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I couldn’t tell you what happened on the 1st. I was probably a sleep-deprived zombie driving other folks around on what I liked to call its own holiday at the National New Years Hangover Day. Who really knows. On the 2nd though, oh man, I slept until 2 PM. Talk about being disoriented. If I’ve ever done that before, I sure don’t remember it. Our friend Melissa and her man were out on the deck with Brigit after shucking oysters by the time I emerged from my cave. I remember feeling awkward, disoriented and embarrassed, for what reason I don’t know, as my wits started coming about me.
December had financially become all about the holidays so it wasn’t until January that I started forking out dough for the teaching gig. That meant continuing to drive for rideshare way too much for way too little while it made me more physically unhealthy day by day. I did so love it though. All the people, places and coffee shops it introduced me to. Sighseeing and getting writing in on a somewhat constant basis, errands being easy and always being able to avoid the BS that doesn’t have anything to do with the job but comes from working with others. The hard parts were indeed hard but I didn’t take the good ones for granted.
Going to the DMV to get my driver’s license renewed on the 6th was the first example for the month of the errands that the flexibility of my work made so much easier. Relieved to finally stop putting it off, that particular day wasn’t the best choice, though, given that I had a bad insomnia night. It didn’t exactly leave me with my best “look” for a new pict. Also not the best day because there was a burner couple visiting who I would have enjoyed seeing. They hadn’t been up yet when I left though. I would have stayed if I had known it was them but I thought they were a woman going through a gnarly breakup situation who I regrettably didn’t have the stamina for thanks to the lack of sleep.
The next day on the 7th was the last time I would see Svetlana before leaving the country. Still being a little frustrated after having to redo paperwork for a FBI background check, it was an extra relief of a treat to end the day with her when a ride took me close enough to give her a call, her telling me to come over and grab some wine on the way. Just like I expected. Walking in to the usual of her pushing delicious Russian cooking at me as soon as I sat down, we then had fun with a breathalyzer while drinking wine. Her making me blow again and again (insert joke here) while she got pissed that I was only blowing a .04 after 3 glasses. Acting like teenagers and thoroughly enjoying ourselves just like always, I had forgotten how funny the show Drunk History was until her son left it on for us to continue cracking up at even after he went to bed. It being especially funny when having my own buzz so I stayed up watching and laughing until the wee hours. Right after I had finally given in and gone to bed, somewhere around 2:30 AM, my last memory of seeing Svet was when she came out in a t-shirt and panties to throw a pillow at me with the look of a little rascal on her face.
Another midday errand driving for rideshare allowed me was the first big expense of working on my visa. It was to go to UPS in Scotts Valley to get get fingerprinted for the FBI background check. Around $70 for that part alone, at least I got some entertainment out of it when the guy doing it ended up being really nice, funny and cheesy. Case-in-point when he made a dad joke about my getting fingerprinted because I in trouble as people came in and looked. We were by the front door. That was the first of a ton of hoops to jump through with paperwork and a lot of expenses I didn’t know about. As in around $2,500 all-told by the time I was settled in on Jeju Island. The recruiter wasn’t clear about a lot of it and got frustrated if I asked. I wasn’t even told that I wouldn’t get back the paperwork I was paying for after turning it into the Korean government. Yeah…he ended up being the recruiter that I had been warned about by one of the expat leads on
One would think I was all socialized out after December. Nope. Well, not completely. I still needed some sprinkled in here and there. Brigit joined me for walks in the woods every once in a while and on the 12th Aaron even joined us. I also made it to a happy hour put on by a Spanker in Oakland on the 13th where Bacon Daddy gave an impromptu spanking lesson. Not my thing but lots of fun. I managed to fit my own hikes and walks in there, too. My favorite for the month being on the 14th when the All TrailsAll Trails app lead me to the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve in the Los Altos Hills. It made for a mucho happy day regardless of a teenie bit of sprinkles.
One of my goals in life had been to get out of my own head and do something notable for someone else at least three times a week. I had a long way to go but was proud of myself when managing a happy success for the gal mentioned in the beginning of the post when taking her to dinner. She had been going through a very dark struggle from a recent breakup both in partner and community. Trying to be more than just supportive at B&A’s, I made an effort beyond that when to her to a place called Crow’s Nest for a treat. Well, she happened to know of a special they had there that night anyway and I had been wanting to go so it may not have been exactly the most selfless act. I couldn’t afford it but she was barely working and could use the TLC so I justified spending the money anyway. It didn’t feel very good when she didn’t seem to notice, though I did think about how that itself could teach me bout doing things for the right reasons.
Dancing on the deck in a hail storm the next morning, I got to check out an exhibit called Glow: Festival of Lights later that night at the SF Exploratorium and even squeeze in a couple drinks at Henfling’s when back in the mountains. I was proud of myself for getting better at the balance of a work/life combo. If only I could figure out how to squeeze some more sleep in there, it would be the trifecta. Part of that balance over all, I was learning, included going with the flow with the ever-present unknowns. Not something I had a history of handling well but was finally getting better at. Case in point, I hardly worked at all on the 19th due to sharp stomach pains and needing to recover from a couple days of making below average earnings. Well, not working except for an hour before Aaron treated Brigit and I to dinner at Cowboy. My food was unfortunately disappointing , which we thought must mean a new chef, but the atmosphere was still great and I was happy to be taking a break to go out to dinner with them.
The days from there were to continue with more work and hanging at local haunts. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, a quick drop in at the Santa Cruz tasting room of MJA Vineyards to say hi to a gal I knew, Brady’s Yacht Club, Joe’s (though I wasn’t feeling the crowd so left quickly), Henflings for live music and Monty’s to sit around the fire for a chat.
It was then that I was asked about what qualifies me to identify as a traveler. I thought about how the reasons reminded me of the same as to why I identified as a writer. It was just who I had always seen within myself. Where I connected. I didn’t have to “do” anything, I had been born that way. My response, though, was that I focused my whole life around it, even when at home in CA. Fair enough but it didn’t feel right to be exposing only the tip of the iceberg like that. More than to myself, it wasn’t fair to others who could be impacted by my words when it came to their own passions. Showering later (one of the best places for replaying conversations), I wished I would have shared some of the details that made blanket comments like that show more of a reality. Things like how I had ended relationships, said no to good job offers and tolerated attitudes from those closest to me acting as if I was making the wrong choices in life when I needed their support the most. How painful it all was and how much it made me wonder, not only if I was taking the right road, but also if it was worth it. Yes, though. It was. If for no other reason, because we can’t magically change ourselves into different people. Starting to think back with a wish that I could have found the mentor I had desperately wanted, I also wished that there was some way to go and convince Younger Me that I didn’t need any of the “on paper” stuff to to make me who I was. For a minute, I was lost in the past and feeling a little melancholy. A mourning for all the happiness lost.
My mind kept wandering. I started to think about all that had happened since and how I liked to joke that I had nine lives because of all of the different ones I’d already lived. I never talked about how sometimes I could feel myself dying at the end of one and being stuck in a dark abyss before starting the next. The end of who I’d been and what my world had been. A goodbye and mourning. Then the purgatory that came before I could be reborn into the next. It felt like death while my heart still beat. Was that part of having a writer’s spirit? To need more adventure and culture? I wondered if I would ever slow down and be content enough to settle in. A thought that both worried me for fear of dimming my light and also sounded comforting in that maybe it would make life less hard and painful. Less full of loss.
Life goes on. A happy ending to my month happened when Mia became the first friend on one side of the state to join the other. Originally on her way up from SD to move to the Bay as a traveling nurse at Stanford, the hospital called her on her way to retract the offer before their last stamp of approval because she had refused to waste her time to go in for a second drug test when it was there error for what they hadn’t taken care of the first time. Talk about a sucky situation, I would have been a stressed-out mess. She being more kick-ass than me, was able to hold herself together and turn it into a vacation by the time she arrived.
I was excited to have her there whatever the reason. That meant that when she got there on the 21st, I was determined to meet up with her in the China Town neighborhood of San Francisco for lunch. The next day I joined in again at her friend Gosha’s there in the city for a supurb dinner they had put together. She was tired after that, though, so I went out by myself for one of my favorite evenings in SF ever.
Short but sweet, the place I went, The Saloon, was the oldest bar in SF and happened to be where a fabulous elderly pair were dancing with some old-school razzle-dazzle I wouldn’t forget. It was cooler than cool. For some reason I kept thinking that they were only friends, him being gay, and that they had been dancing together for years. I wanted their story so bad but sometimes it’s better to leave the magic of our imaginations be. Leaving soon after, still with a smile on my face from watching them, I was almost talked into karaoke by some Korean fellas as I walked back to my car. If I wasn’t already, I was definitely smiling all the way home after that.
It was already almost time for me to head back to SD. First I managed to fit in a few other nice moments, though, despite catching a cold. Both Mia and I caught it actually, her a couple days before me. Still, we managed to see each other one more time for lunch in Santa Cruz before I left. An odd feeling given that she’d also head back within days. Maybe she was even first. I don’t remember. On a different day after that but also in Santa Cruz when I was getting some solo time, I found a lovely walk and a cute little restaurant called Cafe Brazil. A score in finding it but a fail in getting a run of the mill acai bowl in an effort to make the healthier choice instead of something more authentic. Can’t win ’em all.
Finally managing to get the FBI background check back on the 29th, what shocked the hell out of me with quite a few laughs was that it made it look like I was arrested for drugs on 12/04/2015. Well, I did get taken in but it was for booze and an officer I spoke with later said it looked like it was for my protection because the cops were worried about some guy trying to get me in his car. Whoopsie. It had been years before and from what I remembered, had been after my drunkenly ditching a date when I suddenly felt unsafe because of his plowing me with so much alcohol. It didn’t help that I couldn’t remember my new address. Anyway, add it to the expensive, stressful and time-consuming headaches to take care of for my visa. Why not. I’d already lost count by then. For what it’s worth, I later found out that the guy I ran out on was an ex-military sniper for hire and I was pretty sure he was running drugs across the border. Never trust a redhead.
With a couple more scores of awesome cafes over the next couple days (Harbor Cafe‘s frittata being my favorite brekkie in town), I had already known that 11th Hour Coffee in Santa Cruz was a cool spot for one of my last writing stops but was surprised by Backyard Brew in Palo Alto when it turned out to be a hidden gem full of diversity in people. After that, I only had two more days left on that side of the state. I swore I had just gotten to Nor Cal but oh well. That’s the life of a California gypsy.