Tag Archives: work

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.

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.

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.

From my phone

I haven’t posted from my phone in a while. It is morning. I am still waking up and about to get ready for work. This is day 6 of 8. But my last closing produce shift in a while. The next two days I have to close deli. Then I am not scheduled to close deli either.
My cat keeps licking the blanket. And it drives me a bit nuts. It makes this soft, raspy, scraping sound. So, I nudge her to make her stop.
I don’t feel like I have words today. Then again, I have started with little before and produced something. Time is also in the lacking today – and energy.
I like to be able to sit and relax in my writing. Like going to the beach. You don’t want to have to rush to the beach. Sit for thirty minutes. Knowing the whole time you need to rush away when done. You want to rest in the sun and wind. Feeling it kiss your body. Like you’ve always been lovers. Like you always will be together. Even if you know in a part of your mind you won’t.
Back to reality. Tonight I will write something good. I am due to write about The Lovers I believe, and it is a house card for me today. I need to think about my choices, and where they are taking me.
This is shorter than a normal post. But it feels long because my screen is so small.
Happy Pi Day everyone!

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

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.

Interregnum

Moving back to Stockton was hard. It was a hard time in my life. M was gone. I never would see her again. The last time I spoke to her was on the phone. I need to wash my hair, she told me. It felt like a brush off. So I just let her go. Let her go. It wasn’t easy. If there was anyone in my life I have loved. It was her. Will I love again. I believe, yes.

In Stockton I recall rain. The weather felt like it was wet and empty. I was living in a tiny room. It was with Mother. We got along well. I wanted to work. Looking for jobs. But I wasn’t able to find anything.

Then I contacted Heather. I felt alone. Things had not gone well the last time. But people change, right? I guess we will see. She came down for a visit. And stayed. I never told her she could stay. But I never told her to leave. She did cause problems with Mother. So we moved to my sister’s house.

My sister’s life was changing as well. And I don’t think us being there made things easy. But she never complained. I love my sister. And whatever happens I know she loves me. We may not always be as close as we were growing up. But I think there is a close bond. Heather was hiding drinking from me. This caused problems with me eventually. But also with my sister and her family.

I was looking for work. And I found something. But it didn’t start for a while. Heather finally moved back to her mother. Then I left and went to Portland. I hitch-hiked up to Oregon, stopping to see Heather’s mother. In Portland I visited Michelle. I lost my wallet. And I re-connected with Heather. But things did not go well, again.

In the end I hitch-hiked east on the I-84. My goal was Boulder and the gathering. The first ride was with a lady going to Idaho. We stopped along the way to explore and old industrial facility. And a burned out house. She dropped me off in Boise.

A couple days later and I was back in Boulder. This was my third visit. I still love Boulder.

I went to the library. The health food store. The park. And did tarot on the street. Thinking back there are many memories from Boulder. And to be sure, I need to just write a chapter about the town. It is one of those places where I feel at home now. Even though it is a place I have never lived. It isn’t cheap.

In Boulder I met a man with a van. He was also going to the gathering. We made plans and I gave him gas money. On the day we were set to leave I met him at the van. There were others I didn’t know also going for the trip. But I hadn’t given him much gas money.

It was seven of us in the van. The driver, me and five others. We set out across the great plains. We stopped in North Platte for gas. And I walked down the street to get a sandwich. It was further than I thought. Coming back I saw trouble a block away.

I saw the gas station. Then I saw the cops pulling into the station.

The cops were there when I got to the van. They were doing their thing. Asking for ID’s and getting information about us. It wasn’t going badly until the driver spoke up. He was from California and had a medical pot card.

Even though I tried to stop him, he made it clear to the cops. They gain interest in him. Re-ran his name. Now, things may have turned out the same. But it didn’t seem like a smart idea bragging about pot use. We weren’t in California. And the federal government didn’t acknowledge medical pot. They came back and arrested him. Not a smart move for the officers if you ask me.

With the driver gone they had six people without a ride. I always thought I would have made a comment suggesting, “listen we have to check this and we’ll be back in an hour. If you’re still here we will arrest you.”

And we would have piled in the van and hit the road. Instead we all had to walk to the freeway. And then try and find other rides. I was stuck with an idiot as a partner hitch-hiking.

For example. One of the longest rides I’ve ever gotten from a non-trucker was on this trip. She was going to her home just outside Minneapolis. But she drove us all the way to the northern border of the state. We were headed to the UP. Over 150 miles and almost three hours driving – one way.

When we got out of the car. He asked her for pot. If he had paid any attention he would have known she was a christian. Not a pot smoker.

At the gathering I met my van driver. He said they took him to another county. They held him for a couple days. And let him go. After the gathering he gave me a ride back to Boulder. But along the way i wanted to visit Mount Rushmore.

The monument is in South Dakota, along one route. We got there and it was amazing. Not like the Grand Canyon. Or like Yosemite or Niagara Falls. But uniquely amazing. This was my first visit. My driver found humor in smoking pot. I walked around, wishing I had a camera. But just experiencing being there.

Back in Boulder I didn’t say for long. I had to get back to California for my job. I hitch-hiked out of town. One of my rides was from Salt Lake City to Mother’s front door. The driver was driving from Boulder to Berkeley. A friendly guy. He told me about speeding at night. On one trip to Boulder he told me about averaging 90 miles per hour. This included time he was stopped for gas. He claimed to have made it in 12 hours.

Back in Stockton I turned up for my new job. A summer camp run by the city. It was actually a life changing moment for me in some ways.

Portland Again

I met Jessica in Santa Cruz. We bonded over music. But she had a boyfriend. I flirted in an awkward way. We talked about the buffalo in Golden Gate Park. Yes, they are really buffalo in the park.

We stayed in touch by email. We also talked about Portland. While in New York we made plans to move to Portland. In Boulder I had gotten back in touch with M. I will write more about Boulder later. But I talked to M on a daily basis. So moving back to Portland was attractive.

Jessica picked me up at my mothers. With all my stuff in her car. We drove north along the 101. Along the way we got a speeding ticket. She was driving. It was in the Safety Corridor between Eureka and Arcata.

I still remember two things about Jessica. I told her, “I didn’t know you smoked.” She told me, “I didn’t know you didn’t eat meat.” Two things, and a ton of other things. And a little bit of M in the background. But things never worked for me and Jessica.

We moved to a hotel. And got jobs together working at a physic hotline. The deal was we would get paid for talk time. We could sit in the office for any amount of time. But only got paid for talk time. So we would try and keep people on the line.

I talked to a guy who worked at Walmart. Yeah, I know. He told me everything the first day. On the second he called back and I told him everything back. He didn’t seem to know I was the same person. A woman called, wanted to know if she should stop sleeping with her uncle. I suggested it was a good idea.

Most people were lonely. Many people felt someone was cheating on them. I read the cards as best I could. But for me reading cards is about reading people. And I doubt I helped anyone. Then again talking was my goal, not helping people. Usually I suggested the person was cheating. Because if you question someone enough to call a physic. You are probably right.

The commercial promised a free reading. The small print said three free minutes. You just had to call a toll-free number. The operator at the toll-free line referred you to the paid line. And this time came from your three minutes. Then you called the paid line. But the first minutes were wasted. We had to ask for your information. No one got a free reading. And yes they were sued. The company I worked for was a contractor to another company.

But it worked for a while. We worked together. Drove together. And later Jessica even did it from home for a while. But I got a real job. A job at a parking ticket company. Our company would monitor private parking lots. People were supposed to pay. If they didn’t we gave them a ticket. Which quickly escalated if you didn’t pay. My job was data entry and phones. We couldn’t tell people where our office was located.

My manager once told someone we were “in a bunker in the middle of Nevada.” Then he hung up. I hated talking on the phone. But the data entry wasn’t too bad. I even got a friend a job. The ticket guys mostly rode bikes around. But the other guy would sometimes take a car and check a few lots. A woman once got so made at him, she said, “Fuck you, and everyone who looks like you.” I think it is funny.

I would sometimes walk and check lots near the office. I don’t recall giving many tickets. But I know one day I was in a bad mood. There was a car with a bunch of tickets on the dash. So, I had it towed. Later the person called, and I talked to them on the phone. They didn’t know I was the one. They weren’t upset. I thought was surprised.

Of course being Portland lots of the tickets were for rental cars. I’m not sure how the companies dealt with those tickets. Once the Police Chief called in about a ticket. I just deleted it for him.

Me and Jessica moved into an apartment in the Pearl. Yeah, it was a low-income place. But it was a good place. A couple friends of mine lived in the building. Jessica started dating the son of one of the office workers. He moved in, the way lovers will. And his brother moved in too. I know at one point I just wanted to be alone. I complained to a friend. “I’ll come over and tell them me and you are going to have sex, and they need to leave.” It was funny. It didn’t happen. It wouldn’t have worked. Later one of their friends also moved in with us.

Jessica got a job working for Chucky Cheese. Which I mocked her for in an encouraging way. I knew she could do better. Then she just quit. And I teased her about quitting too. In the end me and Jessica were good roommates. But never got close. And didn’t have a real connection for something more. She smoked a lot of weed. A major turn-off for me.

When not working at my job I volunteered. It was a communist group. They would agree. I’m not sure how I hooked up with the group. I did it most of all to do something. I hated the phone, and tried to avoid it. But they asked me to make calls. Or sometimes update data cards. They feared electronic data storage. Wisely. So it was all put on index cards. They had a system down. In fact what I learned from the group was the importance of a system. Step one, step two, step three. Always the same, in the same order. So if you didn’t finish someone else would know how to complete the task.

Once we went door to door. I was with a blonde girl. We were on the top of a flight of stairs. An apartment on either side. We knocked on one, no answer. And then the other. But then they both opened. One was young guy, good looking, no shirt. She went over to talk to him. I spoke with the other person. Later I teased her a little about her choice. “I’m an organizer,” she got indignant. And I believed her.

It was a good group. Its main focus was helping farm workers. Once we drove to a labor camp in Northern California. Before being a labor camp is was used to hold Japanese during WWII. The group sometimes got donations. Once more chocolate than anyone could eat, but I tried.

My friend Sean who had gone to Vermont with me lived in the same building. And his girlfriend Faith. They are artists. Some of the best I have known. I learned a lot from Sean. Like how to make pesto. One night he met M. And they had a long argument about me and girls. It was funny because I knew neither would give. Faith later told me she was sorry to have missed the exchange.

At the root of it was a comment Sean had made about M and I. It was a comment he meant well, but worded poorly. The poor wording is what M picked up on.

Yes, M. We started on casual basis. Even when we started having sex. And yes in the apartment with people there. Which is why the above wouldn’t have worked. Once while my dad was waiting. We were never boyfriend-girlfriend. Maybe we were both scared. But I loved her more than I have ever loved anyone.

She talked her mother into driving her down for a visit. “It’s only an hour,” she fibbed about the drive from Olympia to Portland. In return I did the same to my father when I wanted to see M. The plan was for him to help her buy a car. She needed a good used car. And he knew cars. But he never liked M.

Once at my apartment my lighter went missing. It was a lighter with a moon design. I used it for candles and incense. M was there but said she knew nothing. A couple weeks later, we were in a car with her mother. M asked her for a lighter. Her mother hands her my lighter. “My lighter,” I proclaim. Busted.

And M married her dad’s lover for money. In the end I don’t think they went all the way. I mean with the paperwork. We went all the way after the wedding. At her mother’s house. It was funny to see her at the altar with another man. I wanted to marry her. For real.

But things started to go bad when her mother called me her boyfriend. Then New Years Eve came. We had planed to be in Olympia. People had invited me to do things. At the last moment plans changed. We were in Portland, doing nothing. She wanted beer. I gave her my bike. She rode and I ran to the store. The wrong store, damn Fred Meyer’s. Then the other store. Then home.

I just want to be friends, she told me riding in the elevator. I was so tired I said nothing. Then we snuggled together and went to sleep. She was a mystery to me. Once I had planned to call her. She was at her mother’s house. But I went to a movie and it went late. When I got home I didn’t want to call and wake her mother. But M called me.

She wanted to know where I had been. I told her at a movie with a friend. The next time we hung out she took me to a movie. It was with Bjork. After the movie we were walking home, “wasn’t it a better movie than the one your friend took you to see?” Wow!

A couple days after the New Year she called me and told me she was pregnant. Left me a message on my voicemail. It shook my world. I called my dad. And I called her. I didn’t know the right thing. But the more I thought about it. I just felt like it was her choice, her body. I could give my opinion. But considering our relationship, what more could I offer. I gave her $500, told her to make the choice.

She went to the clinic to get the abortion. But she had to get an ultra-sound. Her story is it was already dead. Later she told me she did the dance of joy. I’d have a 16-year-old child today. It wasn’t a joyful moment for me. But I feel like it was the right thing. I’ve never been adult enough to support another person.

My dad was happy for me.

We didn’t talk for weeks. I had made plans to move to be with her again. And again the plans had to be changed. I vowed at this point never to move for a girl. The new plan was to move to California. A couple nights before I left I called her on the phone.

“I just wanted to tell you I am moving, and I might not see you for a while,” I told her.

“So.”

“Just wanted to let you know.” I hung up.

A couple hours later she called me back. She wanted to know why I hung up on her. She was proud of me, she told me. She invited me to visit. I shouldn’t have gone, but I did.

The end of the relationship was as confusing as ever. But it was over I have never seen her again. Though I still think about her.

My mother came up with a friend. They helped me move my things back to Stockton. But this was a better place than her older place.