Letter From CA
4-4-05, Part Tres Lounge:
September 25th was my birthday. We got drunk the night before. About sundown on the 25th, Jana and Austin gave me my birthday present: a handful of psychedelic mushrooms.
Now. I enjoy myself some alcohol. I even smoke some occasional pot, although I must say, at this point in my life, I take a whisp of a breath and yessiree bob, that’s enough for me. Boy, them cymbals sure sound awfully good… Eyeball buzzing is really for the occasional break out the bachelor party. But mushrooms…
Mushrooms are quite simply the greatest drug ever given to man by nature or anyone else. They are to be respected no doubt, and are for rare moments since they are so…. intense, but they are one of the most truly awesome, and I mean awesome in the strict definition of the word, parts of life I know. A good mushroom trip can be wonderful, powerful, life embracing, life-facing, issue-sorting, spiritual, fun to lost childhood and back end of fun, and most awe-inspiring things one can do with one’s mind, body and soul.
But that’s just me.
(and for the record, it’s not LSD. I fucking HATE LSD. Chemical bullshit. Go to nature. The universe loves you. Course, so do hungry tigers and haphazard bolts of lightning, but hey. Shit’s rough.)
Jana and Austin’s apartment is by the ocean. I liked to sit out on their back porch, smoke a cigarette and listen to the ocean. Did that a lot. Now that I no longer live there, I miss it a lot. So we tripped at night at the ocean on my birthday.
I had been writing a story for 2 months by that point, and could not for the life of me think of how to end it. Naturally, at the height of my psychedelic issue-sorting point of the trip, the ending came. At another point, I was atop a small pile of rocks in the middle of the ocean, waves crashing around me, singing jaunty sailor songs at the top of my lungs.
Jana and I got on a kick where we spoke only in a british accent for 2 hours (could have been just an hour, hard to say). We were shipwrecked brits on some new coast. Austin, his first trip ever, would only say the word “Gob”. He was, obviously, the Gobber, some strange bird-creature we discovered on this new and distant shore. He followed us around, saying “gob” occasionally, and drawing in a notebook. Drawing well. He never drew before. Now he rather enjoys it.
But before all this, during the intense rise and break of the trip, I thought about my age, my position and in life, and what I needed to face in order to grow, get a better life and feel like a 30 something, and not a twenty something I had long become accustomed to. (shouldering responsibility and the deep seated resolve I felt in my gut then was the answer I got.)
Went home, drank wine, listened to John Coltrane, and fell asleep.
3 days later, after having turned down one job (shades of real estate all over again. You went door to door to various businesses selling special “offers for the neighbors”. The guy taking me out had a routine down. It consisted of saying “Hi Neighbor!” while waving his hand a lot. I would have rather eaten my own testicles. A story for another time, though) I got a call back on an ad for a coffee barista I had answered. They invited me to interview. (“Are you applying for the barista position or the manager position?” they asked over the phone. What could I say? “Uh… manager?” What the fuck.)
I had kinda built a coffee shop with Michael years and years before. Ran it for a few months too. Long story.
Went to the interview. Bullshitted. Got offered a job with a $28,000 salary managing a store at the San Francisco Airport.
Smiled and laughed my way back to Jana and Austin’s.
I was the first of us to
find employment. I was first to start getting paid, and thus was able
to keep us all afloat, a welcome relief, as one by one they got jobs
too. Jana at an animal rescue shelter (up her alley) and Austin at Target.
(He’s Target team now. We still tease him.)
Jana and Austin had a third roommate moving out to join them. I was sleeping in his bedroom. He was not there yet. He was coming. Michael was coming. They were both going to come about the same time. This was going to be a bit tricky.
My store, Peet’s Coffee Gate 86, hadn’t actually opened yet. They were building it. The 2 brothers who owned it had bought 6 coffee shops in the airport, all old Starbucks locations who had gotten kicked out, yes, kicked out, and had entered into a licensed partner deal with Peet’s coffee, a SF coffee chain. We were operating out of carts. The store behind us was being built. The carts open at 5AM, the shift actually starts at 4.
I couldn’t get there at 4. Pacifica is beautiful little town, full of sunsets over the ocean and a little dive bar called the Surf lounge which I have an affinity towards, since, well, it’s the local dive.
But if you don’t have a car, you’re FUCKED. The buses run once an hour, and they don’t run too early or too late. And on weekends, last one pulls in at 6PM. You can’t just get anywhere simply by bus either. You have to take the bus to the subway (called BART) then to town or the airport. Jana has to transfer several times to get to Oakland where she works, and on Sunday mornings has to walk and hour and a half at 3 AM to get to the train to get her to work at 8.
I was told I needed a car in order to work at the airport. Thinking of Michael, and needing the damn job, I said I had one coming.
So right at Christmas, Michael arrived. Clay, the roommate proper, arrived along with two other friends from the east coast. I started working at 4AM, learning new meanings of the concept of fatigue, and now Michael and I needed to find an apartment PRONTO.
Worst New Year’s EVER. Was fatigued beyond endurance. Went to a crappy party I was too tired to enjoy. Got an hour of sleep then went to work. Hungover and sleepless.
The only other night I went to work blisteringly hung over and sleepless was the day after the election. Even worse day of hell. Got shit faced at the Surf Lounge with a full raging bar watching the results.
Oh jeez. I don’t wanna even relive it.
So. The present.
I’ve never lived by the ocean, and have actually grown quite accustomed to it. So Michael and I got an apartment in Pacifica, up the hill from Jana and Austin and Clay. The ocean is at the bottom of my hill. A ten minute walk.
I just got a crappy old car, but it works and it’s mine. I work at 4AM now. I work HARD. We do a LOT of business. We’re the busiest coffee shop in the airport. I work 9 hour shifts with no break and no rest without blinking.
I’ve gotten 2 raises. I am senior manager. I will never truly adjust to waking up at 3AM.
I pay 2 rents. One in NY, one in SF. (the two most expensive cities in the US. I’m still a dedicated dumbass. But at least my wife has a nice apartment all to herself and is closing in on her PhD.)
I watch the sunset over the ocean. I rise before dawn even on my days off.
I will move back to NY in late Aug/ beginning Sept (unless I get a summer job in Alaska as a tour guide. I’ve applied really hard, but heard nothing back yet.)
I will rejoin my wife, and when she is done with school we will move somewhere beautiful (I realize, I must live somewhere beautiful. I require beauty in my life.) and have a child.
I write short stories now that I hope to publish. My one true love is still music. In two weeks I will begin renting a piano. They move it in to your home, and for $40 a month, you have it as long as you want. I have an album written in my head, and once I have enough money to FINALLY GET A NEW FUCKING COMPUTER (6 week time) I will be that much closer.
I intend to return to NY with a new studio. Based on my budgeting, which I do very well nowadays, thank you very much, is not that difficult.
There are 8 cats that live on the hill behind my house. I feed them. It requires a lot of cat food. I love feeding those cats. My favorite part of the day is coming home and feeding them. Before bed, I stand on our back balcony with a glass of scotch and a cigarette, hang with the cats and watch the sunset.
It’s my year in California.