Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Loft on Haight

EG and I started looking for new places to live weeks before our lease was up, so we wouldn't have to stay one day longer than necessary.

Once I wrote about the time I literally threw myself through the wall in the hallway outside our apartment. On my birthday. I didn't mean to. I meant to give EG a hug but I tripped, gained falling-down momentum, and next thing you know I was crumpled in a heap with half of me IN the wall and the other half of me on top of my foot. Quite a feat. The story is here, along with a picture of a very, very, very bruised buttocks.

Following my fall, I spent six weeks unable to do much of anything because uncoordinated people can't use crutches very well ESPECIALLY not in a city with sidewalks like San Francisco's. I spent most of my days wheeling myself around on my office chair.

My right foot is still much larger than my left.

The point is, our Sutter St. apartment didn't have good juju. No. It had mosquitoes and bad juju.

When I first started looking for new places, we were searching for two-bedroom apartments. I was working more hours and we could afford a slightly more rent. Except "slightly more rent" did not equate to NICE two-bedroom apartments. They were mostly either scary places or places that had two "bedrooms" but no living rooms.

Thus, I finally got the bright idea of looking for more expensive one-bedroom apartments. Maybe, I thought, expensive one-bedroom apartments would be nicer than low-to-mid-priced two-bedrooms.

And somehow the stars aligned and up popped a listing too good to be true. A fresh, modern, cat-friendly LOFT apartment was available in EG's old Hayes Valley 'hood for our price. And we snapped that baby up in two seconds.

Oh, how I loved that apartment.

The house I grew up in had a giant kitchen with a wall of windows and a brick floor and a brick fireplace (Connecticut farmhouse, remember). My family spent 90% of our time in that kitchen, including when guests were over. And while a modern loft in San Francisco is mostly nothing like a Connecticut farmhouse, living in one giant room was familiar.

I remember the smell of fresh paint and warm air. Instead of a decades-old hissing radiator, we had a gas fireplace. The ceilings were maybe 20' high. The far wall was completely windwed. The stairs were completely open, and we had 1.5 baths. The kitchen had dark cherry cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and granite counter tops.

But the best thing about living in a newly constructed place was how everything worked. The farmhouse, my homes in Connecticut, my apartments in San Francisco -- they were all (to one degree or another) "old." I'd never realized you could have more than one outlet in the same wall! I didn't understand the magnificence of having every light switch in the home turn something on! Every time! Not only could you keep a granite countertop clean, you could keep modern wood floors clean, too! OH GLORY DAY.

We had a tiny balcony that overlooked the swankier lofts' backyards, but also Market Street, and even with the double-paned "soundproof" glass, you could hear the F-Market go by. You could sort of see Martuni's from our place.

If the Sutter St. place was the home of bad juju, this loft was the opposite. Something happened there. I guess I finally started to feel my SF groove, maybe. We moved in in October 2003, two years after I'd arrived in the city. I'd heard that it takes about two years of living somewhere new to totally feel settled, and that could not have been truer for me.

I'd finally found a real group of friends, and we had some amazingly fun parties in that place. In fact, I've maybe never had a better time at one of my own shindigs than our November housewarming party. We pulled out all the stops, buying glassware instead of plastic cups, for example, and hand-making fancy hors d'oeuvres like spanikopita (AMAZING considering my culinary background), and it was fabulous. It was my own. It was of my own making, and of my own choosing. The apartment, the people, the music, the food -- all of it was constructed. I'd felt like it was something I built. I'd never felt further from the clutches of a marriage that didn't suit me, or from all the things I'd never liked about where I grew up. It was like I'd taken all the parts about my upbringing that I liked most and expanded them into this crazy new life.

That apartment became party central. We were always ready to entertain -- glassware and booze at the ready, and if not munchies at least a pizza place on speed dial. If our friends were going out for the night, we'd start there for pre-partying (or "pre-drinking" if you want to get technical). The girls would go upstairs to primp and everyone would eat pizza and watch silly television.

While living there, at Haight & Market, I finally got a "normal*" 9-to-5 office job. I started my own, totally independent work life and public-transit commute in a city that was no longer a strange place to me. I can't even begin to express how oddly validating of my new life it was to take a city bus to get to work.

While living there, I started my a cappella group. I'd been looking around for a way to get back into singing, but all my efforts had, until then, been half-assed. Something happened at Haight & Market, though. I felt more in control of my life than ever, and started to really believe that I was the only person standing in the way of living life the way I wanted to. So I put an ad on Craigslist, and The Loose Interpretations were born.

While living there, I finally had the strength and clarity to really examine my relationship with EG. We had been having fun, for sure...but. Of course, he'd been a pillar of strength for me.  He was the only person I knew in San Francisco for a long time. We had almost nothing in common except our values and love for The City, which somehow made us excellent friends. Plus there was the soul-bonding fact that six weeks after my mother passed away of her longtime illness, so did his.

It made sense for us to be together in some ways, for some time. But as I was working hard to define my SF life, EG was a tough one. "Living with a guy" was vague. "Boyfriend" was vague. I'd come to a point where I needed to commit to the direction my life was headed, one way or another. And that's how we came to be engaged.

But that didn't fit. Every personality conflict we'd ever had suddenly went from "I can live with this" to "I HAVE TO LIVE WITH THIS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE?" EG's brooding fits of introversion didn't mesh with my constant need for chatter and company, and we lived in a constant state of compromise. Which was fine. But not okay for forever.

We broke up three months after we got engaged.

Which meant that by the summer of 2004, I was looking for my fourth apartment in three years. 

Photos from Christmas 2003






*This was the one involving miniature donkeys. So "normal" is relative.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sutter? I Barely Know 'er!

I loved my Bush St. apartment, but the rent was high -- especially for someone who was only working part-time.

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.

Please understand that this photo was taken on moving day. We didn't usually have our kitchen table wrapped in cellophane. Nor did we live with our coffee table wedged into our bathroom door. Usually.

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.

Aforementioned 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.

Forwarding Address

I was 26 when I arrived in San Francisco, ready to find a new place to live and, you know, start my life over. I began by crashing at my boyfriend's place, until I rented an apartment of my own.


Until then, I'd lived:
1. At home
2. In a college dorm at the University of Delaware for one horrible, torturous semester
3. At home: the reprise
4. In an apartment with my fiancé cum husband
5. In a house with my husband

Aside from my first couple years on this planet when we lived in New York City, I'd lived exclusively in Connecticut. (Because four months in Delaware doesn't count ON ANY LEVEL.) I couldn't wait to be somewhere new and different and full of surprises.


My First Apartment
I had no real idea of what I was looking for when I started printing out Craigslist apartment ads and wandering all over the city looking its many and varied offerings. I didn't have a feel for different neighborhoods. I didn't really get how one place might be short on closet space but big on view, whereas another might look all-around spectacular until you realize the on-site landlord is quite possibly the neighborhood crack dealer. I didn't inherently know that one end of the city enjoys an entirely different climate (sunny, pleasant 75 degrees) than the other (foggy, gray 52 degrees).

I chose an apartment on Bush St.  Not neighborhood-y, but very city-y. I overlooked the busy street and the sign to the Nob Hill Theatre.

Now, you might think with its fancy "theatRE" spelling there would be fewer naked men dancing there, but that would just suggest you don't know the first thing about San Francisco.

When I visited my family back east* for the first time and showed everyone pictures of my apartment and views, one of my mother's nurses asked, "Oh, you're across the street from a movie theater!?" and I politely showed her a second, closer-up photo of the NOB HILL THEATRE sign -- the one that said "All Male Nude Review" in smaller letters.

And then the nurse said, "Ohhhhh." I thought she got it. But then she added, "I bet there are fun ladies' nights THERE!" Um. And what do you say to a sweet old woman in New Hampshire who thinks that the nude male review in San Francisco is for women?

Imagine now that I am showing you pictures of my first apartment. (While you're at it, imagine where my external hard drive with all those photos is and email me when you figure it out.)

Just know that it was cute and Edwardian. It was on the fourth floor and had an old-school elevator that was quaint and charming and terrifying and only worked 11% of the time. It had a large garbage chute on each floor, which I found amazingly convenient. It had a small, adorable kitchen and two giant closets. The kitchen window overlooked a three-story parking lot, such that I would often forget I was four floors up, not one.

My building manager was a stressed-out, aging gay man who'd left Minnesota the moment he could and hadn't maybe ever stepped foot out of SF again. He was brusque and always looked harried (if not downright angry), but I liked him anyway because his apartment was on the first floor off the lobby, and I could hear him playing his piano when I entered the building. I think he thought the elevator was trying to kill him. He would post increasingly angry signs about how you can't shove pizza boxes down the garbage chutes because they don't fit.

If I think really hard, I can still smell the hardwood floors and fresh paint and city sunlight of that place. I could hear the cable car go by. Most memorably, I could hear the nearby hotel valets using their whistles to call cabs for guests. Those whistles would have driven someone less enamored of city-living BONKERS. I loved them.



*"Back East" is what everyone calls states east of California, which is hilarious to me because that includes states like Colorado.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Photofuckit

One of the things I wanted to tackle while on maternity leave is my "collection" of photos taking up space on my hard drive.

Now. If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you know that I am not what anyone would consider a "good" photographer. I take approximately 300 pictures for every 1 I dare to post, and that should tell you a lot. (See amazing artistic photo below.)

Also, I have no idea how people who ARE actually good – and prolific – photographers, like my partner Cat and my IRL-bff Emily, organize their digital lives. Are they really good at deleting the bad pictures? Are they really good at managing external hard drives? WHERE DO THEY PUT ALL THEIR PICTURES? Because not all of them go online, so...? What is the magic process that I don't know about?

I mean, I go a few weeks without exporting my pictures from my iPhone to my computer, and next thing I know I have to manage 426 pictures and after sorting, deleting, exporting, saving, etc. I've lost hours of my life and saved approximately 7 photos.

I can't be the only one who is a digital mess, right?

Anyway.

I have, actually, gone through allllllllllll the pictures I have on my hard drive since the beginning of time and put them into folders and then put them onto Photobucket* and we're about 75% of the way done with that process and I have to say that even I am shocked at the quality of some of the pictures that have been taking up space in my life.

Like this one:
This photo was both in a random photo on my hard drive AND in my iPhoto library. So glad I've been saving such a gem! In THREE places!

So really. Please tell me how you manage your bazillion photos. Other than deleting more pictures in real-time, what do you do? How do you do it? Because I don't ever want to go through this process again.


*I know Flickr is prettier, but I find its usability to be fancy and cumbersome in ways I don't need.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Penis Picture Game

Note: This is NOT an open letter to Representative Weiner, but it may as well be.

About six or seven years ago, my wacky group of Bay Area friends played a game. But first, let me tell you a few things you might not know, because a) some of you never dated online and b) things may have changed in the last five years.


Thing you need to know Part One:
In the early part of the last decade, online dating was still relatively new. Among other novelties, men and women were just figuring out how to take pictures of themselves and post them online. Remember, in 2002 no one was using Facebook or Twitter. Waaaaaaaaay back then, you had to jump through a few hoops to get the picture you took (with your digital camera, not your phone) on to the computer and actually "viewable."


Thing you need to know Part Two:

For most people living in San Francisco circa 2005, Craigslist served as the Origin of Everything. Everything. Every apartment, job, community activity, pet, furnishing, event, laugh, or friend you could hope to get, have, give or make came from Craigslist.

All of my first SF friends, my first SF jobs (which led to my later jobs, including the friendship I have with one of my current business partners), my SF apartments, my a cappella group, and, yes, MY HUSBAND, came from Craigslist. In fact, some of you are reading this blog because of CL.

{I have thanked @craignewmark on Twitter many times for all that he's indirectly given to me.}


Thing you need to know Part Three:
Some people treat (or at least treatED) Craigslist like the Wild West. And for my friends and I who would sometimes use CL to meet people FOR TO ACTUALLY DATE, we always found it disconcerting when men would reply to earnest, well-crafted, thoughtful, funny personal ads with pictures of their genitalia. Which happened every time.

Yes. Every. Time.

Actually, I once wrote a post about some of the most disconcerting personal ad replies I received, all of which are true and verbatim.

No matter what the personal ad was about, I would receive at least one picture of a penis. Occasionally the man's headless body would be attached to the penis, but the penis was always center stage.

Why? I never understood this. Even if I were looking for meaningless sex, which I very clearly was not, a body-less penis is not enticing. Beyond "rapport" and "chemistry," I can't imagine ever, ever wanting to have sex with a man based solely on what his junk looks like.

I mentioned this phenomenon to my friends, and it turns out that I am not special. Men LOVE sending pictures of their penises to online women! It happens all the time! (Rep. Weiner is totally late to the game.)

So we decided to have some fun. Enter The Penis Picture Game.

We -- my friends and I -- decided to host a contest, to see who could receive the greatest number of UNSOLICITED penis pictures in a certain amount of time (it was something like 48 hours).

The rules went something like this:
1. You post an ad ANYWHERE in the terrifying forest of Craigslist personals. I think we all selected to post in "Casual Encounters." Because duh.

2. Your ad would obviously be made up. You could tell any story you wanted. The key was to try to think like a man (OR HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE, WHATEVER) who would want to send you a picture of his penis as enticement. What would be the most compelling? What personal ad says "please send me a picture of your ding dong"?

3. Your ad could not explicitly ask for photos of any kind.

4. All photos of naked penises would be counted, whether disembodied, on headless naked men, or on full pictures (v. rare!). Photoshopped pictures were certainly allowed, and the most amusing by far.

It was totally, totally fun. The ads went up and the photos poured in.

Now, I can't remember all the details, but tallying up the photos was hilarious. Our winner received over 20 pictures. Many of us received the same pictures, and some of us received the same pictures from different men, meaning either the men were posting under different names, or using the same database of fake penis pictures, which is the SADDEST THING EVER.

:::PAUSE:::

Stop. Think. What personal ad would YOU post to garner the most unsolicited penis pictures? What topic do you think won our contest?


I had high hopes for my post -- something about a bored housewife looking for action while her husband was out of town -- but alas. My idea was either too trite, or maybe married men were a little more nervous to send penis photos? Who's to say. I was not a winner.

The winner was my friend Justin, who smartly made up a post about a collegiate girl who was embarrassed to still be a virgin, and was looking for a meaningless tryst to get her first time out of the way.

Right? Virgins. Gets 'em every time.

HILARIOUSLY MISGUIDED CONCLUSION: Men who are inclined to send penis pictures -- real or imaginary -- over the internet think virgins are the most eager recipients.

I don't know what to do with this sensitive and highly scientific data, but there it is. And if for some reason you are a man who wants to send penis pictures over the internet and you are reading this, please know:
1. No virgin is posting a casual encounter ad on Craigslist, unless she is a he, which you will discover eventually.
2. Of ALL the things a virgin wants to see in her inbox, a picture of a naked penis is not among them. No, it is not. No. Just, no.

Bonus
While discussing our results, we decided we needed to add categories. "MOST" was clearly the winner overall, but we added special distinctions -- honorable mentions, if you will -- for Most Photoshopped, Most Frequently Sent, Saddest, Best Looking, and, well, Blurriest.

The end.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

I'm Changing Everything! Maybe.

FIRST, AN UPDATE ABOUT HOW I'M NOT BREASTFEEDING ANYMORE. BECAUSE I HAVEN'T GOTTEN ANGRY COMMENTS SINCE POSTING ABOUT CAKE LADY HAIR. 

The first two weeks were glorious and magical and sweet and loving and full of newborn naps and smells interspersed with a sparkly toddler's new words and new tricks and everyone smiling a lot. Oh, no one was getting anything done -- except I was catching up on some very bad TV and awesome Golden Girl reruns at 3 a.m. -- but that's what maternity leave is for, right?

Sure. And then week three came around.

"Cluster feeding" doesn't even come close to what I experienced early last week, as I clocked in around NINE hours of breastfeeding from 7 a.m. to about 9 p.m. on Monday. Not all in a row, obviously, but does that really matter? And after that, understandably, my hormones went into overdrive (or underdrive, or whatever fucked-up thing happens to your body after that kind of a day coupled with nowhere near enough sleep), and suddenly I was a wreck*.

OH, RIGHT. The flip side of the newborn situation had reared itself, and I suddenly -- emotionally and physically -- remembered the weeks and months of feeling anchored by a relentless breastfeeding schedule.  And so I decided, after a couple days of sobbing at everything (which did not happen to me with Eve), that I would not spend the remainder of my precious leave feeling like a sad, leaky cow on a leash.  I made my decision then to wean Townsend off the boob and so there it is.

Now, ha. I wasn't going to mention this to the internet because I know how internet moms feel about the importance of breastfeeding, and I didn't want the Anonymous Comment/Shame Parade to start. But then a funny thing happened! A few days after I made this decision, I started to feel sort of...secure about it. Like, that it really IS the right thing (for me) to do.

And even then I STILLwasn't going to mention it, because why?

But last night I read Bossypants and, well, it shouldn't surprise any of you that I worship at the altar of Tina Fey. But SHE! SHE managed to write about breastfeeding! In a biography that could have been filled with nothing but anecdotes from her years at SNL or 30 Rock, she found reason to put in an entire segment about her sad attempt at breastfeeding and her giving it up and all the guilt that came with it. And while I wasn't really looking for validation, I got some anyway. (Not just about breastfeeding, either.) (God, I love her.)

If learned anything between reading Bossypants and watching the Oprah send-off, it's this: put it out there. So I am. Maybe someone who is struggling with breastfeeding is reading this and just wants to know that there's someone else (uh, besides Tina Fey) who chose not to breastfeed. Not because I physically couldn't, but because it was making me miserable. Further, I also chose not to feel guilty about my decision, and that seems to be making all the difference.


NOW I TELL YOU ABOUT ALL THESE CHANGES I'M MAKING! MAYBE. 

While I've been busy staring into space during 3 a.m. feeding torpor, I've had a lot of important epiphanies. (You know, as opposed to unimportant epiphanies.) I can't tell you what most of them have been, because I find that having a newborn is a little like being drunk all the time. (Note: "Sleep when the baby sleeps!" is something people without mouthy toddlers do.) But the ones that are sticking with me seem worth paying attention to.

The one that has the most to do with this blog goes like this, I think:

Accidentally, this blog is about starting over.

I mean, right? Even though I don't have one single post on the matter of starting over, that's what this whole entire thing has been about. When I started posting in January of 2005 I was single, having come from a wretched divorce followed by a sweet-but-misguided engagement.  I was figuring out my adult self while wading in the ridiculous dating waters of San Francisco. I was still healing from my mother's death (which happened two-and-a-half years before I'd started blogging), and managing through my father's illness and death (which happened in 2006) without writing much about those things at all. I've had three very different corporate jobs since I started writing here that have impacted my life in huge ways. And then there's that matter of having met that funny guy from Craigslist who's now not only my husband but also the father of both of my children. YES, THAT HAPPENED. (I honestly wonder if sometimes I'm dreaming this whole thing, because I am just so far from where I started.)

But therein lies the thing that's been niggling** me: I think this blog IS about how I got from "there" to "here"...and there are a lot of holes. Because I didn't know I was writing the story of how I went from that life to this life.  (I mean, how could I? I wasn't even there yet.)

Thus, there's lots of stuff I've left out. Stuff like the drama -- holy God, the DAH-RAH-MAH -- around my dating Ish in the beginning, when he was still married to someone who wasn't me. (CAN WE LAUGH ABOUT THIS YET?) Or about when I was first living in San Francisco and didn't know anything or anyone and couldn't identify "garlic" at the grocery store. Or how I, champion of the flip-flop and yoga pant, spent a few months working in an elite sector of the financial services industry and wore something akin to "suits" to work every. Damn. Day.

And then? There's maybe important backstory.  I've never really told you about the special brand of crazy I grew up with -- kind of like Running With Scissors except not as sad or homosexual -- and how that all led directly to my marrying a man who didn't "like people."

And also I should probably elaborate on things like how I had a job in marketing with people who barter miniature donkeys.

So of course this all may pass once I've caught up on my sleep (sometime in 2012), but right now I'm inspired to sort of redesign my blog again. Not so much the outside -- although who knows -- but the whole feel of it. I'd like to put my archives into some semblance of order, sorted by topic (CAN YOU IMAGINE?). And while I'll keep writing about my life these days, I won't worry when I veer of the path of "my still-lactating boobs are sore" and into territory of long ago. Because it's all part of the same package.

I think I have a story to tell.


GRATUITOUS PHOTOS OF MY CHILDREN. 


Eve at Trefethen Winery on Memorial Day.

Towns making face. Newborns are kind of awesome.



*Also, there was the Oprah finale, which didn't help the sob-factory that was my face.


**Niggling at me? Which is correct? I honestly don't know.