10/14/08: Have $0.22 in the bank.
P. has me running down every two
hours to feed quarters into the meter that her BMW is parked at. She
gave me $5 in quarters for this; she's in a long meeting today and can't
do it herself.
For every silver coin that I nudge into the slot, I
think, "That's more than I have in the bank right now... and *that's*
more than I have in the bank right now... Yep, and that's more than I
have in the bank right now, too."
But at least I'm not in debt. I'm working. I'm moving in the right direction.
It's been established that J. is the alpha female of the two of us.
such a small company (or "company"--there are four of us who work
full-time: P., J., Z., and me), these distinctions are glaringly
apparent and can reshape your self-image.
At a glance, at least,
we're two stereotypes. J.'s the blonde, tan, athletic, presentable,
perky one, the one who actually knows how to use an Apple computer (I'm
winging it here), the one whose shoes and outfits P. incessantly
compliments. I'm the shy brunette writer who gets assigned to feed
quarters into P.'s meter. I wear $8.99 ballet flats from Target.
it feels like the "writer" part of that equation is eclipsed by my
docile willingness to do things like feed quarters into P.'s meter. More
and more administrative stuff is being delegated to me; J. insists on
taking on all of the "project management" as she calls it, probably
because she knows that will look good on a resume and sound all fancy in
an interview. This is fine by me (I'm not exactly the
corporate-ladder-climbing type), although I do wish my skills were more
appreciated, and that it didn't feel like I'm in a lower caste. I'm
outnumbered by art/graphic design people here, though (3 to 1; 4 to 1 if
you count R. the intern). Not sure they fully realize how crappy and
unprofessional their stuff looked, writing-wise, before I came on.
J. said she was having lunch with former co-workers from San Diego
Magazine. P., a local social butterfly, cooed, "Ooh, anyone I know?" and
they burbled about their mutual acquaintances.
I should have said,
"Hey, you guys know Columbo? Crack dealer, hangs outside seedy gay bars?
Jeff and Roan, the homeless guys who hang out by the Scientology
church? No? But they're fixtures on the SD scene!"
(Speaking of the
characters I associate with, today I got a text from Jaliv--the guy I
met through Columbo; works for Clean & Safe San Diego; invited me
into a Jacuzzi once, invited me to Tijuana another time--asking me to
join him for a lunchtime drink for his birthday today. I texted him back
to tell him I had a job now and was at work, and he didn't seem to
I don't want to be cynical or
ungrateful, but a bit of the glitter has rubbed off. (I know--tell that
to a Mexican immigrant who works at a slaughterhouse. "Oh boo-hoo, your
plush office job in the entertainment industry isn't always as glamorous
as you'd thought it'd be. Let me go wash this cow viscera off my hands
and then I can get you a tissue.")
I still think my job is cool,
and love it when I get to write or go to an exclusive private concert
downstairs at Anthology. There are a few cool, friendly, funny guys who
work for Anthology (one of them books musicians for the venue, for
example), and it's nice to talk to them (largely because it's someone
other than the three I work with all day) at the shows or when I go down
to their third-floor office to run an errand. (Last night I ran into a
group of them at the coffeehouse next to where I live; it's cool to know
more and more of the people who hang around my 'hood.) The chef is
cool, too--he made a special "pink cheese" (buffalo mozzarella tinted
from beets) salad for J., Z., and me at a lunchtime concert the other
day. "Another hard day at the office," Z. said as we ate our special
salads at the private concert.
But lately it's been head-down,
teeth-gritted, no-break 11-hour workdays that leave me headache-y and
everything blaring before my eyes, knots in my neck and shoulder
muscles, doing detailed, time-intensive tasks (with impossible
deadlines) that can wind up being thankless. As much as I appreciate
P.'s creative talent and her champagne-bubbly personality, she and I are
not on the same wavelength, maybe even on clashing ones.
But god, it's good to be working again. At a place where I'm not elbow-deep in cow viscera.
Yet how quickly I become sulky at the tiniest bit of dissatisfaction at work:
received orchids from someone, and breezily asked me to arrange them in
a vase with water. As I clumsily arranged the delicate long-stemmed
flowers, realizing that I know nothing about the art of flower
arrangement, I thought grumpily, "I'm not a goddamn geisha."
later rearranged them, I noticed, splitting them up into two vases, the
orchids arrayed gracefully outward like a fountain instead of all in a
clump like I'd had them.)
(Wee hours of 10/14 into
10/15): P. won me back at the end of the day with her (sometimes)
lovably ditzy personality and the e-mail she sent to the three of us
(J., Z., and me) starting out, "Good morning, angels :)" (She e-mailed
us morning instructions because she'll be out again tomorrow morning,
and she called us "angels" because she thinks it's funny to play
"Charlie's Angels" with us--not sure that male Z. appreciates being an
Tonight I met my first intellectual here (well,
self-described "intellectual"), a Russian guy in his late 30s named
Vladimir. Geeky (looked sort of like a dark-haired Leonardo DiCaprio,
but geekier), studied Russian literature, has a liberal-arts degree from
back home--and *hates* San Diego. He's been here for five years; he
came because he saw a program on the Travel Channel that made the city
look cosmopolitan. He's from Moscow, so he knows world-class, cultured
cities... and well, San Diego is not cosmopolitan to him.
him when I was waiting for my drink at Starbucks (my dad had put a few
bucks in the bank for me, so I no longer have only $0.22 in the bank; I
had a frappuccino in lieu of dinner, to justify the drink's cost). I saw
Vladimir peering at me. He was wearing a floppy fisherman-style hat,
even though it was past nightfall and warm. It made him seem like an old
man. He said, "Where are you from?", very direct. I told him, and he
made me guess where he's from, asked me to try to place his accent. He
said, "It's the biggest country in the world." "Russia?" Yes, he was
from Russia--and it's telling that one of the first things he said to me
was about the scale of his country.
We started talking and
didn't stop for an hour and a half... during which time we moved to a
different Starbucks (so we could sit inside; it was crowded in that
first one) then (when they were closed) to Borders, where he was eager
to show me Moscow. He flipped through a glossy book in the Travel
section, then unfolded a huge map (right over this illustrated map of
San Diego lying on a display table; he said, "Look: Moscow over San
Diego") and showed me where he'd lived in Moscow, pointing out the
hundreds of tiny red "M"s that designated Metro stops. His point was
that he was from a *real* city, a massive, impressive city. I humored
him, oohed and aahed over the photos and the map.
It struck me
that this lonely, geeky guy--a guy who probably has a very hard time in
his day-to-day life--was seeking to legitimize himself with me, to say,
"See? I'm from a *real* city. I'm more than this." He was bursting with
pride talking about home, about the movie "Trans-Siberian Express" (with
Ben Kingsley) that was filmed in Russia (apparently Kingsley was even
smoking authentic Russian cigarettes in the movie, Vladimir noticed),
about his favorite native pop stars.
I can't possibly convey
the extent of this guy's negativity. He would not stop talking about how
much he hates San Diego. (But then, he's also lived in Seattle and
hated it, said it's full of "computer nerds.") He says he's stuck here
because he can't afford to move (mumbling a litany of weak excuses for
this). He's lived in crappy apartments in a few bad parts of town. He
went on about his "bad luck," his health problems (some of which were
caused by doctors' "malpractice" here in San Diego). But most of all, he
eviscerated San Diego, its people, the "lack of culture."
several points, I got really down. I'm struggling a little to make it
here, lonely, trying to stay upbeat in my new city--and he was trashing
it mercilessly, almost with spiteful relish. At one point, at (ice
cream/chocolate shop) Ghirardelli's (we kept having to hop from place to
place as they closed for the night), he told me he'd learned the word
"lame" here--he said, "That's what San Diego is: City of Lame." He said
the city is lacking an "intelligentsia"--I swear, right after he said
this, a pick-up truck full of drunken frat-type boys pulled up at the
nearby stoplight, cacophonous music blaring, and whooped and hollered
like wild animals. He made a face as if to say, "See?"
candid; he said that people are candid in his culture. He thinks people
in San Diego are shallow and superficial. This wasn't run-of-the-mill,
pouty anti-Americanism--he said that people from the East Coast of the
U.S. seem to have "depth," unlike folks in San Diego, and he loves New
He said he's lonely here and still has no friends, that he's
tried but the culture gap is too wide. (The lack of friends probably has
a little to do with his geekiness and more to do with his relentless
He seems to need someone to talk to, and there I was
compassionately listening to him gripe and go on about his life and lame
San Diego and glorious Moscow (and London and New York--"real" cities).
He said he'd been "hungry" for "connection." I could feel his needy
little tentacles wrapping around me.
The main themes of the night for me were:
I started to see the city through Vladimir's weary, embittered eyes:
passing a bar with dudes watching football and heavy metal blaring, or
walking past Hooters... and I didn't like what I saw. It was troubling.
was quietly upset when he kept going on about his hatred of San Diego.
At one point I think he noticed that I was close to tears (it was his
negativity on top of other things that have happened lately... the $0.22
in the bank, the uncertainty over whether I *really* have a job for a
while, work stress and catty politics, my own loneliness...). He
apologized, acknowledging that I'm new here and San Diego is still
somewhat exciting to me.
(His San Diego-directed wrath says more
about him than it does about the city. He's a pretty grouchy guy in
general--he told me about several bad movies he'd walked out of halfway
through. Dude, maybe the second half is better!)
2. I'm glad--but being cautious--that I gave him some hope.
is a super-smart guy (again, he's educated in Russian literature--at
Borders, we passed the Literature section and he said literature is his
"religion;" he speaks English fluently albeit heavily accented), but eh,
not exactly attractive. He's in a tough spot, being discerning but not
in a position to be picky when it comes to chicks. (I'm not 100 percent
sure he's straight, but I did catch him looking at my boobs a few times,
and that's usually a good barometer of heterosexuality.)
end of the night, when I pleaded sleepy and said I had to go, from
across the table at Ghirardelli's he took both of my hands in his--but
in more of a friendly way, like a human genuinely grateful for a glimmer
of connection with another human and a small moment of contact--and
told me he'd been so unlucky but that maybe I was his "lucky star."
(This was actually the first remotely corny thing he said all night.
Being of a stern, stoic temperament, he eschews cliche/trite things like
that but did seem to mean this one). He also said he thought I could be
his "soul mate," and after only one impromptu friend-date, he was
already saying he wanted to flee the city with me (I'd mentioned moving
within a year or so). But then, he'd probably hop in the car with Satan
if he offered Vladimir a ride out of San Diego.
He jotted down
his number, as well as the name of this Russian pop singer, Dima Bilan,
and a song by a group called Sladkiy Son that he wants me to check out
on YouTube. I feel so sorry for Vladimir that I do plan to hang out with
10/15: I get frustrated when people are too conventional. Two recent examples:
Vladimir. He rants and rails about San Diego, bemoans its "lack of
culture," its "plastic"ness, its dearth of "intellectuals." But he's
closed to what *is* here.
He wants a grand city on a Moscow scale,
with world-class architecture, baroque churches to walk past, people in
cafes discussing literature and philosophy, internationally renowned
theater and ballet happening all the time.
It's not like that here.
there's Little Italy. There's the bay, and the nightly sunset show
igniting the water. There are lots of homeless people, yes, but many of
them are friendly and eccentric and endearing, poignant reminders to be
grateful if you have a job, a bed, a place to shower, respectability.
sometimes think about the map of the city that was shown to us Clean
& Safe "safety ambassador" applicants, little pins stuck in it
designating "our" area--and then the man gesturing toward the outlying
regions, where, ultimately, he wants to push the homeless people, into
other people's territory, away from the eyes of tourists downtown. So
sinister. I'm glad I won't play a part in his master plan.
At night I
pass them in sleeping bags. Sometimes I'll recognize someone who,
during the day, is garrulous, calling out strange or crude things, but
at night, asleep, reduced to a basic humanity, he or she will seem
angelic. When I pass a group of them sleeping, I walk quietly, as if I'm
passing through a nursery of sleeping babies.
I'm digressing. I can't seem to stop talking about the homeless people here. I don't know why that is.
the fairy-light-lined steps of the convention center at night--when you
reach the top, you can see out over the bay and the bridge leading to
Coronado. There are quirky street-corner scenes--there's the Scientology
church with the little groups of protesters out front in Guy Fawkes
masks, there are "gypsy goth" kids lined up for a Gogol Bordello show at
4th&B downtown. There are boats in the bay, giant Navy ships from
WWII and smaller boats that people live on (such as A. and his suicidal
girlfriend, whose lives I got a strange glimpse into that night...).
There are palm trees. There's perfect weather, the air so gentle on your
skin that you take its perfection for granted.
Vladimir says he's bored with those last two.
the girl from Poland who works at Starbucks. She wears a necklace with a
palm-tree charm on it. I think of how far she is from home, how her
family back home might think palm trees are so glamorous and exotic (my
family thinks that, too), how hopeful she might have been coming here.
Maybe someone gave her that necklace as a going-away/good-luck gift. I
wonder if she's happy, and if not, I wonder whether she tells them the
truth when she calls home.
2. J. I get along with her, but she's
very much that ladder-climbing type, and lately it seems like she's
trying to elbow me out of the way to become P.'s new BFF. She says
things to P. like, "What can I do right now to make your life easier?"
She makes little lists of "How our office can be more organized." If P.
mentions being slightly warm, ol' J. will pop up out of her seat and
turn on a fan and point it toward P.
When we're all talking
(such as the other day, when P. let us order a pizza and we sat around
the table eating it together), J. will chatter nonstop, even if what
she's saying is inane, like she can't bear to be quiet for even a
second. Like it's a video game and she wins points for making the most
noise (kind of like in Rock Band how you get bonus points for randomly
vocalizing at the end of some songs). It exhausts me just to be around
I'm not into this micro-level Darwinian
survival-of-the-fittest scheme here at work. I want to do my job, and do
it well. I want to be nice to my co-workers, to listen and care about
their lives and share interesting things from my life and make little
jokes--but I want it to be authentic. I'm almost physically (or
psychically) unable to self-promote and name-drop the way J. does.
funny thing is, I'm realizing, it seems to annoy P. sometimes, too.
P.'s got a genuinely magnetic, funny personality; that's part of why
she's been successful despite the lack of bandwidth at her little
company-- people like her and want to work with her. J.'s persona seems
less substantive--she looks presentable and has the go-getter thing
going on and says what she's supposed to say, but it sometimes seems to
(Not always, though. The other day, someone mentioned
"Sesame Street," and J., whose parents came here from Sweden when she
was a baby, said that she and her mom would watch "Sesame Street"
together to learn English. P. didn't really respond, but I thought that
was a sweet image and would love to ask more about J.'s childhood and
(This is interesting: I think that when it
comes right down to being good at what we do, I'm better at writing than
J. is at graphic art--at least, P. seems to praise my writing while
sometimes seeming disappointed in J.'s conventional, "cliche" image
ideas. P.'s won lots of design awards and works in an intuitive,
"conceptual" way--different from J.'s more literal approach. For
example, for a brochure for a biotech company we're working with, J.
presented sample images of businesspeople in suits, in offices. I was
going to suggest they do something with DNA double-helix imagery but
figured my idea sucked because I'm not an art person--then I heard P.
tell J. to try doing something with DNA images.)
point (about conventionality) is: J. does her little suck-up things, and
she'll go further in life than I will--to more prestigious professional
positions, more money, a bigger circle of friends and
acquaintances--but I prefer the life I have. I like being introspective,
sensitive, real, having just a few friendships but ones that are
I like that I'm able to get on a level,
empathetically, with a homeless person and even plop down beside him to
hang out for a while (something P. and J. would never do).
that I can do some crazy hippie thing like drive across the continent to
a brand-new city, not having a job or friends waiting for me there, not
having done research about the city (this made the move more poetic to
me--the idea of just getting in the car and driving West). This is hard
to explain to conventional people.
10/16: Ugh. Ran
into Vladimir again at what used to be "my" Starbucks (I'm considering
finding a new one, just to avoid him). I'd just ordered my drink, having
scrounged together a few precious dollars, and sat down with a copy of
the New York Times, having put in a long, hectic day at work... when I
heard his cranky/deadpan voice, in that rolling Slavic accent: "Well
hullo there Chreestie."
Naturally, he brought his drink right
over and joined me at my table. And naturally, I politely folded up my
paper and jettisoned my plans in order to talk with him.
Same thing, ranting about San Diego--his witticism tonight was this name for it: "Suck Diego"--and his myriad health problems.
This time I was less patient, more inquisitive.
doesn't want to talk about work. I have a feeling he's unemployed, but
he won't come out and say it--he says work can be a touchy subject for
guys because girls judge based on that. I didn't pry, but asked if he
could try to get a better job, so he can save up to move. No no, he has
no office skills (can't type, can speak English fluently but can't write
it because our alphabet is difficult for him) and isn't healthy enough
for physical labor.
Okay, I asked if he could *learn* some skills
(typing, writing English). More excuses: He tried a typing class but it
was "boring," he tried an English-as-a-second-language class but the
teacher wasn't very advanced, he didn't take to it, it was boring and
So, because typing and English class are "boring," he's
going to stay in a city he hates and complain, and blame the fact that
he has no friends on his status as a foreigner.
There's also his new
kidney problem (a result of "malpractice," or, at least, a bad side
effect from the medication he takes for high cholesterol). He can't work
much now because it will soon take all day for "treatments and doctors'
visits." Yet he says he has tons of time during the day to walk around
downtown and be on the computer.
I hardened a little and stopped coddling him.
He needs to take responsibility for himself.
He also needs hope--and that's not something anyone else can make him have.
needs to look at what's around him and see that it's not all bad.
You'll find some lowbrow culture and crappy living conditions and
"plastic"ness and bad people in glorious Moscow, too; you'll find beauty
and artistic souls and good people in Podunk, if you're open to finding
He needs to look up and forward. He needs to smile at
things--not fake smile, but find little things throughout the day that
make him smile. When I'm down to my last nickel, unsure of my employment
situation, getting stiffed out of hundreds of dollars by my deadbeat
renter, lonely... I still find things that make me smile. I know I'm
lucky: I have my health, my mind, people who care about me. Most people
in the world have it far worse than I do.
I told Vladimir about a
homeless guy I'd passed on my way to Starbucks: missing one leg, in a
wheelchair, grimy and muttering to himself. I told Vladimir that,
despite his health issues, "at least you still have your mind." He
seemed to hear this and yet not hear it.
Here are the videos he wanted me to watch:
Sladkiy Son, "Na Belom Pokrivale Yanvarya"
Dima Bilan, "Never Let You Go"
Dima Bilan, "Believe"
Whoa. "Oh Vladimir, I am humbled by this mighty display of cultural superiority!"
Little heartaches and triumphs at work:
has made it clear that J. is her new little apprentice/bosom buddy. The
other day, we (Z., J., and I) went downstairs at lunchtime for another
private concert a la the Sara Bareilles one. This time the musician was a
talented young smoky-voiced guitarist/singer-songwriter named Justin
Here's the link to his performance:
were a lot of young chick fans there. I think they won tickets to the
show in a radio station giveaway. After Justin and his musicians played
four songs, the girls standing in line for pictures were nervously
fluffing up their hair and checking themselves out in the mirrored wall.
At the show, I sat next to Z., my Filipino-American
co-worker. He's such a cool guy, quiet but with that sly, slightly
irreverent, dry humor that you sometimes get from quiet people--the kind
of humor that takes you by surprise, because it's not the obvious, loud
kind that you get from gregarious people. He's not Type A like P. and
J., doesn't try to elbow his way into P.'s heart. He just quietly does
his graphic-art work, and does it well (designing cool posters, ads, and
flyers for Anthology, the local theaters etc.). He and I get along well
and make each other laugh. Z.'s on my "unquestionably cool" list with
D. (my roommate).
Anyway, before the shows, there's always
mingling and networking and h'ors d'oeuvres. Before the Justin Nozuka
show, J. and I walk downstairs together, into the area of Anthology
where the private "Sophie's Lounge" concerts are held (they're held
before a bigger concert that the musician has at another venue later in
the evening; a local radio station, Sophie 103.7, holds the shows at
Anthology, and a radio deejay does mini interviews onstage between
songs--you can see this in the clip at the link above). P. is chatting
to someone, sees us approach, and says: "J., I want you to meet
Now, I am standing right next to J. P. does not then
say, "And Christie, I'd like you to meet..." I stand there awkwardly,
not in on the conversation because I haven't been introduced, feeling
like it'd be rude to just walk away. Finally, after the three have been
talking for a few minutes, P. almost grudgingly introduces me, as an
afterthought. It was very blatant, and very hurtful.
happened again! Just before Justin Nozuka came onstage, J. and I were
sitting on a banquette that lines one wall, and P. comes over to J. and
says, "J., I want you to meet someone." !! I was right there and didn't
know how to even politely handle the situation. What, do I butt in and
say, "Oh, and I'm Christie! Hi! Me, too!"? It was just some old friend
of P.'s (not, say, a fellow graphic-art person like P. and J.) so there
was no specific reason for her to only meet J. and not me. At one point,
as the trio was babbling, P. and I made fleeting eye contact, and she
quickly looked away. It felt so high school, like P. was the mean head
cheerleader and I was the nerd girl getting left out. I think she knows
how rude that was. J. is more her kind of gal (artsy, social, plugged
into the SD scene, impeccably dressed, says the right things in that
cocktail-party-conversation kind of way) and I'm not. But hey, news
flash: I don't want to be that kind of girl. I don't say insincere,
transparently flattering things to "important" people and then ignore
the "little people" of the world.
On Thurs. there was a
temporary flip-flop. P. was impressed with my writing, and with how
quickly I'd turn out something creative, compelling, well-researched,
on-point, and polished. She called me a "rock star" (that's her ultimate
compliment). She laughed at things I said.
Meanwhile, J. was
scouring image archives for art to use in a brochure (the biotech
one)--and to almost everything she'd found or thought of, P. said, "I
don't know--that's so cliche." P. kept using the word "cliche" to
everything J. found, while loudly praising my stuff.
once owned a stationery/gift-wrap shop... she had wrapped up a book for
me to mail to Robert Redford/Sundance (the book had something to do with
Native Americans; P. did the book design). P. had wrapped it expertly
in this eco-friendly paper and tied a brown ribbon around it loosely for
an organic, rustic, non-froufrou quality.
J., who sometimes
gets involved when she hasn't been asked, said, "Why don't we tie this
in a bow?" and tied the ribbon in a bow. P.--who's hypersensitive about
aesthetic things--almost shrieked when she saw it. "Who did this?!" she
said, sort of joking but sort of not. (I jokingly pointed at J., then
realized that was sort of lame of me.) J. came clean and P. undid the
bow, noticing that the ribbon was now sort of rumpled. This is all so
"tempest in a teapot," but I know J. felt bad, which was a reversal
(usually it seems to be me who tries but gets criticized for some minor,
well-meaning thing like that).
Things that keep me excited
about work: New clients, including the San Diego Art Museum; work for
the local theaters (I just wrote text for one of their posters--my words
will appear all over town!); P. telling us we can get into any
Anthology show for free if we just mention that we work for her; doing
stuff like talking to Rolling Stone editors on the phone; P. giving me a
fun ongoing writing assignment: to write press releases and original
artist bios for the website about all of the musicians booked for future
Anthology shows (today I wrote three: one about the Tubes playing for
Halloween, one about a bluesman named Tab Benoit--he's also an
environmentalist trying to save endangered bayous, one about a
soul/R&B singer). I guess she's going to keep me around for a little
while. There's been talk of getting me an @[P's company name].com
e-mail address. Hmm, promising.
10/17: The Vladimir chapter of my life comes to an abrupt end.
agreed to hang out with Vladimir Fri. evening. He wanted to listen to
"Russian music" at my place, but... well, for one thing I didn't want to
dominate the living room on Fri. night, listening to music with some
dude if D. was going to have friends over--and he did wind up having
friends over that night, plus, honestly... I was sort of ashamed of
Vladimir. That's mean but honest. He's cantankerous and radiates b.o.
there was no way to listen to music in Vladimir's studio apartment (he
actually still uses a Walkman--yes, a Walkman, that plays cassette
tapes), he suggested listening to music at a music store (through
headphones), so that was the tentative plan. We met at the Starbucks
where we'd met twice before.
I had pepped myself up. I told
myself that Vladimir, despite English not being his first language, was
capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation (his fluency is truly
impressive--he even uses American idioms properly, not sounding as if
he's merely reciting phrases from a foreign-language textbook; his
speech is very natural although spiked with trilled Russian "r"s). I
thought it'd be enriching to have a foreign friend, someone with a truly
non-American mindset. I thought it'd be bohemian, like something out of
a story or a movie, to hang out with this neurotic, brainy guy--like
hanging out with a Russian Woody Allen, like being Annie Hall.
thought it'd be nice to have a genuine friend (even a geeky,
embarrassing, smelly one), someone to call up and hang out with and talk
Vladimir and I met up and decided to take the bus to a
mall where he knew of a music store where we could listen to Russian
music. While waiting for the bus, I realized that Vladimir had a bus
pass but I couldn't afford the fare. (It was $2.25, and I had about
$0.90 in coins in my wallet! The damn security deposit from my old
apartment in Virginia still hasn't arrived at my folks' house, plus I
haven't gotten paid at work... and of course my renter's check is never
Vladimir did a 180 on me.
He looked crestfallen. He
said, "Oh, your situation is like mine." (He's unemployed, I finally
realized; he lives on $10/one meal a day.) We decided to go to Borders
to sit down and talk. There, he pulled out this small map he'd marked up
in preparation for showing me a virtual snapshot of his "San Diego
nightmare." He'd circled the three bad areas he's lived in here
(numbering them 1-3). Then, with a green hi-liter, he'd colored in the
Pacific Beach/La Jolla area, where he'd have lived if he'd known the
area better before moving here. It looked so petty and pathetic (and
obsessive) that he'd done all this.
It gradually dawned on me:
He'd thought I could afford to move both of us out of San Diego. That's
why he'd made that "lucky star" remark that I'd thought was about my
being his friend. He'd been faking that he needed "a good friend"--until
I couldn't even afford bus fare and made self-deprecating jokes about
how broke I was. There across the table at Borders, I watched his eyes
go cold on me. He said, "I thought you could help me, but you're in a
similar position." (I'm not, actually--I'm willing to do what it takes
to work and make my life better and happier, he's content to stew in his
misery.) He almost just stopped talking, slouched over in
disappointment. I couldn't take it. I finally told him I hadn't had
dinner yet (which was true), and headed home.
I was trying not
to cry on the walk home. I felt so disappointed. Yes, he's a geek and
it's not the most pleasant olfactory experience to be around him. But I
was willing to give him my friendship, and he didn't want it. He didn't
want it as soon as he realized I don't have money.
He didn't care
that I'd told him I was lonely, too, that I hadn't made any real friends
here either. He was too focused on getting out of San Diego, and it
cost him a friendship that could have been a good thing in his life.
My roommate makes me smile. Right now he's playing that Gnarls Barkley
"Crazy" song and singing along in his room with the doors partially
open. He seems like he's in a good mood.
Last night he had two guy
friends over. They were very friendly, but I didn't join them on the
couch, where they were drinking beers and watching (inexplicably) "Rain
Man." (I figured they'd want to have a guys'-only night, so I left the
apt. to go for a walk after saying hello.) I walked in and saw them, and
one of them said, "Did you ever think you'd walk in here and see three
guys watching 'Rain Man' together? We were spooning earlier."
is so funny--the other night, he was making spaghetti, and I was on the
computer, when I heard him chuckling to himself in the kitchen. He
said, "Do you think I have enough tomato sauce?" I glanced above his
head, inside the cabinet he was referring to--and there are about 30 or
so jars of Bertolli's tomato sauce in there!! More than you'd find at a
grocery store! He said he screwed up his online order--I think he maybe
meant to order 3 but typed a 0 after it. He said, "I wondered why it
arrived in two boxes..."
In sharp contrast to all the flakes
and creeps I've come across (creepy guys but also flaky people like my
boss, who didn't even mention how to log hours/get paid until J. and I
point-blank asked her), D. is very high on my cool list. The more I get
to know him, the better I like him. We've been watching the debates
together--he's very into politics, and he's such a smart guy, and very
funny, too. He's a solid, decent, truly good guy. With all the other
little frustrations and uncertainties right now, it's comforting to know
that at least my home/living situation is wonderful: amazing roommate,
lovely neighborhood, low rent to my roommate (and no utility bills!),
free Internet and washer/dryer use... a lifetime supply of tomato sauce.
My time here and my present financial situation have humbled me.
night I had just enough for an 89-cent doughnut (no dinner). I knew
just what kind I wanted: maple glazed. I walked to three 7-Elevens, and
it wasn't at any of them. I actually asked two cashiers when their
shipments of fresh doughnuts came in, and went back to one as soon as
the new doughnuts were in. I had to sheepishly ask a stocking guy to dig
out the kind I wanted from crates of unloaded doughnuts and bread. I
savored that doughnut as if it were my last meal.
As I walked
around to kill time before the damn doughnut shipment arrived, I felt
hunger pangs. Considering the prospect of literally having no money for
the next few days, I actually thought (just for a second) about asking
some local homeless people if they knew of a blood bank I cold walk to.
At the apt., I rummaged around in my tiny wooden box of (mostly cheap,
costume) jewelry and found a fairly expensive (to me) crystal bracelet I
could take to the pawn shop (the one where I pawned the ring from my
grandmother when I first moved here), just in case. I found myself
understanding why people dig through garbage cans for food when they're
hungry and desperate.
I could have called home *again*, been
this deadbeat mooch of a daughter and asked for a little more money,
another 20 bucks to get me through (promising, as always, to pay them
back as soon as I could), but I was way too ashamed. Being broke and
hungry is scary--even when you have the safety net of your family to
keep you from being truly down-and-out. I felt like crying, but instead I
walked around, took in the sights of my lovely, quirky new city (which
has not been ruined for me by Vladimir), smiled at babies and beautiful
things I saw.
This morning, without my asking, my dad e-mailed me to say he'd put another $100 in the bank for me. I can eat today.