Tag Archives moving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brief lowlights of my time in New York:

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

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

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

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

 

The past few weeks things have started to look up:

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

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

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

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

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

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12 Things About My First 12 Months in San Francisco

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

1. I Spent 90% Less in Gas

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

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

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

Guess where the money saved on gas ends up…

2. Rent, Rent, Rent, Rent, Reeeeent

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

3. More Oysters Please

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Try Walking in My Shoes 

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

6. Shake-Up in the Shoe Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. My Cats are Even Bougier

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

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

8. I Have One of These

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

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

9. I Know You!

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

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

“How so?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

10. Reuse This!

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

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

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

11. Buying Eggs is a 10-Minute Task

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

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

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

“One avocado please.”

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

“Yeah, that sounds good!”

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

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

“A day.”

More rooting around.

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

“Raw.”

More rooting.

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

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

12. Who are you?

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

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

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

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

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

With The Painted Ladies
With The Painted Ladies

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.

Where’s the Fire?

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

It all started when:

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

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

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

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

Smoke Alarm
One of the evil offenders

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

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

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

Anyway, back to the fire…or the notafuckingfire.

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

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

Smoke Alarm 2
The aftermath

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

The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt Continued

Two weekends ago I began The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt. I’m leaving sunny (and sometimes downright hot as hell) Los Angeles for foggy San Francisco in search of a less trafficky-lifestyle (and thus reducing the chances that I commit a road rage-induced homicide or suicide). I also wanted an escape from gaggles of women who speak with a Kardashian-perfected vocal fry, ending declarative statements with like, a questioning, inflection? Who spend more time talking about their manicures and expensive designer handbags than the current Presidential election.

The “why L.A. is making me grossly unhappy” list is a lot longer, but again, I’ll save that for another post.

Having had not much luck the first search (that kiss-ass girl with the yappy dog got the apartment in the Marina, boohiss!), I flew up this weekend armed with a new strategy and attitude: I’m here to find a place and I will cut a bitch for an apartment. My Asian-American friend (why I’m mentioning her ethnicity will become clear shortly), V-, who is also lucky enough to be looking for an apartment, suggested we create bios. For all my moral grandstanding and highfalutin’ attitude I was willing to amp up my sales tactics to secure an apartment.

I created a flyer, hoping a photo of two cute kitties and my obvious pandering for sympathy due to our impending homelessness would soften the hearts of sittin’ pretty managers and agents.

Finding an apartment to rent in San Francisco is harder than finding a job! | Read More on The Girl Next Door is Black in "The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt"
You know you want to rent to us 

V- and I met up for an early breakfast at Golden Coffee Shop to power up for the serious business of the day. I was armed with the listings for seven open houses, three of which started at 11am. Do I look like I can be at three places at one time? What is up with 11am?

I asked my friend, “How many Blasian friendships do you think there are in San Francisco? I mean if we go to open houses together with our ‘we are the world’ friendship, that should help us stand out more, right?” As awesome as trading on our beautiful Blasian friendship sounded, we both had open houses to see in different parts the city. I did, however, join her for one open house at 9am.

We took a taxi to Noe Valley, as we’d lost time by getting on a BART train going in the wrong direction (the joys of being a city newb). Our taxi driver was quite chatty and upon finding out we are relocating to SF, informed us that the rents are steep (what? no way!) and asked if we’d considered the East Bay? What about Oakland?

My brain heard: “You won’t be able to find an apartment in the city!” Why do so many people seem to think I should give up before I even start? Sounds like a…CHALLENGE! A challenge I accept!

The apartment was on the bottom level of a Skittles-purple Victorian-style duplex with pink trim. An “in-law” unit, they call it. It was carpeted (blech) and on the darker-side due to its near-subterranean location; a place well-suited for a vampire. If I thought Ian Somerhalder might visit me there, I’d have applied.

The owner seemed stunned when my friend, after looking around and asking a few questions, said a quick “Thanks,” indicating she was done and not interested. Yeah, that’s right, SHE turned YOU down, buddy. The listing had “charming” in the title. We should have known. She said ultimately it bothered her that the manager would be living right above her.

We parted ways and I killed time at a Noe Valley Starbucks while I waited for an 11am open house nearby. While there I spotted more baby strollers and mini-people (you might call them toddlers) than I see in a year in L.A. (I’m convinced children are zapped when they try to enter urban L.A., ’cause they are a rare sight.)

The clientele was mostly white. It reminded me of Santa Monica: clean, yuppie-tastic, populated by people with punty-dogs, teeming with families and monochromatic.

Finding an apartment to rent in San Francisco is probably harder than finding a job! | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black from "The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt"
Noe Valley, photo by flippinyank on flickr.com

 

I loved the apartment I saw at the open house. 750sqft., lots of light, beautiful new hardwood floors, balconies, a bedroom that didn’t double as a cave, and parking for a small additional amount. I was second to arrive after a white guy who appeared to be in his late 30s. I looked at him and thought: stability.

When I met the manager, I was secretly thrilled to see that he was a black man. Generally, I don’t try to cash in on shared ethnicity, but all most bets were off during the hunt. Sometimes it can work against you if you encounter a self-hating Negro who wants nothing to do with you and your Negroness. I thought I had an in until the stable white guy said, “So, my partner and I…” Dammit, he’s gay! And I’m pretty sure the manager is gay. Gay trumps black! Gah!!! Go away with your stability and your black-trumping card!

I amped up the charm and told the manager I’d love to apply and tried to hand him my carefully compiled application packet, with fancy bio, but he turned his nose up at it. “I’m sure you can understand that we’d prefer to have tenants fill out consistent applications.” Well, I, understand that. Tell that to your comrades who seem to foist all the legwork on their potential residents.

This was apartment choice #1.

I then had to cab it a couple of miles north and west, for an 11:45am showing. I arrived early and took a short stroll around the neighborhood. My assessment? These motherfuckers are rich. What the hell am I doing here? By 11:45 there was a crowd outside the building where the OH was scheduled. %#^#$*%#^& Where did these assholes come from? There were a few single folks and two couples. Oh lord, now I’m competing against people with TWO incomes?

I liked this apartment too: a 1-bedroom, corner unit, lots of light as it faces south, and…and…and a WASHER AND DRYER IN THE UNIT! The only downside? It’s a junior 1-bedroom, meaning the bedroom fits a bed and not much else. I’d emailed the listing agent beforehand, including a little jazzy info about myself and my moxie. She replied the morning of and directed me to download her company’s application.

Unfortunately, no one has invented a printer that prints from thin air, so I didn’t have time to print the app. Instead, I handed her my rental packet of winning and she smiled and said, “Oh, how cute is this?” Noticing the cats: “Oh they are so cute!”

The 20-something girl in front of me, trying to shoehorn her way into my performance time, gave me a look of death. Yeah, bitch, I did that! Whachu got? From the looks of her bare hands – nothing. I thanked the listing agent and moved on to the next, shooting daggers of hate at the vultures congregating outside the building. This was apartment choice #2.

Finding an apartment to rent in San Francisco is probably harder than finding a job! | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black from "The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt"
Homes in this neighborhood are valued in the millions.

A few open houses later, I had applied for two apartments, opened up a P.O. Box where I could forward my mail in case I am still homeless by the time I move up. I felt dejected and in great need of some spirits. I sat on the bus feeling sorry for myself and wondered just how far I am willing to debase myself to find an apartment in this city. However, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to wallow as I was more entertained by the antics of others on the bus.

An older, molestor-looking gentleman, boarded the bus with a white cat in a fabric carrier, who was howling, “Goddamit asshole, let me out of this before I scratch the crap of you!” I’d howl too if my owner sat his molester-looking self down and put a duffel bag on top of my carrier, essentially smushing my mid-section. A hipster girl sitting beside me looked apoplectic and whispered to me, “That poor cat.” To my other side, an adorable 6-month old babbled in-between cat howling.

On a second bus – I had to transfer – I overheard the following conversation between two men whom I was scared to look at due to the content of their chat:

Man 1: “Man, you ain’t go to worry about it. Just pee on anything!”

Man 2: “But…”

Man 1: “No man, just pee on anything! A stick, a piece of paper, a bag of chips…”

Man 2: “But, I walked in and he said, ‘I am not your parole officer.'”

Man 1: “Man, fuck that. Those POs are all the same. Assholes.”

Thank you, sketchy gentlemen who have parole officers for reasons I don’t want to find out, for keeping me from spiraling into an apartment hunting depression. I returned home to Los Angeles and the obsessive checking of my email and phone began.

—-

Update: Ladies and gentleman, I am happy to announce that I was offered an apartment in the city of San Francisco. Not East Bay, not even Oakland, but in actual San Francisco. This will soon be my living room. Challenge complete!

Finding an apartment to rent in San Francisco is almost harder than finding a job! | Read more on The Girl Next Door is Black in "The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt"
My new living room! Look at all that light!

The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt

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

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

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

Here’s how it works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Read The Great San Francisco Apartment Hunt Continued