Tag Archives: real life

That time I had a hometown.

Stuff cool nerd kids liked in the early 2000s./Corner of my high school bedroom.

Stuff cool nerd kids liked in the early 2000s./Corner of my high school bedroom.

Sometimes there is sadness embedded in a present place. It’s too rooted in the sweeping movements of the second hand and no longer able to be the thing it was many pages of the calendar ago.

I grew up in a 1960s suburban ranch style house in the East Bay in Northern California. The house still sits on the same suburban street, but it’s now a much more expensive neighborhood with houses priced only for the very affluent tech workers of Silicon Valley.

It had a driveway, a decent sized front yard and a big backyard with a lemon tree and an orange tree. There was also a jungle of ivy along the side of the house and a lollipop tree. My parents were never very fond of the landlord, who delivered rent increase notices at Christmas, but to me he was just a slightly scary older person who left suckers in the lollipop tree on occasion. One time when he backed out of the driveway he took out the last bush in a row of front yard shrubbery. The little plant stuck to the back bumper of his car and bobbed along in the breeze as he drove away.

The things I remember about living there are very rooted in the physical space. We’d always tell newcomers to look for the house with the “bright green trim.” The bulk of the house was painted an off white color, but the almost neon green paint that framed the house really made it stick out. (Clearly no HOA forcing bland paint colors on the neighborhood.)

When we first moved in the carpet was a brown, ancient almost shag carpet. The kitchen countertops were a chipped mint laminate. In the decade plus of living there the landlord did eventually replace the counters and carpet, but he hired cheap day labor and orchestrated most of the “improvements” himself. Nothing ever quite lined up right.

Nothing quite lining up is also an accurate descriptor of my feelings about my childhood home. My parents always had some resentment toward me considering this my childhood home, but it was. Most of my growing up memories center on the place.

My departure from the Bay Area as an adult-in-training was shortly followed by my parents’ exodus from the place. I use to always make a pilgrimage to the house when I would go back to the Bay to visit friends. Strangers rented it by then, but my mind erased the foreign cars in the driveway and imagined summer nights running through the front yard grass (getting eaten by mosquitos) or days drawing chalk roads and traffic signs on the sidewalk.

My weirdo drive-by visits to my childhood home made sense the first couple years. I’d drive by and little things would change. The neon-y green trim color was toned down. The plants in front of the house were altered. More strange cars parked in the driveway. But still, this is the filter I saw the world through for so many years as a child. This was home, this was a place that made sense. Or at least I fought for it to make sense in my head.

I stopped driving by my childhood home a few years ago. I started realizing that I was assigning some sort of false sense of security and identity to a place that no longer existed. I even feel off telling people I’m from the East Bay. My childhood was there, but beyond that my family historically only dipped their toes in California. We aren’t Californians, though I am a Californian. It’s such a weird disconnect to have in the relationship between people and place; between family and individual identity.

In driving past the old rental house I was trying to have some sense of belonging or roots in a hometown of some sort. In the early years of leaving home that worked to some extent, but now I see the construct I built for myself and the functional role it filled. It did its job and then it retired. It always was someone else’s home in truth, but now it’s also someone else’s home in fiction too.

The place lost its meaning, and with it I’ve had to let go. It use to make me sad, but now I focus more on the bright points of child memory over jarring adult reality. It was there for all the doll soap operas and school lessons, the fake perfume making sessions, and the backyard burritos assembled from fallen lollipop tree leaves and blossoms. I’ll always have the memories of sunny days of running through the sprinkler, roller blading around the concrete slab patio, or having elaborately themed birthday parties. I don’t need a physical touchstone to remind me of these things – all these good things filtered out of the more expansive memory pool.

Why I’ve been MIA: July.

Home in the Sierra Nevadas

Home in the Sierra Nevadas

My appreciation for the outdoors is really thanks to my college friends Jess and Kate. I’ve always thought of myself as a “city person” and most of my outdoor adventures in the past happened as a result of someone else’s planning and burning desire to tromp through wilderness. Basically Jess and Kate and other associated friends took me outside, put me on a trail, and made me realize that nature is awesome and that there is nothing wrong with doing your business in outhouses (or bushes), dirt, and encounters with all the non-human creatures that exist in the great outdoors.

Kate was brought up as a summertime mountain gal and her family is awesome about sharing the beautiful space they have up in the Sierra Nevada mountains. To get to their place you take a ferry across a lake and then hike in 4 miles. I always find it a little challenging to explain the place to others. They have a very established site with structures, outhouses, and showers. It’s somewhere between cabin and campsite, depending on which pillow you lay your head on at night.

Sallie Keyes

One of the Sallie Keyes

Before I went I was a little skeptical that this was my dish, but I was hooked after going for a week a couple years ago. I’ve been back twice since and when I need to go to a mental happy place I think of the blue-green of Sallie Keyes Lakes or the smell of trees after rain, or the water spray from motoring across Florence Lake in a boat.

There is something really nice about being detatched from electronics and focusing on your surroundings, including people. Conversations around a fire, reevaluating the definition of warm at Warm Lake, realizing how big the universe is, and appreciating existence. Ahhh.

Being outdoors also makes me aware of my own physicality and individual agency. You really have to own the choices you make while climbing mountains and choosing trails because you can’t call anyone up to come pick you up if you overexert yourself or get too far out for your own good. I climbed a mountain last time I was up there (Mt. Senger, what up?) and that was something that I use to think was out of the range of my abilities. It was one of the most challenging physical things I’ve ever done, but food tastes better and sleep is sounder afterwards.

My only real chicken-out situation was sleeping alone at Al’s Camp,  or rather, taking a short nap before staying up all night because holy crap didn’t that splashing in the river sound like a bear coming over to see if I had snacks?! I turned on my flashlight and waved it around and made a bunch of noise and was a general idiot. I didn’t see any bears, it was probably a raccoon or a deer or something. Having a fantastic imagination when you’re alone in a dark, foreign place is a terrible thing.

Some people have friends that get them into drugs, excessive drinking, or shenanigans that get them put in jail.  Thankfully I have friends whose version of getting high is climbing a 12,000 ft. mountain.  I think a big part of me will always be a city girl, but I had my eyes opened to something I never would’ve initially sought out on my own.  Thanks guys!

Happiest Place on Earth.

Happiest Place on Earth.

How a show full of poo jokes motivates me to be myself.

At various points in life I thought I wanted to be a writer, a journalist, an actor, a film director, a history professor, and an archivist.  I think I spent like two weeks (hours?) thinking I’d want to be a computer engineer like my Dad when I was in the single digits age range, but maybe this is just hazy memory and I’m filling in the blanks with something that sounds nice.

In various unofficial capacities I’ve done a little bit of everything on that list (aside from computer engineering).  If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen in some form.  It may not pay your rent, it may not be the ideal dream situation you thought up in the first place, but if you’re so into a particular thing you will make it work in some fashion.

Lately my biggest pet peeve is people talking about what they “really want” and how the world is keeping them from doing what they’re really into.  I try to think up exceptions to this.  Like, say your dream is to be a skydiving champ, but you can’t afford to go skydiving on a regular basis.  But the more I think about it, the more I feel like a person who wants it bad enough will figure out how to earn and save up the money to do it.  It’s all about owning the choices we make and deciding what we’ll sacrifice for the things that really matter to us.

It’s hard to admit this to yourself and the people around you.  It sounds nice to have ambiguous creative goals or lofty career aspirations.  And sometimes it’s hard to figure out what it is that you actually want.  I mean, I don’t think we always know what we’re willing to jump out of a plane for, and that’s where the hang ups are – suspended in mid air, awaiting some kind of landing.

I’m in the process of reevaulating stuff.  As I get older a lot of my earlier wants are still hanging around, but a few other to-dos jumped on the list that are jostling for higher ranking on my life list. I don’t yet know which goal is going to come out on top and serve as my parachute to keep me from splatting on to the earth at a zillion miles an hour.  It’s kinda scary and kind of liberating, but mostly I’m trying to take it as motivation to flex some muscles that’ve been sitting on the back burner.

Watching Workaholics is incredibly motivating.  This might seem like an odd statement for a show with a lot of juvenile humor.  AV Club summed up the jist of the show with: “Workaholics is…about the extended adolescence of post-college life, where an unchallenging first job and the proximity of close friends ease the transition into the real world.”  And in the interview one of the creators really nailed it by saying they “try to be smart in the dumbest way possible.”

The first half of season one isn’t all that great, but it really hits its stride by the end of that first season.  Hilarious.  Originally I was gonna write about how much I relate to this show, even though their biggest demographic is teenage/young adult boys and I’m a closing in on 30-years-old female.  I’ve got a soft spot for any show that privileges buddy relationships over other relationships, they make references to pop culture I grew up with, my first years in LA centered around hanging out at my dude friends’ apartment, I’ve worked an office job just to pay rent, and growing up as a kid in the Bay Area I used to film skits with my friends.

That last point is the motivational point.  The creators of the show spent a couple years making their own videos as Mail Order Comedy before Comedy Central saw their work and funded Workaholics (and even before that they were the kids in school who wrote and filmed their own material for nothing more than their own gratification).  That shit takes motivation, perserverance, and work.  So even though this is a goofy show with a bunch of teenage boy jokes, the guys behind it are hard workers who figured out what they wanted to do and kept at it until something stuck.

Now, not every hard worker is going to see their goal realized with a Comedy Central show (and that’s definitely not my personal goal), but it’s admirable and sorta warm fuzzies to see a group’s determination and work pay off.  The characters they play on the show are ridiculous people, but what Mail Order Comedy achieved professionally is basically a stellar example of “if you want it bad enough you’ll make it work somehow.”  Talk all you want about what you think you want to do, but if you’re not actually doing it or actively sacrificing for it, maybe it’s time to reevaluate what you think you want.

And nobody’s want is any better than anyone else’s want.  It’s hard to not let outside judgement cloud your goals – I am swatting away doubt flies all day, erry day.  If your want is to write skits centered around dick jokes and share them with an audience, that is awesome, because you figured out what you want.  Now, time for me to figure out what my dick jokes are.  I’ve been watching way too much Workaholics (and like a dozen other shows) and not working on my own Workaholics-esque goals.

(I also thought about writing how I intitially dismissed Workaholics and how this show is a great example of why you should never say you don’t like something until you give it a real try.  Man, serious life themes from a very unserious show!  My favorite kind of stuff. (And also why I sometimes still think about heading back to the ivory tower, land of making everything have meaning and piling on the bullshit.  Apparently I am just a crap fan all the way around. (Like how that Sorceress character I wrote as part of an online RPG in junior/high school lived in a tower and now I think about working at a metaphorical tower and maybe life and art have some weird parallels. (Okay, too many tangents.))))

Long Distance Relationship Club.

When I read blogs, regardless of their topic, I’m always curious about the personal life of the writer.  What kind of day job do they have?  How do they make their relationships work (significant other, friends, and family all included)?  Blogs often paint a picture of exciting, creative lives, and as I take it all in I always wonder, how the heck do you manage your life emotionally and financially to make all this work?  I don’t live a sparkly blog life, but I do live a real life, and so I’ll share the work-in-progress/figuring life out bit, as opposed to the polished everything-is-naturally-awesome bit.  Bloggers often make disclaimers that their lives aren’t so perfect, but it’s really hard to connect with that when their blogs are so shiny and their imperfections imperceptible.

So with that mission in mind:  Recently the bf and I joined the Long Distance Relationship Club.  He moved to Austin, TX for an awesome job in the video game industry, and I’m still out in Los Angeles, CA working my awesome job in the archives/museum world.  We are still very much together, but we’re both early on in our careers and need to take any opportunities to gain new experiences and grow in our professions.  This is the path we’re following for the time being.

One of my teammates at Wednesday night trivia is an experienced member of the Long Distance Relationship Club.  I asked him for advice on how he and his girlfriend make it work.  He said that he had one word for me: communication.

I’d say that so far Mr. H and I have the communication bases covered.  We’re big on texting, talking on the phone (which I generally hate, but here is an exception), and as soon as Mr. H has internet we’ll jump on board Skype.  Not too tough.

But trivia teammate then also mentioned that his girlfriend flies out to visit every two weeks or so.  EVERY TWO WEEKS?!  I’m plotting my first visit to Austin and anticipate heading out there maybe twice a year?  If I was more of a baller you’d bet I’d be flying out more often, but I’m small time peanuts.  So this small time peanutter is going to have a slightly different long distance relationship.

I still think if we want it to work we’ll find a way to make it work.  And I’m super looking forward to visiting him in Austin.  I’ve been there twice and already know I really like the place.