California Dreamin

In July of 2009 I made the move from Boston Massachusetts to San Francisco California. I was loving my life in Boston at The MALE Center, however I was getting burnt out from working in HIV prevention, outreach and testing. In one day I tested two guys, both under 23 whose rapid test result came back positive. It broke my heart having to explain to these two guys what a reactive HIV test meant, and the process involved with getting a confirmatory. That happened in the spring, and I knew then that I needed a break for a while. So I applied to a college in San Francisco and was accepted to start in the fall of 2009.

When I originally wanted to leave Texas in 2007, I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go. I had been to San Francisco on vacation a couple of years before, with my friend Susan. Susan had lived in SF for a number of years before moving to Austin. She showed me around and introduced me to her friends there. However, getting away from Austin, I wanted to live someplace with a proper winter and snow, so I chose Boston. Now that I had experienced 2 amazing winters, I decided it was time to try living in SF, someplace with a slower speed.

I left Boston in July, and went back to Hutto to stay with my dad for a month before I moved to SF for school. I was able to save up a good amount of money while in Boston, and that money was dedicated for me to get an apartment and sustain me until I could find a job in SF. My dad said that instead of spending money on the airline ticket to fly to SF, he would be happy to drive me up there. Although I loved many car trips with Victoria when I was younger, I was somewhat scared of the drive to SF with my dad. The thought of saving the money from the flight though, overpowered my prejudice. At the end of July, my dad and I loaded up his minivan with a couple of boxes of my belongings and drove westward.

Driving through west Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and finally California you notice how boring, flat, dry and depressing the southwest is. At least to me. I was terrified that our car would break down and our bodies would be found weeks or months later, if the vultures hadn’t torn us apart. There was a fire on the side of the road either in New Mexico or Arizona and it halted traffic as the smoke blacked out the road completely, we just sat and waited in a line of cars for a few hours, until finally the smoke subsided. We stopped when it got dark and stayed at motels along the way. We would wake up early and be on the road before the sun awoke. Along the drive we actually heard The Mamas & The Papas California Dreamin’ 7 times, but Hotel California by the Eagles only twice.

We got to SF, stayed in a hotel the first night and found me an apartment the next day. Little did I know the apartment was located in the worst part of town, The Tenderloin. It was an easy walk for me to get to school though, and that’s what mattered, or so I thought. My dad helped me get settled in to my new large studio apartment and headed back to Texas the next morning. I was too excited to be living in San Francisco, that evening I called up a few of my friends I met the first time I was in SF and we went out for a drink in the Castro. We headed to the dance club called the Badlands, but many locales call it Sadlands. It wasn’t that bad, of a place. As we were all out dancing, some guy came up behind me, too close and I turned around and pushed him away. My friends and I went to grab another drink and then back to the dance floor. The same guy came up behind me again but my friend Gary, who I was dancing with, pushed him away again. I thanked him, and he told me how creepy the guy was. Then, I noticed my wallet was gone. The bastard pickpocketed me. I have never been pickpocketed before. I told my friends, and Gary started for the door to find the guy, unfortunately, the club was packed and this guy had at least 2 minutes head start. I never got a good look at his face, all I knew was that he was a drunk, fat, Korean guy. We circled the block twice looking for him, but never found him. I was nervous as I just moved to a new city and all I had were a few checks and about $40 at my apartment. Luckily, my bank sent me a new card within a week and all was well. I should have taken that as a sign that SF was not for me, but I don’t give up so easily.

School was going fine, I made a lot of wonderful friends there, who were all talented, creative and amazing people. For my birthday one year they bought me a box of chocolate bars because they knew how much I loved chocolate. We all had fun, doing homework together, going to parties, volunteering and interning together. One night a group of us got a few bottles of wine and headed to the fountain at Huntington Park in Nob Hill. After finishing the wine, rather quickly, we decided to jump in the fountain and act out an Italian Movie.

Living in the Tenderloin had many downsides, safety was the main concern however. One morning when I was heading to school early, around 6AM, there was nobody else out that early, except for a woman who was half a block in front of me. She turned down from one street and was walking ahead of me. It was dark, and I was still somewhat tired, but I was 100% certain that she was not wearing any pants or underwear at all. She stopped a few times and I also noticed that she was carrying a miniature Christmas tree. It was October. She was only wearing a light brown bomber jacket, no other clothes at all, unless you count the mini-tree. I wasn’t ready for that so early in the morning, luckily I turned down another block and didn’t have to follow her any longer. Another traumatic time was when I was going to the corner store one evening and as I was I heard a car’s wheels screeching, a loud pop and then the car driving away. It was a drive by shooting, about 10 feet in front of me. I was terrified by this. I was ready to be done with California all together, but after calling my dad I decided to stay and finish my schooling.

When tax time came around, I was hoping to get a nice chunk of change from my tax refund. I got a few thousand from my federal income tax, but from my state income tax, I received 10k. I knew that something had to be wrong here, because I definitely didn’t pay that much to the state. I called H&R Block to check my number and ensure it was correct. The representative got back to me a few days later and told me that everything looked legitimate. Because it was such a large amount, I was told it had to be reviewed by the state first and the refund will take more time to come. In June, the full ten thousand was in my bank account, ready for me to use. I called the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to ensure that everything was ok and that the money belonged to me. The representative told me yes that it has been verified and the money was mine. That was a great load off of my mind. That took some of the pressure off. Years later I would be contacted saying that I owe them the money back in full with about five thousand dollars of fees etc. but that is for another post.

I worked a total of 4 jobs while I was going to school. I started at a boutique in the Castro called Outfit. It was owned by a despicable person named Ryan, who valued himself more than anything in the world. He was certain that everything he did in life was right and everyone else is wrong. Ryan lived with his boyfriend Steven, a very cute Filipino guy who I saw on my 2nd day in SF when I was shopping. Apparently they had an open relationship because Ryan was always on Grindr and talking about how amazing Grindr is to the entire staff and customers. Ryan went away a few weekends to shop for items at shows. Steven and I got close while he was away. It was nice being able to talk with someone, connect with them and get to learn from them. We had a few informal dates, but when Ryan got suspicious, he made sure Steven was never around me while I was on the clock. One weekend, Steven, and I (and another guy named Brett who worked for them) went to an Underwear Party while Ryan was away. We finished a full bottle of vodka in the car on the way to the warehouse where the party was. It was a fun night that ended with the 3 of us in Steven’s bed. About a week later Ryan instituted  one on one sessions with his staff, micromanaging every aspect of their lives. In one of these sessions he told me that I needed to respect him more. I told him I had no idea what he was talking about. He said that I have to stop flirting with his bf, and how rude it was for me to do that. I told him that this was not work related talk, and should wait until I was off the clock. He then started yelling and I got up and walked out. He then called and asked me to come back, but I told him that I didn’t need this type of crazy in my life while I’m trying to get a college degree. Steven and I stayed in touch for a few years after I left, but we only saw each other a few times.

After Outfit, I went to work at Crate & Barrel, which I really adored. A great company, with awesome staff and fun work environment. I also worked at H&M, such a completely different atmosphere there. H&M was a hot mess, some of the staff was awesome, but when someone says Retail Hell, this is what they mean. Clothes were always thrown on the ground by nasty customers, one day a woman was changing her baby’s diaper on the men’s tie table. Classy I know. Another time a young twink, probably just 18 years old walked in with a guy in his 70’s, the twink grabbing anything and everything that would fit in the shopping basket the older man was carrying. They walked up to the register and the young man put all the clothes on the counter and then backed away as the old man got out his credit card. I had never seen a sugar daddy relationship up close like that before. I was more appalled than I thought I would be.  Even when I left C&B I stayed friends with the people I worked with there and we continued hanging out on a regular basis, usually going to Delores park, or weekend trips to Target or the mall. The last job I had in SF was at Sweet Inspiration, a café that had delicious cakes and coffee. My friend Hans introduced me to the owner, Kandy and when she lost a regular server she asked me if I wanted to help out part-time. It was fun, nothing stressful.

Hans and Diana were two of my really good friends. Diana was a big wig at a lesbian magazine and lived life to the fullest. One night, the three of us went out to Ocean Beach and had a midnight bonfire. We even had supplies to make s’mores. It was very relaxing and a great way to spend an evening after drinking and bar hopping. After about 30 minutes though people started to join us. I wasn’t sure if they were all homeless or a mixture of homeless and hippies. Either way, they were leaches. Diana, being the ultra cool person she is was fine with it, but Hans and I started to get uncomfortable. A few hours later we decided to call it a night and left. The crowd that had gathered however stayed and benefited from the warmth of the fire. Hans, Diana and I has many awesome times together, and I was very lucky to have them as my friends.

A few months after starting work at Crate & Barrel, the manager Manny and I started dating. We all hung out as a group many times, and it just sort of happened. We had a lot of fun, and I was very lucky to have him help me get around the Bay area. Manny and I decided to get rid of our bad apartments and find a much better one. He lived in Hayes Valley and we decided to move to Nob Hill, so that we could be closer to work. We had a nice apartment there, small but cute. Manny is an amazing cook and he spoiled me way too much with such amazing food. He introduced me to his amazing family, and they opened their arms to me. I finally felt like I had a home in SF. Manny is a party animal and always the life of the party. It was nice having such an active social life. Some of the crazy people who made up my circle of friends were Yesenia, Steve(Bear), Cindy, Thomas, Naomi, Jackie, Trey, Raymond, Lori-Anne, Rachel, Juliana, Dustin, Denise, Brittany and many more.

Pot is ubiquitous in San Francisco. If you don’t get a contact high walking down the street, you are not in San Francisco. One night at a friend’s birthday party, I was offered a pot brownie. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t supposed to eat the whole piece. I was stuck, sitting on the sofa, unable to move for 5 hours. I had to pee the entire time, but was unable to move. That was the heaviest high I have ever felt. Even out at the bars and clubs, the smell of pot will intoxicate you before the alcohol will.

Some awesome trips I took while in SF were: A guy I went on a few dates with, Gary, took me out to Napa one weekend to try a ton of wine. It was awesome, so much wine…I don’t remember the entire weekend though, so you know it was good. Manny took me to the Charles M Schulz museum in Santa Rosa, and it was a real pilgrimage for me. I have always loved Charlie Brown, and this was a real highlight for my entire time in California. One weekend, my internship for Macy’s had a fashion show in Los Angeles, but we had to be there early Saturday morning and I had school until 6pm on Friday. One other intern offered to ride with me down to LA. So many let me borrow his car, and she and I drove the entire night from SF to LA. The other intern said she didn’t feel like driving, so that means I was stuck driving the entire 8 hour drive down in the middle of the night. The other interns were going to be flying down, but I try not to waste money if I can.  What a mistake, next time, I am flying.  The fashion show was so much fun, I met some incredible models, some of whom I am still in contact with today. I got to go to Hollywood and see all the sights I Love Lucy had shown me.

California was an amazing place to live for a while. When I was offered a job in NYC when I graduated, I took it though. California moves to slowly for my taste, being 3 hours behind the east coast, I always felt like I’ve missed everything. People are more relaxed with an “I’ll get to it later” attitude. As a Type A personality, that doesn’t flow well with me. I needed the hustle and bustle of NYC, everyone in a rush to get everything done. I met some fantastic people in SF and am lucky to know them all. But, the real estate is too much, the homeless population is too large and the public transportation isnt the best. When asked if I would ever move back, I usually say no before they finish the question. Although, if I think about it for a while, the right career and right salary could tempt me to return.

Don’t let me discourage you though, if you are dreaming of a California lifestyle, go for it!

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