When I left Connecticut for California, it was with a check from my divorce settlement. It wasn't a huge amount of money, but I could live for a year in my new place with only part-time work, if that's what it came down to. And it did.
San Francisco in the fall of 2001 was not exactly vibrant. I mean, it was to ME because I'd never experienced anything like it. But I don't think any city in the world experienced more of the boom or bust from the dotcom days than San Francisco. And post-9/11 was awfully bust-y. My rent was hefty by other cities' standards, perhaps, but my apartment would have gone for twice as much two years prior. There were U-Hauls up and down every street, For Sale signs everywhere, and not enough cabs.
There are never enough cabs in San Francisco. When things were really good and everyone had money to burn, getting a cab was an all-out competitive sport. (Because there were never enough parking spaces, either.) I've read tales of men who just parked on sidewalks because -- in the dotcom heyday -- SF couldn't keep up with towing illegally parked cars, and the ticket would actually end up costing less than parking garages!
But things changed. People stopped throwing money at cabs, and cab drivers had to find other lines of work or other cities to drive in.
I wonder if there were a few glorious months of more cabs than people who wanted them. Somehow I doubt it.
More to the point, there were no jobs. There were especially no jobs for those of us with "soft skills" such as "communications." There were even less than no jobs for those of us with "soft skills" who'd never worked in technology, or even just for a company that ended with a .com.
So I continued to work part-time for the company I'd been with in Connecticut and spend the other part of my days and weeks roaming around online, looking for work, and roaming around the city, looking for coffee and crepes.
After a year, though, it was clear I wasn't going to find a job that paid enough to justify living where I was. At the same time, my boyfriend (El_G, or EG) was getting pretty tired of his place, especially after it rained in his bathroom. He was also tired of us trekking across the city to spend time with each other. So we decided to find a place together.
We found one in short order, just a few blocks from my first place, on Sutter St. (This would also be the same street I'd eventually work on, where Ben & Emily would live, and where Ish would live, all coincidentally.)
One of the things EG and I had in common was our planful and decisive nature. Unfortunately, this led to our selecting the first apartment we saw that fit our requirements (including our having four cats between us). We didn't waste time looking for a place that had MORE charm or BETTER lighting or anything silly like that. We just walked into a place, thought it was totally fine, wrote a check, and got the keys, all in one afternoon. Just like that.
What started out as a perfectly "quaint" place to live eventually became a place we hated coming home to and couldn't wait to move out of.
For one thing, the back of the apartment overlooked a restaurant's outdoor area.
That was fine for a while, when we didn't mind hearing the distant, charming restaurant din. But as we realized it was also the place for smokers to hang out, it became less appealing.
That same restaurant also decided, about halfway through the year, that it could use its upstairs area as a nightclub. So every Friday and Saturday we would be treated to the faint UHNK-A UHNK-A UHNK-A of a ridiculously loud bass until about 1:30 a.m.
Worse, though? Far, far, far worse? The restaurant's roof deck had lots of trees and pots and plants and things that collected lots of stale, still water. Which meant mosquitoes.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. THE MOSQUITOES.
There are no mosquitoes in this picture because they are waiting until it is 3 a.m. Then they will come out and buzz around your head all night until one of you decides to chase them around the room with a shoe.
The bottom-most built-in cabinet on the right (barely pictured here) ended up serving as a litter-box cave. It worked quite well, actually, thanks to the crafty machinations of EG. And trust me, when you're living in a small space with four cats, you need all the machinations one can muster.
Typical SF apartment living room, as seen from nearly identical bedroom.
It served us just fine, but we were MORE than ready to go when our lease was up.
My cat and EG's cat. This lasted 14 seconds and never happened again.