Whoo-whoo! I made it to March. Man did it feel like a month of goodbyes right from the start. Before saying farewell to Nor Cal, I ran down the list of “before I leave” and “things that I haven’t done yet” starting with Rupert’s Donner Pass-themed party. Great fun though a bit odd in that it felt like I was his co-host in the way that a girlfriend would normally be. I’d say both of us were a little puzzled about what our relationship was. It became even more odd when he pissed me off by forgetting about me right in front of my face to follow a girlfriend of ours around and lay a smooch on her. Danno flashbacks anyone? As long as I don’t feel disrespected it’s A-OK but lord help you if I feel slighted. Especially if you’re a man. It was all in good fun, though. She and I went to Monty’s after for a drink, I think because she wanted to make sure I wasn’t mad at her. Lord knew I was smooch-happy myself, especially after a cocktail or two, so I was more for it than against at the end of the day. Over all, it was a fun night and a lovely chance to spend time with my mountain folk.
After finding out (more likely being reminded) that I couldn’t vote in person when registered remote from somewhere else, I used the excuse to head to the Santa Cruz wharf for some clam chowder at Dolphin Cafe while filling out those bubbles to the best of my ability. That was on the 3rd and my last ethereal hike in the redwoods of Henry Cowell State Redwoods State Park was on the 4th. I loved those enchanted mountains so much it hurt. Man was I was so damn thankful to have found them. It was painful every time I thought about how I had grown up miserable just half an hour away but it also gave me much needed healing. Because I say it every chance I get: I loathe the suburbs. Even more than that, I detest San Jose. At least my experience with them. Formative years bla, bla, bla…yeah…still far to go with working on that healing.
Hitting MJA Vineyards from there, the the tasting room attendant was oddly awkward for the second time in a row but it was still my favorite. Scopazzi’s, a restaurant that Brigit had talked me out of for a while, was next. Making it in for a dessert and cocktail, it was full of an old-world charm that left me enchanted for the second time that day. The food didn’t have great reviews on yelp but the chocolate sundae and Gimlet, a drink I typically wouldn’t order (I don’t like Gin) but did to stay in theme, were just fine. A mental note made (along with a text to Brigit and Aaron) of their budget-friendly champagne brunch on Sundays for a welcome home hang the next year, the experience continued as a couple of middle-aged ladies excited to see a younger (than them) woman out on my own chatted my ear off while the cutest wee dog ran up intermittently. The man who owed her, though, was weirdly controlling and seemed to not want her getting the attention. Lame, dude.
Speaking of men, there was another who didn’t look lame but lonely, sitting across as he dined solo and tried to stop himself from taking polite peeks. I was sure he would have loved it if I invited him to join and would continue regret not having done so in the days to come. Leaving in time for dinner at Cremer House with Rupert, I gave him shit in good fun and then stopped at Monty’s for a last quick outing before spending goodbye time with Brigit and Aaron. Back to San Diego I went.
I was back to my place in OB by the 5th, chilling at a marina full of sailboats after lunch with the folks on the 6th and at a hash I couldn’t pass up on the 7th. I had been itching to go to another one and it was not only viking theme but also in my hood so how could I pass it up? Walking home from those shenanigans shortly after sunset with Chinese food in hand (I bowed out early for once), I heard my name being called from a car passing on the street. It was J-Murph, Jillian and her girlfriend who I then met up with at a local spot I had been avoiding called Dirty Birds. A generic sports restaurant of white walls, sports swag and no soul, it felt like poison to the vibe of a local community that was all about about keeping it real. I was disappointed in them for going to such a gentrified place. Even more so since I already had mixed feelings toward them (and others) who hadn’t even sent me a PM when I was going through the ITP scare. The waiter who worked not only there but had also served me at another local spot even seemed much lamer than he had before. It wasn’t long before I took off, though I didn’t give up just yet. Meeting up again an hour later at THC after the distraction of a random chick chatting me up when I first walked into the venue, J-Murph Irish good-byed about two seconds after I finally managed to get to them. That’s what I got for chasing squirrels. Well, and also for being one.
Forever FOMOing, I wondered if there was a way to squeeze in a trip to Mexico as I drove passengers down to the border. You’d think I was leaving forever. In a way, I was. I knew from experience that big life events with lots of growth, especially far away, would change things. Double that with how strained I was feeling in my SD relationships because of the ITP thing and the people I used to find connection with taking a different path. My world was opening up more and more and I wanted them with me. The fear of what leaving would do to my life was unwarranted (pre-Covid) since it was my decision but I still worried about the unknown and never coming back. What if those really were my last hurrahs? I loved my life at home so much but what if the new experiences changed that? What if they made my old life no longer fit and California stopped feeling like home? Was it even worth it?
Outside of my sister pissing me off in a WTF way by bringing our brother who was in his dark and hostile place of hating everything, something she knew to be an trigger for me, it wasn’t a surprise when our St. Patty’s lunch at my local Irish pub ended up being the whole family. With them all living together and our parents having transitioned into taking the lead from us, it was more common than not for the whole crew to come. St. Patty’s was a big family holiday so it gave us a chance to celebrate together. Besides the fam, Sis also brought a happy friend visiting from Oakland and that gal’s…less than sunshine and rainbows friend who I hadn’t seen since our amiga’s bachelorette party where I had majorly broken my foot years before. It was an amusing flashback and nice to be able to catch up. Not to mention a welcome distraction from the scary bro.
Word was out that Coronavirus was about to hit the US and that it was going to get bad. Really bad. Because of that the streets were clearing out. That meant it took a couple hours until I finally got pinged to give the last ride of my rideshare career. It being March 16th, three years and six months to the day of starting, my last passenger was a laid back chick who looked like a young female version of Brad Pitt. Being able to tell her that she was my last and why along with memories of my first passenger back in the day having been an eccentric and outgoing bartender from Vietnam, I’d say it was a pretty damn good ride for me, too. *pun intended*
Governor Newsom shut down the bars and restaurants the next day which was officially St. Patty’s. Total bummer but I agreed. Mia and I picked up food from a pub to celebrate at home for our last hang. It wasn’t much but somehow the mix of that historical moment with the virus, being with a newer friend who I had more in common with, leaving in two days and it being my favorite holiday was a recipe to make it oddly special.
There were plenty of factors that made it hard to leave for S Korea. As touched on, being scared of the unknown was a really dangerous trap. One made all the worse by the unknown of what the virus was going to do. It was a tidal wave coming at us that I was fighting like hell to make sure didn’t stop me. I had already been held up because of the ITP for half a year in addition to holding out the year before so I could make my sister’s 40th and get to Burning Man. The window was closing and I suffocating.
There were other factors. Leaving the life and people I loved to create even more of an abyss between us…that one hurt the most. I was also taking a big risk by starting a new career that I wasn’t even sure about. I knew it was going to be hard and was dreading it but rideshare going flat meant it would have been a rough new beginning either way. At least I’d make good money in S Korea. To leave during such uncertain times, especially when I hadn’t processed the ITP scare, was a risky head trip *pun intended yet again*. Yes, travel was scary considering, but it didn’t seem any more dangerous than staying where it was projected to pack the biggest punch in the whole world. Airports and flights were pretty empty and extra precaution was being taken with them. Besides, Aaron, a NASA geologist, had also been watching and keeping me informed. According to him, I was going to what had become one of the safest bubbles in the world.
The only thing that scared me enough to make me seriously consider staying was leaving my papa. He had enough health problems for us to know that he wouldn’t make it if he caught the virus. Of the many ways my mind was spinning out on that one (what if he caught it and I couldn’t get back into the country?), the worst was that my disturbed brother who was an active nurse living on the same property had more of a chance of exposing him. I didn’t trust Sean to stay away. Especially given that he was in the part of his cycle where he was detached from reality. Didn’t help that I already had a weird fear of our father’s health every time I left after a traumatic experience back in 2005. Instead of showing up to pick me up at the airport after a trip to Europe, he was not only MIA but also unreachable by payphone ( cell phones weren’t a thing yet). It had been my first big travel abroad without “grownups”. I was scared, exhausted and confused. Instead of Dad a hostile brother, pissed that my plane was late, finally picked me up and wouldn’t tell me what was going on beyond our dad being in the hospital. It was the first time I found out about the health problems that have now eaten at him so.
The night before flying out had arrived. Taking my parent’s car back that I had borrowed for a couple days, I planned to spend the night, excited to spend those last moments with the whole family. The main purpose being my dad of course but also because both of my nieces were there. When my brother got home from work, though, I was attacked and fled, his violence being the last memory our family would have of me for a long time.
What happened with him was really bad but it was far from a new wound. The one that messed me up the most and would leave me wondering if I would ever want to come back wasn’t even meant to be hurtful. Kati had surprised me by being the one to flip out the most about my leaving. She said from being worried about the virus but, not being able to see how that made sense given the aforementioned info, I suspected it had more to do with maybe wanting to keep me around (sucker!) but more for having fallen away from the strong and adventurous woman I loved. It had been becoming more noticeable over the previous year, both of her and her sister. I had tried not to become resentful, I loved them so, but I was. I felt betrayed and abandoned. Have I mentioned enough yet that I hate what the suburbs do to people?
She had talked to her sister who I wasn’t on speaking terms with about me and her sister’s hubby, our bud. Freaking out about my leaving and thinking I was making the wrong decision without even knowing me well enough any longer to know that I had a NASA geologist monitoring for me or that I might have actually done other research to know what I was doing. The thought that maybe I, being the one leaving for a new life during that time, was actually capable of making smart decisions. Our bud even called to mansplain the hell out of me, not for the first time. He had done no research to check on any of the shit he was saying, cutting me off when I tried to respond and discrediting the things I had to say. He felt justified to call me like that after making 0 attempt to contact me in the recent past as a friend, thinking it was OK because of the time we happened to spend together when his wife and I planned it. It was insulting and felt like even more betrayal. It also came two hours after Sean had attacked me. Besides trying to deal with that, the same friend had previously stuck up for my brother while discrediting my comments about being scared of him in the past. Let’s just say it didn’t help the way he looked or what he was trying to say.
The next morning, it was time to go. Waking up two hours before heading to the airport, I opened my eyes to an email from my shit recruiter telling me that I was going to have to go on a 10 day unpaid quarantine once getting to Jeju Island. Great. Then I found out that the US had hit a level four travel advisory. Yikes! That meant folks shouldn’t be traveling for fun or business if it could be helped. For people like me who were getting home, a new home in my case, we were the ones it was asked to be limited to.
The fun didn’t stop there. What should have been a two or three day journey turned into five days from hell. That included mistakenly getting stuck in quarantine for a day and a half in China when no employees spoke English. How does that happen in a huge international airport? Anyway, I was brushed off every time I tried to communicate that I was on a transfer, not going into the country and the dominoes fell from there. Man how I loathe traveling through that country.
I finally got to Jeju island, South Korea on Feb. 26th. As much as aspects of the quarantine weren’t great, man did I need it. Do you ever forget what you’re doing in the shower and then do something random like put conditioner on your face? Yeah, I was in there. A great help to adjusting and being stuck inside longer than I have in my entire life, there were lots of ZOOM hangs with burner friends, Facebook video hangs with the fam and the owner’s daughter of the Hagwon I would be teaching at was super sweet in bringing me whatever I needed. Let me just say that getting soup delivered in a plastic bag made me, an American, nervous as hell. Some of the food was good, some not so good, but it was fun to already be able to check it out. Well, to a certain extent. I knew I didn’t like seaweed and wasn’t going to be happy with how the sweet flavor was put on things like garlic bread but I had no idea how into “sweet” they really were into. Ick. The milk was delicious at least. No doubt because I was being brought whole fat but I wasn’t going to complain.
It was restful and a great way to adjust for the first half of the quarantine. Once I wasn’t distracted by being spun out from the travel and my new surroundings, though, I sunk back into the much darker place I had been hoping to avoid. A place where everything that had gone down before was hitting hard.