Reverse reviewed:

In which my recent media choices of a movie and two books review mine and my husband’s decision to relocate to California.

The day after we got married, my husband flew to the Bay Area to interview with different companies for a new job. Three weeks he had an offer, and we celebrated by going out to dinner and toasting to his successful job hunt. The next day, we had to put my cat down, who I’d had for 18 years. The next week, we were in San Francisco scouring Craigslist ads for a suitable place to live. We ruled out the Tenderloin; too many needles. We found a place in SoMa (South of Market), a block from my husband’s new job. We returned to Colorado to pack; husband would be there for one more week before he had to return to Cali to begin his job, leaving me in Colorado to finish packing and moving. During that week, while in a Henry Fonda kind of mood, we decided to watch Grapes of Wrath. I hadn’t seen it since high school, and it’s questionable as to whether or not I actually saw it or just slept through the movie, figuring that having read the book was enough.

grapes of wrathThere Ain’t No Work

In Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family et. al. move from Oklahoma to California. They load about 12 or 13 people onto an old truck they call a jalopy and drive west. Along the way, they face some challenges, and Pa Joad dies. He’s buried on the side of the road, and the Joad family powers on. Once in California, though, they struggle to find work. Owners constantly work to undercut wages, and there’s so much competition for work—any work—that if you protest what you’re making, you can easily be replaced with the next poor soul. There’s no clear resolution, as the movie ends with the family still poor and un- or underemployed, driving their jalopy around the state looking for work.

As we watched the film, I checked with my husband: You did get an official offer, right? We’re not going to show up and they won’t have a job?

Yes dear, I have a signed employment agreement.

I was still nervous, seeing similarities between us and the Joads. You see, we also had a jalopy.

The Jalopy

Ours was a 1991 Honda Accord with 320,000+ miles. Though we probably weren’t going to bring it with us. It likely wouldn’t pass a vehicle inspection in California, as the car was missing a muffler, had at least three major cracks in the windshield, sometimes locked when turning left, had 80% of its door handles, weakly squirted windshield wiper fluid to wipers that floppily smeared the fluid across the windshield, and the back hatch was only able to stay open by propping up a ski pole (a legit Colorado solution to many problems), as the hydraulic arm had stopped working several owners earlier. The radio would come on about once a quarter and play static for 10 seconds, then turn off again, the antenna made a horrific noise each time the car started or was turned off, and the windows mostly went up and down, but the driver’s side window would sometimes revolt.

smurfsmodified

Artist’s rendering of author and husband having a smurfing time.

Unrelated to its performance, the car came with a Smurfs cassette tape, which included such classics as Smurfin’ All Around The World and Smurf Rodeo. We never listened to it, since the cassette player didn’t work either.

The car still ran, though, thanks to good engineering by Honda, a dedicated mechanic who insisted that 320K miles was “…only breaking it in!”, and my husband’s superstition that fixing anything cosmetic would cause something important and expensive, like a timing belt, to break. Although the car ran, it looked a bit of a mess from hail damage, snow, ice, and a hard-lived life. But it was our jalopy, and we cared about that car. Realistically, though, even if we could get it to the state of California, it would be hard to park in our new neighborhood, the insurance payment would increase, and it likely would be stolen (it was easy to break into), as cars are not uncommonly stolen in San Francisco for their ability to aid and abet criminals as easy getaway vehicles. We didn’t want our car to fall into a life of crime.

But still, the Joads had us worried: Maybe it was a bad idea for us, a family with a jalopy to our names and dreams of working in Califonya to give up stable jobs and a home and move everything somewhere else? Was this movie a subliminal bad omen? We decided it was a different enough economy from the depression that we’d risk it. Also, we had a signed contract for employment for at least one of us, and we weren’t taking the jalopy.

laurie notaro bookPageant Plans

Once we were in S.F., I decided one of the important things to do was to get a library card. I walked to the main library, which also happened to be the closest one, and got my library card that day. Without proof of residency, which I’d forgotten at home, I was only allowed to check out one book at a time, but I was happy with that. I had a library card and access to a real library! I’d been living in a small town so long, I forgot the wonder that being in a big library brings. So many options! So many authors! I settled on one of my favorites, Laurie Notaro, and used my one book limit on her book “There’s a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell.”

The book opens with her prodding a dumpster looking for cardboard boxes, as she’s packing up her life in Arizona and moving to a small, university town in the Pacific North West–Spaulding *coughEugenecough*, in Washington *coughOregoncough*. (Despite Notaro insisting that the town described is nothing like Eugene, OR—where she actually does live—it absolutely is like Eugene, and her characterizations are perfect.)

Her descriptions of packing boxes and the endless piles of things that need to go into boxes rang sharp, having gone through that process only weeks ago. I empathized with wondering where the hell things kept appearing from—do I really have this much stuff? Where did this new pile of things come from? Haven’t I packed enough?!

Once moved, she experiences the difficulties of making new friends in a new city where you don’t quite fit in. In Spaulding, they all aggressively recycle. I, too, am facing this challenge in a city that’s beating all other major cities in the world for its recycling efforts. I’ve never had this many recycling options before!

She gets stuck in a too-small-at-the-neck sweater and scrapes her forehead trying to get the sweater off—unfortunately, she does this at her husband’s boss’s house and everyone accidentally walks in on her as her shirt is above her head. I, too, have scraped parts of my forehead trying to extract myself from sweaters and jackets that were perfectly suited for my neck, but too small for my head! The similarities are uncanny.

sweater problems

Artist’s rendering of author after taking off a sweater.

She joins a beauty pageant to make friends, which I can’t really see myself doing. Granted, I’m not yet desperate for friends, so I suppose I may surprise myself, but most of the beauty pageants around here seem to be for Queens, which I interpret as drag queens. Having seen the drag queens here, I already know I cannot compete, as their high heel game is on point and mine is stubbornly not. I don’t need to break an ankle to make friends. At least not yet.

I take comfort in telling myself that if my life continues mimicking Laurie Notaro’s book, at least I’ll be laughing a lot, because the woman is hilarious.

disrupted“[Company] is disrupting [industry]!” (Fill in the blanks)

Before a flight from SFO to Denver, I picked up a copy of “Disrupted,” by Dan Lyons. At 51, he joins a start-up in Boston after years of reporting on the state of things in the tech industry. He’s old enough, and was reporting on it while it was all happening, to have seen the build-up and subsequent burst of the first dot com bubble. But as a victim of the decline of newspapers (he’d worked for Newsweek, which used to be one of my favorites), he’s forced to find a job as a marketer at a tech company: HubSpot.

I’d heard of HubSpot!—and had my own opinions on it. Dan’s book didn’t dispel any of those opinions, and humorously explored the fish-out-of-water feeling he had working in a company with so many young people. Not just young, but white, college-educated, peppy people who he described as having just stepped out of a J. Crew catalog. I, too, have heard of J. Crew!

While talking about his time at HubSpot, Lyons also discusses the state of tech startups as a whole, the investment, valuation, and IPO-ing process. He mentions DreamForce, Salesforce’s annual conference, which had only wrapped up the week before I picked up his book. He discussed the tech culture of brogrammers, sexual harassment, and the financial success of some people even when a startup goes out of business. He mentions the Millennial coddling–nap pods, ping pong tables, and endless snacks. Just like HubSpot, my husband’s job also has a candy wall! But Lyons’ outlook is a bit grim. To him, it feels like it did before the first dot com bubble burst, only this time, these overvaluations and IPOs-before-profiting can’t continue, and it’s all going to come crashing down at some point. The book was published in spring of 2016.

The people, places, and behaviors he mentions and mocks in his book aren’t abstractions; I live there! The businesses he mentions are all around me. If it all comes crashing down, we’ll be at ground zero for the crash. “What have we done?” I started asking myself again. We’ve now moved to Califo-nya (granted, no jalopy) to work at a startup, which, if you believe Lyons, may be overvalued, not making a profit, and could go under if the right investor were to swoop in or out. What are we doing?!

At least the food in San Francisco is really good.

food-1351287_1920

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Learning Not to Cry Over Spilled (Sippy Cups of) Milk

spilled_milkJust as I got home, my mom called to tell me the sink was leaking again. She wanted me to ask our neighbor, who is also our plumber, if he could come over and fix it. I crossed the street to find him with his head poked inside the back of his truck while his kids, Kid and Little Brother, ran around the yard.

“Hey, Matt… so, our sink is leaking. Could you come over and fix it?”

“Again?! Goddammit! They’ve been breaking throughout the valley!” he yelled, not at me specifically, as he pulled his head out of the back of the truck.

“Oh. Bummer. Like, the piece itself?” I asked. By his tone, it was clear now was a bad time.

“Yeah. The damn manufacturer used cheap shit and they’re breaking after 6 months!”

“Oh dear,” I said,  unsure of what the right response was. “Well…whenever you have the time, we’d appreciate it if you could swing by.”

“I’ll be over in a minute. I just have to find my damn wrench…”

“Okay. Thanks!”

“In the meantime, you should go into the crawlspace and turn off the water!” he called out from halfway back inside the truck.

“Will do!” I said.

As I walked back to my house, Little Brother followed after me. He wanted to find the cat, Sheba, who hated him and who’d scratched him earlier in the year. He wasn’t phased by that, and in fact talked about it like a badge of honor. “Where Sheba?” he asked when he toddled in the door.

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. ?

Bloodinwater

Does menstruation concern you?

C: Do you ever wonder sometimes if the woman you’re sitting next to on the bus or in a meeting is on her period? Like, do you ever think “Is this person actively bleeding out of her vagina right now?”

J: No, not usually. Unless I’m swimming in the ocean. Then I do because sharks.

C:confusedemoji

 

Things Said While Babysitting

SpilledMilk

Maybe it’s destiny for milk to be spilled. Perhaps that’s where tears come from.

I was hired to watch three kids one Saturday while their parents went to the local Oktoberfest. I supervised my kid best friend, named Kid, his younger brother, Little Brother, and the child of a friend of the parents, Tom.

Kid is seven, Little Brother and Tom are both three. During the course of watching these kids, based on the things I said, I realized that I had transitioned into an actual Adult, a real Grown Up.

An example of the Grown Up things I said:

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We Need A Boat

boat

Rough idea of the kind of boat we might want.

J: We need a boat.

C: We need a motherfucking boat. And some flippy flops. And sunny shades.

J: We’re not going to sell pizza on a boat, but we are going to play Johnny Appleseed.

C: Sandwiches!

J: Maybe. I might be ok with that. I just think it’s dangerous making wages off food with my tummy nearby.

C: Good point. Could be a financial loss scenario.

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Breaking Up With The Reminders

voodoo-dolls-wallpaper

^This is not recommended therapy after a breakup.

C: I’m not texting with him at the moment and sort of purging him from my life a bit. For example, he bought me a journal and wrote in it/drew in it before he gave it to me (moon and stars Khaleesi stuff). It was plain black, thin paper, small height on the lines. I ended the diary early and changed to a new one. I wanted a clean start, I guess.

Also, it bugged me that he drew in it. Who does that? Writes and draws on someone else’s gift?

J: Sounds fine. I would have been more concerned if you turned it into some sort of voodoo doll, stabbing it with pins and burning it.

C: I don’t stabby stab.

J: You don’t need to. Your loose sewing pins and needles do plenty of stabbing for you!

J: Side note: Really small pieces of bread should be called kneadles.

C: Kneadles! I like  🙂

Hamsterwithbread

Hamster struggling to eat a “kneadle.”

Chipmunk cheeks

chipmunkcheeksC: [image sent to J] —>

J: How did you get Claudia’s phone, little chipmunk?

C: Cheep cheep cheep!
You know what I’ve learned from all of this? Other than driving home, behbeh could have taken care of herself all by herself.

J: That’s never been in doubt. Could was never the issue. Should always was.

C: Meh. I don’t get the should angle you’re going for.

J: Behbeh can do it herself
vs
It’s nice to share.
For example, could behbeh wrestle a tiger? Sure. But SHOULD behbeh wrestle a tiger? No.

But about chip, and the meaning of being chipper: it’s against the followers of Chip to be grumpy bears, especially among the munks of Chip.

I’ll have to check the rule book, but I’m not sure chipmunks are allowed to be Grumpy Bears.

C: 😦

TigerWrestling

Would you wrestle this cutie? Probably not.

Why Do Wisdom Teeth Suddenly Disappear

J: I get that they had to take your teeth. But it’s not like you had plenty of wisdom to go around. 😛

C: Not funny Stini. Out of surgery. Oddly enough, my mouth hurts.

J: Oh, it’ll hurt. Might want to line up some painkillers. I want to see the chipmunk. Where’s the chipmunk.

C: No chipmunk yet. I look like an old man who never smiles. Really swolled now. Was spitting up blood.

J: It’ll get swollen the next couple of days, or should, if you’re actually human. It might hurt to laugh. You may not want to do that. I’m not a doctor, but I pretend to be one when I text. 🙂 Continue reading

Hosting a Going Away Party…for my wisdom teeth

wisdomteethsorry

Sorry little buddy, but you gotta go.

C: I’m having a going away party for my wisdom teeth tomorrow.

J: Where are your teeth going? Are you throwing them away?!’

C: I’m having surgery to remove them. [Ex-Boyfriend] was showing me funny videos of people coming out from being under.

J: I like those videos. Crocodile Dundee was one of the better ones.

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Local Controversy

My local library has found itself in the crosshairs of a controversy. The news has reported on it, people have written letters to the editor against it, Board of Trustees members have discussed this issue, and local businesses have gotten involved. It asks the very important question:

Should our library have a fireplace? Continue reading

The Raccoon Incident – Part 1

packingboxesI was living alone in a two bedroom bungalow house, in a town where I knew only one person, where I had no job, an ex-boyfriend who wasn’t returning my texts or picking up his stuff, and it was Tuesday night.

At 10:30 p.m., I was in my bedroom packing clothes into boxes by season. I had been sorting, packing, purging, and organizing my stuff for several days. I was moving soon. I wasn’t sure when, or where to, but I knew I was moving. My rent was paid, though, so I had some time to decide what to do.

I had a month of no real obligations. With no job and an impending move, my days were filled with organizing and packing. When that got old, I would quilt or sit on my front porch drawing and painting while watching old seasons of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Sometimes I was overcome with listlessness and did nothing; then suddenly I would have a burst of energy and organize all of my books alphabetically by genre and color. I’d then wander from project to project to project, completing none of them. I didn’t know what I was doing next in my life, so I had a hard time deciding what project to tackle next.

The only certain thing was that I wasn’t going to stay in that house with the red door and red porch, tall windows and cream colored siding, fake vinyl wood flooring, huge backyard and slightly sloping kitchen floor. I wasn’t staying in Champaign, Illinois any longer than I had to.

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Letter to Credit Card Company

Dear Credit Card Company,

I have asked MULTIPLE times to be removed from your mailing list. I have sent polite letters asking to be removed. I have sent sternly worded letters asking to be removed. I have sent short notes written in ALL CAPS in red crayon (sometimes purple) demanding to be removed from the mailing list. Some of these efforts were effective with some credit card companies, but alas, my previous efforts to be removed from your mailing list were clearly not effective. Continue reading

Why do things suddenly appear?

All the turquoise.

All the turquoise.

C: I just learned turquoise is my birthstone. I think I need a beaded turquoise headdress. And necklace, earrings, and belt buckle.

Bert: You totally do! But I thought December was the ruby. And then you could have slippers!

C: There’s two options for December, but neither one is the ruby. Can I still have the slippers? And shaped like they’re eating my feet? Like shark slippers?

Bert: Ummmmm…ok. If that makes you happy.

Quackity quack.

Quackity quack.

C: I’m socks like that for my mom for Christmas for my mom. Only ducks.

Bert: I have socks like that, only sharks. I’m always sad they’re not cuttlefish.

C: You know that song Close to You by the Carpenters. If they changed the lyrics from birds to anything else, it would be weird. “Why do cuttlefish suddenly appear every time you are near?”

Bert: Why do elk suddenly appear every time you are near?  …Oh man, this is gonna be my new favorite game!

Where are they all coming from?!?

Where are they all coming from?!?

C: Why do squirrels suddenly appear…

Bert: Why do seahorses suddenly appear… Why do thumb drives suddenly appear…

C: And don’t limit yourself to animals! Why do lawyers suddenly appear…

Bert: Why do democrats suddenly appear…

C: Why do Kardashians suddenly appear…

Bert: NOOO!!!!  Why do hondas suddenly appear…

C: Because my anaconda don’t want none unless you drive a sensible Honda, hon.

So many burritos...

So many burritos…

Bert: I’m hiding from being an adult right now. I took an early and very long lunch.

C: Why do burritos suddenly appear? Actually, then you’d be MY BEST FRIEND EVER!

Bert: That. Would. Be. Amazing.  My anaconda don’t want none unless you got Betty White, son.

C: Why does Betty White suddenly appear every time you are near? Because Betty White is awesome.BettyWhite

Bert: I need that on a tee shirt. And also to be true.

 

Little Baby Dillweed

C: Also, fwiw, I like the name Abigail.

K: Nice. We do too. Mom doesn’t seem crazy about it.

C: Not so much, but cest la vie. You know what Shakespeare had to say about all that anyway.

K: Yeah…that guy was cool.

C: Oh, good! Glad you got the reference to the line by Shakespeare in his play: _______ (this is a fill-in-the-blank questionnaire.)

K: King Leer. Not sure the spelling or the play.

A rose by any other name should smell like new baby in order to be loved.

A rose by any other name should still smell like new baby in order to be loved.

C: Lear. No. Romeo and Juliet. A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. Meaning, regardless of Juliet’s name (Capulet), he still loved her the same.
Of course, they were young teenagers who thought they were in love after just meeting and decided they knew enough about love to kill themselves because they thought they couldn’t be together even though they didn’t even talk to their parents about or give the whole relationship some time to develop.
But same difference, amirite?
Anyway, it’s the idea that’s important. Not the details. Not in this case anyway. Next time details will be important. Probably.

K: It’s the thought that counts.

C: Ok.
What I’m saying is that no matter what you name your kid, mom will love it just the same as long as it has that New Baby Smell. You could name her Dillweed and mom would love her.
Actually, Dillweed is kinda cute.
Dilly! OMG, I’m so calling your kid Dill. Continue reading

The Temple of DOOOOOM

scared ponies

Ponies frightened of incoming skeletons.

For Thanksgiving, we had a small group. Me, boyfriend Carl, mom Liz, bestie Rose, Rose’s husband Don, and their child Daisy, who’s 4. Daisy is a lovely little child who has no problem making friends with anyone. She particularly likes making friends with boys.

After dinner (in which Daisy had three helpings of mashed potatoes), Daisy began playing with the ponies she’d brought with her, and Carl joined her. According to Daisy, the ponies were all trying to run away from, and also defeat, an army of skeletons. “Well, all the skeletons are coming after the ponies, the ponies have to fight them off of their land because it’s where their houses are and where they eat. But the skeletons want to come and take it from the ponies. The skeletons are really scary, especially at night,” she explained. Looking at Carl, wide-eyed, she said “I’m scared!” and reached out to hug him. Daisy had scared herself with the story so much she needed a reassuring hug from a big guy she’d met only a handful of times.

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Adult’s night out

As an adult, I go on grown-up nights out. And since I don’t have kids, this really isn’t a big deal.

pissed off cat

What the cat looks like when I leave her. Or don’t feed her wet food when she demands. Or don’t pet her enough or to her liking. Or when I wake her up from a nap.

I leave my cat, I go out, I come home to pissed off cat.

My best friend, however, has a daughter, V. She’s four. She needs a babysitter, something my cat doesn’t require or would even acknowledge.

On a recent adult date night between V’s mom, Rose, Rose’s husband, me and my boyfriend, we enlisted my mother, Liz, to babysit V.

While at dinner, Rose told us how excited V was about the evening with Liz.

“Yeah, V said she was really excited about babysitting Liz, and that if they ran out of things to do, she’d have to think of new things they could do together!”

After returning from the date, Liz informed me that, during the ‘sit, her and V watched Maleficent. During the scary parts, V would cover my mom’s eyes and tell her not to watch because it was scary.

The next day, Rose texted me that V had asked Rose and Husband to go out to an adult breakfast together so she could play with Liz.

#toocute.

drinks with friends

Cheers! A night out without kids or cat!