The summer of my discontent (part 1).

When I left my job in Baltimore to move to San Diego it never occurred to me I would be unemployed for long. I pride myself on being both more resourceful and more adaptable than your average bear, by my own assessment. I fully anticipated a month-ish of unencumbered freedom in a brand new city before jumping into a new job. When I moved from Pittsburgh to Baltimore it took a month to solidify my bartending/nanny income. After my nanny contract expired for the following summer I was nestled into my new job, again, within a months time. Things always worked out. I presumed this would be the approximate time frame for starting over in San Diego.

I was wrong.

April came and went without much action on the job hunting front. I was flush with savings and obsessively organizing and purchasing things as thriftily as possible for our new little home. It was a surprisingly time consuming hobby to cruise thrift stores and check Craig’s List daily. It became kind of a game and I enjoyed myself. Aside from the trauma of the demon sofa I was fairly successful within the parameters I set for myself. The sun was so refreshingly warm after the brutal East Coast winter, and I now live ten minutes from the beach. So, to be honest, I wasn’t trying very hard in April. I applied to only a handful of jobs. I went to Coachella. I went to the state fair. My head wasn’t in the game.

May arrived.

I had decided back East that I wanted to be a psychiatric nurse. I had been in grad school to be a therapist, but decided that I did not want to hear the nitty gritty of trauma stories for the next thirty years. I couldn’t commit.  As a psych nurse, I reasoned, I would still be working in mental health, which I enjoy, but would get paid significantly more and have a lot more versatility should I want to change settings. Given my work history, it’s pretty apparent that I like to change settings. My Joshua, ever supportive, assured me he would help float me while I went to school. I researched all the programs available in San Diego throughout May. There was a common theme: many years of school and many more loans. In short, despite all these promising reasons to go back to school, I got cold feet. In fact, my feet were freezing.

I arrived at the proposition of a “normal job”. Out of all my peers I know who make significantly more money than I do I have observed two things: they work in an office environment and they don’t appear to do very much. I listen to their job descriptions with incredulous attention, So that takes you eight hours a day, all year, just to do that? Really? You do that for forty hours a week, fifty-two weeks a year? Invariably, it turns out, that they don’t. Instead, they spend many hours, per work day, trolling the internet or dicking around, and they are out by five and have weekends off, only to complain of boredom. It’s sickening.

So I added my perception of “normal jobs” into the net I was throwing out. Since college I have worked in customer service, residential mental health, nannying, inpatient mental health, bartending, etc. and thus scultped a variety of resumés. I applied to somewhere around a dozen jobs a day. I also applied to temp agencies, counting on an immersion into the sea of arbitrary boredom to test the waters. I applied to be a bank teller, a “pet care specialist”, a cashier at a book store, a teacher at a child care facility, a hospital attendant, an administrative assistant, a secretary, a personal assistant, marketing whatever, make-up guru at Sephora, or Ulta, ABA therapist with CARD, this and that in mental health, blah blah blah. I could do anything!

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June began.

My phone finally rang.

It was a temp agency, arranging an interview. Truth be told, I thought this was ideal. I could trolley around the new city and try out all sorts of new jobs in Boring land and learn how to operate fax machines and whatnot without worrying about making a lasting impression of myself as an imbecile. Perfect!

I arrived at the office in my business wear costume, with my hair straightened and a freshly printed resume in a brown Kinkos paper bag, and this tucked in my giant leather Ralph Lauren handbag.

The lettering on the outside windows read, “CONSTRUCTION LANDSCAPING CATERING”. I double checked my email to confirm the address… yet this was the intended building.

I walked inside and found a long hallway, the paint peeling, which deposited me in a mustard yellow waiting room, filled with half bathed male laborers. I got in line.

“You a tall glass of water. Look how tall she is,” this man elbowed another man beside him, “Mmm, what’s your name?”

“Nope.” I smiled, feeling my blood pressure bubble upward. I find the phrase tall glass of water particularly triggering ever since a homeless man leaned in to call me that while I was volunteering at a shelter, with my church youth group, in middle school.

“What’s you problem, girl?”

I excused myself to the front of the line, “Excuse me, sorry, I have an appointment at 9:30 with Michelle.”

“That’s in the office work building across the courtyard, building three” The receptionist gestured over my shoulder.

I pushed through the door to find a drought deadened courtyard with several cottage-like structures in a semi-circle. It continuously amazes me how many buildings in California are set up as several small structures with outdoor hallways.

I sat in an empty waiting room, empty aside from a middle aged woman in a very revealing skirt suit and silver iridescent heels. She smiled at me, and continued idly looking out the window.

Michelle appeared. Her blonde hair was unwashed, in a pony tail, and she was wearing two different shades of black.

“Hi! Welcome, let’s take a look at your resumé!”

We simultaneously shook hands and seated ourselves in an adjacent room that had two folding chairs on opposite sides of a faux wood table.

“So, I’ve done a lot of different things. I’m interested in trying office work sort of positions, temporary things I could easily transition in and out of, or transition into permenant positions if they’re a good fit.”

“Did you answer phones at any of these jobs?” She scanned my resumé.

“Answer phones? Yes.” Of course I can answer phones. Jesus Christ, I have a college degree.

“Like, multi-line telephones.”

“Yes.” I smiled. Are these real questions?

“Ok, you should put that on your resumé,” she put the paper down and stared at me.

“Alright, I can do that.” I envisioned a sales pitch from Billy Mays, Not only can she lead forty-five minute groups for a room full of acute patients, on a variety of subjects!, independently!, but she can answer telephones!

“Where do you live?”

“Old Town. I’d like to work downtown since I live right on the trolley line,” I had fantasies of meeting up with Joshua for happy hours in my business wear costume, reporting all my trivial complaints about emails and phone calls and faxes while I downed five dollar Jack and Cokes on special until six.

“But you do have your own vehicle, which is reliable?” She tilted her head.

“Yes, it would just be nice to not have to commute considering I’m right there.”

“Right, it would be nice… Do you know Microsoft Office, Outlook,…” she trailed off.

I had listed all those programs under the special skills section. In truth I had taken one intro level computer class in college, which I got a C in. I got a C because my pseudo-brother roommate intervened when I confided I couldn’t figure out any of my assignments and was dangerously close to failing a gimme course. He completed my entire course load the day before the bulk of my assignments were due. Such a gent, that one.

“Yes, and I type quite quickly,” I pointed to my special skills section across the table. When I had been through this process in Pittsburgh the recruiter had been nothing short of ecstatic that I typed 75 words per minute during their test, and demanded I bold it on the top of my resumé, which I never did.

“Yes, that is good too. Which do you prefer, full time or part time?”

“Either will work out.”

“Are you looking for something permenant or temporary?”

“Either is fine, if it’s a good fit I’d like to stick around. Ideally I’d like to work somewhere that has a team environment and a shared mission, like at a non-profit, or something similar,”

Michelle looked at me as if I had four eyes and six heads, “Right, of course,”

I back peddled,”But anywhere is fine, I guess,”

She circled my phone number and stood up, “So we will be in touch. If you don’t hear from us just call and check in to make sure we still know you’re looking.”

“Of course, thank you. Do you have any suggestions for changes to my resumé?”

“We don’t really do that.”

“Oh, ok. Thank you.”

I crossed the court yard and bolted through the waiting room and into my car which had now reached molten lava temperatures. I chided myself for putting so much effort into what already struck me as a fruitless endeavor. My smooth, straightened hair immediately warped in the intense heat.

Of course, I didn’t hear from them. I called a few days later and inquired about possible oppourtunities,

“We do have something that just came up, it’s from eleven to four AM downtown and pays fifteen dollars an hour.”

“Eleven to four… in the afternoon?”

“Nope, it’s eleven to four in the morning.”

“What would I be doing?”

“Well it’s an event job so you’d do whatever they needed, really. Sort of similar to an usher.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Ok, well that’s all I have today.”

“Umm… ok.”

She hung up.

All of my following calls resulted in zero offers, even strange ones were absent. These people had nothing. I called the jobs I had already applied to, only to repeatedly be met with crushing statements that it had already been filled, or worse, that the person on the other end had no idea what I was talking about. I left my name and number with countless individuals who never returned my calls.

Knowing that structure is important for me, or more directly, my mental health, I had been following a loose routine since my arrival in California. I woke up early, I got ready for the day, I took Murphy to the park or a walk, we worked on his puppy training, I read, I wrote, I obsessively cleaned. I prepared meals and bagged lunches. In the evenings Josh and I would go to the gym, on the weekends we went to the beach or on a hike or some other random excursion to explore our new city.

By mid June this structure deteriorated. In a shamefully rapid deviation from my plan, I began sleeping in until whenever, wearing the same yoga pants and t shirt ensemble from the day before into the night into the day… I stopped wearing make-up. I stopped preparing meals, I stopped cleaning, I stopped answering phone calls because few people seemed to understand any discontent I alluded to. I was met with, Well, at least you’re at the beach! or You’re lucky you’ve got Josh to support you! Stay at home girlfriend, haha, and It’s not so bad, you’ll find something soon, and in the meantime you’re in California!! Benign questions like, “So what have you been up to out there?” came across as aggressive, condescending.

I was broke, extremely isolated, and increasingly frightened of my precarious mental state. Having been a headline rider at the Clinical Depression Rodeo before I knew I was slowly circling the top of a very deep well.

down the rabbit hole

down the rabbit hole

Josh was very practical, and direct, “What’s going on?”

“I’m on strike,” I said cooly.

“Why’s that?” he scooped me into a hug.

“Because you smell like Murphy,” I joked and then added, “and I’m sad,”

“Yeah, well, I’m concerned, and I know that you know better than anyone what needs to be done to help you.”

I rebuked, “I need a job. I used to have a job that mattered to me. You remember. K. Thanks.” I held up my fingers as a peace sign. Despite the snark, I was listening. I didn’t have insurance, naturally, so I attempted to treat myself…. Which is what I do anyway, while I can. I like to try to intellectualize my way out of things.

My mother started keeping close tabs on me, calling frequently. Her spidey-mom-senses were tingling, “Tasha you’re worrying me. I know this is really hard. The first year is going to be really hard. You need to get out and join things, start volunteering! One of my friends has a friend that just moved back from San Diego, they said the job market was terrible, a total nightmare. It’s not you, honey.”

I texted my friends back East. I continued to do my Instagram challenge of #100happydays which forced me to focus on the positives of each day, which was typically my pets nine times out of ten, or my proximity to the ocean, or my Joshua. Things weren’t so bad, right? PULL IT THE FUCK TOGETHER, I’d glower at myself in the mirror.

In the midst of this I accessed the environmental non-profits that call San Diego home. I applied to CalPrig by responding to an ad on Craig’s List that claimed they needed advocates, and these advocates would be paid fifteen dollars an hour, on average.

The phone interview was easy, as when asked why I cared about the environment I launched into a sincere rant about the environmental atrocities I had seen transpire in one of my home states, West Virginia. The most recent of which being the polluted drinking water, an issue I had followed very closely in the news.

I was scheduled for an interview.

The office was about five minutes from my home, but I arrived thirty minutes early, again assembled in my “young professional” disguise. I climbed the threadbare staircase and turned into a largely empty room. There were five folding chairs in a row in the center, a filing cabinet shoved in the corner, and large collapsable tables lining the far wall. I stared at the posters which papered the wall, environmentalist slogans were paired with sea turtles caught in trash or starving polar bears.

“Oh, hi! I’m Laurie! Nice to meet you! Sorry I was just in the back!” she extended her hand,

“Hi, I’m Natasha!”

“Great, wonderful! So just take a seat, we have some paperwork for you to fill out here.” She handed me a clipboard. The first sheet was printed with groups of four lines, in three columns, “So on the first sheet what we’d like you to do is to share some referrals. I always say that awesome people tend to know other awesome people, so anyone you know who is also passionate about the environment, or looking for work, just let us know and we’ll reach out!”

I nodded, but made no motion to fill out this page.

Laurie stared, smiling.

“Yeah, I just moved here I don’t really know anyone who would be interested.”

“That’s fine we have affiliates all over the country!” she walked across the room to a map of the US that had brightly colored thumbtacks stuck in most of the major cities, “We have offices in D.C., Atlanta, all over really!”

I really didn’t feel comfortable giving away people’s information to this sun damaged woman, but also felt intense pressure under her gaze, so I wrote down my mother’s phone number.

Laurie, peered over my shoulder, “Chris, is that your husband?”

“No, that’s my mom. She lives in Pittsburgh.”

“That’s perfect! We’re doing a lot there with Marcellus Shale and fracking. We can go on to the next page, just try to think of some more people. I really encourage people to come up with at least three.”

I filled out the rest of the paperwork, which included several petitions to sign. Other people began to filter in, and Laurie bounded across the room with clip boards and pens to greet them. A petite man with curly hair seated himself directly beside me, despite the extra chairs available,

“Hi, I’m Matt!”

“Hello, I’m Natasha!” I nodded. I had filled out all of my paperwork and was increasingly confused by the operations at hand.

Matt was wearing filthy skinny jeans, combat boots, and a neon yellow tank top. He dug around his satchel for wrinkled papers to assist him in filling out his paperwork.

“Laurie? Hi! I’m Matt. Do you guys really need to have my address today? It’s just that I moved awhile ago, and I don’t know my address yet. You know how it is,” he shrugged, “Also, I thought I had my resumé in here, but it doesn’t look like I do, so can I just email it in again?”

“Well we use your address for a commute stipend, if necessary, and also it helps us decide what areas to put you in… but just get it in as soon as you can.” She nodded blankly.

Another man entered the room, middle aged and wearing cut off shorts and a tank top with ragged flip flops. He looked nothing short of bemused at my professional attire in this run down room. Even Laurie, the woman interviewing us, was in jeans and a t-shirt. I had missed a memo somewhere.

Finally, Laurie stated that we would be interviewed individually outside. I was relieved there was a reprieve from what was clearly turning out to be a cattle call. I followed her onto an alarmingly narrow balcony outside the room. The afternoon sun was streaming in heavily and we were forced to face the row of windows from the room we had just exited.

“Sorry, it’s awkward to be staring in at them for this. I’m going to go close the blinds,” she squeezed past me.

I sat down at the small bistro table, forced to face the wall rather than the opposite chair due to lack of square footage to accommodate my legs. Laurie returned,

“Alright, so tell me why you are interested in us!”

I rotated my torso inhumanly to face her, “Well I have worked for non-profits since college in mental health, and since the contaminated water issue in West Virginia I have been following environmental issues more closely and would like to become involved.”

“Yeah, yeah absolutely, that was an awful situation. Our focus changes, so right now we are focused on the Greater Pacific Garbage Patch. Are you familiar?”

I shook my head.

“The GPGP, which is this soupy plastic mess off our coast, right here, is toxic and dangerous and literally growing every day. Recently we were also petitioning to challenge the fees that Capital One had accessed Californians falsely, and we won. We put over a million dollars back into the pockets of Californians. I like that because it’s like when you work for an environmental non-profit do you stop caring about everything else? Of course not. Our longest running initiative has been to remove plastic bags from grocery stores. That’s a huge component of what’s in the GPGP. And it’s just awful, those bags never go away, they’re strangling our marine wildlife right off this coast right here, just for five minutes of convenience. Simple convenience! I’m so passionate about it, I think it’s just out of control. I mean the reusable bags are RIGHT THERE! You can keep them in your car. That is also convenient and doesn’t permenantly jeapordize our environment,” She took a deep breath and passed me a petition to sign about banning plastic bags in my new state of California, “So does this work still sound like something you’d be interested in?”

“Sure. Although, I would like to know more about the nuts and bolts of the work as well. What does a typical day look like?” This question was featured on an article I had read on Things To Say To Appear Engaged At An Interview, or something like that.

“Awesome! Great question! So, starting off as a canvasser we would need you here at about noon, daily, and we practice our script as a team, review goals and new materials, then distribute maps of the areas each of us is expected to canvas for that day, canvas, and then return to the office at nine to wrap up. A lot of times we’ll go out together afterward, since walking for that many hours builds up quite an appetite,” she laughed, “But, yeah. That’s generally the nuts and bolts of it. We pay based on commission, so you make forty percent of whatever donations you bring in. That averages out to around fifteen dollars an hour. If you don’t get any donations that day you always make at least minimum wage, which is really nice. Everyone always gets paid. It is important that there aren’t many days like that though, on your first day it’s necessary to show you can get a yes.”

My interest was rapidly waning, she leaned forward conspiritorily, “I’ve got to say though you’re a lot more serious than a lot of the canidates that I interview and I’d love to put you directly on the career track. You strike me as a leader. I was on the career track when I started too,”

I grinned. I struck myself as a leader too, “What does that entail?”

“Well, you canvass, and after proving that that is something you excel at, that you’re passionate and dedicated to the bare bones, so to speak, you start to manage. You do what I’m doing now. You have an office, you interview applicants, you run the morning meanings, you track our fundraising, you run a portion of the operation.”

“How long does that transition generally take?”

“A few months, maybe longer. It varies for everyone, but it took me only four. After that you switch to salary, and the fundraising is a bonus.”

“So you’re still canvassing?”

“Yes all managers canvass three days a week. Saturday is our office day, where we meet to catch up on paperwork and we’re off on Sunday. Tuesdays we do interviews, like today, and the rest of the days we are canvassing too. It’s six days a week, but the Saturdays are really easy, we’re usually done in the early afternoon.”

“So when you canvas, are you in pairs, or…?”

“Well your first day you would be with me, and then after that we’re on our own!” She smiled as if this was exciting.

I grimaced.

“Until nine at night?” My resistance was swelling.

“Yep!”

“I don’t know if I’m entirely comfortable with that. I just moved here and walking around unfamiliar places after dark… it’s just,”

She cut me off, “Oh don’t worry, we have maps for everyone that show exactly what doors to knock on and where to go. They’re very detailed. One girl even puts the addresses in her gps app on her phone,” she giggled, trying to include me in the amusement at the absurdity of this, “but really, it would be very hard to get lost.”

“Hmm, it’s more the walking around after dark piece of it,” I started.

“Oh some of my best contributions I’ve gotten at 8:45 pm! Last month I rang a bell at 8:50pm and twenty minutes later had a check for five hundred dollars, forty-percent of which I got to keep. It was a very good day.”

“No, I’m sure it’s very productive, but walking around alone at night with an entire days worth of contributions seems pretty unsafe… it’s actually kind of insane to me, to be honest.”

Our eyes locked for a moment. We were at an impasse. I shrugged, and opened my hands. I may have done many reckless things in my life, but traipsing around unknown neighborhoods collecting money, after dark, wearing a shirt advertising that you are collecting money, telling everyone you meet that you’re carrying money… It seemed nothing short of, a phrase I detest, but thought nonetheless, asking for it. The “it” being to be mugged, maybe violently, maybe not. Either way, not an experience I was interested in.

My interviewer found words, “Well, I can tell you that nothing has ever happened to me and I’ve been doing this quite awhile. I understand your concerns having lived in DC for a portion of grad school, and I know you’re from back East. It’s not like that here. It’s really safe. I’ve never even felt marginally threatened doing this work.”

I didn’t believe her. Even if she was telling the truth, there’s a first time for everything. Sure, canvassers being brutally robbed might not be a regular calamity but it’s certainly happened, and it will certainly happen again.

“Yeah, having just lived in Baltimore it’s hard to imagine this. I would never do this there.”

“Right! It’s different! It’s so different out there. Being from here and moving East I was, like, totally shocked at how brutal things could be. It’s just not like that in San Diego, really.”

“It is a different land,” I conceded.

She skipped ahead three spaces, “Are you available tomorrow?”

“Yes.” At this point my desperation for work and ready made friends was teetering against my safety concerns on a seesaw internally.

“Great! Wednesdays are always canvasser appreciation day so we get pizza after we wrap up! I’m going to email you a link to the career track! It’s just a test and instructions for how to continue on that path,” She handed me a piece of paper, “This is the script! So try to memorize that as best you can by tomorrow. We’ll meet here at noon and then canvass together!”

“Alright, Sounds good! I hope I can learn all of this in time,” There were several conversations printed on the page.

“It’s really easy, I promise,” We stood, and she squeezed around the bistro table to hug me, “I’m so excited Natasha! I’ll see you tomorrow!”

I explained the job to my Joshua, and my parents. I sincerely hoped someone would convince me this was an exciting prospect with the career track, and all, but I was met with a resounding , “No“. I emailed Laurie the next morning, explaining that I could not ignore my safety concerns. She never responded.

The doldrums returned with a renewed veracity. I wallowed. I watched an entire season of Abby Lee’s Ultimate Dance Competition in one day, my Apple TV queuing up the episodes seamlessly. I had been completely absorbed into my sofa and a distorted dream sequence of shouting and crying adolescents before I forced myself into the car with Murphy and took him to the dog park. While he ran wildly, I stared directly into the sun.

My daily schedule shortened to one goal: shower before Josh returns from work, appear to function, go to the beach with Josh and pretend to be a normal human being.

And then, Greenpeace called! Before applying I had checked to make sure that they only canvassed in public places, and as they did, I applied. Expecting it would be a similar to CalPrig I figured landing the job would be a given.

I repeated my emotionally charged rant about the environmental concerns in West Virginia. I was scheduled for what I now knew would be a cattle call interview.This time I wore a maxi skirt and sandals.

Curiously, the Greenpeace office was only two blocks from the Calprig office. I arrived early, as I tended to do, but this time only by fifteen minutes. There was another contestant already waiting, in a formal suit, with blazer. He was sweating profusely.

The stocky man who answered the door sported an unkept beard and tangled curly hair. His worn Greenpeace t-shirt had a hole near the bottom, and he wore tattered cargo shorts. This was the interviewer. Expected.

Our next contestant was a middle aged man who appeared clean, and more professional, until he asked our interviewer if he could “dip out” for some “snacks and coffee” while the rest of us finished our paper work.

Our interviewer, Adam, looked taken aback, “Uh, yeah man, just be sure to be here at 2:30,”

Adam disappeared into a back office and I took this time to liberally show myself around the broad room. There was a bulletin board of the top canvassers, which I noted were exclusively male. There were more radical environmental posters of animals and trash, like the last office, but some of them had been altered to include mustaches and bombs. It was casually unclean, crumbs left on desks and chairs that weren’t quite unbroken. A sliding glass door had drawn on depictions of cash money symbols and stick figures depositing it at the bank. There were trophies. It appeared to be a frat house for the environment.

The man returned at 2:35 with a Starbucks lunch and a large coffee. He noisily unwrapped his sandwich as Adam began,

“I assume if you’re in this room you want to work with Greenpeace. I’m here to figure out if Greenpeace wants to work with you,”

Having been an active member of a sorority in college I internally noted that this was not a recruitment angle we would have ran with.

“So, let’s talk about Greenpeace and what it means to work here.” He asked open ended questions, in efforts to solicit answers from his audience of three.

Middle aged man and collegiate in suit actively participated. I contributed that Greenpeace was founded in 1972 and returned to inspecting the room from my seat while Adam rattled off facts. I had read all of this information online this morning.

“So does anyone know why Greenpeace doesn’t accept corporate contributions? Why we don’t accept government funding? Why we never will? BECAUSE IF WE HAVE THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS IN OUR BACK POCKET HOW WILL WE GET ANYTHING FUCKING DONE?,” I snapped to attention. Adam was bobbing his head and sending his tangled curls into a fury,” WE HAVE SOME GODDAMN INTEGRITY. So, NO, WE DO NOT AND WE WILL NOT ACCEPT THEIR DIRTY MONEY!”

I tried really hard not to laugh, and stifled a smile as I turned my head into my shoulder. Duuuuuuuuude. He toned it down,

“We are independent, and you know what, we’re winning! We are winning every day, every year, and if that’s what you’re about then, welcome.”

Case closed, this was a fraternity.

I immediately thought of my email address, natasha.winning@gmail, and considered making a joke about the correlation. Much like Charlie Sheen, and Greenpeace, apparently, I am about winning!

At this point a troop of young men in baggy athletic shorts and flat brimmed hats entered the room and high fived Adam as they headed into the back office. A lone girl trotted in behind them and skirted onto the balcony to smoke a cigarette.

He explained the stipulation that we had to make a certain amount of money within three days to stay, and that after that we could only miss the goal one week, a “warning week”, and on the second occasion we would be let go. During the first three days you were paid ten dollars an hour, and after that it fluxuated based on commission. Finally he said,

“I need everyone to take turns signing up on the computer, it’s real quick. The page is already loaded. We just need your contact information in the system for W2s and whatnot. Then I’ll call you back individually.”

A girl entered the room, frazzled, “Hi, sorry I’m a little late. Is this Greenpeace,” she pointed, “Adam?”

Adam turned emphatically to the clock behind him, “We started forty-five minutes ago.”

The girl smiled, “Yeah my ride took forever,” she dumped an armful of folders and bent papers onto the table, “So sorry,” a cloud of patchouli aroma swept toward me.

Adam stared at her quizzically, then handed her the paperwork and took collegiate-in-suit guy into the back room.

In about ten minutes it was my turn. I sat in the computer chair and rolled forward,

“Why Greenpeace?”

I talked about West Virginia, again. Despite having no experience advocating for the environment, I had a personal connection, I cared now more than ever, yadda yadda.

He asked me to convince him to donate money to my cause.

I said something along the lines of, “Most people cannot relate to West Virginia. Most people don’t even realize it is it’s own state. Yet what is happening to West Virginians is still important for everyone. Loose regulations allow corporate interests to ravage the environment and jeopardize the people over and over again. Americans have drinking water that smells like black licorice, is filled with MCHM, and no one knows what the consequences could be. The company responsible easily changes hands and their name and goes back to business as usual…It’s like nothing has changed since Erin Brockovitch, and how long ago was that? We need legislation… and we need money to do so. Today. Because this will happen again and it could happen here.”

He nodded,”I’d give you money,” he said, “but I’m an easy sell,” he asked if I could handle the sales pressure? I assured him I could.

I wanted to point out the fratty culture. I was an angel for a fraternity in college. Do you guys do chants? I’m really good at chants. I wanted to boast that I can drink a handle, once had a really good night of competitive flip cup, and make lots of jokes. I’m generally good for morale, just put me in, Coach.

But I didn’t say any of this. That would have been ridiculous.

As I went to exit my chair followed me, my skirt had rolled into the wheel and stuck. I yanked the turquoise fabric violently, hoping to jar it loose, but the chair nearly overturned. Adam knelt down and unspun my skirt from the wheel, then shook my hand good-naturedly, “We’ll let everyone know this week! Thanks, Natasha!”

“Thank you!”

 

 

I didn’t hear anything.

I was bitter. And I’ll probably never donate to Greenpeace because I’m poor, and because I hold grudges, and I really needed an out and the screaming hobbit man said no.

That weekend I was brooding, and Josh took me to the beach. We swam for hours and had a picnic dinner overlooking the water. We bought cheap wine and got drunk at the house and made up stories about our pets and watched ridiculous eighties movies. We listened to Warpaint and made up interpretive trance dances. I laughed all weekend, but on Monday I was alone again.

I hated Mondays more now that I ever had while I worked full time.

I continued to apply for jobs. I applied to everything. Literally. I trolled job boards and Craig’s List and newspapers. I took long winded and confusing assessments for big corporations and emailed my resumé to vague personal assistant postings. I cried hot and hateful tears while repeating through clenched teeth,  I have a fucking degree goddammit, which became a bitter mantra of sorts.

An organization called “Save the Children” called to schedule an interview. I honestly don’t remember applying for this, as it sounds like a satire of a charitable organization, like George Costanza’s The Human Fund, and initially I didn’t believe they were real. The hot California sun was streaming in through our metallic silver blinds, illuminating the dust and pet hair throughout our ultra modern apartment. Was any of this real? “Save the Children” obviously had to be an ironic play on my career thus far, and yet I was having this conversation,

“Hi! My name is Julie and I was just reviewing your resumé and thought you might be a good fit for Save the Children! We are holding open interviewing tomorrow and would like to invite you to come on down. The dress is casual and comfortable, as we’ll be playing games, kind of watching how you interact and respond. It should be a really fun time.”

The address was in the same neighborhood as CalPrig and Greenpeace. They paid twelve dollars an hour, and you could make your own schedule. They worked in pairs in public places. I was assured that there was a lot of upward mobility, that everyone started out canvassing malls.

“Sure, sounds good, I’ll see you there!”

I related the information to Joshua, “The part that I can’t accept is the playing games together at the interview and that she specifically said they would be watching how I respond and interact. It’s like a weird psych experiment. Are we playing scattergories? Are we playing kickball? I can’t go through this weird cattle call sideshow experience again. If I go and parade around like a textbook extrovert and still don’t get the job I’ll hurt myself, I really will. Save the Children doesn’t even sound like a real thing. It’s ridiculous.”

“It’s completely up to you, but you’re not allowed to hurt yourself,” Josh looked at me sternly, and held his hands up in the peace sign.

The next day I got dressed, wearing jeans and a t-shirt and tried to pump myself up to a confident, extroverted head space for my interview performance, but ultimately couldn’t go through with it. I didn’t even show up.

A few days later we ran into two women wearing bright red SAVE THE CHILDREN t-shirts at the mall. I watched in abject horror as one of them cornered Joshua outside of Game Stop. She showed him a map of the world and instructed him to pick a country. He chose the USA, and she launched into a rally cry to end childhood diabetes, explaining his money would go to after-school programs that promoted an active lifestyle and nutritional education and, randomly, children’s books. Once we talked the woman out of her pitch she explained that she used to work for a tow truck company and this job made her feel like she was paying off that bad karma, but she usually couldn’t get people to donate and was worried about being unemployed soon.

We continued on to the movies and I felt ok about my choices. Bumrushing people in public was not a good fit.

 

MidJuly I got a call for a Mental Health Counselor position at a nonprofit. An appropriate job had responded! The man on the other end of the phone had a heavy African accent, and initially, I was quite impatient,

“What? Who is this?” I repeated, thinking this was a collection agent trying to trick me into paying for my student loans or my miscellaneous Urgent Care copays of yesteryear,

“This is ____ _______ Youth Centa, is this Natasha Fostar? We want to interview yuh for tha mental health counselar position” he repeated.

Finally, we worked out an interview time. I felt confident, knowing that this was something my past work experience was at least appropriate for, and I had a clear notion of what to expect. Unfortunately, from the information I gathered this job sounded more similar to the violent residential treatment center I had worked at in Pittsburgh rather than the fascinating inpatient setting I had worked at in Baltimore. Still, this was relevant work. Surely, the storm was over now.

(to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sofas: and the highs and lows of shopping at thrift stores

One of our hurdles in the move has been furnishing our new apartment. Replacing the bed was fairly straight forward, but the rest has been a struggle.

Initially all we had was a beach chair. It was mine, and I am somewhat selfish, so I had a seat and Joshua would sit on a box of books. Our tv was balanced on another box of books.

For a few weeks we had a twin air mattress set up, which functioned as a sofa like piece which could be used as a sofa-like object. Then Murphy bit it, and it deflated instantly.

For my birthday Josh purchased an armchair and ottoman I had paired together and really loved from the consignment shop on our block. So, I sat in my arm chair and Joshua sat in the beach chair and we watched our tv on a box of books. Our roommate sat in his computer chair in his bedroom.

Things worsened when Murphy took to sitting in the beach chair in Joshua’s absence, and in a poorly executed leap of an exit ripped two long strips down the middle of the seat. I duct taped it.

Our roommate purchased a pub style dining set I found on Craig’s List for a hundred dollars. More seats! We moved the tv to a pub seat. We could unpack the boxes of books, and stack all the books on the pantry shelves!

I continued to look for furniture via Craig’s List, which predictably didn’t really produce ideal sofa options. Understandably, Josh cracked. “I’m so sick of being uncomfortable. I come home and I either have to perch on this chair six feet off the ground or go to bed. We’re getting a sofa today,”

To be fair, he often sat on the cushioned ottoman, but I encouraged this outburst, “The oppression ends today!”.

Then the conflict began. Josh set a budget of $150 for the new sofa, including having it delivered. I had aesthetic  guidelines, that I could only identify in the moment. We went to no less than a dozen thrift stores that Saturday. There were plenty of sofas one of us approved, but none we were both on board with.

A week later Josh called from a sidewalk sale at the AmVets down the street.

“I found our sofa! It’s only twenty dollars!”

I was immediately skeptical. When I arrived Joshua was standing proudly in front of a green grey monstrosity. There were white paint speckles on the back of the sofa. The color was warped, having obviously been in the sun for more than just today.

“I don’t like it,” I stated simply, already envisioning the debate that would ensue.

“Sit on it. Come on. Sit down” Joshua countered.

“I don’t want to sit on it.”

“Toots, c’mon, sit down.” He looked at me firmly.

I sunk into the deep expanse of green grey sofa, “It smells”.

“It’s twenty dollars. It’ll be a transition sofa.”

“No because if we get this we won’t get a new sofa. I don’t want it. I don’t like it. It smells weird.”

Josh abruptly turned and walked into the store. When he returned a small elderly woman was following him with a neon “SOLD” sticker. I watched in disbelief as she explained our time table for picking up the sofa.

I glowered as Josh called our roommate to come help him hoist the sofa onto the car. Being less than two blocks away they planned to  balance it on the car before lugging it up the stairs to our living room.

Bitter, I went to the bedroom and pretended to be sleeping. Far be it from me to offer any assistance bringing that beast into my home. From our floor to ceiling window I watched the spectacle of them loosely carrying it into our apartment complex. They were drenched in sweat and the behemoth sofa appeared to swing them back and forth with it’s own life force.

Eventually I came downstairs. Josh was stretched across the sofa, which now bordered an entire wall of the room, forcing my adorable arm chair in front of the window. (It should be noted that this is the window which is beside the train tracks and a horrible seating arrangement.) I began to vacuum the sofa around Josh. The white flakes fluttered into my attachment. Josh stirred, and understanding this was the best way to make peace, began flipping cushions.

“We could get some spray stuff to make it smell different,” he offered.

“I guess we’ll have to.”

Over the coming weeks the condition of the demon sofa only deteriorated. In my cleaning I discovered random cigarette burns only visible once you were really submerged in the sofa. Murphy had taken to barreling down the staircase and racing toward the living room, leaping into the pillowy sofa gleefully. He was unstoppable in this pursuit. The back cushions ripped forward and stuffing began to explode into the air with every landing. Murphy snapped his jaws through the air, as if he were catching snowflakes. Toxic snowflakes. I was forced to duct tape the back cushions into their original placement.

IMG_4510One weekday, shortly thereafter, I snapped. Merlin had coughed up a rather horrifying hairball in the center of the couch. As I cleaned the mess I realized that the cushions themselves were discoloring the paper towels. I shoved the sofa into the kitchen. I pulled all the cushions askew. I envisioned stabbing them with a fork, pouring ketchup and mustard all over them, doing whatever I could to render the sofa as intolerable to Joshua as it was to me.

I texted him, “The sofa is gone. I got rid of it. #strongman”

He quickly responded, “Lol, no u didn’t”

“I did. I was really angry and my adreanaline was up.”

IMG_3968“Send me a picture.”

I sent him a picture of the empty living room.

“Wow. Ok then.”

We agreed that we would purchase a new sofa and have the same delivery men take away the demon sofa from outside our door.

Obviously when he got home he learned the truth, and had to move the sofa back to the living room, but a deal is a deal!!! ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT!!

ikea-ps-organizer__71352_PE186737_S4In JoshuaLand the major issue was our lack of a dresser. We have an ikea shelving contraption in the closet which was his daily undoing.  It is called “Ikea PS Organizer” and it was a steal at $25. Except after it took me TWO ENTIRE DAYS to put it together I suspect the PS stands for piece of shit.

Anyway, Josh spilled his clothes from the slippery plastic cloth shelves into the cat food and water which is also kept in the closet on a regular basis. Thus, the following Saturday we set out to get a dresser to appease him.

Then something beautiful happened.

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I found a gently used spring green Ethan Allen sofa for $130.

It even matches the ottoman from my birthday chair.

Insisting this would qualify as my anniversary gift, I stretched across the sofa until Josh returned with an employee and a “Sold” sign. Luckily, this was a brief stalemate.

“Well, you have your sofa! We just won’t do the spa pedicure part of our anniversary.”

“FINE BY ME!”

And we still continued on to Ikea for our dresser!

Within two days everything had been assembled/delivered and my arm chair was moved back to it’s appropriate nook, away from the window of deafening train noises.

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Slowly, slowly, this homestead is coming together!

What furniture/decor disagreements have you had with your roommates/significant others?

The Night Circus

This is a beautiful book.

It was recommended to me by my friend, Valerie, several times before I finally had the opportunity to read it. I was hunting through the hell scape of San Diego’s BookOff, which has an astonishing amount of “trash lit” and anime in relation to books I actually want to read. I found a handful of books that I deemed worthy, and had searched the shelves thoroughly for “The Night Circus” before giving up and heading to the cash register. I had four books for about twelve dollars, and was pretty pleased with myself.

Josh was loitering at the end of the historical aisle as I finished. He tugged at his beard, juggling a thick text about “alternate history timelines in the middle ages, what might have been, ya know” and “this one on Plato, a bunch of his ramblings”. I headed toward the door, hoping to urge my beloved toward a decision when I spotted it! “The Night Circus” had been placed, bizarrely, right beside the front door with travel books. All alone, the only copy… Mine!

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“The Night Circus” is whimsical. From the first sentence, “The circus arrives without warning,” I was enthralled. Told from several perspectives the story follows a duel between two illusionists and the  circus that serves as their venue. While there is romance, I appreciate that this is only an element, and not the focus of the story. In fact, the duel is not the full focus of the story either. If anything, this book is really about the breathing, animated life of the circus: it’s birth, it’s triumphs, and it’s own experiences with the characters. The reader comes to know the circus much more intimately than any of the characters, none of which are as deeply explored.

“The Night Circus” is endlessly imaginative and enchanting, a gentle escapism, if you will. I adore it, and I look forward to following any creative endeavors by Erin Morgenstern in the future!

Five stars!

To Love and Adventure! (Part 2)

Our mission materialized. We were going to relocate with nothing but whatever we could fit in two compact cars. We purged nearly everything we owned. It was a relatively easy decision given the cost of renting and gassing a U-haul cross-country versus repurchasing all of our Ikea furniture… but challenging nonetheless. Josh made the initial road  trip in his Mitsubishi Lancer with his coworker/pending roommate, in addition to Merlin, our cat. By the time he flew back into town six weeks later I had purged our apartment down to what I couldn’t part with, having forcefully pawned everything I could off on friends, and still: there was too much.

We secured a roof rack atop my Toyota Corolla, stuffing it with kitchen appliances and vaccum bags of clothing. The backseat was reserved for Murphy, our labradoodle puppy who had spent this time with my Mom in Pittsburgh. The area transformed into what can only be described as a puppy nest, there being no floor space available whatsoever and an overabundance of toys.

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A large amount of things were simply thrown away, while Joshua’s family thankfully agreed to store the rest for us. With a final clean sweep, we turned in our keys and said goodbye to our apartment in Baltimore city.

WE WERE FREE!

As we pulled onto the interstate I felt like we were on the top of a roller-coaster, almost breathless with excitement. Joshua turned and smiled at me, “Well, here we go!”.

All of the endless discussions and decisions had led to this departure! We were off.

Our route was planned based on locations of friends and family we wanted to see on the way. Our first stop was to pick up my younger brother in Johnstown, PA on our way to Pittsburgh. I secretly looked forward to revealing the puppy nest to Noah, as he would have to ride in it for several hours and he is known for his (often endless, yet humorous) complaining.

Noah came out of his dorm with a duffle bag swung over his narrow shoulders and his wrinkled suit haphazardly hanging off of a plastic hanger. Joshua and I sandwiched him into a bear hug, then stepped aside, revealing the minimal space available in the car.

“Well guys, this is going to be a bit of an issue,” he stated gravely waving his hands through the air. After several minutes of gripes and forced flexibility we were able to shut the car doors and begin once again.

In Pittsburgh we were reunited with Murphy, and my Mom. She had groomed away all of his adorable labradoodle fluff to the point that initially I didn’t even recognize him, but he remembered us and ran wildly around the house– crashing into our arms and sprinkling pee on the floor in his excitement. Joshua was still laughing in his low-pitched joy when Murphy sprinkled more pee on his toes. So we took the reunion into the yard.

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We spent an extra day in Pittsburgh, as we would in every city, and went hiking with my mom and her dogs, Rocco and Weasley who had taught Murphy to always stay “with the pack”. We were astonished with how well Murphy stayed in eye sight as we walked through the forrest. He had lost any progress he had made with walking on a leash, but he was listening and off leash in the woods! Wow!

My mother packed bags of snacks for the road in addition to multiple bags of toys and treats for Murphy. She had discarded all of his stuffed toys, citing he could “choke to death on those squeakers, c’mon!” and had additionally thrown away any rawhide he arrived with, “This is so bad Tash, really, never give him this crap,”. These were replaced with organic greek yogurt treats and indestructible teething toys.

photo-2(One toy in particular has garnered wide eyed and questioning comments from more than one witness ever since she placed it in our car.)

 

Our next stop was Detroit, MI. Joshua’s brother and his family lived only an hour from my Mom’s extended family, so we went there first. I had already met these three nephews and brand new niece, but it was astonishing to see how much they had grown in just a few months time.

1487288_10201522215967200_546866499_nThe next day my aunt and uncle hosted a beautiful goodbye party for us, their spotless home becoming crowded with our impressively large extended family. Family friends from West Virginia were also able to come, making the celebration even more special. At one point,  Joshua and I were seated beside each other on folding chairs in the living room and showered with gifts. It was very moving. There was so much love, but we were going to be so very far away from it.

The weightless above the world feeling that started as we left Baltimore only intensified as we left the familiar territory of Michigan. The car was packed so tightly that we could all barely move. Our next stop was Joshua’s hometown of Omaha, NE.

When I met Josh he had a barely-running 1984 Ford F150 pick-up truck named “Big Lusty”, and he had painted a large “N” on the side in red to represent the Nebraska Huskers. Listening to him talk, trying to teach me to drive stick shift in that truck I realized that I had found myself a remarkably Midwestern man in the middle of Baltimore, Maryland. Having spent a slice of childhood in Iowa, this discovery warmed my heart.

10169224_10201531359075772_15248977_nAs we crossed the plains we shared stories of our midwestern experience. Having lived in Iowa from kindergarten until third grade I did not connect as deeply to the Midwest as Joshua, who did not leave until adolescence, but his energy was contagious. I remembered bonfires, hayrides, and square dances in elementary school. Farm animals and Autumn harvest. As we got closer to Omaha his excited energy bubbled through the car, detailing every location he had to show me, rehashing Huskers games from his youth.

We arrived at his aunt’s large home around dinner time, icy wind cutting through me as I struggled to make it inside. We were warmly greeted by Joshua’s cousins and Grandma Perry, who I would not meet until the next day, had cooked a large meal for everyone expected. After dinner we watched Frozen, yielding to the children, on a large semi-circle sectional and ate a warm dessert I can only refer to as perfect pecan streusel.

The next day was a whirlwind historical tour of “The Childhood of Joshua”, and included special speakers Grandma Perry and Mother Brown. Grandma Perry welcomed us warmly into her apartment, giving us each tight hugs. She spoke with a slow, gravelly voice that made it twice as funny when she would unexpectedly say “shit”. As in, “Shit, Joshy, you better take this beautiful girl down to Joe Tess and buy her some catfish” before reaching for her pocketbook to reinforce this suggestion with cash. I adored her.

Mother Brown had gone to church with the family for a lifetime and now lived down the hall from Grandma Perry in the assisted living complex. She was incredibly well-dressed for a morning at home, and when I commented on how nice she looked she pulled out several photo albums of her church outfits. She explained that she was “The Duchess”, and after her 100th birthday she was given several thousand dollars, unlimited Oil of Olay products (as she had endorsed them in interviews), and memorabilia from friends of her fabulous outfits. It was truly impressive. After our visits, we ate lunch at Joe Tess, as instructed, and spent hours driving around Omaha.

photoIn the morning, we bundled up and left for Denver, Colorado. We listened to the audio book “Divergent” by Veronica Roth. Despite it’s popularity and recommendation from several friends I respect, we found ourselves mocking it endlessly. The concept was fine, but the dialogue, particularly when read aloud was simply AWFUL. Still, the story helped to pass the time as we drove through endless stretches of flat land and windmills until reaching Denver. We stayed just inside the city, at a Quality Inn I had found an exceptional bargain with through Expedia.

In retrospect, it was not a good deal. Our room smelled like smoke, and was tucked in a back corner of the fifth floor. The web site had promised “Every room with a mountain or city view!”, but our view was of an expansive parking lot with a “pet area” at the back, next to a dumpster and surrounded by broken glass. Beyond this was the interstate and what appeared to be warehouses. Downstairs there was a restaurant and gaming area. Unsupervised teenagers roamed the grounds and burly men ate overflowing cheeseburgers while drinking giant cans of Coors Light. As we discovered at dinner, not having the energy to venture out, cheeseburgers and Coors Light were pretty much the only things they served. Zero stars, five poops.

On our full day in Denver we dined at Prohibition, a restaurant downtown. They had heavy leather furniture, delicate glassware, and a rustic hipster menu. We were there for hours, eating goat cheese sandwiches and bbq while drinking any local beer we hadn’t heard of yet. Afterward we walked the streets and marveled at how boldly the population openly smoked.

1509141_10201547524919908_277028482_nOur greatest feat of travel was the trek from Denver to Las Vegas. As soon as we left the mile high city we were driving into the Rocky Mountains. The car was heavy, and it shifted lanes haltingly as our elevation continued to climb and descend. Despite my many years in the Appalachian Mountains, I had never seen mountains quite like this, blue and jagged and crested with snow. It was both breathtaking and extremely anxiety provoking as we careened around curve after curve.

The drive became a dreamscape of sorts, trapped in our own little cacoon. We listened to the Avett Brothers for hours, marveling at the endlessly changing landscape, and inventing possible futures for ourselves. I drifted in and out of an airy consciousness.

“Oink oink… moo… chirp chirp… naaaaaay…. baaaa… ribbit ribbit… caw caw… woof woof… ”

I woke up disoriented.

The landscape had shifted from blue jagged mountains to red and brown dirt towering above us.

“Cuckoo… eee-aaahhhh…. ”

“Josh, Joshua, stop. What’s going on?”

“I really need you to wake up and, like, participate. I’m doing all the animal noises. What does a hippopotamus say?”

“What?”

“A hippo. Or, a giraffe? The safari animals are harder.”

“I think hippos, like, bellow and giraffes are silent? I really don’t know. Arrraow! How much longer until our hotel?”

Josh accepted my answer wholeheartedly, letting out a deep bellow as he reached for his phone, “Here, check maps”.

10001350_10201547533480122_360101615_nWe still had nine hours until Las Vegas, where our hotel reservation was waiting. It was hard to imagine being trapped in the car for another nine hours when Josh was already cracking. My legs ached from being still for so long. I reached into our grocery bag and set Murphy up with another hit of our peanut butter benadryl concoction. If we were already fading I could only imagine how difficult this confinement was for him.

1484702_10201547532360094_1488611963_nYet Murphy seemed to be handling the trip with more enthusiasm than anyone. He would nap on his back for hours, waking to gnaw on his toys and release loud, exasperated sighs. Intermittently he would lunge his fifty pond frame against the divider we had purchased from PetSmart and hoist himself into the front seat, inevitably causing chaos as drinks and provisions spilled onto the floor of the car. We always took these antics as cues it was potty/water time, and would pull over at rest stops. These exits proved to be very scenic as well, and throughout Utah there were also plateaus we were able to climb at each stop, the dry air coating our throats with dust as we gasped our way to the top, taking in the alien landscape in heaving pulls.

By the time we pulled into Vegas, it was after 2am. The twinkling lights in the darkened desert thickened dramatically, and suddenly, creating an oasis of busy, blinking, civilization. I foggily remember stumbling into the hotel and collapsing on the bed, Murphy bounding from one Queen bed to another while Josh dragged his crate and our luggage into the room.

In the morning we had waffles in the crowded lobby.

“San Diego is only five or so hours from here,”

“I wonder how much our room would be if we added a night”

“You wanna stay?”

“I might,”

“We could walk around the strip and go exploring…”

We debated the pros and cons of extending our trip at length, it becoming readily apparent that neither of us wanted our trip to end. The rambling existence had become comfortable, despite the marathon drive the day before, and the thought of returning to work, or looking for work, and normal day to day responsibilities was unappealing, even in our new sun-drenched city.

Ultimately we voted to pack up, citing our need to buy a bed before Joshua was sucked into work for the week. As we drove into California the land became greener, and the desert heat faded. Green mountains soared upward with giant rocks leaning against them haphazardly.

It was so beautiful.

Josh pointed out areas he had already explored as we drove into San Diego. The traffic was impressive, five lanes of converging cars, every driver with sunglasses on and their windows down. After a horrific winter back East we were driving into an endless Spring. I felt rejuvenated.

As we approached our apartment in Old Town we passed several smut shops. I was concerned. On a long street bordered by the trolley tracks and  a recycling center we approached our rectangular glass complex across from a massive costume shop. Even from the outside the modern, Ikea-like design was evident. The outdoor furniture was modular in shape and flanked by bright green end tables. An indigo blue canopy hung above the gated entrance. Every apartment door was painted these same shades of blue and green. The patios which faced one another were fenced in by metallic silver. I excitedly opened the door to ours and scaled the narrow staircase to our first floor.

What was supposed to be our living room, kitchen, and dining room was covered in trash. It was hard to even imagine these rooms serving that purpose.There were huge piles of collapsed boxes and miscellaneous screws and nails on the floor. Trash bags were half full, and untied, scattered across the counters and floors. Despite the breeze sweeping through the rooms, it smelled stale.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I was livid. Our brand new apartment I had never seen was disgusting. It wasn’t even clean enough for me to let Murphy off of his leash. It really wasn’t even clean enough for Murphy to be in.

“C’mon man, seriously.” Josh pushed the collapsed boxes against the walls, trying to clear a path.

Our roommate was going to be an issue.

I climbed the second staircase to the bedrooms and bathrooms. The narrow hallway was almost impassable, blocked with large mirrored closet doors that had been removed from the bedroom and propped against the wall. Even in our bedroom random crap littered the floor.

I let out an exasperated cry, “Josh, what the fuck?”

“I don’t know, he’s been here like two weeks. It didn’t looks like this when I left. He literally did this in less than two weeks. Shit is so gooddamn ridiculous,” he hoisted the closet doors toward the stairwell, where the hallway was wider.

Murphy was chewing cardboard absently at my feet.

“C’mon, we’re just gonna go to the beach. I can’t deal with this right now.” Josh instructed.

As we headed down the staircase a door swung open above. Our roommate, plodded down the stair case. His button-up shirt billowed open in the breeze,

“Hey guys, didn’t realize it was so late already. I uh, what time is it anyway?” He rhythmically packed cigarettes against his palm and stared at us, wide eyed, “Uh, how was the trip?”. His short hair was dramatically disheveled.

I stared, then abruptly turned and left the apartment. I had known Jon previously, having in fact met him the same night I met Josh, and despite the level of my anger I did not want to begin our roommate venture with an emotionally-charged verbal meltdown.

Josh followed seconds later.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing, that we were going to the beach and we’d catch up when we got back. Whatever,”

In less than ten minutes we were pulling into Ocean Beach, the salty air rushing into the car. We were just in time for sunset.

The wind whipped around us as we walked toward the water,

“You’re going to love it here, Toots” Josh said, pulling me into a tight hug.

“I think so too,” my toes burrowing into the cool, smooth sand.

“I love you, my queen,”

“I love you too,”

We stayed long after the sun set, the light, salted air fueling whimsical discussions of what would happen next. We wrapped ourselves in West Coast promises and hoodies we would rarely need in our new climate.

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A Bed from Bob

We have moved to San Diego! (a post explaining that journey pending).

Our first night we drove straight to the beach and marveled in it’s salty beauty, then slept on our roommate’s blow-up bed. Naturally, the agenda for our first day in California: buy a real bed, return to beach and salty beauty.

Initially, our loose plan was to get a U-haul and head for Ikea. In, out, done. Then, I had remembered an ad I had seen online,

“Why don’t we call that Craig’s List ad? Those mattresses were cheaper and maybe we wouldn’t have to rent the U-haul…”

My Joshua, always up for an off the beaten path adventure, agreed. He called the cheapest option. Despite not offering delivery services, he was assured that our mattress could be strapped to the top of his Mitsubishi Lancer easy-peazy-safely. “A Lancer, man, I could strap four mattresses on one of those!” the voice on the other end of the line assured.

Joshua put the address in our gps and we were on our way!

The location of these mattresses for sale was… unassuming.

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We were not expecting a self storage facility.

My first thought was that these are definitely stolen mattresses! Scandal! Followed by, Let’s go check ’em out! and also a more audible “Let’s put our wallets in the trunk!”… Some semblance of safety, always.

“Yeah, about that” Josh said seriously, scanning the perimeter.

We were greeted by a charming older man, with tufts of electric white hair and bubbling blue eyes. His skin was dark and dry. He emoted nothing less than my perception of “iconic Californian”, albeit aged, with his flip flops and carefree mannerisms.

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“Hey guys, I’d be Bob!” he beamed.

 

The mattress you see has “BOB MATTRESS” painted across it in red. There are toys scattered around. It only vaguely seems like a serial killer thing to do, right?

 

 

 

 

He welcomed us to his showroom,

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We were given permission to bounce around as we pleased. In Baltimore we had been sleeping on a mattress we had inherited from my old roommate, who had inherited it from her parents, and legend has it had been THEIR first mattress… yadda, yadda. We were basically accustomed to sleeping on a lumpy straw bed. THESE BEDS WERE LUXURIOUS. This was our first step toward meeting our motto: Everything better in California!

Bob walked in on us giggling on an especially pillowy Queen and offered us a discount, with a wide smile.

“Yeah, that’s one of my favorite beds there. Real comfy, right. Listen, I could knock off another hundred for you two,”

“Sounds good to me,” Josh said, rolling off the bed.

In total, Bob had about seven storage units stuffed with mattresses. He showed us where we’d need to park with a bow and gave us instructions on how to have the office open the gates for us. We retrieved cash from a nearby ATM and drove through the maze back to his aisle of units. The system for moving his inventory was seamlessly efficient.

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Bob is in blue. Hi, Bob!

During the loading/tying/strapping process Bob and I visited and I got to know him a bit better. Bob has been running this business for seven years, much to his surprise. He explained that many of his customers are repeat customers who come back for mattresses for their kids/guests/etc. Low overhead and rapid moving of product allow really cheap prices, everyone is winning. #Winning.

Then, Bob started to philosophize. A muslim man with an elaborate turban and robe approached us. Bob redirected him to the showroom unit, then turned and smiled, “Hope he doesn’t blow us up.”

I stared, “Uhhh”.

Bob smiled. “Dy’know there are people who really think like that. You’ve got to watch out for that group think stuff, Natasha. People get scared and then agree to agree on something and somehow agree that now it’s true. Because it must be? Because they agreed?”

Joshua was still tying the mattress.

“Yeah. That group think stuff is what’s actually scary.”

“Exactly, that’s exactly my point. How long do you have to be a fish in water before you know you’re wet? We’re in the water, Natasha.”

Now, Josh had finished up.

“Right.”

We hopped in the car.

Bob handed us some candy as we put our seat belts on.

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Customer service at it’s finest.

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We still ended up at Ikea, for our bed frame.