Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Guide to Seattle, Hipsters, and You

Red Mill Burgers, opened 1994 (original 1937)
I've been staying with some friends who have a house in Shoreline, which is just north of Seattle. The house is big enough that they can avoid me, which is good, because they are a couple and I worry about imposing on their couple time. But they have been nothing but completely gracious about hosting this unemployed, homeless migrant (not refugee, Los Angeles isn't that bad.) They insist on sharing Suzie's home-cooked dinners with me, she cleaned out their garage so I could get all my possessions out of my car parked on the street, they let me use their washer and dryer, which make the cutest little dings when they are done, and Suzie has driven me around town so I can see the wreckage that all the Californians moving up here has wrought.

Actually, Seattleites have been blaming Californians for driving up housing prices and bringing traffic congestion with them way before I moved to L.A. It's kind of like the "punk is dead" refrain that started in the late seventies and continued to declare that punk today is nothing like real punk which is gone forever thanks to these posers with no concept of where it all came from! That said, it's hard not to think Seattle is going the way of San Francisco where you seemingly need a high paying job at a tech firm or a trust fund to afford a decent place within Seattle, and the traffic, while far from what it is in L.A., is going in that direction. It's cracked the top 10 in the US, above Chicago and just below Boston. The condos that were popping up around the city before I left, like thistles that you don't notice until they get so tall and sturdy you're not sure how to remove them, or took over a whole area seemingly overnight (ahm, Belltown), have taken hold in or around practically every neighborhood that had it's own unique personality and people.

I think the condo buildings might be somewhat tolerable if they weren't so horribly ugly. They look like giant square building blocks, interchangeably mindless and towering over the buildings that actually have character. They look like they went up overnight, without a thought for how they would look in the area or fit in with the existing architecture. What happened to Ballard, my tour guide has told me, is what every other neighborhood that has a chance to head off uncontrolled growth is trying to avoid. Ballard was once the part of town known for having a lot of old people that drove painfully slow and vaguely nautically themed bars for the people (i.e. men, mostly) from the fishing boats that come into the port from Alaska. It was the Scandinavian part of town. Tourists would sometimes go there to see the locks, and I took my Scandinavian relatives to the stores that sold Scandinavian flags and potholders, and to commune with other people who knew what lutefisk was, and ate it! I'll wait while you look up what lutefisk is, and check out the videos of the lutefisk eating contest that was held at the Ballard SeafoodFest every year. Every year, that is, until 2013. That is the last year they had the "crowd-pleaser" lutefisk eating contest, as far as I can tell.

They still have the SeafoodFest, but I sure didn't see any signs that this was still the Scandinavian part of town. It is now the absolutely overrun with condos and precious hipster restaurants and bars part of town, wait, that's everywhere. Didn't see many hipsters though. Ballard, long ignored by the cool kids and left to the old sailors, had been discovered by hipsters that were over it with Capitol Hill and driven away from Fremont by the brewpub fratty meat market crowd, but it was the secret, only appreciated by those willing to make the trek for a handful of dive bars and diners. Where do the hipsters go now? When the hipster themed businesses move in, you know they are only going there to work. It is awful, absolutely awful, that so much of Seattle is so generic and expensive and flavorless, when it used to have such distinct neighborhoods, places that were unique unto themselves, and so uniquely Seattle. But, this is not new for Seattle, and not new for any growing city. The whole reason Ballard was the secret cool place for a moment was that unappreciated, quirky places are only that until other people figure it out. It's kind of a Seattle thing to always be looking for what is odd and unappreciated, and appreciating it until everyone else figures out how cool it is and ruins it.

That said, Seattle is bursting at the seams with people moving here and not enough housing and asphalt and places to hang out to contain them all, which, like San Francisco, is driving out the locals and people with personality but not tons of disposable income that can't afford to compete with not just Californians, but with people who are recruited here by certain Seattle-based businesses, businesses who are too good to hire University of Washington MBA's. They throw bonuses, high salaries, and perks at people who put in their two years of burn-out and then are looking for another job locally, or are ranked and involuntarily yanked, with the same result. Rank and yank is the employee motivational method proudly followed by another powerful and admired company, until it went bankrupt due to such massive fraud that it spawned my specialty, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. It all comes around.

Seattle is still here though, the real Seattle, the weird fishing town. To quote Art Chantry (look him up) in the movie Hype! (look it up), which came out in 1996, "So all these people come here, and then there's all this publicity, and... "Northern Exposure" and "Twin Peaks" and all this stuff, and everyone wants to come here and live the good yuppie lifestyle, but all this time there's all these people that are underneath that were here first and they're just starving and they're all crazy."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Seattle's Batman is a lawyer that works on 3rd Avenue.

Look at this little brown bat! Are they cute or what?!?!
I'm started to feel better about my move to Seattle. I took the bus downtown and met with some job recruiters, in person, so they saw my lip piercings, and one of them mentioned my tongue piercing. I've had my tongue pierced for twenty-four years, and it's one of my body modifications I forget about, or at least forget that people do notice it when I talk. The two that I talked to are totally clear that I will not take them out, and that I'm looking for a place that will not have issues with me not looking or being a cookie-cutter finance and accounting clone. They both seemed completely comfortable with me and this limitation. That probably had more to do with my comfort with myself and my own boundaries than anything else. Also talking to them about my resume made me realize that I have a very good resume with a lot of valuable experience.

I do still have significant doubts about whether any corporate environment would be tolerable to me, but the beauty of the piercings is that I'm putting it out there, on my face, that I am not going to be a good fit with a company that I probably wouldn't want to work at anyway. We're also dealing with this issue up front as they are making sure to discuss this with the company before any interviews take place. I was rejected for two jobs within 12 hours though. I passed on one before they even approached them because it was at a biotech with drama. I worked at a biotech with drama already, and a medical company with drama, and have no desire to get anywhere near medical/biotech drama ever again. Instability and power struggles seem fairly common in this particular industry, and when I google a company name and the first thing that comes up is a recent article about the board forcing out its second CEO in less than a year, it does not bode well. The ones that rejected me were, company is fun and casual but the CFO is too conservative for that, and a temporary project that someone at the recruiting firm pitched to me over the phone but hadn't met me in person, and I said, did you know about the piercings? So she put me on hold for quite a while, and then said she'd call me back, and then asked if I'd take them out, and I said no, and then she kept saying, "well, it's your choice" and I thought, but didn't say, uh, yeah, it sure is my choice.

Anyway, somehow I just feel better having it out there, and giving myself the chance to potentially find a place that I would fit in with and greatly reducing the chance I would fall into a job where I hate the culture. One of the other avenues I'm pursuing is a government/university job. I had an interview at my alma mater today. I interviewed with three people, and while they probably wouldn't have said anything about my piercings if they did have a problem with it, they didn't stare or look startled or freaked out, so that was a good sign. I was the first person to interview for the job, which they told me several times, which I don't really know how to interpret? Hopefully I blew them away and all the rest of the interviewees pale in comparison. I really felt comfortable with all three of the people, and them seemed very smart and down to earth, and the job sounds really cool and interesting, and OH MY GOD I WOULD LOVE TO WORK AT MY ALMA MATER! I love that university. I went there for undergrad and grad school, and would be totally trying to get into their MFA program except that they don't offer creative nonfiction.

But one of the issues with government/university is that the interview process can move really slowly, I'm told, so pursuing these jobs requires patience. Not my strong suit. I also kind of fall in love with some jobs I interview for, or the idea of the job, prematurely, so I'm trying to just move on and not think about this one until I hear something. Also, while they did seem to like me and my experience, I had some moments of unfocused blabbing (like what I do on my blog pretty much all the time lately) which does not necessarily help my case. I hate those, give an example of some blah blah difficult situation, how did you handle it, what would you have done differently, questions. So dangerous for an arguably overly open, chatty person such as myself.

In conclusion, be patient, work on the unfocused blabbing, there are a ton of job postings for this university in finance and accounting and I have an interview for another job there next week. Things are looking up. Also, the area of downtown I was in and the university district don't look nearly as different as Capitol Hill, so that made me feel less like I had come back to a completely changed Seattle. It is kind of a bummer that I am probably priced out of living in Capitol Hill when it was where I live for the three years before I moved, and, is it even possible to park on Capitol Hill at all? But Capitol Hill was one of the busiest and most expensive parts of town even back then, so I'm not totally surprised. It is unfortunate that the condos have taken over, but I do like the rainbow crosswalks.

In other news, as I have shared on Facebook, I attempted to participate in a bat rescue in downtown yesterday. Why this poor bat was in a tree downtown and fell out of it onto the street during rush hour morning traffic we may never know. I was walking to my interview with one of the recruiters, and I saw this guy trying to get this tiny bat out of the street and on to the sidewalk. He seemed pretty frazzled, so initially I was just trying to offer some moral support to this kind man who was obviously on his way to work and was unable to just walk past an injured animal like so many others were. We got the poor critter on the sidewalk, when promptly a group of people who seemed to come out of a sitcom about horrible, selfish people started taking pictures with their cell phones and telling us with glee in their voices that this bat is going to die! I couldn't even look at them I was so pissed, so I focused on the bat and brainstorming with the guy as to who we would call for bat rescue services.

Meanwhile, it did look brutal. The bat was on his back, shaking in the cold, and every time a bus drove by, it created a wind that blew right into her. (The bat would have definitely been hit by a bus if not for this man because we were next to a bus stop and buses were swooping in close to the curb every minute or two.) I was trying to shield the bat from the wind and cold by cupping my hands around him, which was super ineffective. A doorman from the building we were in front of came over and tried to help, and they moved a orange cone on the sidewalk next to the bat, and then the doorman brought over a plastic trashcan that he put over the bat to protect him. The guy got a hold of someone from the city who was sending someone over, no eta, and he obviously wanted to get to work but didn't want to abandon the situation, so I told him I'd stay and wait with the little bat.

The doorman picked up the trashcan, and little bat (who was tiny, would fit in the palm of my hand) had flipped over. She made a beeline for the cone and crawled underneath. The two of them went into the building, and I sat on the sidewalk next to the cone, hoping he didn't crawl under the cone to die. She had pulled her wings into his body and was sticking her tongue out before he was under the trashcan, and scurried under the cone so quickly that I had a lot more hope for her than I did when we first got him on the sidewalk.

The guy from the city actually showed up in less than an hour, which is amazing! Downtown, morning traffic, I don't know how he got there so fast. Soon after he showed up, this woman stopped by and said she sat across from the heroic man, who is a lawyer that works in the building we were in front of and told her the amazing bat story, The city guy gave us business cards, and took my name and number, and scooped the bat into a coffee can. This was the first time the bat showed any aggression at all. She hissed at the city guy, or the coffee can, I couldn't tell which. The city guy thought I was very brave to have my hands near the bat because bats can have rabies. Thing is, the bat didn't act aggressively towards us at all. I imagine he was preoccupied with survival. When I think back on the whole thing, I am just awed by how bravely this tiny bat fought for her life, and hope he is still alive. Also, it reminds me that some people are incredibly compassionate, and some people are incredibly callous, and it's hard to tell about everyone else who walked by. Human nature is often to not get involved, and to keep walking.

I actually had an experience of this back when I was the age that I got my first piercings. I was waiting for the bus on Broadway, the main street through Capitol Hill. There was a guy, possibly someone I had seen at parties or even knew, passed out just down the street. I assumed he was drunk, even though it was the middle of the day. I had a bad feeling and kept looking over there, thinking that I should go check on him but feeling frozen and anxious. I don't even know what I was afraid of, what was holding me back. Maybe that I didn't know what I would do if there was something wrong, that I felt too powerless to help him? Finally a woman did stop to check on him, which initially I was relieved that someone besides me had done, but then she started calling out to people to call an ambulance (days before cell phones). A crowd gathered, and the consensus seemed to be that he had overdosed on heroin.

I never heard anyone in my little punk scene mention someone who had overdosed after that, so I don't know what happened to him, if he lived or died. I felt the most intense shame that I did nothing. This was even someone like me, about the same age, a punk boy, someone I probably did have friends in common with. Maybe if I had gone over the ambulance would have come sooner and he would have had a better chance. What if he died? I'll never know what happened to him. It haunted me. After that, I tried to never keep walking. I know I can't live with myself if I don't stop. Sometimes I just check to make sure someone is breathing. It was overwhelming when I lived in San Francisco. I walked by so many people, literally in the gutter, and I saw so many people step over people lying on the sidewalk without even looking at them. But I can still understand that it's hard to stop. It sometimes feels like a primal thing, that you are fighting against all your instincts to get involved. So I really can't blame people. But it is a wonderful thing that there are people who stop and try to help.

I give Lawyer Batman all the credit on that one. I don't think I could have handled that on my own. But it does seem that if that first person stops, usually a couple others will too. It's a nice caveat to human nature, a bit of a counterbalance to all the people who keep walking.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stereoscopic is the show

Been almost a week now. I can't say that I am any less uncomfortable, but I am focused on getting a job. That seems like step one of regaining some stability in my life. I've been applying to university and government jobs, and I broke down and contacted a recruiter. I've had more negative experiences with finance and accounting recruiters than positive. They always tell you they are working for you, but they are working for the companies. Problem is, if you approach a lot of these companies yourself, they direct you to submit your resume online, and then totally ignore online applications. I also broke down and changed my hair color back to a normal color, and took out one of my lip piercings and put a retainer in my septum (nose). But I left the other two lip piercings in.

I'm in kind of a bind because I like working in accounting and audit, but even in "creative" companies the accounting department tends to be the most conservative. I suspect that a contributing factor is that they teach you in big-four audit firms to overdress as compared to the client, and companies love to hire people with big-four experience who bring that culture with them. Part of it is the intimidation factor- when the auditors in suits come in, people snap to attention. But there is also this odd lust for conformity, and an insistence on something that accountants should really know better about, form over substance. Looking like you know what you are talking about is more important than actually knowing what you are talking about. Conformity is very dangerous too. It's so common in fraud cases for people to overlook the ethics of what they are doing because everyone else is okay with it. People have actually used that as an argument when I've questioned things, i.e. you're the only one who has a problem with this, so it must be a problem with you! In an environment where people are afraid to stand out and disagree, and appearances matter more than reality, the best work is not done. The best people aren't hired and promoted. Mistakes aren't acknowledged and fixed. I find it wildly ironic that audit especially, who's whole reason for existence is to be a voice of dissent, is so constrained by social conformity and not challenging people's assumptions.

Lately, I feel like I made a giant mistake- I thought if I "paid my dues" in accounting that I would get past the having to continuously prove myself and be appreciated for my experience and knowledge. And passion for the work. And ethical standards. After 15 years, I'm not sure that will ever be the case. I'm worried I won't be able to afford to live in Seattle, even for the short term, without the type of job I'm so loathe to return to. I don't know what else to do. I realize that I am engaging in black and white thinking right now though. Getting a job takes time, and I haven't actually been rejected for anything based on my appearance, and maybe I will find a job in my field that will be at a place with a more diverse culture. That is exactly why I'm trying to stay away from the more intensely corporate environments, and why I have a lot of skepticism about the kinds of jobs that recruiters steer me towards. So we'll see. I'm wondering what my plan B should be though.

It feels strange to be driving around Seattle, and it seems like the same place I've lived in for most of my adult life, but then a completely different place at the same time. I don't know how to get around, and where to go, and oh my god the parking. I remember feeling this way when I first moved to Los Angeles. I didn't know the city and it was hard. I have this weird thing about parking. If I don't know where to park I get really anxious, and I don't want to go places where I don't have the parking figured out. That was L.A. when I first moved there, and it's Seattle now. I've been hanging out in coffee shops applying for jobs online, but I'm kind of constrained as to where I feel comfortable going because I panic if there's not parking. I just drive around some of the time, which is not a bad thing necessarily. I'm getting used to the way Seattle looks now. It might be withdrawal from all the L.A. driving. I've also put out feelers for hockey, which would really help me feel better. The women's league here has a evaluation skate this Monday, but in my communication with them they keep emphasizing how there's only four spots left, and if you don't sign up ahead of time there might not be a spot, and the teams fill up, and if there's no spots you can't play. Signing up involves becomes a member ($550 to $625) plus a $75 fee for the evaluation skate. Uh, no. So yeah. Wondering about plan B.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Who are you, exactly?

I've been back in Seattle since Sunday, and I'm already going a little bonkers. I have a hard time with not having my own space. I did fine with the hotel rooms. I've been staying with friends, and it's difficult to do my evening routine and wind down. Plus, I'm a cat magnet. I'm not a cat person, so of course cats love me. They are cute, but I get kneaded on a lot with claws, and I'm kind of allergic. I'm especially human catnip when I try to work on my computer. I'm staying with two tiny kittens for the next four days, and they are loving all over me. And climbing up my legs. And chewing on my cords. My evening routine involves a lot of cords. I am very much eager to get a job and an apartment.

I forget how difficult it is for me to control my PTSD symptoms without being able to control my environment, at least my home environment. I would think I would understand what I need to manage my condition by now, but I seem to forget. To be fair, I was finding Los Angeles to be very stressful and triggering, which is a big reason why I wanted to leave. So ultimately it was to manage my PTSD. Also, my dog had become my major coping mechanism. I swear, he had doggie PTSD. He came from the streets too, and we comforted each other. I don't want to try to replace him, but I don't know that I can find that kind of comfort any other way. It's frustrating to be struggling so much, after all this time, and feeling that I'm back to square one. Even worse than square one, because I'm more aware than ever of how I feel. The only goal that makes sense to me right now is to orient my life around reducing my symptoms.

One thing that I've noticed is that almost everyone I know is struggling in some way. I'm certainly not the only person I know who's dealing with depression. It seems a little odd to me that so many people are depressed. Is this the world we live in? Is this just part of our modern, first-world life? So many people seem to hate their jobs. They demand complete loyalty and devotion, but will lay you off in a second, and you're supposed thank them for the opportunity. Corporate life. I don't think I can possibly do that again, even for the freedom the money brings. It's trading one freedom for another. I actually don't see how I can make it work regardless of what I do, so I'm just having faith I will somehow figure it out.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Screaming Horse In My Belly

California Coast, Sept 11, 2015
I'm in Eugene, Oregon. I didn't intend on stopping in Oregon, especially Eugene. My brother lived here for a year before he moved back to Pullman and killed himself, and since I'm angry at everything that could have possibly contributed to Jeff's death, Eugene is on my list. It is better than Salem, though, and Portland is too expensive. Oregon is the Texas of the West Coast. Driving through the state on I-5 is an awesome experience if you can't get enough Jesus billboards and adult stores, all named "Adult Store" or "Adult Shop". (I wonder if seeing Jesus on a cross and being reminded that he died for our sins after going to an Adult Store is kind of like going to confession. Wipe away your sins with this billboard!) Don't forget all the guys in dirty t-shirts without sleeves (I'm not going to use that name, but you know what I'm saying) roaming the sides of the freeway, and RV's. And RV parks! And RV dealers! I actually saw a car driving in Eugene that had a huge "no fat chicks" sticker covering the back. If that doesn't make you want to visit Western Oregon, would you be interested in visiting a town called Drain? How about the next town over, Curtin? It's too bad there's not a Shower nearby. That was really a missed opportunity.

When I left Pismo Beach, I really tried to roam free without using GPS, which lasted about 20 minutes in which I ended up in a marina parking lot. So I pointed Gina (my Garmin GPS) towards Half Moon Bay. Half Moon Bay was my favorite place to go to the beach when I lived in San Francisco. I drove along the coast, through Big Sur and Monterey, ending up in Santa Cruz. I'd never taken that drive before and it was gorgeous. The next day I made it to Half Moon Bay, but by way of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. That's means I drove in a big circle. Don't ask.

Of course I'm going to tell you. I woke up in Santa Cruz thinking I'd had enough of the scenic route, and headed on the most direct route to Seattle. I was on some freeway, and reached a point where the freeway split in two. If you went right, you were going to Sacramento (which was the way the GPS was taking me), and if you went left, you were on the road to San Francisco. Suddenly I realized that I was skipping San Francisco entirely, in favor of Sacramento, and I was like, hell no. So I went left. That split second decision led to me driving on the top part of the Bay Bridge, which I've always found both exhilarating and terrifying. Part of the time, I can't see where I'm going, and it feels like I am driving way too high in the air for any sane person to tolerate, and I'm going to drive off the end of the world. Then suddenly, I'm driving into San Francisco! I hung out in Half Moon Bay for a bit, and then headed for an Indian restaurant in Petaluma. I really can't explain that one, but it meant that, unexpectedly, I ended up going north on the Golden Gate Bridge, which was 1) amazing, 2) free (no toll going north). So I hit both the S.F. bridges. Totally worth it. But that's not all! When I did decide to go back to some kind of logical route to Seattle, my GPS took me through Napa, which is another place I'd never been and was beautiful. I had one of those transcendent moments, driving through the farmland of Northern California, singing at the top of my lungs to "Wild Hearted Son" by The Cult, when I thought, "I'm exactly where I should be, when I should be, and I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life."

Yesterday I learned:
1) I am just someone who doesn't take the direct route, and even if I try, I end up going in circles.
2) I have a strange internal compass that takes me where I don't even know I want to go.
3) It's not logical, but it makes sense.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Escape from West L.A.

Pismo Beach, Sept 9, 2015
I'm on my way back up to Seattle. I don't know if this is day one, or day nine, as I was supposed to be out of my apartment in West Los Angeles on August 31. It took me until September 8, at about 10:30 pm, to actually get out of my apartment. It seems like most things I try to do these days becomes more complicated, plodding, and energy-consuming than planned.

The whole moving away from L.A. plan started with moving to Spokane at the end of July, for the MFA program. I didn't get a teaching position or even a financial aid offer. I actually never got a yes or no on the teaching position, and the financial aid offer was kept being delayed. First, I was supposed to find out mid-April, then June, then July, then August. You get the picture. Every time I emailed or called the financial aid office it was going to be another 2-4 weeks, with different reasons each time. The total amount of financial aid changed for the university, so all awards had to be recalculated. Graduate students get their aid offer after undergraduates. There's no reason, it's just going to be another three weeks. It finally occurred to me that, 1) teaching is a integral part of my Plan For The Future, and there is little to zero chance of me teaching creative writing after an MFA program without teaching experience in said MFA program, and 2) I can't afford more student loan debt. Business school was expensive, and even when I was making the big bucks my loan balance didn't go down significantly. With teaching comes a tuition waiver, and usually a stipend, and many MFA programs are moving to a fully funded model because MFA degrees don't get you the big bucks. So on July 20 I cancelled with EWU, with the intention of applying to fully funded programs for next year.

I'm still moving back to Washington, to Seattle, because reasons. Seattle still feels like home to me, even after eight years of living in Los Angeles. L.A. stresses me out- traffic, poor air quality which has meant annual sinus infections and a reoccurring cough, and so, so hot. Oh my god, so hot. I need to re-group, re-set, re-whatever. But, I delayed moving another month because my dog, Sparky, was getting sick and I had a feeling that it was serious this time. My feelings were right. I had to put him to sleep on August 14. I don't even know what to say about that. I can't sum up how devastated I am. At the same time, I've dealt with this in a fundamentally different way than I've handled emotional difficulty in the past. I was able to stay with it, in the moment so to speak. I didn't numb out or shut down. It's a significant milestone in my trauma recovery. Before, when I experienced bad things, upsetting, traumatic, triggering things, my emotions took a walk. I didn't know how I felt about my life most of the time. It happened at such a subconscious level that I didn't get a chance to consciously decide whether to turn off my emotions or deal with them. I should clarify that it was protective, life-saving even, when I was a child. It needed to happen so I could get through that trauma. It's been a problem in my adult life though. I couldn't manage my life very well, because I was running on auto-pilot so much of the time. The worse a situation was, the more disconnected I got, which meant I was emotionally unavailable to respond, that is, get the hell out of that situation.

Now I am definitely in phase two, the feelings all the time, as they happen, with fire hose strength. It is much better because I am finally getting real-time feedback on my emotional reactions. I know what I'm feeling, absolutely, unfiltered, no moderating it, no avoiding it. Phase two is not the final phase. It can't be. This is kind of like being a teenager again, at least emotionally, with the life experience of an adult. I can keep the strength of my emotions in perspective most of the time, and realize that it's a phase and that eventually my emotional reactions will calm down, and be tempered with, you know, stuff that keeps you from crying in public all the time. But right now, I don't have a filter, and getting hit with fire hose strength emotions is exhausting. Exhausting enough that I can only handle so much, and moving back up to Seattle is a lot of so much. When I moved to L.A., it happened very fast. I got the job, and then movers came and packed up my apartment, and I drove 14 hours the first day, and it was a tornado. In eight years I didn't even unpack a lot of that stuff. This time, I got rid of a lot, but there was only so much I could handle. I ended up throwing things in storage that I couldn't get rid of, and it took me eight extra days. I don't really know why I couldn't finish by August 31st. It took me until September 8th.

Last night I made it to Sylmar, where my friend lives. Today, I made it to Pismo Beach. Pismo Beach was a little random. I want to see the coast. Both google maps (wow, font change!) and my Garmin GPS just can't get off the direct route through the middle of California, so I was trying to trick them into going to the Pacific Coast Highway. I'm actually staying in a cheap hotel on PCH, the Blue Seal. I got here at 6 pm and stopped for dinner, and wanted to walk on the pier and the beach and decided to stay for the night. I didn't have a plan for the next place to get to. It's stunningly beautiful here, very California. I've never seen so many surfers in one place, running down the street towards the beach with their surfboards, and people can take their dogs on the beach. Seeing so many dogs made me cry, and I thought about turning around and hiding in the hotel room. But I sucked it up and kept walking down the pier and on to the beach and to the water, where I ran from the waves to keep my Doc Martens relatively dry, and picked up garbage on the sand. Garbage on the beach drives me crazy, especially plastic.

 When I was an undergrad, we read a book called My Old Sweetheart by Susanna Moore. I don't remember the class, or what the book was meant to teach us, but I remember the book. It stayed with me. It is about a girl in a dysfunctional family, a family where the parents don't take care of the kids, and the girl takes care of her mother. The book is set in Hawaii, and unfolds like a flower. The family splinters, but slowly, languorously.The girl's sister runs away, but the way she runs away is to go to a neighbor's house. Then she goes to a neighbor who lives a little farther away. House by house, bit by bit, she gets farther and farther away until she's in a completely different place.