Monday, August 01, 2005

As I’ve said before, the great irony of this journal is the more I have to write about, the less I actually write. It’s been a crazy couple of months.

Fortunately, it’s all welcome craziness.

Ten years ago, I moved to California. My life in the Golden State started in Sacramento. After two years I grew restless and like every young man should, headed west. Next stop: San Jose (a.k.a. Silicon Valley). I lived in the Bay Area for three years before settling down in San Diego.

And within each city, I’ve lived in its nice, safe, convenient, and boring community.

I needed a change.

Creatively, I was starving. I needed sustenance. I needed a catalyst.

I’ve lived in San Diego long enough to become familiar with its different neighborhoods. Despite its size, San Diego never feels like a big city to me. Due to its geography, the city is cut up enough for distinctive neighborhoods to form, each with its own personality.

I craved a pedestrian friendly lifestyle where I could walk to restaurants and cafes. I wanted to be immersed in a creative area with artists and art galleries. I longed for a community filled with verve and energy.

I found that place in North Park.

Despite San Diego being the poster child for bubble real estate values, I bought a condo in this developing neighborhood. I told my friend this and she said, “Don’t describe it as developing. Just say that it’s full of character.”

However, before I could enjoy my new neighborhood, I had to first move there.

Moving sucks. There’s no other way around it.

I’ve hired movers for all of my relocations. My problem with movers boils down to a number. They always come in threes. Three is an awkward number as there’s no balance. The group dynamic devolves into two plus the useless guy. When it comes to movers, a group of three fits a stereotypical profile. There is the leader who holds the clipboard and helps move. There’s the big guy who constantly lifts and moves boxes. Then there’s the third guy who is like having a sixth toe. You are aware of him, but he is completely useless. He is slow and hides beneath the other two. He looks around for the least possible amount of work possible. While the big guy strains to carry three heavy boxes, the third guy walks around picking up empty tape rolls.

That’s why for my short intra-city move, I opted for two movers. With two movers there’s an automatic check-and-balance system. If one of them slacked off, the work would never get done. It’s peer pressure. It’s not like you could hide in a mob of people. There was no deferring of work. It’s you and the other guy, and you each needed to carry your own weight. Literally.

The move went as well as moves can go. It was expensive, but so it goes.

Despite the pressures of finding a condo, going through escrow, traveling to Tokyo for a two week business trip (a future journal entry), and moving, I had a simple goal to reaching solace. I didn’t care if I had boxes all over the new place, I’d just be happy when everything was finally consolidated in my new place and I could sit on the couch, put my feet up on the coffee table, and relax. This was my thought. My hope. But out from the depths of hell it awaited me… the pervasive pink.

My predecessors painted the entire inside of the condo pink. I’m not talking patches or specific walls. I’m talking every wall. Every doorknob and light switch cover. The insides of closets. Everywhere. I’m not sure if there are good or bad types of pink, but this specific shade of pink was disconcerting. You’d find this color in an insane asylum, or if exposed to it for an extended period of time, it would drive you to one.

It had to be eradicated. First, I had to pick out the new paint and color scheme. Not everyone has an opinion on the death penalty, need for the designated hitter, or health effects of carbohydrates. But let me tell you this – absolutely everyone has an opinion on paint. When I walked down the sidewalk, people popped up from behind bushes to give me their thoughts on accent wall colors. They talked about painting their kitchen mauve and how it was now more stunning than the Taj Mahal. I had relatives calling me up that I hadn’t talked to in fifteen years, telling me how they painted their living room sunshine gold and it was breathtaking, and that they went over to the Johnson’s and I shouldn’t use brown because it looked like the Johnson’s dog had wiped its ass on their wall.

After taking into account everyone’s input, I opted for a blue-ish gray for the living room and a sage green for the bedroom. The other rooms would have to wait. If I get laid off I discovered my new career choice. I want to name paint colors. It seems like it would be fun. Also I wouldn’t get stuck having to tell the cashier that I needed a gallon of misty. I instructed my family from that point on, to always refer to the color as shark tooth gray.

I was very fortunate that my family members flew into town that first weekend to help me paint. Painting is fun the first two hours. After that it becomes a painful and tedious marathon.

There is an author (Milton? Dante?) whose version of hell is spending eternity doing what you hate to do the most. For me, I already know how this is going down. I will drive a convertible painted in the motif of a Mark Rothko painting. The car will be filled with pigeons with some of the fat bastards flying overhead. I will have to stop every quarter mile to pay at a toll booth. And in between booths, I will have to get out of the car and paint the trim of every house. There is no worse hell than painting trim.

During the painting process I also discovered that I have a special penchant for stepping on wet paint can lids barefoot.

My new place has hardwood floors which I really enjoy, but they take some getting used to. I realized that my floors needed to be mopped after the first few days when the bottoms of my feet looked like I had made my own wine by stomping grapes. Hardwood floors are nice when moving boxes from one room to the other because you can easily slide them along. But I notice that my furniture also slides stealthily. My couch moves six inches a day just from the act of sitting down a few times.

With the latex paint work subsiding, I’ve been able to explore my neighborhood.

Here is why I love my new neighborhood. As I walked by the park I spotted a guy walking a rabbit. He wasn’t holding or carrying it. He was actually walking it. The rabbit wore a harness and a leash. You don’t see this in the sterile suburbs.

I’m still getting used to a whole new set of sounds and noises. In my previous apartment-dense locale, I had to acclimate to the sound of cars passing by and people talking. In my new place I have the sound of morning delivery trucks dropping stuff off at restaurants. I have the sound of cheering parents and whistles being blown at the adjacent sports complex. Crows erupt with their piercing cackle as they sit perched on the water tower. Sometimes it sounds like people are rearranging furniture inside my condo when the birds dance on my skylight. And then I have the sound of grocery carts being pushed down the back alley. To keep them from that path, I’d love to set up a cattle guard.

I’ve found great restaurants that I love walking to. I bring my notebook to Thai Time, writing down thoughts as I eat my delicious green curry chicken. I enjoy perusing the scarily robust menu of Mailo’s Café where you can order Mexican food, Greek food, breakfast, or biscuits and gravy. Thus far I’ve opted for the tasty gyros sandwich. I relish the whole ritual of lunch where I walk to and fro the restaurant, accompanied by my journal. As a result, my writing has picked up considerably.

A few days ago Kim and I went to breakfast across the street at Rudford’s. An old man sat at the bar and extended his hand out to us. In it, he held a coupon. It was a $2 off coupon for this breakfast. “You get these from the San Diego Reader. I have 40 of them in my wallet,” he said, “but they all expire in two weeks.” We talked to him for a little bit. He later told us that he’s been coming to this place since 1946. This is why I moved here.

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