Tag Archives cats

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: The Girl Next Door is Black, on the Move

You’d think after all the times I’ve moved as a kid and an adult, that it’d get easier, less stressful, but noooooo. As usual, life has other plans, and laughs at yours.

Life: “Mwah haha. I spit on your plans! I will do as I see fit. Ya dig?”

In case you missed the announcement on Facebook, I officially moved to New York! You may (or may not) remember that I mentioned in San Francisco, I Think I’m Over You that I desperately wanted to leave the city, but I didn’t reveal where I intended to move. So now you know.

Why New York? I am originally from here, some of my close family lives here (whereas I had zero family in California), it’s probably my favorite city in the world, and it’s mostly cheaper than San Francisco, which is bananas.

Map of Northeast US with a pushpin on the state of New York

The past couple of months post-move have been alternately frustrating, depressing, and surprising. Due to all the roadblocks, a string of “bad luck,” and random happenings, I questioned my decision to move here before I had all the factors in place that I felt I needed to make it work.

Brief lowlights of my time in New York:

  • My beloved cat – who has been in my life for 14 years – has kidney issues (along with stress related to the move) and I had to drop a grip of much-needed funds to take him to the vet. Some may question spending a lot of money on a cat’s health, but he’s important to my mental health, and other than his kidney issues – which are mostly treatable – he’s a happy kitty. The positive from this is that I discovered a wonderful vet in the City with great feline-bedside manner, and a calming way with their owners.
  • A job I thought I was a shoo-in for ended up not working out due to a sudden hiring freeze (they were prepping my offer letter!), and without a job it’s difficult to rent an apartment since New York requires you have proof of income that’s at least FORTY times the monthly rent. That’s right FORTY TIMES!
  • I’ve moved around a lot, staying in various Airbnbs in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens – one place where there was a gas leak while I was sleeping, and I am lucky we didn’t get poisoned. At another place I found a used cupcake pan with crusted old bread in it sitting in the oven. Disgusting!
    • A kind and generous friend also offered me his place to stay for about a month while he traveled, since my circumstances left me feeling displaced, and on edge. It’s exhausting bouncing from place to place – not just for me, but also the two kitties who have no idea what’s going on except that the home they’ve known for over three years suddenly disappeared.’
    • On the bright side, as a result of all this apartment-hopping, I have gotten a chance to get to know different neighborhoods, which will help me decide where I want to look for apartments since I’m more informed. Luckily, my  latest Airbnb host offered me the option to sublet her place, so I have somewhere stable to stay until I’m ready  to search for an apartment of my own. Phew!
  • One of my grandmother’s who I am very close to (not the one who lives in New York) had two strokes and she’s been in rehab for a couple of months now. It distressed me that I couldn’t afford to fly to visit her and offer my support.

I fell into one of the deepest depressions I’ve experienced in years. Crying all the time, feeling hopeless, like no one wanted to hire me, feeling dumb for moving, and generally possessing an overall pessimistic attitude, whereas I’m usually fairly optimistic and hopeful (some would say idealistic). Quite frankly I didn’t see how my life would get better. It seemed as though I was destined for failure.

Just when you think you’re done learning certain lessons, another situation arises to reinforce what you previously learned, or to hammer it home since perhaps you didn’t learn enough the first time. Like the universe is saying, “Girl, listen! Trying to help you! Gotdammit you’re hard-headed.”

These recent experiences have left me humbled (and beaten down). However, through these trials, I’ve relearned the importance of acceptance. Once I stopped fighting my circumstances (I believe this is what some Christians refer to when they say “Jesus take the wheel”) and dwelling on how things “should be,” my attitude slowly improved and now I can see rays of hope again.

 

The past few weeks things have started to look up:

  • I got a new day job. Hooray for not being a broke bitch anymore.
  • Two of my three sisters moved here also within the past couple of months, which is like a dream come true for me!
  • My mom lives here (not my “bonus mom” Country Life, City Wifetm). I’m fortunate enough to have two moms and a dad. Three parents to worry about me and say things like: “It’s cold outside, put on a jacket!” I’m almost 40 years, but parents don’t stop being parents. I also have a whole mess of aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousin’s kids whom I haven’t met, or haven’t seen since my childhood days.
  • Coffee made the way you like it. No fixing it up yourself.
  • All the New York pizza I could ever want, anytime I want it.
  • Breakfast sandwiches at delis which cost less than a meal at McDonald’s
  • I was able to give a tourist directions last week. I felt proud. I’m slowly becoming a New Yorker again!
  • New York so far is wonderful. I’ve met so many friendly and chatty people. The neighborhood enclaves actually feel like neighborhoods. It’s refreshing after living in a city where it felt like people were scared to make conversation with strangers. Just the other day I had a random conversation about music with a guy working at a juice store.
  • The independently owned pet stores almost all seem to have cats that live there, and it’s endearing to see a grown, burly man who owns the store, speak lovingly about his love of his kitties. (Side note: the bougie cat food I buy cost almost 50% less than the San Francisco prices.)
  • After months of no other promising job prospects, suddenly last month I found myself busy with interviews at  several different companies. When it rains, it pours as the saying goes.

Throughout this rough period, my family and several friends have comforted me, and offered me support; a generous and caring friend lent me funds (which embarrassed me to need) so I didn’t have to worry as much about how to pay my bills, eat, or afford a place to stay. I’m extremely grateful for all of them; they helped me feel loved, and less alone.

Now that I can think more clearly without the distortion of depressive thoughts, I better understand that things happen for a reason, and I may not know why as soon as I’d like, but with patience and time, the path usually reveals itself. I look forward to seeing what’s next and hope I’m headed toward a more positive trajectory than a tough one, but either way I am better equipped to handle it.

Quote: Good things are coming down the road, just don't stop walking.
Photo cr: BK, flickr.com

Have you ever been through a period of life so tough you couldn’t see your way out of it? How did you handle it?

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Tarantula Eating, Silk Spinning & Candy Making: A Road Trip through the Cambodian Countryside

I don’t recall seeing “chow down on deep-fried tarantula” on the tour itinerary, but when our local trip guide reviewed the day’s plan – mouth in a wide grin, eyes dancing at the mention of “eating spiders” – there it was. Given I’m willing to try (almost) anything once, I was game. Besides, I’ve already tried beetle, scorpion, and cricket, so what’s a big ass spider?

During the 6.5 hour drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap we made brief stopovers in several small towns in the Cambodian countryside. Towns served by the same unpaved and uneven two-lane road from which vehicles zooming by kick up mini-dust storms so intense, that sometimes those closest to the edge wear face masks for protection. One of those places is Skuon, more colloquially known as “Spiderville” because of its proliferation of tarantulas.

In Cambodia you can dine on deep fried tarantulas, float along the river past houses on stilts, and watch silkworms be turned into beautiful silk | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Preparations underway for a multi-day wedding celebration in one countryside village. (The grillmaster signaled to me to wait until he loaded the meat skewers so I could get a better picture.)

Spiderville

Eating spiders may seem weird to some, I know, but during the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge, catching those sizable, eight-legged, hairy insects could mean the difference between starving and starving a little less. Nowadays, deep-fried tarantulas are considered a delicacy and enjoyed as a snack.

Three cute Cambodian children greeted me as I descended the steps of the passenger van once we’d pulled into the parking lot of an outdoor market. The only boy among them – I guessed he was around 9 – said to me: “Sister, you are beautiful.” The oldest girl, standing to his right, shook her head and added, “Your hair is so pretty.”

What is this? Me? My hair? My looks? Who put these kids up to this? People with my dark skin, kinky hair, and African features aren’t exactly held up as paragons of beauty in the US. I wasn’t accustomed to this type of attention.

I didn’t have much time to consider the kids’ comments before they began trying to charm me into buying from them: plastic bags filled with mango or other fruit, colorful origami birds, and various smaller packages of what vendors were selling in the stalls 15-feet away.

In Cambodia you can dine on deep fried tarantulas, float along the river past houses on stilts, and watch silkworms be turned into beautiful silk | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Some of the produce sold at the market. Pictured (from top left clockwise): dried banana chips (so tasty), mangoes, grapefruit, what looks like pink grapefruit in the bottom corner is actually pomelo, which they season with salt, lime and chili powder (to me they taste better than grapefruit because they’re sweet with none of the bitterness.), passion fruit, custard apple, and tamarind.

K_, our Cambodian guide, strongly discouraged us from buying from the kids – much to my dismay. It’s hard to say no to a sweet child with a gap-toothed smile who’s pleading with you to buy fruit “so that I can go to school.” However, as K_ explained, if they’re able to make an income by hawking goods to tourists, sometimes parents will pull their children out of school so they can work instead. I knew the kids I met were in school because they told me so when I complimented their great English. We’d arrived during the students’ two hour lunch break.

Despite my refusals to part with my cash, the kids trailed me – like an entourage – as I walked toward the market and the many platters stacked high with an array of fried insects and fruit for sale.

In Cambodia you can dine on deep fried tarantulas, float along the river past houses on stilts, and watch silkworms be turned into beautiful silk | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Fried water beetles
In Cambodia you can dine on deep fried tarantulas, float along the river past houses on stilts, and watch silkworms be turned into beautiful silk | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Fried grasshoppers
In Cambodia you can dine on deep fried tarantulas, float along the river past houses on stilts, and watch silkworms be turned into beautiful silk | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Deep fried tarantulas, known as a-ping, are high in protein.

K_ handed each of us a crispy tarantula leg to try. We giggled and teased each other through the experience. Once I got over the initial disgust at the idea of what I was eating, the tarantula actually tasted decent – not like chicken, more like beetle. The salt, sugar, and oil flavoring no doubt helped. It did take me a while to chew though. Like the hairs from the leg didn’t want to leave my mouth. Ick.

In Cambodia you can dine on deep fried tarantulas, float along the river past houses on stilts, and watch silkworms be turned into beautiful silk | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black

As we were gearing up to leave, K_ tapped my shoulder, pointed toward an aged woman wearing a deep-pink head scarf and clothed in long, floating layers, and told me: “She said she likes your hair.”

This never happens to me. What is this magical place?

I waved goodbye to my adorable, pint-sized entourage from behind the window as our van eased out of the lot.

From Silkworm to Silk Scarf

Santuk Silk Farm in Kampong Thom marked the second stop on our countryside excursion. Run by a US veteran of the Vietnam War and his Cambodian-Laos partner, the modest farm employs 15 women and one man from the local community. The weavers work hard spinning the silk into beautiful, color-rich scarves. We got the opportunity to learn about the process of turning the byproducts of silkworms into soft threads for weaving – a 6-week cycle – from one of the co-owners.

In Cambodia you can dine on deep fried tarantulas, float along the river past houses on stilts, and watch silkworms be turned into beautiful silk | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Silkworms feed on the leaves of Mulberry trees and cocoon themselves in silk on the branches.
In Cambodia you can dine on deep fried tarantulas, float along the river past houses on stilts, and watch silkworms be turned into beautiful silk | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Once the silkworms have spun themselves into a silk cocoon they are laid in the sun to dry. Some of the silkworms are kept alive to use for mating.
In Cambodia you can dine on deep fried tarantulas, float along the river past houses on stilts, and watch silkworms be turned into beautiful silk | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
As the co-owner demonstrated, dried cocoons are boiled to loosen the silk, which is then spooled onto the wooden reel. Some of the silk strands were rougher than others.
Dried cocoons are boiled to loosen the silk, which is then spooled onto the wooden reel.
Once the silk is dyed, the weavers smooth and stretch it on the spinning wheel, before transferring it to the loom to be woven into silk fabric.

After getting the lowdown on the world of silk, we sat down to a home-cooked meal for lunch.

Dried cocoons are boiled to loosen the silk, which is then spooled onto the wooden reel.
I don’t know the names of any of the dishes, so I’ll just call it an assortment of meats, veggies, spices, and scrumptious-deliciousness.

The cat family of the farm joined us for the meal, eagerly anticipating fallen morsels and scraps. A small dog resides on the farm, as well. For lunch, he chose to kill one of the clucking chickens. Thankfully, I did not witness this animal act of gallinicide, but a few of my tourmates did.

Dried cocoons are boiled to loosen the silk, which is then spooled onto the wooden reel.
Mom, dad, and baby cat – unbothered by humans.

Sugar Palm Candy

Not too far from the silk farm, we made a pit stop at a roadside sugar palm candy stand. Made from the sap of sugar palm trees, the hardened candy is sweet enough to make your eyes pop. You can also cook with it, boil it into a juice, or melt it into your tea or coffee if a shocking jolt of sugar isn’t your bag.

After making our purchases, we piled back into the van and our driver, Mr. S_, pulled out onto the dirt road. The afternoon had barely settled and already we’d done so much; I couldn’t wait to reach the next stop and adventure.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Would you eat a deep fried tarantula?

Read Part I and Part II from my Southeast Asia travel series and stay tuned for more from Cambodia!

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Friday Five: Weekly Twitter Roundup 10/31/14

Here are five things you may have missed on Twitter this week.

Happy Halloween | Friday Five Weekly Twitter Roundup | The Girl Next Door is Black

 

1. If there’s one thing the internet does well, it’s obsess over pay homage to kitty cats and #NationalCatDay proved no different:

 

2.  Jesse Williams, of Grey’s Anatomy and “hot eyes” fame, is one of the more sociopolitically active celebrities on Twitter. This week, he went in on racial inequality, Ferguson and “you should really know better” Halloween costumes. (I’ve only posted a subset, check out his timeline for more.)

 

3. video of a woman getting catcalled on the streets of New York went viral, prompting a stream of comments on street harassment. #streetharassment

 

4. In honor of Halloween, Comedy Central’s @Midnight challenged Tweeters to share their #ScaryStoriesin5Words.

 

5. Each Halloween a topic of grave importance and subject of intense debate arises, candy corn: gross or nah?

 

Happy Halloween everyone!

So, I Killed a Bee

I killed a bee.

There’s no other way to say it. It happened. I’m a bee killer.

I feel guilty about this bee-icide.

My approach toward insects is this: I pay to live in my home. They do not, nor are they invited. No creature with more than four legs should be taking up residence in my place. If the bugs stay outside, keep outta my abode, we’re all good. Invade my lair and all bets are off.

I spent a summer in Panama when I was a kid. One night, while settling into bed, a cockroach accosted me, boldly crawling across my pastel pink wall, mere feet above my twin bed. A bug as thick as a pack of Bubble Yum.  The roaches I knew in New York, where I lived at the time, were typically the size of my little girl pinky toe. Gross and pesky, but manageable. Squishable. This cockroach was a meathead bug; ‘roided out.

Photo cr: AskYog, flickr.com
Photo cr: AskYog, flickr.com

In a panicked blur, I grabbed a small shoe, and THWACK! Nobody invited you, roach, GOOD.BYE! When I shared the story with the family I was staying with, the matriarch, a kind-eyed woman with a no-nonsense manner, fixed me with a somber stare and said matter-of-factly:

“If you kill one, the rest of their family will come back for revenge. You should be careful.”

I couldn’t be sure if she spoke the truth or not, her eyes twinkled, but her eyes always twinkled. I slept uneasily that night, dreams of being chased by vindictive cockroach armies disturbing my slumber.

Though I’m an adult and I know vengeful cockroach militias don’t exist, if ever I kill a bug, a nagging thought tries to take root in my mind, an immortal superstition, “The rest of it’s kind is coming for you.”

Photo cr: dnarubronegro.com.br
Photo cr: dnarubronegro.com.br

Since the weather in San Francisco rarely rises to uncomfortable levels, many apartment units, like mine, don’t have window screens. A recent series of humid nights brought with it a wimpy breeze and ravenous mosquitoes chomping on me like steak, dining for free, multiple times a week. I’m over being battered by bugs.

So, this bee.

It flew into my home one afternoon, using my screenless window as it’s portal. When it zoomed into my living room, my favorite cat did absolutely nothing. His feeble, half-assed attempts to catch it evolved into a game of his design, a cat-and-bee chase, only the bee was unaware of its participation and I became very concerned about getting stung. I watched his catnanigans for a bit, keeping one eye on the bee, the other on my useless feline, flipping, flopping and tossing in the air like a caught fish as he half-heartedly attempted to capture the fast-moving bee.

“Aren’t you going to do something, cat?! You only have two jobs: be cute and kill pests. Ugh!”

The bee, catching on to the cat’s plan, flew away from him and into my personal zone. Oh shit! Unthinkingly, I grabbed a broom and showed my cat how it’s done. Bee Smash!

At least my cat does ONE of his jobs: he's cute.
At least my cat does ONE of his jobs: he’s cute.

I felt temporarily victorious – until I realized what I’d done. I killed a bee. We need bees! Bees are endangered! Did I not just have a conversation with someone about how we should try to avoid killing bees? Even though I initially scoffed and side-eyed the idea of sparing the life of an insect – sometimes these NorCal-ers take their organic-treehugging-sustainable-“nature, man”-hippieness to extremes and it’s easy to get caught up in – I am nothing if not soft-hearted when it comes to living creatures.

However, I acted on instinct. The instinct not to end up with my soft-hearted ass in the hospital. A bee stung me once – the same year as the great Panamanian cockroach haunting – and the incident ended with piercing pain and a trip to the doctor’s office. No thank you.

Filled with self-reproach – because of me, that’s one less flower pollinated, who knows how much I’ve messed up the circle of life – I approached the fallen bee, hoping that it’d still be twitching. Alive.

The bee remained still.

Dammit!

I poked it gently with a pen, careful not to get too close lest it was playing possum and decided to sneak attack.

It didn’t move.

I gently picked it up in my paper-towel-covered hand, walked to my window and placed it carefully on the fire escape. Solemnly I said to the bee, still slightly hopeful it’d flutter awake, “I am really sorry. I will not kill another, but can you guys not fly into my apartment? Also, please do not send your bee crew after me in retaliation.”

12 Things About My First 12 Months in San Francisco

view of the City from LombardWell, well, well, look who survived her first year in San Francisco! That’s right. She of the woeful posts New City, No New Friends, San Francisco: Not a Treat (Yet) and Making Friends: Paying Dues. It’s been a tremendous year with intense ups and downs and quite a bit of change and growth. Here are 12 ways in which my life has changed in the 12 months I’ve lived in San Francisco, from the mundane to the exciting.

1. I Spent 90% Less in Gas

I drove an average of twice a month in this first year as compared to daily in the Los Angeles version of my life. My main mode of transportation is Muni, the bus line, with some help from BART, taxis, Lyft and Uber. When I drive now, I feel like a brittle, nervous octogenarian, with nodding head and pursed lips, my small frame almost hidden behind the wheel of a giant Cadillac, making exclamations like, “Oh golly, I just, oh my, so many cars, oh no, one-way street, oh jeez, too much! Too much! Abort! I want to get out of this mechanical beast!”

Driving is intense and stressful. I don’t like it anymore. I blame Los Angeles and that hellion of a freeway, the 405. I have post traumatic traffic stress disorder or PTTSD. I told myself I wouldn’t make a decision on what to do with my car for at least a year. It’s been at least a year and have no decision…yet. The Angeleno in me is having a hard time imagining a life without the freedom of my own car.

It’s not always easy on the bus, but it sure beats developing an unhealthy hatred for BMW drivers and contemplating all the fucked up things you’d rather be doing than sitting in traffic.

Guess where the money saved on gas ends up…

2. Rent, Rent, Rent, Rent, Reeeeent

My rent here is nearly double what I paid in Los Angeles. Yet, my square footage decreased by almost 30%. This sucks. I don’t think I need to elaborate further.

3. More Oysters Please

In Los Angeles, some of my friends and I had an unofficial burger club. We’d take turns picking burger spots to check out. L.A. has become a beef-opolis of sorts, with competing burger joints popping up on the regular. I used to eat some form of beef at least once a week. [Obvious joke not intended.]

Me Hog Island
One of my favorite days this year was spent with my sister N at Hog Island Oyster Farm

Burger joints don’t abound here the way they do in L.A. There are, however, plenty of oysters-a-gogo. I’ve grown quite fond of the little suckers. They’re now on rotation in my cravings repository. Burger cravings, however, are rotating around with less frequency these days.

My sister and I went to Hog Island Oyster Farm one weekend – about an hour north of the City – and that day was the perfect culmination of joy from hanging out with my little sister, tasty oysters, refreshing Arrogant Bastard beer, mild weather, bright sunshine and outdoor NorCal beauty. To top it off, one group of picnickers’ weird-ass folk music played loudly enough for us all to hear. Oddly, the bizarre music fit the scene perfectly. A soundtrack to go with the perfect picnic scene.

This cutie chow in a penguin suit won best dog in costume at my job.
This cutie chow in a penguin suit won best dog in costume at my job.

4. Started From the (Corporate) Bottom  The job I have now isn’t the job I had when I moved here. That first job stank like some of the funky people I ride the bus with. I went from the job of my nightmares – which sold itself as a “startup-like environment”, but in reality operated more like a corporate fledgling – to an up-and-coming actual startup.

The start-up world is unique and peculiar. At times, I feel like I’m in a pretty NBC office sitcom. Like when a group of trendily-dressed, attractive, young women walk by my desk laughing with bright white smiles, or a thin Michael Cera-looking engineer breezes by on a scooter, or when I pass by the kegerator in the lounge, or when there’s a costume contest for employees and employee dogs on Halloween. I can’t tell how old anyone is at my job. Everyone looks some vague age between 22 and 45. The person that looks 25 could be a director. There’s talk of venture capitalists, competition and IPOs. It can feel surreal. As I share tales of the workplace with my sister N, she often asks incredulously, “Do you actually do any work there?” Heh. Absolutely, they just reward us very well for our hard work. I feel lucky to be there.

5. Try Walking in My Shoes 

Thanks to my trusty FitBit (which, devastatingly, I recently lost on a Muni bus, RIP Bitty), I know that I walk an average of 1 to 1.25 miles more per day compared to an average day in Los “Your car is your BFF” Angeles. Let’s hear it for walking!

6. Shake-Up in the Shoe Game

Last year while shopping with my friend Z at Loehmann’s, I picked up a great pair of rose-colored Franco Sarto wedge sandals with ivory embroidered trim.

“Don’t you already have a pair of wedges that look like that?” she asked me with a teasing smile.

“Yeah, kind of, I mean… not really. At least not in this color!”

I purchased the sandals and we’ve been very happy together. We’ve shared many adventures on foot and receive many compliments. A girl can never have too many pairs of wedges (or boots, scarves, hats, jeans or dollar bills). I like to wear wedges because they give me and my itty-bitty legs height without the feeling that I’m going to break my neck if my ankle rolls that I get with a skinny heel.

Since I’m walking more and in cooler weather, I need comfortable, cute (a must, obviously), non-toe-freezing shoes versatile enough for dashing over puddles of water to dashing away from the man with weird facial tics angrily muttering to himself about “the enemy.” I don’t wear sneakers (or tennis shoes for those of you down South) out unless there is a workout involved. So, those were a no-go from the get-go. I am not a fan of the ubiquitous, shuffling ballet flats and I couldn’t get away with wearing boots year round, so I needed options.

Sperry Top-Sider Audrey . Very comfortable, versatile, do not recommend for walking long distance due to limited ankle support.
Sperry Top-Sider Audrey: Very comfortable & versatile, do not recommend for walking long distances due to limited ankle support.

Like a hypocrite and a sheep, I turned to the boat shoes I once scoffed at: Sperry’s. At some point, they became cute to me. It could be that everyone seems to have a pair here, men and women alike. Isn’t that cute? A shoe that both women and men can wear! I’ve seen couples out in boat shoes together and it’s a sickeningly adorable.

I also am thankful for the moto boot trend, as I now have a legitimate fashion excuse to wear boots year-round. I just vary the height of the boot depending on the time of year and day. And the wedge bootie? Best shoething ever! Anyway, I could go on, but I don’t think you’re here for the shoes.

7. My Cats are Even Bougier

It's good to be a cat in San Francisco
It’s good to be a cat in San Francisco

My cats already ate well, but the pet stores here sell San Francisco-type goods and food. You know, all trying to be responsible, earth-friendly, healthy, free roaming geese and pigs and all that. So the cats now poop on corn-based litter instead of clay. I mean, who poops on clay these days? What is this? 2012? Am I right? Their new brand of can food has kitschy dish names such as “Two Tu Tango,” and “Kitty Gone Wild.” Ain’t no Friskies touching the tongues of these cats.

8. I Have One of These

The yellow squiggly is the Timbuk2 logo. Photo cr: timbuk2.com
The yellow squiggly is the Timbuk2 logo. Photo cr: timbuk2.com

Being the little observer that I am, while riding on the bus early on, with all the other worker bees, I noticed many people seemed to have cute or rugged messenger bags and totes. Makes sense if you don’t have a car to use a storage unit. I’d been looking for the perfect bag that could double as a gym bag and hold my work laptop. I kept seeing the brands Timbuk2 & Rickshaw, two bag companies native to SF. The Timbuk2 bags had heaps of positive reviews and cute designs, so I supported a local business and got a great gym/laptop/weekend bag.

9. I Know You!

At a friend’s party in L.A. last year, pre-move, I got to chatting with friends of hers, a couple whom had recently moved to L.A. from San Francisco. I told them I’d been considering moving to San Francisco and asked them how they liked it.

“It’s cool. But…it’s a really small city.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well, you sometimes run into people you don’t want to see. Like ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends…”

I remember that conversation each time I run into someone I know here. I don’t know that many people here. I couldn’t even scramble enough people together to have a flash mob. So, it amuses me that I’ve run into an average of one person I know every 2 months. I went years in L.A. without randomly running into anyone I know.

I did have the misfortune of running into a woman from the nightmare job. A woman whom I intensely disliked and whose presence seemed to make my awful days that much worse. Her nose seemed permanently in the air around me. Ugh. I saw her one afternoon while I was shopping downtown with two of the 20 people I know in the City.

“Shit!” I told my new friend J, while trying to hide behind a clothing rack, “I know that girl. Don’t look!!! I know her from work and I can’t stand her. The last thing I want is to see her on my work-free weekend. Ack, I hope she didn’t see me! I’m gonna go over there!” I pointed to a section on the far opposite end of the store, which was thankfully, very large. I don’t know if she ever saw me. She never said anything to me about it later. My life will be fine if I never see her again.

10. Reuse This!

I have a new hobby. It’s called “collecting reusable bags because I forget to bring one I already own and end up buying another.” It’s ridiculous. As I mentioned, San Francisco is all about being good to Mama Earth, and as such we’re encouraged to bring our own reusable bags to the grocery store. If you forget or don’t have one, you can pay $.10 for a non-reusable bag from the store. Paper only. Plastic bags are banned here. The plastic bags which I like to use to dispose of cat litter.

I always forget to bring a damn reusable bag with me to the store. I end up spending the $.10 on a paper bag I have no use for. A few clerks act like an admonishing Principal Strickland as they dutifully tell you with mild judgment, “I’m going to have to charge you 10 cents per bag.” Damn, I get it. Let’s move on. Don’t bag-shame me.

Admonishment, judgment and bag-shaming seem to have no effect. I forget to bring my reusable bag, 9 times out of 10.

11. Buying Eggs is a 10-Minute Task

Organic, free-range, free-range organic, brown free-range, brown organic, cage-free, vegetarian-fed, cage-free brown, OMG, how many freakin’ egg choices are there?! Which one makes me seem the most humane? I suffer from analysis paralysis a lot more here. There are so many options for food!

I'm practically running unofficial egg taste tests in my kitchen.
I’m practically running unofficial egg taste tests in my kitchen.

My sister and I went to a farmer’s market one Saturday morning where she wanted to buy an avocado.

“One avocado please.”

“Sure,” said the vendor, “do you prefer a sweeter flavor?”

“Yeah, that sounds good!”

He rooted around the pile of avocados in front of him.

“Will you be eating in this in the next day or so, or a week?“

“A day.”

More rooting around.

“Hmm, will you be cooking it or eating it raw?”

“Raw.”

More rooting.

A beat. “Here you go, this should do it!” He presented the winning avocado with a slight flourish.

And all of that was just to buy one avocado, which to his credit, my sister said was very, very good.

12. Who are you?

The foggy days get old quickly.
The foggy days get old quickly. (View from Sea Cliff)

I yammered on in the early days here about how people didn’t make eye contact on the street. Like a puppy eager to make new friends, I smiled at people whose eyes I caught and they’d look away, down or through me. I now recognize my irritated response as part of the rejection phase of cultural adjustment. About three to four months into the move my attitude toward San Francisco was that of a woman carping about the guy who hooked her and then disappeared. As anthropologist Kalvero Oberg observed, “At this stage the newcomer either gets stronger and stays, or gets weaker and goes home (physically, or only mentally).” I got stronger and stayed, I am pleased to say. Also, I make eye contact with few people these days; I’ve learned well from my citymates. I’ve adapted to the culture and feel like San Francisco is my home.

Folsom Fair
The very naked Folsom Street Fair was…eye-opening and made me want to bathe vigorously.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Honorable mentions go to: my growing dislike of bikers who wantonly disregard pedestrians and road rules; my growing love of Oakland; attending more festivals and fairs in one year than I have in the past five; way more time spent waiting in line at restaurants; seeing triple the number of publicly nude people (up from 0); my expanding collection of hats, scarves, sweaters and coats; getting better at figuring out what’s compostable; and finally, significantly increasing my knowledge about wine thanks to several visits to nearby Napa Valley.

This City didn’t make the adjustment easy on me. We fought and it was really tough at times. I persevered, made it through and I really like it now. I forgot what it’s like to genuinely have fond feelings for the city you live in. Moving here goes the list of “Great Life Decisions Made by Me.” I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months have in store!

With The Painted Ladies
With The Painted Ladies

Yes, I Am a Single Female in Her 30s With Cats

Last year, while walking to lunch, a male co-worker and I got into one of our usual tiffs when I declared:

“I want a dooooooog!”

My interest in getting a dog had grown greater and greater over the years and deepened after I bonded with a stray in Costa Rica the year before.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
We met on a dark and misty evening in Costa Rica. The year was 2011. It was love at first sight. He was a stray, I was a tourist. I named him Otis. I wanted to take him home. Make him a US citizen. But, alas it couldn’t be.

He scoffed and threw me a pointed look, “You already have two cats. No guy is going to want to date a woman with two cats and a dog!”

I and my female co-worker (and close friend) gasped in disagreement. This was a common occurrence. Our male co-worker would nonchalantly drop a statement we’d find incendiary and a heated debate would ensue, often in the lunchroom, hilariously, with others joining in and sides forming along gender lines.

[Ex: One guy complains that women only want men with money. Another chimes in that he’s had to buy former girlfriends designer bags only to have them break up with him and then be out the cost of five-star dinners and Balenciaga bags. I say something like, “I don’t specifically look for a guy with money.”

Male: “Yeah, right. You guys want expensive dinners and gifts.”

“I like to travel. I want a guy who has money to travel so we can travel together. I am not interested in being anybody’s sugar mama. If I want a Balenciaga bag, I’ll buy it my damn self.”

The women would respond with a chorus of “Yeah! I bought my own Chanel bag!” or “I took myself to dinner at Bazaar!” or “I have my own money!”

The men would protest in disbelief. Ah, I miss those lunches.)

I sighed heavily with exasperation, “What? First of all, I’m not going to plan my life around what some nonexistent guy may or may not like. Second, I didn’t say I was going to get a dog. I just said I want one. I am not ready to own a dog right now. And what if I did get one? I wouldn’t want to date some guy who would dismiss me because of my pets!”

He looked dubious. “Ha! I don’t know what guy would be like ‘She has two cats and a dog, cool!’ Most guys will just think you’re weird. It’s bad enough you have two cats.”

I rolled my eyes. “I said ‘I am NOT GETTING A DOG!'”

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
LOLcats anyone?

It’s “bad enough I have two cats?” Nobody asked you, bruh.

He’s not the only one who feels that way though. The “crazy cat lady” cliche has survived for decades, to torment innocent single women who’ve committed no greater crime than taking in a feline or two. I almost have to choke out, “Yeah, I have two cats,” when someone asks if I have pets these days. I have noticed some visibly wince or wrinkle their nose with distaste at my response. “Oh! That’s…nice,” they’ll say falsely as if I missed their judgy-faced expression. I secretly want to add, “But, I’m only temporarily single! I have had boyfriends before! I am not a ‘cat lady!’ Don’t judge me.”

What is with the species-est attitude against cats? They are perfectly fine animals. The Egyptians knew what was up. They revered cats.

Enter many Chinese novelty shops or restaurants and you’ll likely see at least one small statue of the good luck kitty with the raised and sometimes, waving hand.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
This waving kitty (maneki-neko) is thought to bring good luck or show welcome. | source

Cats are funny. Cats are the subjects of many memes and YouTube videos. There are cat celebrities.

Cats are cool. There’s nothing inherently crazy about owning a cat and having XX chromosomes.

You know who does seem crazy sometimes though? Dog owners!

Let me tell you about (some) dog owners and their quirks. Here is just a sampling of the oddities dog owners get up to:

1. Dress their dog up in silly costumes

Why don’t you dress yourself up as an alligator or 3-headed alien? I have never put clothing on my animals. I don’t think my cats would be amused to be dressed up like a pumKitty on Halloween or SantyCat on Christmas. How undignified! And if it’s true that owners become like their pets and vice versa: my cat can give major side-eye. You don’t want to be side-eyed by a cat. That look says, “I’m coming for your face with my claws, bitch!”

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
How would you like to be trotted out in public wearing a cow-printed onesie? | source
2. Push their dog around in a stroller

The hell? The dog is made to walk, sans shoes, padding already built in. You push your dog around?! You just got served! By your dog!

Related to that:

3. Carry their dog around a purse

I can’t. I really can’t.

 

4. Bring their dog everywhere

Are you so co-dependent on Virginia Woof that you can’t leave her at home when you go to a restaurant, the beauty salon, the bank or the therapist’s office because you need her there for moral support? (I don’t know actually know if that happens, but I’m 75% sure some Tupperware-faced lonely housewife in Beverly Hills has done this at least once.)

5. Take their dog to dog socializing events

Not for the people to socialize. Haha, that would be absurd! No, this is for the dog to engage it’s social skills. There are dog parks, dog play-dates, dog hotels, doggy daycare, and dog agility camps. The dog probably has a better social life than the owner.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
Did someone say carrots?
6. Claim their dog is vegetarian

I’m sorry did you mean to buy a rabbit? Dogs are DOGS. They eat meat. In the wild, many of them are skilled hunters. They hunt other mammals. Our sharp teeth that we use to bite through tough things? Those are called “canines” for a reason. Put a hunk of beef on the floor next to a bowl of carrots and grains. Which do you think Sir Barks A Lot is going to make a run for? It sure as hell won’t be those damn bunny stalks.

7. Moon over their dog, some even claiming their dog is their best friend

Do you know how crazily people would look at me if I said my cat was my best friend? People would be whispering, “No wonder that chick is single!” However, it is seen as quite acceptable for a person to say their dog is their BFF, ace boon, road dog, ride or die bitch.

Some dog owners will blather on for days about how talented their dog is. “Waggy Simpson can sit!” Big deal, my cat can leap buildings without breaking a pant. Now, that is some impressive shit!

I almost never talk about my cats unless prompted and even then it’s usually in a sardonic way: “Does anyone want my bitchy scaredy-cat? That dumb cat had the nerve to hiss at me for trying to feed her. I’ll put her ungrateful catass out like Dino!”

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8. Walk their dog according to the dog’s schedule

I know my neighbors’ dog walking schedule. Twice a day, morning and evening, their demanding barky mini-dogs who snort like pigs, get walked.

Some people have to plan their day around their dog’s schedule. Or they leave places early to go walk their dog. Sorry you missed it when President Obama walked into the bar at my birthday party and karaoked to 2 Chainz’ Birthday Song” (“It’s your Birthday/It’s Your Birthday!/Bad bitch contest you in first place!”). I hope Arf Garfurkel enjoyed his midnight walk.

Hey guess what trick my cats can do? They walk themselves! They have litter boxes; they know how to use ’em. I will come and go as I please.

9. Pay astronomical amounts to groom and primp their dog

Some people even take their dogs to acupuncture!

Actually, I have to admit: I saw a poodle dyed orange and black last year when the Giants were in the World Series. It was cute. But still, really? Does Pug ‘n’ Whistle really need her nails polished? That is like some Kim Kardashian “everything in my house must be white” level of foolishness. (Please don’t ask me how I know that bit of information.)

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
LOOK AT THIS POODLE! | source

Now, read the above list and tell me who is “crazy”?

I have never made food for my cats. How about some of you dog owners? Mmhmm. Buying special raw meat for L’il L’il Bow Wow. I see you.

Where’s the “crazy dog lady” stereotype?

I actually love dogs. My boss brought her dog to work one day last week and all my professional composure went out the window.

“OMGDOGGIELOVEDOGGIELOVEDOGGIEAWWWWWWW! WANNAPLAYWITHDOGGIIEEEEE!”

Which brings me to the fallacy of the “dog or cat person” bifurcation. It’s silly. I can only like cats or dogs? Well guess what? I like both! They are entirely different species, a different genus. It’s like asking if I prefer chimps or humans. Of course, the answer is chimps. At least they know how to respect their elders.

Then again I’m also neither Democrat nor Republican. I’m an ambivert. I’m also ambidextrous. Unfortunately, I am not bisexual. I feel like dating women would be much easier than dating men. I think I’d be into feminine girls, so if I found someone my size, I could wear her clothes. Double the wardrobe! Anyhow, maybe I am unusual in not having a strong preference for cats or dogs over the other.

Why do women with cats get such a bad rap? People with dogs do plenty of kooky things.  | Read more from "Yes, I Am a Single Woman with Two Cats" on The Girl Next Door is Black
They’re both great pets! | source

You may wonder why I have two cats. It’s not because I want to begin a life of cat hoarding. When I used to aspire to be on TV, it wasn’t to be looking all wild-faced, with cats prancing all over my malodorous-looking home, showcased on A&E. It creeps me out seeing hordes of cats together. I shuddered just writing that. That’s disgusting.

Contrary to popular belief, some cats are social and my Maine Coon is one of them. For the first four years I had him, I lived with roommates who had their own cats. He loved playing with them and asserting himself as the alpha kitty. I enjoyed this, as well. I don’t want any weak pets.

When I started living alone, I felt guilty leaving him home by himself all day, so I got the second one. She is absolutely useless to me, but she does keep him company and lets him be in charge. So, she stays. For now. Which I’ve been saying for 7 years now. Damn bitchy cat.

People who don’t understand cats often make assumptions based on stereotypes or brief negative exposure to one mean cat:

“That cat I ran into in the street while it was eating tried to attack me! Cats are evil.”

“Once when I was little, I pulled our family cat’s tail and she bit me. Cats are mean!”

“Cats don’t show love. When I try to squeeze my friend’s cat with a love hug, the cat yelps and runs away!”

“Cats are too independent. [I am needy.]”

Well, when I was a kid I saw Cujo – the movie about the rabid dog that tries to kill its’ owners – it terrified me. Not too long after, I encountered a snarling, drooling German Shepherd that chased me down the streets of Brooklyn for blocks as I pumped my little legs as fast as I could on my bike. I was scared to death of dogs for ages! I thought dogs were vicious animals ready to attack unsuspecting little girls. Thankfully I eventually got over that and learned many dogs are really sweet. Also, rabies shots are legit!

There are weird cat owners, just as there are weird dogs owners. Nobody has the “crazy” pet-owner market owned except maybe those animal hoarders. Who lets a house full of animals shit all over their place? The hoarders aside, let cat owners be. Not every single woman who owns a cat has got the crazy eyes. Dog owners can be just as nuts as cat owners.

How Are the Kitties?

It’s always funny to me how, when catching up with friends, they’ll sometimes ask “So, how are the kitties?”

The answer is always a (thankfully) boring, “Oh, they’re good. Healthy.” But, why do we ask about each other’s pets? They are very simple creatures. They eat, drink, play, sleep, whine to eat more, shed, and find the only rug in a hardwood-floored apartment to vomit on because vomiting on the floor would make things easier for me to clean, and repeat.

Do we expect the answer will be something like this?

Fluffy RaccoonTail is busy hatching his plan to take down the internet’s latest cat darling, Colonel Meow. The Colonel’s arrogance and perma-sneer offends him. Also, like me, he likes to give back. So he’s set up a nonprofit to provide birdwatching opportunities for disadvantaged indoor cats with nothing better to watch out their windows except large dogs that are beneath them as a species and that, like fools with no damn sense, do everything humans tell them and silly humans carrying no food whom are therefore useless. He’s getting push-back from the bird lobby on his birding nonprofit. He says, they’re whining that “cats kill birds and shit.” Boo hoo, he says. I don’t know where he gets this attitude from. He is brilliant and the secondary income he brings in allows me to afford to eat in this city, since rent consumes all of my pay.

Bitchy VonScaredy-Cat has regressed further into bitchery and lame-assedness since the move from L.A. She’s actively working with her therapist to get the hell over herself. She’s decorated her bedroom, a cozy spot far under my bed, with furballs and dust. She hopes one day I will stop torturing her by trying to love her and clean her since the vet told me she’s too stupid to clean herself properly.

We are all very well, thanks for asking. One of my cats is awesome. Do you want the other one?

Kitties Got Swag
Kitties Got Swag

Where’s the Fire?

Since I moved to San Francisco two weeks ago, my life has been like a comedy of errors. No big catastrophes, but little “first world” annoyances.

It all started when:

  • The post office ignored the fact that I sent my apartment deposit via Express Mail and decided to ship it any ol’ time they felt like. That ended up being a week later than I paid for. I was fit to be tied, worried that my hard-won apartment would be given to someone else who actually paid when they said they would. They didn’t.
  • The movers accidentally absconded with the power cord for my flat screen. I got it back.
  • My mailbox key didn’t work. The box was jammed full of legacy mail. Do these people not believe in forwarding their mail? The building manager got it fixed.
  • My building won’t allow DirecTV to install a dish on the building. I’ve had DTV for 6 years, but entered a new 2-year contract when I bought my flat screen. With a year left on my contract they sent someone out to find alternative mount options. The DTV guy came by, looked at my setup and with disgust told me, “SF sucks for DirecTV. I come to do these installs and there’s no line of sight. I make no money. You should have stayed in LA.” Are you serious, homie? Why are you telling me this and really, stay in LA because of DirecTV? Spare me your dramatics. I have my own problems. Do you see all these boxes?
  • I am stuck with Comcast, shitty, constant price-jumping, Comcast. I spent two hours in an online chat trying to set up cable service while the CS rep went through the ridiculous rigmarole of the script I’m sure she was reading. All because I couldn’t sign up for service online as the only options they gave me would force me to have a phone plan. Don’t try to force me into your plans, Comcast, I’m onto you! I am young and have no children. Why the hell would I want a landline? This isn’t 1992.

Unexpectedly, my stove also didn’t work. Someone neglected to tell me that there’d been a gas leak in my unit. They weren’t able to fix it before I moved in. I had no stove and because my things hadn’t arrived yet, no microwave. Sigh.

I received a call from the property management company profusely apologizing for the inconvenience. That’s nice, but I can’t be eating out every meal. I’m sure you are well aware of what I’m paying for rent here. She offered to send me a microwave that very same day. Now that is service. Meanwhile, they still had to fix the problem. So, on two occasions  I left my house key (which I kept losing in the mess of boxes that is my apartment) in a lockbox to allow strangers to wander through my apartment to fix the leak and then turn on the gas. I came home on one of those days to find my toilet seat all the way up. Motherfu…. Was that seat up when I left? I know it wasn’t ’cause I don’t have a penis and I don’t let my cats drink from the toilet. Ohhh, pet peeve city. You’re in a woman’s apartment, there are two cats roaming around, do not leave the toilet seat up if you use the bathroom that you didn’t get permission to use. Ain’t no gas line in the bathroom.

After a week and a half of no stove and eating sandwiches and microwavable foods, I had a stove again. Oh sweet gas! Last night I used my stove for the first time. I decided to stirfry some spinach. Within two minutes of heating the sesame oil, the smoke alarm went off in my kitchen. The sound was piercing and loud enough to be heard in Napa Valley. One of my cats (the one I like) looked at me, looked at the smoke alarm, looked back at me with fright and scrammed like Tom to find a place to hide. The smoke alarm began to speak, with the voice of a female droid: “FIRE. FIRE!” I hurdled over the mess of unpacked items in a rush to reach my step ladder (a single short woman’s best friend), knocking over piles of things on the way. That’s when my bedroom smoke alarm decided to join in on the fun. “FIRE! FIRE!” Bitch, there is no fire, STFU! I finally reached the first smoke alarm and pressed the button in the center of the alarm to turn it off. It beeped at me and I’m pretty sure increased its volume. “Warning, carbon monoxide!” Great, now I’m poisoning myself. I tried to turn off the alarm in the bedroom; same smart ass beeping reply.

Smoke Alarm
One of the evil offenders

My ears were ringing and I feared one of my neighbors would come at me with an axe. “That damn new girl with the cats!” Most of them have dogs. I like dogs. No, I LOVE dogs. When I told one of my dog-owning neighbors I had two cats she gave me a look that said, “Great, one of THOSE people.” I quickly told her that I like dogs, but do not have the time to own one right now. That seemed to settle her. I ran into another neighbor shortly after I moved in and told her about my pets (she asked, I’m not prone to bringing up my cats unprovoked. I am not that woman.). Word must have spread because later that week I overheard two neighbors talking about me on the stairwell in our not-at-all-soundproofed building:

“Have you met the people who just moved in?”
“Yeah, it’s a girl. She just moved from LA.”
“Does she seem cool?”
“Yeah, she seems cool. It’s just her and her two cats.”
“…..”

I could feel the waves of judgment emanating. For the love of god, cats are nice animals, people! Well, except, the one of mine that I want to trade in.

Anyway, back to the fire…or the notafuckingfire.

I heard a knock on my door. Here comes the axe, I thought. Either that or someone is coming to check that I’m not actually being swallowed by flames. I waded through even more crap to get to the door, having previously knocked things over into the entryway.

It was a guy with a stepladder. “Do you need to borrow a stepladder to turn off your alarm?” “I have one, thanks!” “Oh, okay, ’cause this happened to us when we moved in. You just have to press the button to turn it off.” I was tempted to give him gasface, but I knew he was trying to be helpful. “Yeah, I tried that. They won’t turn off. Do you know how to disconnect them?” “No, sorry. Did you try opening a window?” Seriously, what kind of moron did he take me for? “Yeah, that’s what’s weird, I had my windows wide open already. I’m really sorry. I’m trying to stop it.” The alarms had been blaring for at least five minutes. I was reminded of the sirens played when people were warned bombs were dropping during wartime. Yeah, overkill.

Smoke Alarm 2
The aftermath

The damn things wouldn’t turn off and they wouldn’t come off easily. I was able to disconnect the bedroom device and ignored my urge to smash it as the dumb thing kept repeating, “FIRE! FIRE! Beep!” Oh you bitch. The kitchen one, however, wanted to fight. In a Hulk rage, I ripped it from the ceiling causing the fuse to short, spark and out went the lights. I could smell the burning. Well, eff you too, sweetheart  And please don’t tell me I now I have to live in the dark. And I still haven’t gotten my damned spinach. I am hungry! I turned off all the switches on the fuse box, turned them back on and then there was light. With the smoke alarms disconnected I went back to my business of cooking spinach. The smoke alarms were dead. I won…until there is an actual emergency and I don’t know about it because I have no smoke alarms to warn me. Also, I think I am now deaf.

The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt

I’m relocating from Los Angeles to San Francisco imminently. Bye, Los Angeles. It’s been…well, I’ll save the “sentiments” for another post.

This past weekend I flew up to the Bay to scout apartments, hoping to find a place before I officially move up. What a freaking mess it is up there! It’s not apartment hunting, it’s a cattle battle and the winner gets a drastically overpriced apartment fit for an oompa loompa and oompa loompa-sized furniture.

FInding an apartment in San Francisco is sometimes harder than finding a job! | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black from "The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt"
photo by idleformat on flickr.com

Here’s how it works:

  1. You check Craigslist maniacally – because Craigslist is really the only way to find a place – looking for a listing that fits your criteria: clean, pet-friendly, not in crackhead row, no gross carpet from the ’60s because you’re a hardwood floor snob and large enough for the harem of men you plan to acquire
  2. Many landlords and rental agents hold open houses. Silly me, I thought open houses were for HOUSES. As in, I’m ballin’ and I’m going to buy property in one of the most expensive-ass cities in the world. Nope. Open house is where you and 20 other desperate mofos pile into a clown-car apartment and compete to see who gets to stay for good
  3. If there isn’t an open house scheduled, you email the decider about your interest and hope for a response. When you don’t get a reply after 10 different emails, you begin to wonder if you’d have better success if you said your name is Sally instead of Keisha. Then you think to yourself, “Don’t go there. They are probably just REALLY busy.” Right, that’s it.
  4. Landlords in SF have it easy. A Craigslist listing might read: “This 400sq ft. studio is on the bottom level of a decaying building. The unit gets no light so if you have SAD this isn’t for you because you’ll be more sad. Hope you like insects. Roaches live here too. They have a basketball league. There’s a murder every other day in the neighborhood, but not directly in front of the building. This charming place is a steal at $3250 per month! Open house scheduled from 11 – 11:06am on Saturday morning SHARP. Bring your pay stubs from the past 10 years, a credit report from 10 different agencies, your dental records, 4x the monthly rent for a deposit and the name of your first-born child whom you haven’t given birth to yet. Oh and you’re desperate so bring your own damned rental application. We ain’t got time to be printing out sheets of paper.” You read it and think, “This is great! It doesn’t say anything about mice or rats. That’s my deal breaker!”
  5. If you apply (often along with an application fee of at least $25), you then wait on pins and needles with hope that you’ll get a callback. It’s worse than waiting for a guy you like to call you. Instead of: “Why hasn’t he callllllled meeee? I thought we had a connectiiiiooooon?” It’s “Why haven’t they called meeeee?! I thought we had a connectiiiioooonnn? I don’t want to live in crackhead roooooooow!”

The first apartment I visited was in the Marina, apparently otherwise known as the neighborhood where former frat boys and sorority girls go to live out their fratty / sorory post-collegiate life. Not my preference in neighbors as I can imagine it just means having to hear the 2012 version of the Dave Mathews Band, Gnarls Barkley or Gotye played on repeat until I want to kill every member of said band.

When I arrived at the building, no one else was there and I thought, “Yes! I am first. I will meet the landlord, charm the pants off him (and maybe add him to my harem if I like what I see) and I will get this bitch!” That is until an attractive young couple showed up. I resisted the urge to mean mug them. I’m generally a nice person, but when presented with a competition, my baser instincts kick in.

“Is this the open house?” the girl asked me. I’m thinking, “Bitch, do you really think I want to help you out?! This ain’t friendly neighbor time. I’m about to cut you for this place I haven’t even seen yet!”  Instead I said crisply, “Yes.”

Then another young woman and her mother showed up. Motherf… Finally, the landlord arrived, all smiles, because what does he have to worry about? He’s in the power position.

Inside, the apartment is small, but it receives lots of light. The hardwood floors are newer, and although the kitchen is practically on top of the living room, the countertops are granite and it’s in a clean, quiet neighborhood. I decided to apply.

I chatted with the landlord for a bit as he grilled me about my qualifications, “Where are you working? What do you do? Why are you moving from Los Angeles? Is your cat neutered?” During our conversation, another competitor showed up. This time a young woman with whimsy that I immediately found a turn off because I could tell she was there to kiss ass.

And kiss ass she did: “Oh, hello Jonathan. I’m Kelly. We spoke on the phone. I love this, ohmigod. I’m going to apply. I have a dog. Do you want to meet him? He’s outside. He’s so cute. You’ll love him! He does tricks!” Girl, stop. I see right through you and your dog is not that cute. Not cuter than my cat! I turned in my application and left.

I’d seen one place and was already exhausted and feeling dejected by the process. But, I’d made a goal to see at least six apartments that weekend and had at least four other open houses to attend. Well, that plan didn’t work out so well.

My POS phone died. Without Google Maps, I didn’t know where the hell I was going. So, I had to make a trip to my hotel to charge it meaning I had to miss an open house. But, it’s okay; I’m pretty sure it was smack in the middle of Homicideville. The price was way too good and the listing used “charming” to describe the unit one too many times. I told myself to buck up. People do find homes here and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be one of them. I later drowned my worries in a few pints.

That weekend I saw apartments in the Marina, The Mission and Noe Valley
and I applied for all three. I didn’t even bother to step inside one in the Civic Center, the street just looked like one of death’s hangouts.

The last one in The Mission was perfect, but the agent said the owner would prefer no pets. I told him, “Ah yes, but my cats are really sweet and very well-trained.” He looked skeptical. I blame irresponsible pet owners for the bad reputation cats and dogs get. Some of us do have well-behaved animals that don’t rip places to shreds.

I don’t have high hopes for that one, as beautiful as it was.

Finding an apartment in San Francisco is almost as difficult as finding a job! | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black from "The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt"
Look how cute we are! We make great tenants!

It’s Monday and I haven’t heard a peep from the owners of the apartments I liked. I even pestered followed up with one via email to see if he’d made a decision yet. No reply. I have a lot of packing to do and I hope I don’t have to fly up again this weekend to apartment hunt.

I don’t want to live in the East Bay. I am moving to San Francisco to have a short commute and experience the joys of walking instead of watching my ass spread as I spend hours driving in my car – among other reasons for the move. I definitely do not want to live in the South Bay. I’ve been there, done that and hated it. If I don’t find something before d-day, the kitties and I will either be on the street, secretly living under my desk at the new job or living in $4000/month temporary housing. Joy! Say a little prayer for me.

Update: Read The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt Continued