “and dancing with the prince.” When the time came I went with the girls. And my friend stayed to watch a movie. Dancing at the festival, they figured I must be the prince.

Over time I started to get to know him better. And when I worked at Silver Lake I borrowed his identity again. At the camp everyone called me Dante. It was fun to think of myself as Dante. And not Chris.

I think there has always been a dark draw to Dante. Something about him made me come closer. His name invoked the story of Dante’s journey through hell. And later through heaven. I remember a quote about having to go through hell. And then you find your treasure. It is about struggle. About going deep. But also understanding our wounds. Loving our shadow.

I don’t believe in sin. And it has been years since I have believed. We don’t sin against God. But we fail ourselves. The only crime is failing to love ourselves. And the punishment is not being loved by ourselves. We hold the key to our own chains.

Dante was a recluse. A lover of knowledge and poetry. Not a person happy at parties. Unless he could hide in the corner. There was a very secret part of him. A part which wanted to be invisible. Just to watch the world. And not be a part. But he loved getting to know people one on one. Hearing about their lives and stories.

In Yosemite I got to know Dante better. But at the same time Dante hid away deeper. It wasn’t a name I spoke often. When doing art of writing, I spent time with Dante. But it was always alone. No one else in Yosemite knew Dante. I was growing. And Dante was growing. We spent a lot of time together hiking.

He was still creative. Still a dreamer. It was his dreams which helped me fall in love with the girls in New York. Laura whom I lived with for a few months. And Shaylyn whom I saw rarely.

In Yosemite I decided I wanted to be a writer. And I choose to go into the news business. I do like news. But it was for the writing. One of the first stories I recall being acutely aware of was Scott Peterson. On my blog I gave a lot of space to Dante. But when I left, I almost left him behind. Which is sad because he was part of the reason I want to be a writer.

Working and going to school in Stockton took a heavy toll. I didn’t have time for friends. And I didn’t have time for Dante. There were a few paintings. And a couple times I took photo walks. But Dante wasn’t a part of my life. He would become less a part of my life for the next few years.

It isn’t because I didn’t value his energy. Or because I wasn’t pulled to be alone. But because I ignored those things. And I ignored his needs. Dante is a loyal friend, like Lilith. But things were strained with both of them during this time. All I had time for was me. Run to work, to school, to sleep, to work, to school. Run all the time. Well I had a bike.

Dante may be loyal. But has wanted to die a number of times. Alone, but not alone.

The one exception to all this is my roommate in Arcata. When I met her online I used Dante’s name. And she still calls me Dante to this day. There was a part of herself which touched him. And it would appear a part of him touched her. Could they not be alone anymore. But she wasn’t making time for Dante either. And I pushed him away after moving to a new place. He didn’t feel like a friend. He felt more like a shadow.

My first online identity was TheSanePoet. A name I still use online often. But when I first got Facebook I used the name Dante. It was a way to be honest. But to lie at the same time. Dante wanted people to know him. But also wanted people to know nothing.

His desire was different than Lilith. Less about fear. More about presenting the perfect image. A perfectionist artist. I would be his work of art. There was only one way to turn me into this work of art: control everything. I could share anything I wanted. But the way I shared was important to Dante.

While living in Portland the second time I used the name rarely. M didn’t like it. Because I did love Dante so much. And because I loved M so much it isn’t a surprise they have the same middle name: Rose.

A rose is about a passion. Maybe a passion for life. Or for a person. Or truth or love or the passion for words. These ideas were becoming more important to me. It was while living in Portland this time I started my real art career. I’ve created little over the years. Most of what of it in those years. Dante inspired me as an artist. There was a world of feeling he could touch. But I could not.

I know this is all over the place. But this is the nature of Dante. He isn’t like me. I’m going back even further for the next part of this tale.

Living in Santa Cruz I met an amazing woman. At the beach one day she told me I was a Pleiadian. This is an alien race. But I think she was wrong. What she was seeing was behavior I had learned from Dante. He was the being from another world. A number of years later I started to pin Pleiades to his name to make this point. A point he was aware of, but didn’t discuss. A point he seemed not to care enough about to argue for or against.

If other people know Dante, they may use a different name. But as of now I refer to him as Prince Dante Rose Pleiades. And I still use his name online. He doesn’t like Facebook.

It is interesting Dante is more passive than Lilith. But as friends I know they both look out for me. Dante shares dark secrets with Lilith. Things they will not even share with me.

But Dante is more optimistic. When I first was getting to know him, he wore a skirt. These were the good years. We were good friends. He believed in the world. Thought life could and should be better for all. He pushed me to get out much more than I do now. Maybe because getting out is my own hell. One he knew I needed to experience.

I believe he still wants to wear a skirt. And if I allowed him, he would.

Now me and Dante are getting to know each other again. Like lovers parted for long years. I am writing again, which is creative. This makes Dante happy. My dream of being an artist is being re-awakened. Dante is a part of this dream. I can’t write or be an artist without his help. But still no one else knows him. It is only online I share anything about him. And I don’t allow many people from real life to know me online.

We are growing together in the last couple years. And it has been good for both of us.