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Why Her, Why Now?

A friend of mine passed away last Tuesday. She was only 37.

I’m looking at those words and I still have difficulty absorbing them.

Few thoughts are as unnerving as knowing that someone you care about is no longer on this earth in their physical form. That all that’s left of them is your memories, which fade over time, and photos as digital proof of their once existence.

Her death didn’t come as a complete surprise. A cancer diagnosis six years ago was only the first of three. Three times my poor friend had to endure intensely draining – in all senses of the word – cycles of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I saw her when she lost her hair and covered her head with baseball caps, generally opting out of wigs. As her hair spikily returned, she joked that she looked like a boy, which didn’t bother her. She dealt with her cancer with her unique, sardonic sense of humor.

We met at work in Los Angeles eight years ago. She was one of three people who interviewed me for the job where I’d spend the next five years. I remember how comfortable I felt with her during the interview. There was an openness and warmth about her even though she presented herself somewhat stoically.

Life is notoriously unfair. Bad things happen to good people while people who cause harm to others remain earthly.  Cancer took another soul way too early.  | Read more from "Why Her, Why Now" on The Girl Next Door is Black
At our company’s holiday party in 2010. (E is on the right)

For three years, we sat just a few feet away from each other, the backs of our chairs facing the other’s desk. Those chairs got a lot of swivel action as we talked to each other frequently. Our roles were somewhat interdependent, so we worked closely together. It was a partnership which I greatly appreciated. She was incredibly intelligent and hardworking. She didn’t like disappointing people so she sometimes took on more work than she should have. We had many conversations where I implored upon her, as did several others, to push back on some of the requests for the sake of her sanity. She’d nod and agree, but soon revert to her old ways, working too many late hours.

Life is so often unfair. Bad things happen to good people while people who cause harm to others remain earthly.  Cancer took another soul way too early.  | Read more from "Why Her, Why Now" on The Girl Next Door is Black
E- usually opted for no makeup, a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. It was fun seeing her all dolled up for our friend and fellow co-worker’s wedding in 2011. She looked gorgeous. (She’s the one in blue next to the bride.)

Over time, we became friends and shared a mutual love of travel, dislike of people with no common sense, as well as the mundane in life. She was a person you could trust with a secret and one whose loyalty you never needed to question.

After her second battle with cancer, she decided not to return to work. The type of cancer she had has a 5-year survival rate of 30%. She decided to learn to relax and enjoy life: traveling, spending time with concerned and loving relatives in Korea, eating all the foods that were off-limits during her treatments. She’d wax poetic about red meat, sushi and good whiskey.

Life is so often unfair. Bad things happen to good people while people who cause harm to others remain earthly.  Cancer took another soul way too early.  | Read more from "Why Her, Why Now" on The Girl Next Door is Black
I was so happy E (R) made it to my farewell party back when I lived in Los Angeles in 2012. She hadn’t been feeling well and wasn’t sure she’d be up for it.

She came up to San Francisco for a visit earlier this year just before she was set to begin her third round of treatment. After the Bay Area, she planned to head north to visit friends in Oregon. I had the nagging feeling she was saying her goodbyes.

She was never a spiritual or religious person. She was also not a touchy-feely person. But, on this last trip, she seemed different, less cynical and more serene. I wish I’d recorded her speaking so I could replay that conversation and fill in the gaps in my recall. We talked about life matter-of-factly, not in soothing platitudes. She encouraged and greatly supported my efforts to change careers. I was surprised to learn she was a faithful reader of my blog. It really touched me because her opinion mattered to me.

We both agreed life is too short to waste time on things we don’t care about. It didn’t seem like she was afraid of death, she seemed to have come to terms with her potential fate. At the time, I didn’t want to spend too much energy considering her mortality.

Life is strange. It’s so often unfair. I have asked myself the question many before me have: “Why her? Why now?”

I would never truly wish death on someone, but I have to wonder why a cold-blooded, racist, white supremacist 19-year old man, who murdered nine innocent black people IN A CHURCH and who is adding no value to society, gets to stick around, but my friend who had a kind heart and meant a tremendous deal to so many people, has to go. It makes me angry.

A few friends and I are planning to gather for an informal memorial in her honor. Fittingly, it will be in Koreatown in Los Angeles, site of many good times and fond memories in our group. I think, perhaps more than most people, our friend E- would want us to focus on living the hell out of our lives. We never know when we’ll get called out of the game.

I plan to honor her by continuing to strive to lead the best, most truthful and significant life I can. I’m not always sold on the benefits of walking this earth, but I’m here and I gotta keep living.

My friend, I will miss you. I hope you are at peace wherever you are.

Life is notoriously unfair. Bad things happen to good people while people who cause harm to others remain earthly. Cancer took another soul way too early. | Read more from "Why Her, Why Now" on The Girl Next Door is Black
At Korean BBQ in Los Angeles on one of my return visits in 2014. It was St. Patrick’s day, hence all the green. (She’s seated to my right)

Roaring ’20s-Style Bachelorette Weekend in Palm Springs

The first time I met my friend V’s fiancé KJ, he joined us and another friend for hiking yoga.

I knew KJ was smitten with V when I sensed how important it seemed to him that her friends like him. I took to him immediately: he’s genuine, kind, quirky funny and treats her so well. He fit in with us like an old friend.

V and KJ graduated from the same university and are even in photos together, but didn’t really know each other in college. They re-entered each others’ lives five years later when they met at a run club in Los Angeles. Few who know them were surprised when, four years after their reconnection, V and KJ announced their engagement.

To celebrate her upcoming nuptials, I joined V and nine of her college friends (she and I met at work) who drove or flew in from Los Angeles, Hawaii and Virginia for a three and a half day “roaring ’20s”-themed bachelorette party in Palm Springs.

The bridal party booked a four-bedroom mid-century home, including a heated pool and hot tub, just a few minutes from downtown Palm Springs.

Though my flight from San Francisco was only a little over an hour to Palm Springs, turbulence plagued the last 15 minutes. As I gripped both arm rests, wondering if this might be where it all ends, I scolded myself for not having made friends with the guy next to me. He might be the last person I see. I should at least know his name. I silently protested: “I’m not ready to go yet. It’s not time!” I heard a small child cry: “Mooom, I don’t like this!” Kid, we are on the same page.

Thankfully we landed without incident, other than my heart palpitations and someone’s potentially traumatized child.

The bride also flew down from San Francisco, but on a later flight. Unfortunately, after two rocky attempts to land in Palm Springs, her flight was diverted to Ontario Airport, about an hour northwest of Palm Springs. Understandably shaken, V and 12 others passengers exited the plane, opting to find their own way to their destination. Happily, she arrived that night after catching a ride with a friend – her former roommate – driving in from Los Angeles. Bachelorette party nightmare averted.

We welcomed her by hiding in the dark, pretending not to be home when she arrived.

The festivities officially kicked off the following morning with a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating aerial tram. In just over 10 minutes, the massive pod ascended more than 8500 feet above the canyon.

From poolside underneath palm trees in the bright California sun, to fine dining at an award-winning restaurant, to a snowy nature to walk: Inside a fun-filled "roaring 20s" themed bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs.
The aerial tram
source

We exited the tram to find the temperature dramatically lower at  25 °F, low visibility and the ground covered in fresh snow.

Both V and I showed up inappropriately dressed for the climate – who expects winter in the California desert in May? – so we purchased snazzy new lounge pants from the gift shop to cover our legs.

From poolside underneath palm trees in the bright California sun, to fine dining at an award-winning restaurant, to a snowy nature to walk: Inside a fun-filled "roaring 20s" themed bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs, read more in "Bachelorette Weekend in Palm Springs " on The Girl Next Door is Black
Photo Courtesy of A

We speed-walked, lunged and jumped our way through a 1.5 mile nature walk, trying to generate heat with each movement. High in Chino Canyon we found giant pine cones fallen from towering, fragrant pine trees, lush fir trees, the homes of crayon-colored birds and chittering creatures, as our footsteps left imprints on drying powder.

After an outdoor barbecue lunch (burgers, pasta salad, grilled corn, summer salad and fresh fruit), it was pool time for some, while others napped to power up for our evening of dinner and dancing.

That evening, each of us dressed to the gills in our best approximation of 20’s style garb for a night on the town sure to be the bee’s knees.

Following an appetizing meal at The Tropicale, our group headed next door to the Miami-themed Copa Lounge, where we danced our way to sore feet.

From poolside underneath palm trees in the bright California sun, to fine dining at an award-winning restaurant, to a snowy nature to walk: Inside a fun-filled "roaring 20s" themed bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs - read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
This is only ONE of the photos a very drunk woman took for us outside of The Tropicale. As she slurred her words and showered us with compliments and overtures of of friendship, she directed our poses: “look happy,” “Ok, now be crazy silly, fun, fun!!, until we finally cut her off.

We started the next day strong with an in-home modified Barre class led by one of the bridesmaids J, who teaches at a studio in Texas. Though we’re a pretty fit group and everyone has their preferred workout of choice (cross-fit, hot yoga, Pilates, SoulCycle, etc.) the class challenged us. We giggled through our pain. J gives good Barre.

From poolside underneath palm trees in the bright California sun, to fine dining at an award-winning restaurant, to a snowy nature to walk: Inside a fun-filled "roaring 20s" themed bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs - read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
“Embrace the shakes & quakes!” J encouraged us as our muscles burned.

Post Barre class and breakfast, the tenth member of the group, a 7-months pregnant TO, joined us just in time for a photo session by the pool.

Later that evening we regrouped for a three-course dinner at The Workshop Kitchen + Bar, recent winner of the James Beard award for best restaurant design.

A bachelorette party in your 30s is a different animal than that of a twenty-something. Instead of a second night out, we opted to play games (Dirty Minds, Catchphrase) and each made a commemorative scrapbook of our weekend using Instax pics we’d taken that weekend.

From poolside underneath palm trees in the bright California sun, to fine dining at an award-winning restaurant, to a snowy nature to walk: Inside a fun-filled "roaring 20s" themed bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs - read more on The Girl Next Door is Black

The night culminated with s’mores around the outdoor fire pit.

From poolside underneath palm trees in the bright California sun, to fine dining at an award-winning restaurant, to a snowy nature to walk: Inside a fun-filled "roaring 20s" themed bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs - read more on The Girl Next Door is Black

On our last morning together, we enjoyed a breakfast of waffles at the house and made friendship bracelets. It felt like being back at summer camp. The perfect bookend to a fun-packed extended weekend in Palm Springs.

Of course, we couldn’t leave the house without taking one last photo.

From poolside underneath palm trees in the bright California sun, to fine dining at an award-winning restaurant, to a snowy nature to walk: Inside a fun-filled "roaring 20s" themed bachelorette weekend in Palm Springs - read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Congratulations V and KJ!

 

Why Are You So Quiet?

My best friend in high school ended our friendship in a letter. She was a year older and in her first year of college in a different city. In the letter she listed a number of issues she had with me. Of all the words she wrote me in that two-paged front-and-back handwritten missive, I vividly remember reading: “And you’re too quiet sometimes! It’s like: talk!” The words struck me with as much force as if she’d come back to town just to punch me in my stomach.

Best Friend Friendship Breakup Letter | The Girl Next Door is Black

She isn’t the last person to comment on my quietude, though thankfully others have been less hurtful about it.

Even today, nearly 20 years later, I find that sometimes when I’m with someone one on one I’m overly concerned about whether I’m talking enough to keep them entertained.

I’ve been a quieter type for as long as I can remember. As a child, some chalked it up to shyness. I assumed I must be shy since people said I was. It wasn’t until I discovered a love of performing in junior high that I realized I was far from shy.

“Oh you must be an introvert.”

Why do I have to be something? Why can’t I just be me?

You’ve probably taken one of those “are you introvert or extrovert?” quizzes. I generally fall in the center – an ambivert: not quite introverted, not quite extroverted.

Like extroverts, I often feel charged after hanging out with people whose company I enjoy. It’s being in environments I find tedious and dull that drains my energy. On the other hand, much like introverts, I tend to do my thinking internally rather than aloud to others. I form my thoughts and ideas before expressing them.

But who needs another label?

You know what sometimes happens when I tell people what I’m thinking?

Steve Harvey Confused on Family Feud | The Girl Next Door is Black
source

One of my sisters recently told me: “Keisha, you ask these kinds of questions that my professors would ask in class that had my head hurting. They’re good questions, but it’s too early for this intellectual talk.”

I hate small talk. I love a meaty conversation and would prefer jumping into a discussion to having to answer “What do you do? How do you like it?” Gag.

That isn’t to say my brain’s always in the land of deep thoughts. Sometimes I think about things like how to incorporate “Baking soda! I got baking soda!” into regular conversation because that line cracks me up every time I hear it.

I can’t imagine what kind of writer I’d be if I didn’t spend so much time with my thoughts. I view life as a series of stories in one giant book. I weave stories in my head, the output of which you sometimes read in my blog, others I work into conversation with cinematic flair.

I spend a lot of time listening and perhaps as a byproduct, I attract talkers because they need an audience. It certainly takes the pressure off me to be a chatterbox. It’s important though to find a talker who knows when it’s their turn to listen. I find that when I do speak, people are more inclined to listen because they assume I have something to say.

Quiet people have the LOUDEST minds from "Why Are You So Quiet" on The Girl Next Door is Black
Source

There’s a less obvious way a quieter nature sometimes works in my favor. For instance, when someone incorrectly assumes that quiet equals meek and is surprised to find that I will snap back. Have you heard the phrase, “It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for?” Yeah.

Occasionally someone  comments on my silence – usually a person I don’t know very well – trying to cajole me into conversation. It generally has the opposite effect intended; I don’t respond well to demands to speak on command.

I’ve been described as aloof. It’s not intentional, but some take it personally as though I’m quiet because I’m silently appraising them. It’s unfortunate, because unless someone is saying douchtastic things that’s not likely the case.

I can’t explain why I’m quieter than others anymore than my cat can explain why he always chooses to vomit on my rug instead of ANY other spot on the hardwood floor. I shouldn’t have to either. We people come in all kinds. There are those who can’t seem to stop talking, those who won’t waste words and others in between and that’s okay. As the saying I just made up goes: “Accept me as I am, or kick rocks.”

How about you? Do you get told you’re too quiet or too talkative?

Girls’ Weekend Getaway in Beautiful Sedona, Arizona

Back in June, I headed to Sedona, Arizona with two of my friends from Los Angeles for a girls’ weekend. The first time our trio traveled together, we spent a whirlwind 10 days in Brazil in 2010. We were overdue for a reunion trip. On the agenda: sun, no worries and making memories. Arizona in June? You crazy? The weather actually wasn’t too bad – hot, but not unbearably so. I feel sun-starved in San Francisco sometimes, so I soak up opportunities in the sun like a cat lazing in a bay window.

With it's backdrop of stunning red rocks, mysterious energy vortexes and gobs of outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking, Sedona, Arizona is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. | The Girl Next Door is Black
Iguazu Falls in Brazil, 2010

K___ and L___ drove from Los Angeles to Phoenix, picked me up at the airport and we drove to Scottsdale to stay for the night before heading to Sedona the next morning. We planned to drop by Amy’s Baking Company, made infamous thanks to an episode of Kitchen Nightmares – the only one I’ve ever seen – due to their crazified antics.

Unfortunately, when we dropped by the next morning, we found out they don’t open until noon. We peered inside, me wary of being too close to the insanity. I feared Amy or Samy might pop up out of nowhere and berate us for daring to approach their precious restaurant. We snapped a pic, L____ checked us in on Facebook for posterity, and off we went toward Sedona.

With it's backdrop of stunning red rocks, mysterious energy vortexes and gobs of outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking, Sedona, Arizona is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. | The Girl Next Door is Black
They put the “cus(s)” in customer service.

The drive to Sedona alone is worth the trip. Massive red rocks in all directions, imposing yet awe-inspiring, a postcard come to life and magnified to penetrate all the senses. Even the air felt different. Cleaner. Calmer. We stayed at The Orchard Inn, nestled in the center of town, with a pool facing a panoramic view of red rocks.

With it's backdrop of stunning red rocks, mysterious energy vortexes and gobs of outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking, Sedona, Arizona is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. | The Girl Next Door is Black
The pink jeep in front of us is from Pink Jeep Tours”. They’re hard to miss around town.

A LITTLE EXPLORATION AND SOME UGLY AMERICANS

Once we settled in, we walked the handful of yards to the main drag to explore the town. L___ voiced her disappointment at the amount of tourism-focused storefronts. Up and down the drag businesses beckoned to visitors, with promises of authenticity and pleasure: jeep tours, turquoise jewelry, Native American-inspired goods and psychic healing, among others. This isn’t where the locals hang out.

With it's backdrop of stunning red rocks, mysterious energy vortexes and gobs of outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking, Sedona, Arizona is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. | The Girl Next Door is Black
Montezuma Castle, a 2o-room “high rise” carved into the rock.

As it’s located in the Southwestern US, Arizona has a rich Native American history. We “hiked” a short half-mile path to see the ruins of the Sinagua people, Montezuma Castle. The stature of the surrounding mountains gave the illusion of a sunken path, the tall trees whose branches canopied above, and the air, quiet (at first) except for the sounds of our breath and the low hum of ordinary animal activity,  created the sense of seclusion and peace. Mother Nature encircled us in a bear hug.

Trailing behind us was a group I referred to as “The Ugly Americans.” If you were to look at a checklist of “Ugly American” behaviors, they’d score at least 90%. Imagine being in the still of a quiet valley, surrounded by rocks older than we can truly conceive, near the protected ruins of an ancient people and you hear the loud flapping of flip flops, the smacking of lips, the swishing of thighs rubbing against khaki and cries of  “Hey, look at THAT!” “Moooom, I’m bored!” They may or may not have been slurping on Slurpees. I may have imagined that into the scene during my stereotyping. I’m sure they were lovely people, but they sure knew how to spoil a moment.

DO YOU FEEL ANYTHING?

Sedona is apparently teeming with energy vortexes. We visited the disappointingly named “Airport Vortex.” I expected to encounter whirls of dusts spiraling in the air, maybe with a Tasmanian Devil or two babbling incoherently as it’s tossed about. Some people claim to experience a greater sense of uplifting calm, intense relaxation, spiritual enlightenment, seeing Jesus and Buddha apparate, holding hands and bestow many blessings on you or some such other (OK, I made that last bit up). Sadly, none of that happened. My friends and I kept asking each other, “Do you feel anything?” “Do you feel different?” “No!” “Nothing.” “Um…noooo.” Lack of visits from Jesus/Buddha notwithstanding, the Vortex visit proved it’s worth in the spectacular views alone.

ALL THE PRETTY HORSES AND A LITTLE SNORTING

The next day after enjoying a bare-bones, but importantly, free, continental breakfast at our hotel, we made our way to Cottonwood, Arizona for horseback riding with Cowboy Way Adventures. Can horseback riding be a spiritual experience? Because I think I shared a moment with my horse, Vidalia – though our initial meeting didn’t go as smoothly as I would have expected.

With it's backdrop of stunning red rocks, mysterious energy vortexes and gobs of outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking, Sedona, Arizona is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. | The Girl Next Door is Black
I didn’t even have to use a stool to get up there!

The one and only other time I’d been on a horse was over 10 years ago when my body was more resilient and I had fewer fears. I mounted Vidalia with some trepidation. I startled each time she shifted her weight. “Why does she keep moving like that? C’mon girl stay still for me!”

L___ snickered and teased, “Are you scared of the horse?”

“No! I’m not scared,” I protested. “The older I get, the closer I am to death and therefore the more aware I become of my mortality! Besides, uh, you have heard of Christopher Reeve, right?” She shook her head at me with amusement.

Once my jitters subsided, I got into the groove of things. Chris, a bonafide cowboy if ever I saw one, and a shoo-in to win a Sam Elliott lookalike contest, along with Jen, his younger partner, who looked as though she could have been on Hey Dude,  led us on a 2-hour trail which the horses knew well. Much like any group of friends and family, the horses had their favorites of their stable. Chris warned me that my horse would likely try to stay behind the horse being ridden by a little boy who was there with his parents.

Vidalia was a sweet horse. I gradually relaxed as I realized we were in this ride together. She trusted me to be a kind human who’d pet her, treat her gently and let her tail behind her BFF. I trusted her not to up and jump and go horse-crazy and trample me. Once I accepted our partnership in living, I really enjoyed the rest of the tranquil trail. I took in my surroundings: the arid, still, desert heat; listened for rattlesnakes I never saw; marveled at the massive expanse of cactus and we even spotted a jackrabbit. Everything looked straight out of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

With it's backdrop of stunning red rocks, mysterious energy vortexes and gobs of outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking, Sedona, Arizona is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. | The Girl Next Door is Black
With the sweet Vidalia

After our horseback ride, we’d scheduled a massage and I am so glad we did, because sitting on a horse for two hours hurts your butt more than doing 1000 squats followed by 1000 lunges and 3000 burpees. It can’t have looked good to watch us walk.

Generally, I don’t go for massages. I’ll do it to play along when my friends want to “go get massages, mani/pedis” and all that, but I am not really into having random strangers rub all over my mostly naked body. The masseuse will be like, “Wow, you’re really tense! Why don’t you try to relax a little.” Um, your hand is dangerously close to my boob, an appendage I don’t just go around showing people willy nilly, and you want me to chill? Yeah, OK.

Maybe it was the heat, the ride through the dusty desert, the release of all my exhaustion from stress at work, but it was the most relaxing massage I have ever had. I fell asleep. I woke myself up with a snort! I’d heard of such things happening to other people, but it was a first for me.

HERE PIGGY PIGGY

Our last morning in Sedona, we lounged around the pool for a bit, trading stories and enjoying the last bit of calm before heading back to our lives.

With it's backdrop of stunning red rocks, mysterious energy vortexes and gobs of outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking, Sedona, Arizona is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. | The Girl Next Door is Black
The obligatory poolside foot shot

As San Francisco has its heart sculptures placed across the city, Sedona has its javelina sculptures dotted across town. It became somewhat of a game (for me, at least) to see if we’d stumble upon more javelinas. Having only found a handful of the ones in existence the previous days, my friends indulged me and we found a park with retired sculptures!

With it's backdrop of stunning red rocks, mysterious energy vortexes and gobs of outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking, Sedona, Arizona is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. | The Girl Next Door is Black
The javelina that started me on my quest for others. Though it looks like a pig, it’s actually not a pig. Who would have thought?

 

With it's backdrop of stunning red rocks, mysterious energy vortexes and gobs of outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking, Sedona, Arizona is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. | The Girl Next Door is Black
Javelinas on parade

GOODBYE RED ROCKS, YOU’VE BEEN GRAND

We closed out the trip with souvenir shopping, a few more photo opps and a Southwestern lunch.

I couldn’t have asked for a better, more relaxing and memory-making trip with two of my favorite people.

About those vortexes and the enlightenment? The javelinas whose noses I rubbed for luck? A few days after I returned from Sedona, I got laid off from my job.  So, there’s that. At least I got a chance to relax before it happened!

Check out my friend L___’s take on our trip at Recipe for Fab!

*Credit for some photos goes to my friends L__ and K___. Thank you!

A few more photos…

 

I Admit It: I Love L.A.

Giant Blue Bear on 405 Freeway Los Angeles | The Girl Next Door is Black
Seen on the 405S while on my way to work one day. The traffic was so insane it took me 2 hours to go 4 miles, with 13 miles more to go. I was so tired of being in my car. But, I got a good laugh when I saw these bears on the truck bed in front of me.

I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Los Angeles by the time I left in 2012 after over 10 years of calling it home.

My biggest complaint about L.A. is the heinous, constant traffic. It’s terrible and it’s a regular topic of conversation in L.A. Few cities in the US compare.

I moved to San Francisco full of hope and relieved to live in a true walking city.  No more daily near-death incidents on the freeway! No more road rage! No more wondering why everyone in a BMW seems to drive like a tool.

My how things have changed.

Watts Tower Los Angeles, California | The Girl Next Door is Black
I was homesick for L.A. | Watts Towers in South Los Angeles

By the end of the my second month in San Francisco, I was pretty depressed. I had no friends, the job wasn’t what I thought it would be, my apartment building is old and seems to have no noise insulation whatsoever. I pay what’s essentially a mortgage to hear my upstairs neighbors’ every elephant-ine moves and sometimes entire conversations (sadly, nothing interesting).

In a very dense city of close to one million people, I felt lonelier than I have in a long while.

Around the same time, I had to head back to L.A. for my dear friend’s bridal shower.

It was exactly what I needed.

Three months in San Francisco allowed me to see Los Angeles with new eyes again.

When I picked up my rental car at LAX, the agent asked , “What kind of car would you like? Do you want a car that gets good mileage?”

I scoffed.

“No, I don’t care about that! Which is the fastest in this class?”

He pointed me toward a cute, gray VW Jetta with a V6 engine Sorry, Earth.

Roosevelt Hotel's Tropicana Bar pool Hollywood Los Angeles, California | The Girl Next Door is Black
The Roosevelt Hotel‘s Tropicana Bar pool. Look at those trees! | Hollywood

As I sped toward my old neighborhood, in the warm sunshine, with the windows open, letting the breeze circulate, singing at the top of my lungs to a song on Power 106, shaking my booty in the seat, I felt so at peace. On the freeway. On the awful 405 freeway that I’ve written scathing yelp reviews about and I felt at peace.

It was comforting. I missed the benefits of solo time spent in my car. I can’t sing at the top of my lungs in my current apartment – everyone would hear. I still have my car, but I drive so rarely these days. I didn’t realize how important that personal time was.

The palm trees were as gorgeous and magnificent as I remember thinking they were when I’d moved there over a decade ago.

I thought: the sun really does love this place! How can it be so impossibly beautiful, warm and bright?

A friend who’d lived up in Berkeley for undergrad warned me when I told him I was considering San Francisco, “You’re going to miss the weather.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone says, ‘the weather is so amazing.'”

I liked it, some days even deeply appreciated it, but, I realize now just how much I took it for granted. I really think the sun sets up camp there and just visits other cities from time to time.

The trip went by in a blur. I met up with former co-workers and other close friends, including my older friend J___ who is almost like a surrogate mom to me. We, the bridesmaids, pulled off an excellent bridal shower and made the bride happy.

I’m so glad I went back.

I released the pent-up emotion that had built since I moved to San Francisco. Being back in L.A. made me feel normal. My friends’  warm welcomes reminded me that I I’m not alone. I am loved. That I am someone people want to befriend.

I understand Los Angeles. I once functioned as part of the city. A sense of inclusion in your city is more important than I ever realized.

"Home Is Little Tokyo" mural at 1st and Central in Los Angeles. http://www.publicartinla.com/Downtown/Little_Tokyo/home_little_tokyo.html cr. The City Project, flickr.com
“Home Is Little Tokyo” mural at 1st and Central in Los Angeles. This mural reflects the rich history of Little Tokyo. When Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps, a number of African-Americans repopulated the area, including Charlie Parker. cr: The City Project, flickr.com
Golden State Burger Los Angeles Fairfax | The Girl Next Door is Black
A group of my friends and I had a “burger club.” We tried to taste as many of the gourmet burgers in L.A.’s ever-growing burger scene. | Golden State Burger, Los Angeles

When I left L.A. that weekend, I said and felt something that I so rarely did in the time that I lived there: “I love Los Angeles!”

I love that in a city largely ruled by the entertainment industry, we clap as the credits roll at a movie’s end.

I love that there is so much amazing food of all types of cuisines.

I missed the unique/break-the-rules/bold/relaxed/trend-setting fashionI forgot how seeing the way others dressed inspired me to push beyond my fashion boundaries.

Was it my imagination or did some of the guys get cuter since I left?

I miss the train-wreck-style “entertainment” of high-speed car chases.

I miss the morning show on KROQ and waking up to the cheery crew at KTLA Morning News.

I liked that I didn’t see hipsters every.where.I.looked. Hipsters have their own neighborhoods in L.A.

Hearing people argue about which eatery in the city has the best Mexican food never stops being amusing.

One thing that hasn’t changed: I still hate LAX.

I knew I didn’t want to move back though. At least not until I give San Francisco at least a year. Even then, I left Los Angeles for a reason and I didn’t make the decision lightly. Moving back might feel comforting at first, but eventually the same elements that made me want to leave will probably arise again. It hasn’t been the easiest move, but I know that the experience is good for me.

I really needed that trip. I needed a reset. I needed closure with Los Angeles.

When I returned to San Francisco, I felt reinvigorated.

I owe Los Angeles an apology. I didn’t appreciate it enough when I lived there. I spent most of my 20s in L.A. and I will forever be linked to the city via my memories.

I now find myself protective of Los Angeles. I will defend it.

It’s not the kind of city you can live in for a year, or even three years, and think you get it. You cannot possibly get it. The city is huge!

If you’ve only been to Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice, you probably don’t know Los Angeles. What about Echo Park, Monterrey Park, Baldwin Hills, Burbank, Studio City, Leimert Park, Pasadena or Highland Park?

There’s an ad that plays here in SF, sponsored by Discover Los Angeles. I used to think it was beckoning me to return. A female voiceover says – and I’m paraphrasing:

Just when you think you’ve seen all I have to offer, there’s more.

Thank you, Los Angeles. I owe you a lot. Now, it’s San Francisco’s turn.

Los Angeles Snowglobe | The Girl Next Door is Black
Kisses & Hugs L.A.

A Day in the East Bay

Damn my need to experience things for myself.

When I announced I was leaving Los Angeles and heading up to the Bay Area, a few people encouraged me to consider living in the East Bay.

[For those unfamiliar with the area, here’s a simple analogy. San Francisco is like Manhattan. It’s the flagship city of the area. Oakland is like Brooklyn, a sister city across the water, that is sometimes very underrated, a city ‘snooty’ residents of the flagship city wouldn’t consider even visiting, and one that has its diehard fans who will passionately defend its superiority.  It’s affordability. It’s lack of pretentiousness. Both cities are experiencing a growing gentrification that dismay it’s original residents and is often attributed to the uptick in the overflow people who can’t afford to live in Manhattan or San Francisco. Then there are the other ‘boroughs’ like Berkeley and other surrounding small towns. 

I should note that I am from Brooklyn.]

When I got a headache looking for apartments in the City, my very sweet friend, Kat, offered, “My friend has a great apartment in the East Bay! His rent is pretty good. I can ask him if there are vacancies in his building?”

“Thanks, but I don’t want to live in the East Bay. I don’t want to live to far from work. I want a short commute.” 

Another friend, Jackie, excitedly suggested, “You should move to East Bay. I love it here!”

“I’m sure it’s great, but I want to live in San Francisco at least for a year.”  I’m six months in. Some days I wonder if I should have just moved back to New York.

I’d been to some parts of the East Bay before like Emeryville, Pleasanton and Walnut Creek, but I’d been wanting to explore more. So, when Jackie suggested we go for a hike one weekend and asked, “East Bay or the City?” I answered vehemently, “East Bay, I get enough of the City everyday!”

I met Jackie at a party four years ago in Los Angeles. She’s big into the outdoors and co-hosted an awesome hiking group through which I met several good friends.

Last Saturday I hopped on BART and met her in downtown Berkeley. Jackie gave me a micro-tour of the East Bay that I wish I could have had in San Francisco. Not a hokey, touristic double-decker bus ride, but the kind of tour only an enthusiastic resident can do justice. It was a great weekend for it with record-breaking high temperatures for this time of year (I believe somewhere in the 80s), which was perfect for me since I am sick of feeling cold and like I have to wear a parka all the time.

We began in Berkeley.

We saw the Berkeley Rose Garden
We saw the Berkeley Rose Garden
She took me to a hidden waterfall (it's on private property!).
She took me to a hidden waterfall (it’s on private property!).

We hiked for about two hours in Tilden Park. On the hike, Jackie began her sales pitch of the East Bay. “So what do you look for in a city?” she asked.

“I don’t know, lots of things to do, culture, diversity, people with progressive views, friendly people, weather that’s not too hot or cold, great food options…”

She smiled at me with satisfaction and stated, “Hmm, that sounds like Berkeley.” It certainly was an appealing city.

After the hike, we had lunch at Cheese Board Pizza. It's a pizza collective! It's located in the ironically named "Gourmet Ghetto." They make one type of pizza per day.
After the hike, we had lunch at Cheese Board Pizza. It’s a pizza collective! It’s located in the ironically named “Gourmet Ghetto.” They make one type of pizza per day.
We visited the original Peet's Coffee location.
We visited the original Peet’s Coffee location.
The renowned Chez Panisse is temporarily closed due to fire damage. It's been named one of the top 50 US restaurants for many years. Reservations are always in high demand.
The renowned Chez Panisse is temporarily closed due to fire damage. It’s been named one of the top 50 US restaurants for many years. Reservations are always in high demand.

While in Berkeley, I played an habitual game of “I see black people.” As I take in my surroundings, I scan for others that look like me. It’s a way of quickly assessing just how much I may stand out and the probability of me needing to put on my self-protective armor. I don’t usually think about it much. Like I said, it’s habitual. But, after six months in San Francisco, I do it a lot. It’s not so I can segregate myself from others. I know other people of colors do it too. There is comfort in numbers. Jackie got in on the fun too, pointing out a cute black girl on our hike. I, of course, had seen her long before she neared us. Black-dar? I like when my non-black friends join me in the game. It indicates to me that they understand the crux of the issue or are at least sympathetic. If you’ve never had the experience of being the only obvious minority in a place, it may be hard to understand just how alienating it can feel. Berkeley’s makeup reminded me a lot of San Francisco’s, which is to say, I wasn’t impressed. However, when we crossed over into Oakland, there was a noticeable change in demographics. “I see MANY black people! And a black beauty supply! Hello Yaki!” Jackie grinned at me. Jackie is half-Latina, half-Armenian. Oakland has more than once been named “one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the US.”

We grabbed drinks at Beer Revolution. Their website boasts: "Only Quality, Non-Mainstream, Beer Is Supported & Served!"
We grabbed drinks at Beer Revolution. Their website boasts: “Only Quality, Non-Mainstream Beer Is Supported & Served!”

After Beer Revolution, we moved on to Heinhold’s where a quartet of locals joined us. (Friendly people? Check!) They had all once lived in San Francisco and didn’t like it. They said it’s full of rich hipsters. Or lame hipsters? Rich, lame hipsters? Either way, hipsters and unpleasant. They were ebullient with their love for Oakland and then realized they might be inadvertently encouraging yet another San Franciscan to invade their city and drive up the rent prices. I told them I wasn’t all that in love with the City and that it wasn’t the same city I first visited over a decade ago. They agreed.

I cannot express how comforting it felt to meet people who weren’t falling all over themselves to praise San Francisco. I felt validated.  I’m getting tired of defending my less-than-excited & surprising even to me, reaction to San Francisco.

Between the acrid reaction I had to my year in San Jose over a decade ago, and my almost daily tension with San Francisco, I was beginning to think I am allergic to the Bay Area. But, my jaunt to the East Bay gave me renewed hope. I am not quite ready to declare an impending move east, though I did feel immediately more comfortable in Oakland. There is still part of me that hopes to find this magical neighborhood in San Francisco that makes me love it and unable to entertain the thought of leaving.

I moved out of Los Angeles, in part, because I felt like my life was stagnating. In San Francisco, I am growing, learning, becoming a stronger person, yadayadayadaimtiredoflifelessons. My life is definitely not stagnant, so the city is giving me what I asked for. As I told Jackie, “I am glad I moved to SF first. Because, if I hadn’t, I know I’d always be wondering what it would have been like.” But, San Francisco better be careful not to push this “growing pains” stuff too far, cause the East Bay is waiting in the wings to swoop in and grab me. And for now, the rent is cheaper over there.

I leave you with a ditty I came up with on a day when I was particularly NOT in love with San Francisco. Forgive the language, I came up with it while in physical discomfort.

Sang to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”

It’s always fucking cold,

It’s always fucking cold,

What the hell is wrong with this place?

It’s always fucking cold!

 

You’ve Got a Friend…in San Francisco?

I officially have my first San Francisco friend! I’m a couple of weeks shy of my 6-month marker of living in the City and I can now boast a new friend. This friend was hard-earned. I am not a hermit, I am not shy, I smile at strangers, I say nice things to people, I shower regularly and smell good. Should be a friend magnet, right? No.  Hhhhheeelll no.

I couldn’t even get hit on here. Usually if there’s one thing I can count on in life, it’s that a creepy guy with no sense of personal boundaries will hit on me. Not only did I feel friendless, but ugly. Maybe I don’t smell as good as I think I do.

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
The city is pretty cool, but what about the people?

As I often do when I have questions about life, I turned to Google. Google, why is it so hard to meet people and make friends in San Francisco? Google had all kinds of answer for me from the condescendingly unhelpful (“It’s so easy! Just get of your house and talk to people.” Shut. Up.) to a post titled, “Top 10 Reasons I Hate San Francisco. The reasons listed didn’t really resonate with me and I believe it was written with humorous intent. However, the comments section was a revelation. In a city where some residents seem to have a cult-like passion and exuberance for said city – akin to the insane levels of excitement you’d find in Oprah’s audience on a “My Favorite Things” show; nobody is giving you a car, calm down – I was surprised to find this seemingly small faction of San Francisco dissenters. One commenter stated:

I also loved the city when I first moved here (because I was still a tourist), but it got worse over time, not better. I have lived in San Francisco for two years now, and I hate it more than I ever did. Don’t get me wrong – I love the city and the bay area, but the people really suck here. I have never met so many cold, distant, unfriendly, rude, selfish, insular, stuck up people in one place! The east bay is a little better, but not much.

Cold. Distant. Unfriendly. Insular. I felt all those things.

Another commenter added:

I have never felt more strongly about something in my life. San Francisco is extremely clicky[sic]. It could take 2 years to get on the inside of a click because people are so distant and self preserving and guarded. Everyone has their forcefield up and it is designed to keep you out, along with everyone else they don’t know. My advice would be not to bother. Just cut your losses and leave now before you get bitter about the people here.

Hmm. Sounded like people at work. I could also feel the bitterness building. This anonymous poster was speaking directly to me.

For advice, I called an L.A. friend who moved to Seattle almost two years ago. At a party, if I’m cracking wise in a small group, she is

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
Not just the city that’s cold?

the party. If anyone could give me advice on making friends, she could. She told me about the “Seattle Freeze.” The Seattle Freeze is a newer term for the feelings of exclusion and insularity newbies feel from Seattleites. She theorized that Seattle residents encounter so many transplants, it tires them; they become desensitized and seek refuge in their cliques. Others blame: the Norwegians?

She admitted that after only a year and a half, having been adopted into a couple of cliques, she was guilty of perpetuating the ice-out. I don’t think we have an above-average number of Norwegians here, but it sounds like San Francisco to me. She reassured me that I was doing all the right things: saying yes to (most) invitations, trying to infiltrate cliques, taking initiative and extending invitations to people, being friendly when I’m out and joining activities. Just one thing though: it’s going to take time. I hate time. Take your time and shove it! Time is never on my side. When I’m lying prone on the floor, bawling and rolling around, desperately wishing for the heart-squeezing pain to end, because some guy broke my heart, the clock ticks like it’s mocking me. Hours seems to take years to pass. Snails laugh as they sail by. On the other hand, when I’m on vacation, thinking how much I love life and never want to leave, and why can’t I have Beyonce-money and just travel all the time, suddenly time is on speed, running as fast as it can, like it’s a damn race. Jerk.

Time. Ugh. But, it is what it is (don’t you hate when people say that?).

During this time, there are four avenues I’ve taken toward making friends – with varying levels of success.

Work

Some will warn you against making friendly with co-workers. I say bullshit. Several of my closest friends are former co-workers. I wouldn’t give them back. Just be smart about whom you associate with and trust. The heifer down the hall that gives you looks that say she hopes you fall on your face in a pool of acid-rain wastewater and is constantly throwing others under the bus, is not a good candidate for friendship.

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
How I sometimes feel in San Francisco. Photo cr: kainr, flickr.com

The weekend after the torturous wine-tasting with the private social club, I was feeling particularly black and tired. At less than 6%, San Francisco’s black population is the smallest I’ve ever been among, having lived in seven other major US cities. The city has been hemorrhaging so many black folks in the past 40 years, a task force was created to determine the cause and nip it. It’s weeeiird. I’ve written before about how I feel people treat and approach (or don’t approach me) me differently here. Crystal Sykes wrote a thoughtful piece about hipster racism in San Francisco and how awkward it can be as the only black person among a group of friends (read the comments; the discussion is fascinating). As a black male friend and former Berkeley resident summed up:

“…I always would think it’s just in my head or I’m being hypersensitive, until I would leave the Bay Area. Despite being the only Black person I saw in my several trips to Santa Fé, NM, everyone there made me feel like I belonged – and it wasn’t at all forced. I merely concluded that they made everyone feel like they belonged there, and that was just the culture. But I was suspicious that I had a doppelgänger in Santa Fé who had been a longtime resident, and everyone thought I was him. Los Angeles, New York, even Houston – none of those places gave me that out-of-place feeling that shopping at Andronico’s on Shattuck in North Berkeley or waiting in line at Cheeseboard pizza gave me. Only on campus or on Telegraph Avenue was that feeling relatively absent. It’s such a subtle thing, and virtually impossible to explain to someone who isn’t experiencing it, but cumulatively it weighs on you.”

Amen.

In December, I wrote about going dancing with one of my co-workers, whom I’ll refer to as Mercy since I am listening to the song as I write this. She is also the first co-worker who mercifully extended a hand of friendship to me when I was aching for human interaction two months in. After the dancing night, we’ve had lunch at work a few times and were friendly. But, recently our budding friendship hit a major milestone: self-disclosure.

I ran into her in the office the weekend after the wine tasting fail. Mercy is also black (one of the 3% in the company) . When she asked me about my weekend I told her about the wine tasting weirdness. Then, I blurted out, “I have to ask you something…how do you deal with being one of so few black professionals in San Francisco? I just don’t know if I can take this or want to take this.” We chatted about it for a little while, but we had to get back to work.

The following weekend, I received a surprise text from her saying, “We need to finish our conversation about being black in SF.” A weekend text out of the blue? This is MAJOR. It was particularly poignant given I’d just finished eating lunch at a restaurant, alone. She asked if I wanted to grab tea and continue our chat. We met in Japantown at the cutest tea shop/café and I just exhaled a lot of the stress I’d been feeling over the past 4-5 months. She totally got it. She said that after over 7 years of living here, she’s gotten used to it, for better or worse. She relies on her friends for support. Her friends treat her like Mercy, not black Mercy.

It wasn’t all about me though. I am not that person. She disclosed some stuff of her own, which I will not be sharing for the sake of her privacy. Tea led to us seeing a movie (Life of Pi) and tentative plans for all the cool things we can do in the future. It was like a cool, awesome date. We’ve hung out since then too (and did some more self-disclosing). I like her. She’s intelligent, thoughtful, fun and has an appealing mix of openness and strength that I don’t encounter often enough. She’s affable and she’s my new friend. And look what I came in to work to find from her one Monday morning!

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
How sweet is this?

The group of girls I went to happy hour with a couple of months ago, have continued extending happy hour invites. A few months ago people were rudely discussing their excitement, in my presence, about the happy hour I wasn’t invited to after work. Now, I am regularly being invited to happy hours (By a different group. I didn’t want to hang out with those other people anyway. Humph!). They remind me of some of my friends from college.

I sit in a new prison cube and my current neighbors are much more sociable than the former. The old neighbors were (mostly) nice enough, but quiet. Silence makes the day draaaaaag. On one side of my new seat, is a woman around my age from a country in Latin America. She’s been in the US for less than two years. She is very expressive, open, a close-talker, somewhat unfiltered and effervescent. I was drawn to her pretty immediately because I loved her energy and she also seemed open to friendship.

She often (hilariously) laments to me how she doesn’t understand people here. But, “here” for her is the United States. She’s only ever lived in San Francisco. Having lived in several different cities across multiple states, I felt quite confident in telling her: This is San Francisco; the bizarro behavior you just witnessed is not generalizable to the US as a whole. We’re both feeling like fish out of water, but for different reasons. It’s comforting having her to talk to when I have those “WTF?!” moments. On the other side is my neighbor who wants to put *NSYNC posters up on our shared wall. I could not be happier…with my neighbors.

Private Social Club

You will not be advancing on my tour of friendship.Get off my bus. Bye.

My Friend Has a Friend

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
My friend, L, arrived in San Francisco when I was really missing the comforts of home. Mood booster x 10.

I am so in love with my other friends (and my family) right now. They have been the biggest source of support for me during this adjustment. Whether it be supportive comments on my blog posts, Skype chats, phone calls, emails or visits, I have never been more grateful for the knowledge that someone else out there cares about me. A few of my friends have kindly offered to hook me up with other friends they have in the City. There’s no guarantee that your friends will like each other. I have friends from all kinds of groups and I know some of them do not like the others. Hehe.

When my L.A. friend “E” came up for a visit, she introduced me to her former co-worker, J, at brunch. It didn’t take long for me to like J. Her energy is enviable. If I could bottle her into a trendy energy-drink I’d have baller money. The feeling seemed mutual as we exchanged emails and phone numbers that day. I’ve made plans with J for a follow-up brunch. So, there’s potential.

One of my L.A. girlfriends/co-worker/work wife moved up here two months before I did. We actually work at the same company – again – but, in different departments. Unfortunately, she has some family stuff going on and a boyfriend that’s kept her busy, so we surprisingly haven’t seen each other much. Though that is changing. I’m so thankful she was here to celebrate my birthday with me! She grew up in the Bay Area and knows some people here. She’s shared one of her friends with me, another former Angeleno who owns a trendy boutique in the city. I like that she’s not in tech as I’m starting to really tire of tech people (if I never hear the word “start-up” again…). She seems to know an interesting blend of people and set up a good social network for herself in the few years she’s been here.

Girlfriend Circles

Girlfriend Circles has been the best route for making friends, of the XX variety at least.

I’ve been on the site for just about two months and met some really dynamic women. I moved here in hopes of meeting, um, more uh, intellectual people (I’m not saying they don’t exist in L.A., some of them are my friends!) and I definitely have with this group. During one dinner I was grouped with two published authors, one of whom was also a chocolatier (seriously, how many people can claim that as a career!), a software engineer, a physician and a paralegal. They were all in my age group as many events are segmented by age; it really helps. It was a fun and engaging dinner and we all agreed we’d like to meet up again as a group.

In addition to attending official “circles”, I’ve hung out with some of the girls outside of the circles , after the initial meets – which is ultimately the point.

There’s M- (the paralegal) and Ra-(also a software engineer), whom I met around the same time and had met each other a couple of months prior. They’re chill and down-to-earth. I’ve gone hiking and to dinners with them.

CC is an enigma to me. She’s an accountant by profession, but loves to sing and listen to opera. She’s quirky and dresses fabulously avant-garde. It’s fun to see what she’ll wear next. I have a feeling she’s not for everyone, but I think she’s interesting. We went out to have dessert one night and she casually mentioned Kim Kardashian. I have never been so happy to hear that vacuous girl’s name. Yeah, I like to be intellectual and hoity-toity and all, but I am also the girl who loves her US Weekly. A good pop-culture chat does an overly-taxed mind good (spending all day in a staid corporate environment, where I have to be on my best behavior all the day long, means I need some levity and fun outside of work). You can also combine the two and arrogantly wax on about how Kim’s popularity represents the downfall of societal values.

The dinner group had scheduled a brunch for a couple of weekends later. Unfortunately, only Jo, H-, Ra- and I could make it. Brunch was fun; the conversation flowed freely. Ra- had to leave early, but the rest of us lingered awhile after the bill was paid. We somehow ended up on the topic of shopping (go figure) and decided to check out the shops in Jo’s neighborhood. At one store,  I found a hot pair of shoes and as I debated buying them, they both encouraged me to go for it since they were on sale and so cute. These are my kind of girls: shopping enablers. After shopping, Jo invited H- and I to her apartment for a drink. We spent the next few hours planted on her comfortable chairs, listening to music, and chatting about all manner of topics: cooking, dating, marriage, careers and how I think I’m having an early mid-life crisis. They were amused by my random knowledge from falling into Wikipedia holes. It was supportive, engaging, funny and comfortable.

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially in San Francisco. | Read more from "You've Got a Friend in San Francisco" on  The Girl Next Door is Black
These make me happy

I knew this trio really had potential when we were talking about cutting the cord from expensive cable and H- said, “I want to get rid of cable, but I need Bravo.” She didn’t say it ironically and pretend like she would never dare watch such treacle. She was sheepish, but owned it. Did I mention I’m a Real Housewives junkie? I’m an OG viewer. I started with episode one of The Real Housewives of Orange County all those years ago. She’s more into Top Chef, but I can dig it. I love good food, but it frustrates me to watch people cooking good food on TV that I can’t eat with them! Bravo disciples know there is something not right with the hold that station has on their viewing habits, but most of us accept it, ignore our feelings of cognitive dissonance and tune in. Jo, H- and I hung out again this weekend and had just as much fun as the last time. This shows promise, but I’m not counting my chickens just yet…

I’m nearing the point where I’ll have to shift focus from meeting new people to building the friendships I’m developing. It’s already becoming a challenge to fit in repeat dates with the new dates. I understand what Rachel Bertsche meant in MWF Seeking BFF. It’s a great problem to have though; it certainly beats sitting at home contemplating ways to reuse all the fur my cats shed (I’ve got nothin’!). Besides, meeting new people all the time is exhausting. However, I’m not going to pull it back just yet. This is just the beginning. It’s finally starting to become fun. I am hopeful and curious to see what’s in store over the next few months on my tour of friendship.

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Making Friends: Paying Dues

Much like dating, the search for friends is filled with highs and lows, wins and losses. If you’re lucky, you meet your soulmate(s) right out of the gate. Unfortunately – and probably more likely – you end up wading through a lot of muck in search of your new mate(s).

I joined a “private social club” a few weeks ago. I read about it in a blog post on ways to meet people in San Francisco. I didn’t know such things existed outside of Ivy League enclaves, the East Coast and thrillers where club members are evil and plot to kill each other. The idea intrigued me. It sounded like a co-ed frat for grown folks.  Could be awesome, could be horrible.

I applied on their website and the next day received a call from a member coordinator for a brief phone screening. She asked me basics like why I was joining (I’m new to SF and largely friendless), what I was looking for (friends, obvs) and what adventures I like to do for fun (most things that don’t involve heights, but even then…). I passed and made it through to the hour-long phone interview with a member rep.

Making friends as an adult in a new city has it's ups and downs and is similar to dating in that way. You have to meet a lot of people before you find your "tribe." Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
I’m ready for adventure!

I should have known from the awkward conversation I had with the member rep that no good could come from this endeavor. You know how you can talk to someone and you just don’t vibe? They don’t laugh when things are clearly funny, because it’s a given that you are hilarious; they aren’t really listening to you because they ask you questions that you’ve previously answered and there are uncomfortably long pauses that leave you going, “Uh, hello, are you still there?” Work with me dude; it takes two to have a conversation!

Despite the laughably unfun interview, I did well enough to garner an invitation to join the club. I accepted, as they sold me with their 30-40 scheduled events a month, promise of adventure (kayaking! hiking! skydiving! trips to Belize!) and, of course, potential new friends (median age of members is 35). They boast a member roster numbering in the hundreds. Visions of my future awesome life flashed before my eyes.

There is a three-week membership trial period. During that period if you attend three events in your first three weeks and don’t like it, you can opt-out and get a refund.

Oh yeah. That. None of this “awesomeness” is free. There’s a one-time initiation fee and a monthly fee, like with a gym membership. I figured, worst comes to worst, I’m out the first month’s fee.

It’s been a month. I’ve attended all three events and, well, you can guess whether I jumped ship.

Event One

Wine tasting in Santa Rosa. Eight hours spent with strangers.

I like people. When I’m not hating the awful things we do to each other (Steubenville, ugh), I find us fascinating. From that perspective, more often than not, I can find a common thread to connect with people I meet. I met a mathematician a few weeks ago. I hate math. It’s an awful subject put on this earth to make my life more difficult and drag down my SAT scores in high school. Yet, he and I had a fun conversation. But, during this event, I was at a loss.

When I showed up at the designated meeting spot, three of the group of 10 who’d signed up were seated at a table in a nearby restaurant. “We ordered mimosas!” the enthusiastic hostess told me (each event has a host). I joined the group at the table. They were engrossed in a dull conversation (I don’t even remember what about, dust or some shit). The lone male made a joke about Chinese food that I thought was vaguely racist. However, I couldn’t be sure. Let the fun begin! I wanted to like him, but his social skills were questionable, which made it tough. No one acknowledged my presence.

The mimosas arrived: three glasses for three people. The waiter was off before I could ask for one myself. No one, but me, cared about my mimosa conundrum. Fifteen minutes after my arrival, one of the especially chatty women, who spoke with a Kathleen Turner-esque rasp, stopped talking and laughing at her own “jokes” (I think they were meant to be jokes, but they weren’t funny, so who knows?) for a nanosecond. I introduced myself. They gave me their names and continued their conversation about mothballs or the fur that grows on kiwi. Kathleen Turner-rasp and her female buddy became the dominators of the group that day with their incessant chatter and over-the-top enthusiasm for all things uninteresting; this was not a good thing.

Filling out the group was a trio of two men and a woman, hippie-ish types, who mostly kept to themselves; a woman who was either 45 or 54 and seemed incredibly and uncomfortably (for others) insecure, which is very unappealing in a person over the age of 30.

[An aside: I have a natural inclination to take in social outcasts. Perhaps it’s from having moved around so much and repeatedly having the experience of being the new girl trying to fit in. I hate for anyone to feel left out or bullied. But, it’s dangerous. More than once I’ve ended up with an overly attached, energy-sucking, take-everything-too-personally friend that I have to remove from my life with a surgical knife.]

I had to keep my distance from madame insécurité.

Lastly was a very perplexing youngish woman. She could have been an extra in The Craft, but, when she spoke, she could have passed for ditzy-ish sorority girl. She wore black thigh-high garter belt-ready tights, thick black clogs and a dark black suede dress. Throughout the day I wondered if she was hot. I was hot in lighter colors. She seemed nice enough, but we weren’t a match. I’m also pretty sure I was the youngest person of the group and I am no calf.

Making friends as an adult in a new city has it's ups and downs and is similar to dating in that way. You have to meet a lot of people before you find your "tribe." Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Hook & Ladder Winery

A few years ago, I realized I’d developed an allergy to wine. It’s generally not worth it to me to put myself through the pain and suffering wine-ingesting causes. I’ve always been more of a beer or vodka girl anyhow, so don’t feel pity for me. But, this was the only event of the week I could attend.

Despite the allergies, at each winery I tried to drink copious amounts of sample-wine, knowing I’d pay dearly for it later, especially that spiteful red wine. I wished I could have just suckled straight from the barrels. Unfortunately, we were wine tasting, not wine guzzling, so I had to maintain some decorum. I needed to get as drunk as possible as fast as possible to deal with this… day.

At the last winery I’d finally drank enough to increase my patience by a tenth. I made chit-chat with the host, who hails from a state I’ve not yet visited and find curious. As such, I peppered her with questions. I actually liked her, but as she’s employed by the club, her job isn’t to find friends.

Kathleen Turner-rasp’s pal joined our conversation. Inevitably, my “favorite” question was posed, “How do you like San Francisco?” with the familiar tone that indicates the expected response is, “OMGitssoawesomeIloveit bestcityever, go hipsters!” I gave her my standard spiel about how it’s an adjustment and it’s weird that there are only four other upwardly mobile black people in the city and people get all “OMG, a black person who speaks “well” and has a white-collar job, I don’t know how to handle it!” (Or perhaps I just said it could get uncomfortable at times, people treat me differently, etc.)

She replied with this gem:“But, doesn’t it make you feel special?” In my head, I bitch-slapped some sense into her; in real life I laughed, trying hard to contain my derision and answered, “Nope, I would rather feel normal just like everyone else.” I don’t have a lot of patience for people who I think don’t take the time to see the world from outside of their personal prism.

You try feeling “special” for years on end and see how fast that gets old. (“Does your skin get darker in the sun?” “Did you get your job by affirmative action?” “Oh your dad has his PhD? I don’t know why I assumed he’s got a blue collar job.” “Can I touch your hair? It’s so cool!”)

Although, she could be on to something. If I’m special, I need to act like it. “Bow down, bitches,” indeed. I’ll demand reverence wherever I roam. At work, I can refuse to do the things I think are beneath me because “I’m special.” I should be getting a discount on my rent because, dammit, I’m special. They’re lucky I deign to live in their building!

I felt hostage in the van on the ride up and back. I was forced to listen to adult contemporary music, which, in my view, induces premature aging and thus terrifies me. They didn’t seem like the Top 40 crowd (I wouldn’t have dared gone as far as hip-hop) so I didn’t object; it wasn’t worth expelling the energy. I suffered in silence.

I later found out one of the hippie-ish guys found Kathleen Turner-rasp and pal, as well as most of the rest of the group, equally annoying. This explains why he and his trio opted out of dinner after wine tasting. I also opted out of dinner. Fuck no, I wasn’t sitting through more of this torture. As we parted ways, the host said she hoped to see me again with a knowing look. She had to have known it wasn’t the best.event.ever! for me.

When I got home, I hugged my cat and my couch. Ah, comfort.

Event Two

Moroccan Dinner

Well, it was supposed to be a Moroccan dinner – one of their more calm events. The day of the event, the hostess (a different one) called and informed they cancelled the dinner. “We’re all going to Bar X to celebrate a member’s birthday.” I didn’t know the member from a random on the bus. But, I had three events to attend and this was the only one I could make that week.

When I arrived at the bar, the hostess texted me that they were on the patio. The patio was packed. She told me they were seated next to a guy in a giant tophat, so I approached a group with a man wearing a large Uncle Sam hat. They were not part of the club. You mean to tell me there is more than one dude here wearing an oversized attention-seeking costume hat? The answer is yes.

As I made my way through the crowded patio looking for them, a giant elbowed me in the head. Okay, perhaps he wasn’t a giant, but at 5’1”, anyone above 5’10” is gigantic. He had to have been at least 6’4”. He didn’t apologize, so I gave him a look that said, “Mofo, you WILL be apologizing.” Instead, he patted me on the head(!), the way you would pat a curious, precocious child on the head as you tell them to be on their merry way. I’m a grown ass woman and this asshole just patted me on the head. I glowered and kept it moving.

I finally found the hostess. Part of the hostess’s job is to introduce you to the group and help you to not feel alone. She quickly introduced me to five people and then stated, “Ok, I am heading out with my friend. Have fun!”

Great. You’ve introduced me to five people, one of whom is the middle-aged low self-esteem (LSE) woman from the wine trip. Another is the guy who head-bowed me and then child-patted me. He also happens to be the birthday guy and guest of honor. Awkward!

Given my options, the fact that LSE was talking to a black woman (the only other black person I saw) and my new hobby since moving to San Francisco is collecting black people, I joined her group. LSE was enthusiastically retelling the saga of her broken hip and its healing.

Here’s the difference between a simple injury and aging: when you’re young and have a simple injury it’s usually because you’ve for instance, blown out your knee from overzealous, improper running. When you’re aging, if you break a hip, it’s because your body is like, “Look, hon, we’ve been around a while. Shit’s about to start breaking down. All that abuse you piled on me in your youth is coming back for you. Body karma. Get ready!” She was describing the latter.

I had nothing to contribute as my hips are fine. The black woman walked away shortly after we exchanged greetings, having seen an old friend. I desperately looked around for people to talk to who appeared to be my age. No one from the club. It would probably have looked bad if I joined a whole group of strangers not-related to the group instead. I stayed put and pretended to be interested.

There appeared to be only one waitress working the patio. She was nowhere to be seen for 20 minutes. When I finally flagged her down, she hurriedly told me she’d return. I waited for another 20 minutes. In that time, I continued pretending to be fascinated by unstimulating conversations while I daydreamed of the more interesting places I wished I was. Finally, I told the group, “I’m going to see if I can track down a waitress.” I headed toward the bar, walked out of the restaurant and straight to my bus stop.

Bye people, just bye. I’m not exactly proud of that behavior, but I hate feeling trapped.

Making friends as an adult in a new city has it's ups and downs and is similar to dating in that way. You have to meet a lot of people before you find your "tribe." Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Oh sweet, sweet, alcohol – how you help make awkward social situations a little bit better.

Event Three

Barbecue

I was weary and full of low expectations for this third (and last?) event. On their website, they hail it as a great way for members, especially new ones, to mingle and enjoy some grilled grub. I arrived 45-minutes after start time to find a pitiful scene of just five people, including the blonde guy who made the vaguely racist joke from the wine tasting; a really loud older man who was practically shouting at the middle-aged woman sitting right in front of him and a little yappy dog.

Each day, I grow to dislike yappy, tiny dogs less and less. I blame the brainless, socialite-wannabes who carry them around like accessories, as well as the dogs’ generally annoying predilection for acting like they are bigger than they are and yapping with their laughably tiny little barks. I know how it is to be little and want to make sure people take you seriously. I get it. But, you don’t see me yelling at people bigger than I in a wee voice as I puff up my chest and preen. (There is one adorable chihuahua in Austin who is like my dog-niece. I adore her. She is exempt.)

There was no food ready and the cash bar hadn’t been set up yet. Oh, yes, the cash bar. Despite the not-insignificant initiation fee and the monthly dues, they charged a nominal amount for beverages, though food was included.

I tried to make conversation with the blonde, but it was painful. It was like he was wearing Keisha-repellent; I just could not like him. Finally, about an hour and fifteen minutes after start time, the cash bar was set up. The beer options were Heineken and Pacifico which is like Mexican Bud Light – water. Having thrown a party or ten in my life, I know that if you’re going to provide few beer options, at least choose one light and one dark for variety. I’ve nothing against Heineken, but I resent paying for one of two beer options.

The older man with a penchant for yelling announced to the women at the bar with delight, “Hey ladies, I’ve got a chick drink for you. It’s called a winemarita! Harharhar!” He laughed loudly and proudly at his comedy. Lame and offensive: two traits I love in potential new friends. I ignored him and my desire to “show him” by asking for a big-ass glass of scotch and asked for a Heineken, which I finished in about 10 minutes and had to ask for another. Oh, what I would have done for a Belgian ale right about then.

Making friends as an adult in a new city has it's ups and downs and is similar to dating in that way. You have to meet a lot of people before you find your "tribe." Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Now *this* is a beer selection! (I took this photo when I visited Bruges, Belgium a few years ago.)

I ended up in conversation with a woman whom I found out is 55. I am not ageist, (here comes my, “I am not _____, my best friend is _____” qualifier) one of my dearest friends is nearing 70. But, I am not looking for sexagenarian clique (or in this case, a quinquagenarian clique) any more than she wants to actively seek a crew of thirty-somethings whining about how old they are when they don’t even know how good they have it.

I was just beyond frustrated that while they claimed their median member age is 35, I seemed to only meet members well above the line. I asked her why she joined the club. She was recently divorced and looking to meet people as a newly single woman. As she told me about the first disastrous event she attended (only three people showed up for what was supposed to be a medium-sized event) and mentioned the founder called her to see if he could assuage her concerns about the club, I detected more than a hint of bitterness. She didn’t seem anymore excited about this motley crew than I.

She suggested a couple of non-meetup organizations I can join centered around travel and philanthropy, my twin loves. We talked for about half an hour. While she was interesting enough, I wanted to mingle to make sure I gave this club a fair shot. We broke and I make a beeline for a group of people who looked to be around my age. I heard them talking about skydiving. A guy protested, “But, it’s $300 to do it!” A woman rebutted, “No it’s not, it’s like $50!” Upon noticing my arrival, he put his fingers to his mouth, looked at the group, looked at me and then motioned, “Shhhhh.”

I think two things about this. First, homie is freaking rude. Second, what kind of sketchville stuff is going on here? I remember noticing the large discrepancy between what I paid for the wine tasting three weeks ago and what I read the event actually costs for the general public. Were they discussing the club’s markup on skydiving? And newbie me may just have overheard discussion of their sketchy practices to generate more income? I didn’t give a flip. I don’t have patience for ridiculous rudeness. I said with annoyance, “Ohhhhkaaaaaay then,” and walked off.

I chatted with another woman briefly, who was nice enough, but clearly painfully shy and I didn’t have the energy to be the one making most of the conversation. Someone announced that some food was ready. Great, I was hungry after drinking all that Heineken! I walked down into the backyard to find fresh off the rack, grilled chicken. No burgers, no hot dogs and a few sausages. Who the hell leads a barbecue with chicken?! The most boring meat on the planet?! Nobody comes to a barbecue for chicken! Very few Americans invite you over to their house for a barbecue and try to tantalize potential guests with the lure of boring-ass chicken. Where are the damned dead cows?! We have a ton of cows all over the state. I’ve seen them, go to the Central Valley!

I grabbed a sausage and walked over to a young Japanese guy. He told me he just arrived in the US a couple of days ago and he and his friends/classmates are here for a few months to study. Again, agreeable enough, but I am not trying to befriend people who have a definite departure date. I have enough friends in other cities and countries. That is not the problem.

Making friends as an adult in a new city has it's ups and downs and is similar to dating in that way. You have to meet a lot of people before you find your "tribe." Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black
Boring-ass meat

I headed back upstairs to make one more round. I saw another woman my age. She looked oddly SoCal-ish, wearing a light cover-up top over a bikini, long shorts and flip-flops. I asked her, “Did you just come from the beach?” She replied, “No. It’s just comfortable.”

What.in.THE.hell?!

Far be it from me to judge someone’s comfort fashion, but is it not a little odd to wear a bikini around when you aren’t doing anything remotely related to water? And San Francisco is almost always chilly after 4pm?

She then asked me, “Are you wearing one too?” I looked down at my outfit: an obvious tank-top underneath a sweater, jeans and boots. What exactly led her to believe I share her interesting choice of comfort wear?

I decided I was through. I gave it a shot. I stayed for almost two hours, mingled with various groups of people and played nice. As it happens, the member coordinator who initially screened me into this club, was doubling as bartender. I told her I was leaving and to avoid lying I casually mentioned I had other plans (my other plans were not being in that clubhouse, but at home, sitting on my ass, catching up on the week’s DVR’d shows).

She loudly asked, “Keisha, what’s your next event?!” She knew it was my third event and could be my final. I mumbled something about having to look at the calendar. She yelled out a few of the upcoming events. I repeated that I’d check out the calendar. I knew damn well by that point that I was never coming back. I had no intention of putting myself through more painfully dull and/or aggravating situations with that group. I can meet weird, awkward people lacking in social skills for free.

As I walked out, a true giant walked in. He had to be at least 7’ tall. Sorry dude, I won’t be around to hear the sure-to-be-told tired jokes about how the “air is up there.”

The next day, I prepared my cancellation letter.

There you have it. I’m out of the club. These encounters qualify as the lows of friend-finding. But with lows come highs, of which there have been a promising few, and which balance out all the fuckery of the lows. To be continued…

A Friending Frenzy

Friendship Knot in Little Tokyo, photo by Sam Howzit, flickr.com
Friendship Knot in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, photo by Sam Howzit, flickr.com

I’ve been living in San Francisco a little over four months. I had five immediate goals when I arrived:

  1. Unpack box-partment and decorate within six weeks of move in – Did it in five.
  2. Don’t get fired (or maybe it was “do well at work”. Still, end result is, don’t get fired.)– still employed
  3. Find a gym – found
  4. Make friends – well, see…so…but I, err…
  5. Possibly finally trade in bitchy, useless, freeloading, ungrateful second cat.*

 *still debating this one

The sun loooves SoCal!
The sun loooves SoCal!

Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are going well. Number 4 hasn’t been as smooth, which I foolishly did not anticipate. When I moved to San Francisco, I was full of hope and enthusiasm. In just two months, those feelings were replaced by boohoo and what the hell did I do?! Los Angeles was a perfectly fine place with beautiful weather, wearing of open-toed shoes and sleeveless tops almost year around and a world I understand, for good and for bad. I miss my friends, my burger places, Koreatown, ramen, mid-priced quality sushi, seeing and hearing Spanish everywhere, cheaper rent and not sobbing when I write out my rent check and not being the only upwardly mobile black person for miles. So what if I felt suicidal in traffic some days? There are plenty of doctors willing to prescribe me drugs to handle those emotions!

I get asked a lot whether I like it here. Sure, it’s a beautiful city. But so are many others I’ve been to or lived in. What’s got to make San Francisco stand out from the places I’ve lived and visited is the people. My default answer is usually, “I don’t know yet,” and I’ll explain that I’ve found it difficult to meet people. I’m either met with looks of confusion (how is it possible that you don’t love it here?!), nods of understanding and agreement or the not at all novel: “Have you tried meetup?” An L.A. friend who is a former SF resident shared that it can be hard to break into a clique in San Francisco, but once you do, the friendships you make will be more genuine than you’ll find in Los Angeles. That’s…comforting?

Playing Nice

Volunteering a couple of weeks ago, I went out for lunch after with some of the other volunteers. I met a lifelong Bay Area resident who, once I told her I moved here from L.A., delighted in telling me how much she hated SoCal and the people in it. “They’re so fake.” You know how you can talk all kinds of shit about your crazy uncle who wrecks family events on the regular, but let someone outside of the family chime in and you’re cracking your knuckles, ready to throw down? That was me; hiding my hands under the table. can talk shit about L.A. all day. I earned that right as a long-term resident. She, however, visited once or twice and dismissed it. Humph! 

“What are you unsure about?” she asked me.

“Well, it’s supposed to be diverse here, but there are no black people here (I waved my hand around the black-less the restaurant as I said this) and that’s kind of uncomfortable for me.”

I laughed to lighten the weight of my words. Uncomfortable chuckles from the group followed. It’s funny how awkwardly some people react when a minority brings up race, especially blackness. Sometimes I just wanna say, “Blackitty black black afro negro blackish black black blaaaaack. I AM BLACK! Feel better? Now can we move past your discomfort and talk about this?” It’s like they’re afraid you’re gonna know they secretly rap the “n-word” in hip-hop songs when no one black is around. The SoCal-hater had an immediate solution to my discomfort, “It’s plenty diverse here. Just go to the Tenderloin. Ha!” I thought to myself, “Did this chick really just tell me to go to the Tenderloin to see black people? The Tenderloin where everyone warns you away from due to the huge likelihood of being asked repeatedly for money, seeing someone pooping on the sidewalk or seeing a drug deal go down, Tenderloin? Does she think it feels good for my soul to see downtrodden black people?”

I told her, “Yeahhhh, there’s that…but, I think we have different interests.” This dumb, clueless chick. Diversity isn’t just about counting numbers of people of the same group. How well are those people represented and integrated among the population being measured? I just can’t with her foolishness. But, when meeting new people it’s better just to grin and bear it, put on your happy face and complain to your out-of-town friends about her flippant tone. I don’t tell her I’ve heard complaints that San Franciscans can be snooty and pretentious and that her bitchery isn’t helping to disprove that stereotype. Be nice now, save Keisha Fierce for later. 

Guerilla Socializing

MWF Seeking BFF - reading this reminded me just how much I appreciate the wonderful friends I have
MWF Seeking BFF – reading this reminded me just how much I appreciate the wonderful friends I d0 have

In response to one of my posts a few weeks ago, a blog reader suggested I check out Rachel Bertsche’s blog (thanks!), which led me to her book: MWF Seeking BFF (I recommend it if you’re in the friend-shopping business). In the non-fiction book, Rachel is a late twenty-something relatively new to Chicago, having moved there to be with her husband. Upon realizing she’s lonely and lacking in close girlfriends, she vows to go on one new friend date a week for a year. Throughout the book she details – often hilariously – the women she meets and their dates. Interspersed throughout the book are interesting friendship factoids and tidbits such as: “minorities are more open to friends outside their race than white people are” (ch. 7). Did I mention that San Francisco is almost 50% white? Oh, this will be fun. Good thing SF has a large Asian population and a smaller Latino population!

A co-worker moved here a little under two years ago. She told me that while she’s met people through activities here and there, she hasn’t yet found anyone that she’d call up for last-minute plans or to confide in. That’s…sad, and unacceptable for me. Another couple of women told me they felt it took them three to four years (one said six!) to feel they had a good circle of friends and felt comfortable here. Ain’t nobody got time for all that! I know there are other places where the weather is warmer and so are the personalities of the residents.

Inspired by Rachel Bertsche’s tenacity and my own rebellious nature that refuses to accept it taking years to find good friends, I decided it’d be fun to see just how many friends I can amass in a year. If I make it a competition (with myself), it’ll be more thrilling. Because, trying to make new friends once you’re out of school, is not really a joyride. Once it becomes a conscious effort it becomes work, especially when you’re seeking to create a social circle you don’t have. When you’re hoping to meet at least one person to be the Gayle to your Oprah (or better yet a Blanche, Sophia, Dorothy, Rose quad!), you’re putting in work!

I’ve been friending my ass off. Well, maybe not friending as much as meeting-new-people my ass off. I was out socializing five out of seven days last week and I had a couple of moments of fun, but mostly it was work.  Last week alone I met or re-met so many new people I was exhausted come Thursday and I wasn’t even done! Sunday was my day of rest, cocooning in my box-partment. The groundwork I laid a couple of months ago is finally paying off. When I started my job, I made it a point to eat lunch with people I want to get to know at least twice a week. Every meeting is a chance to show off my stunning personality. People need to know what richness they are missing.

At a work Valentine’s Day party, we had to meet at least one new person to be allowed to enter the raffle. I used it as an opportunity to speed meet people. People are starting to wave and smile at me in the halls! I’ve even gotten a few lunch invites. Unexpectedly, a co-worker, L –  with whom I’ve rarely interacted except during a training class and a few run-ins in the kitchen – invited me to happy hour last Thursday. My first happy hour invite! I could have cried. I double-checked the IM to see if she really meant to send it to me and not someone else. She meant me!  At happy hour, K, with whom I’ve gone to lunch once and was also in training with me and L, told me, “I loved how during training you told HR “no” when they asked if we thought the training was helpful. That was awesome! You go, girl.” L, the girl who invited me, nodded in agreement. Yep, that’s me: no bullshit. This no-bullshitter could be your friend!

A few weeks ago, I joined a women’s group that helps connect women looking to build female friendships. I’ve been to a couple of small events and met some cool women. A few of them have given me their phone numbers and invited me out outside of the group – unprompted. If I were a straight dude, I’d really be feeling myself. I’m getting those digits! I also joined an adventure group that seems promising. My calendar is slowly filling up again.

coffeeOne of the new women I’ve met asked me to go for coffee sometime. Coffee is not an activity, it’s a beverage. It’s the means to a caffeinated end. Why coffee? Why not drinks? I’m skeptical when people suggest going out to drink beverages and the beverages don’t include at least the option of alcohol. Recovering alcoholics get a pass. But, I’m wary people who don’t drink because they just don’t drink. I don’t drink anywhere near as much as I did in college or in my mid-20s when I was trying out every single club in L.A., but that party girl is still in there. She’s lying dormant, judging my more sober lifestyle, my “please God don’t let my friend have her birthday party at a bar-ness” and old lady o’clock bedtime. But, she’s ready to get the party started if the moment presents itself. It’s fine though, as the intro to MWF mentions, there are different types of friendships and they are all valuable. Maybe she’ll be my friend I do healthy, productive stuff with. Like I’ve said before, friendless beggars can’t be too choosy. 

At the same volunteer event where I met the snooty, clueless girl, I met A. I liked A right away. She was warm, lively and very sharp. When we talked about diversity in San Francisco she passionately said, “Oh, it’s bull! Everyone talks about how many Latinos are here, but they’re all Mexican. I’m from Central America. I’m from the East Coast where there are people from different Latin countries all over the place. And the food? I can’t get good Central American food to save my life! My boyfriend’s family has lived in the Mission for generations and the techies with money are probably going to price them out.” She worked in youth outreach in Bayview-Hunter’s Point and has seen first hand just how segregated and economically lopsided this city can be. With each word, I swooned. She gets it! She gets me. We exchanged numbers and email addresses. A few days later, I emailed her offering to grab a drink (with alcohol) or dinner. It’s been a month and she hasn’t replied. Maybe I scared her off? Maybe she thinks I’m a lesbian, read my email and thought, “Oh hell no!” Or maybe she’d rather go out for coffee? Can’t win ’em all. 

Who Will Stand Under My Umbrella (ella, ella)?

I'm not giving away any friendship bracelets just yet.  Photo by ilovememphis, flickr.com
I’m not giving away any friendship bracelets just yet. Photo by ilovememphis, flickr.com

All the people I’ve met have been nice, but as Rachel said in her book’s introduction, “I can be nice, but I don’t want nice friends. I want funny, gregarious, sarcastic and smart friends.“ To that I’d add: socially conscious, opinionated, adventurous and easy going. If you’re a pop culture fan we’ll probably be insta-besties. My ninth grade English teacher lectured “nice” out of our arsenal of adjectives. And she was right too: nice is fucking boring. However, I know it can take time for some people to warm up, chill and let their good crazy show. I am learning to be patient. 

I haven’t yet hit that pivotal moment of friendship with anyone, when you crossover from perfunctory greetings and awkward small talk to this is my homegirl, ride or die. You’ve heard of Bonnie & Clyde? We’re Bonnie and Bonnie! Psychologists call it: self-disclosure. I can vividly remember those tipping points in many of my cherished friendships. You feel all warm and fuzzy and bubble up with joy around your buddy. It’s a wonderful feeling. I can’t wait to experience it again. 

Despite this not being the smoothest transition, I’m glad I moved here. Shaking things up is healthy. I’ve amped up my friendmaking ventures. I am meeting people, I’m not exactly having fun yet, but it’s gotta pay off at some point. I eagerly await the moment when I can rush up to a new friend and say, “You will not believe what just happened to me! I couldn’t wait to tell you about it!”   

New City, No New Friends

Friendship meaning

I forgot how hard it is to move to a new city where you know virtually no one. It’s my sixth time doing this. I think it gets harder each time.

When I moved to Los Angeles years and years ago I dreamed about the fabulous life I’d have hobnobbing with celebrities, meeting other actors, falling in love with my hot male castmates in all the leading roles I’d get and generally just living a flyass life. None of that happened. The closest I came to meeting a celebrity that early on was during planning for a charity event. We were looking for star power to amp up the interest; someone offered, “My friend is friends with Ryan Seacrest. Maybe we could get him to host?” At the time, Seacrest was a drivetime DJ for Star 98.7 in L.A.. He declined the offer. The next year, he signed on as host of American Idol; of course he wasn’t going to host our rinky-dink, ill-planned, never-happened charity event.

I threw myself into friend-making in Los Angeles. I met some weird people the first couple of years. I attached myself to a social butterfly through a women’s group I found. She knew a lot of people, was exceedingly outgoing and talked a lot about things that were foreign to me yet intriguing like reiki and chakras. But, not too long after I met her, I found her “crazy”. (Everyone has something “crazy” about them, it’s just a matter of deciding if you can deal with their brand of crazy.) She hooked up with the boyfriend of the sister of a friend (got that?). When confronted about her trifling behavior, she said, “I am friends with her, not her sister, so I have no loyalty to her sister.” This was my first encounter with “LA Logic”:  basically it’s illogical, full of specious arguments, but allows one to justify behaving like an asshole. I, and the friend believe(d): you hurt people I love, you hurt me. I also soon realized she was a bit of a flake, a wee bit too new-agey for me and always seemed to have a relationship with a “soulmate.” Problem is she seemed to have a new soulmate every few months. After a while, I stopped caring about her latest soulmate, how she finally found love and how her life was now complete. Oh and she might move to another state to be with the latest one! She was like a starter friend. A friend to help make the transition easier, show you around, introduce you to other new people and generally make your new home a little less lonely. Then as time passes, you gradually part ways. I would like to skip over the starter friend phase here in San Francisco and just find friends.

One year early on in elementary school, I was transferred to a new class for the “gifted and talented.” (I know they meant well, but how the heck does that make the kids feel who aren’t in those classes? Slow and awkward?) One of the popular girls in class invited me to her birthday slumber party. My life was made. At that early age I was already strategically navigating my social life. I figured if I could get in with her and be entertaining at this party, I would be guaranteed invites to the other kids’ birthday parties. I really wanted everyone to like me. We had a great time at the party. People laughed at my jokes. The next morning the birthday girl said to me, “Keisha, you are fun! I want to have you at every birthday party!” Who was the winner? The winner was me. I had this. I would be popular. A couple of months later, my family left New York for the promise of a safer life in Georgia. All that work and I had to start all over again. Sigh.

I’ve been in San Francisco for two months now and I have no friends. Now that I’m no longer spending my weekends getting my apartment together, I have time to think about this. Zero. Zip. No click for anybody to fuck with. Okay fine, I have one friend. But she’s busy, she has a man, her family lives here and I don’t want to attach myself to her like a canker sore. “Take me wherever you go. Don’t leave me! I’ll make you feel pain!” I’m a big girl, I can fend for myself. But, it’s lonely. I spend too much time with one of my cats (the other one is a useless, skittish, waste of fur and cuteness). A few weeks ago, I was taking a bath. I never take baths. I am not that wine, bubbles, soak, cucumbers-on-sockets, bathtub-time girl. I like showers; no sitting in my filth. This cat I’ve had for 10 years has only seen me take a bath a few times, so when I hopped in a tub full of water, he was curious. I watched him pace around the tub examining the water and the bubbles, reaching up to peer into the tub. He looked at me as if to ask, “Is okay I jump?” “No, kitty, no jump.” I could just imagine the ensuing hilarious hijinks once he realized he was voluntarily in a tub full of water. If by “hilarious” you understand I mean “a naked, painful, mauling by cat incident.” He didn’t jump in. But, the fact that he thought about it led me to the conclusion that he and I are spending too much time together. He’d probably be speaking English and quoting rap lyrics along with me if his mouth could form the words.

I network. I smile at (almost) everyone, including the guards at all the banks in the financial district on my way to work. I’m probably now on some government watch list. People who case banks for robberies probably act all friendly and shit. One guy likes it though. He always gives me a big grin and a “hi” now. Weekdays, people in the financial district brisk their way down the street like work drones. No smiles, no stopping to look at the architecture, no flashdancing; just singular focus on getting to work. Why? The office ain’t going anywhere. Sometimes I like to smile widely at people just to throw them off. Yeah, I smiled at you. Boo! h

I’ve no problem doing things solo. But, I prefer for that to be a choice, not the default option because I have no others. Last week, when my hormones decided to hijack my brain, I had a mini meltdown. I saw a posting for an event I would have loved to attend: SantaCon. People dress up in Santa suits and go pub crawling. How awesome.is.that?! Then I realized I had no one to go with (let alone a Santa suit just hanging around) and I threw a fit…to myself. I have no friends to throw a fit to. Now I have to wait another 362 days before SantaCon rolls around again. I better have some Santa-suit-wearing, pub-crawl-loving friends by then. I do not want to spend another SantaCon weekend Michelle Tannering it: “This is nooo fun, noooo fun, looking at the waaaallllll.”

Ask anyone how you make friends outside of school and they’ll say: “Join a church group!” “Have you heard of meetup.com (as if this is 2005 and a revolutionary idea)?” “Take a class!” “Make friends at work!” Always said with exclamatory enthusiasm.

I don’t go to church. I’m not going to church. So, that’s out.

I’ve joined a shit ton of meetup groups. I’m not sold on meetup.com though. In L.A., I attended a few meetup groups. I met a few people who ensured I would be scared to go to another meetup again. You know the type: no social skills, weird ticks, creepily interested in you and every detail of your life, or the gross guy who is clearly there trolling for women. You’re at a women’s brunch, mofo, why are you here? Perhaps SF meetup-ers are of the more uncreepy variety? We’ll see.

I started taking a Spanish class a few weeks ago. For myself. I am tired of being a monolingual American. Bonus if I meet people. It’s a group class for up to eight people. As luck would have it, there are me and two other girls in the class. Just three people. Girls. I specify girls because a question I’m frequently asked by inquiring friends (in other cities!) is, “Have you met/seen/smelled any hot guys there?” No/No/No.

Work is…cliquey. I’m sure people don’t mean act as such, but they are not exactly inclusive. I bet karma is behind it, cackling at my plight.  The bitch. I am told I was in a clique at my last job. It wasn’t on purpose; I promise! I am proactive. I have targeted a few lucky people that I have decided I want to be my friends. They are people that I have or will ask to lunch or potentially smile at too often, making them think the new girl is creepy. Nope, the new girl just has no friends. One of my younger sisters said to me with 95% seriousness, “Keisha, you’re pretty, who wouldn’t want to be friends with you?” Ha! No one can blow smoke up your bum and make you feel momentarily less like a loser than a sister or a good frie…awwww (tear).

I just want a buddy.
I just want a buddy.

I’ve made progress! Last Friday in the kitchen at work, I ran into one of the girls that is actually outwardly friendly to me. She asked me if I had any plans for the weekend. My response: “I don’t really have any plans because I don’t have any friends here yet.” Why lie? She took pity on me, having been new in SF once herself, and invited me out. Last Saturday night, I actually had legit plans with someone who lives in this city. It turned out to be a pretty good-sized group, so I met a few new people. I had a great time! I danced, I drank, I friended my ass off. Now I await their verdict. Am I cool enough to be asked out again? I can’t seem too eager, but I can’t play it too cool. It’s elementary school all over again.

I’m on my way. I’ll get there. I’ll find my buddies. Getting there is the hard part. When I do finally have friends I think I may allow myself one really good Sally Field Oscar moment (“They like me! They really like me!”) and then dorkshame myself.

If you know of anyone who lives here whose personality you think would mesh well with mine, feel free to send ‘em my way. Yes, that is how desperate I am. I am trolling for friends on my blog which is read by people from the United States to countries I’ve never even heard of but am now intrigued to visit.

Mind the Gap – London, England

2008 was a difficult year for me. I was recovering from the dissolution of a long-term relationship. By the start of 2009, I was over the weeping and moaning; the woe is me, I’ll never love again;  my heart has been ripped out of my chest mercilessly; men are vessels of evil; why God, why?; please can I be a lesbian? and more overly dramatic exclamations of post-breakup-life and ready to rejoin the world of the living. My friend Heidi had expatriated to London from Orange County a few years prior and kept encouraging me to visit her. I figured it was just what I needed. Since I was heading to Europe, I reasoned I should visit as many countries as I could while there. Within a 10-day span I planned to visit England, The Netherlands, Belgium and France.

By this point I’d seen almost everything Hugh Grant appeared in post-Four Weddings and a Funeral, including the way he charmed his way out of seeming like skeez for picking up a prostitute when he was a guest on Leno. Colin Firth had already swept Renee Zellwegger away in Bridget Jones’ Diary and Love Actually  was one of my favorite movies. Perhaps, I too, would meet a dashing young, worldly English bloke who would reaffirm my heterosexuality and sweep me off my American feet. I had high hopes.

When I arrived, Heidi had me meet her at her office in the heart of London’s West End. From one of the windows, I captured a great view of Piccadilly Circus, which is neither a cafeteria -style restaurant nor an exploitation of cute farm animals.

Piccadilly Circus
Sadly, I did not see any elephants

My first night in London, I:

      1. learned people take turns buying rounds of drinks for their friends. This caused me a bit of panic since based on the 2:1 exchange rate, I already envisioned having to eat out of the trash in Paris by the end of my trip. I would have to look up how to say in French, “Please sir, might you spare a few euros for a poor American Negress?” There were also at least 5 people in our party, including 2 tall men. No way could I drink as much as them. In 5 rounds I’d be on the floor.
Three Crowns Bar
We’re drinking on the street, popo!
      2. learned you can drink outside on the street, act a fool and put your empty glasses on the sidewalk and some kind angel will clean up after you.
      3. met an international DJ who claimed to have a third nipple. He didn’t. Sad.
          4. made the mistake of smiling at an older, swarthy gentleman who eyed me like a juicy rack of pork ribs. My imagination runs wild so I assumed he wanted to sell me into white, black slavery.
            5. was mean-mugged by a British Middle Eastern woman in a schwarma joint. Women mean-mug other women all around the world.
          6. The electrical currents mean business and will blow up your camera, forcing you to use your crappy blackberry to take photos the rest of you trip. (I apologize for the poor quality of the images I post henceforth.)

The next morning I began a long day of touring the city. I hopped on one of the double-decker tour busses London is known for and visited Buckingham Palace, The Clock Tower with Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and many other landmarks.

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A few other observations of London:

        • Londoners do not care how excited you are to be in London, so quit smiling at them you goofy American. Victoria Beckham isn’t the only Brit afraid to crack a smile.
        • Black Londoners do not participate in the same greeting traditions as American blacks: the head nod and unspoken acknowledgement that says, “Hey you’re black and I’m black! Sup?’ No one cares. They’ll think you have a weird head tic.
        • You and your heavy-ass luggage WILL be run down in the stairwell as others try to catch the tube. And that little baby in the pram is in their way too!
        • You’re lost? Sucks for you. Do not approach a random Londoner on the street to ask for help. You will be met with a look of puzzlement followed by a look of fear and a quick scurry away.
        • No one will join you in a juvenile giggle as this stop is announced on the tube: St. John’s Wood. Just me? Really? St. John’s WOOD?!

My first 24 hours in London were exhausting, educational and honestly, a little disappointing. I was off to the English countryside the next day. Perhaps someone would at least smirk, if not smile, at me there?

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