The Fabulous Five Observations of the Week, Part 1

Soooo… I really need to write more often and get back on the horse. This week nothing huge happened worthy of its own post, so I’m going to fill you in on 5 micro-postings that happened this week and my observations. If you’re tired of me talking about music, skip to number 2.

1. Support Feels Awesome
So I finally put myself out there and uploaded two tracks I recorded at home. I cannot thank everyone enough for listening, encouraging, sharing, reposting, etc. Look; I know this isn’t going to lead to anything big. I’m an overweight 38 year-old woman making music in my house. I’m not the kind of person a record company straps two whipped cream cans onto to create some infantilized masturbatory product (not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’re into that sort of thing?). It’s just that my soul comes alive when I write, and it feels special to share that with the internets. I want to share it with as many people as I can and find people who like This Thing That I Do. So thank you everyone. The biggest surprise is how many compliments I’m getting on my voice. I’m hoping I can keep up this charade that I can sing for a little bit longer! In a week or two, I’ll add two more songs, then I think I’ll wrap it all together as an EP. We’ll see how it goes. I want to bring good, quality stuff to you, and that is quite a challenge on a $0 budget.

Because releasing music also unleashes an inner urge to endlessly and relentlessly force a musician’s crap onto others, I provide you with this link to my Reverbnation page. If you like, please share. If you don’t? That’s okay, I still love you. In short, the more plays I get, the more I move up the chart and the more exposure I get, so if you love it? Don’t be afraid to listen to it often.

2. Big City Life: Mass Transit Wonders and Angry Pedestrians
I’ve been going into the city for seminars and whatnot related to my “Career Transition” (more on that later). As a result, I’m fully taking in mass transit and pedestrian life – something you don’t experience in Arizona. Here is a list of mini observations on this point:
- No matter how nice someone might be outside of their car, Bay Area Drivers are horrible, horrible people. There is so much impatience and law-breaking going on at any given second it is stunning.
- BART mid-day provides me with interesting seat partners. One day going in, despite many open rows, a guy decided to sit down next to me and engage in what I can only describe as a vigorous lotioning routine for the duration of the trip. Another day, I got a contact high from a kid who smelled like he was a 5’8” joint. I seriously hate the smell of weed with a passion – I would take cigarette stank over pot stank any day. Ughhhh.
- You know Shit Just Got Intense when you are walking across a major intersection in the Financial District during rush hour and EVERYONE stops and stares nervously at a pedestrian screaming profanities and punching the hood of a car. I don’t know what led up to that, but I know the guy probably needed a little bubble of space when he got to my side of the street.

3. Please Don’t Ask Me About My Career Transition
I am so freaking tired of this. I’m done defining myself as unemployed, so I’m not going to do that anymore. My onsite seminars are both incredibly useful and deflating. Everyone there is accomplished and amazing and I’m a simpleton. Every time I try looking for a job I get incredibly depressed, so I’m just done talking about all of this. When I find a job, I’ll let you all know, but until then? Let’s talk about anything but what I do or don’t do for a living.

4. OCEAN OCEAN OCEAN
On Friday, I decided to let spontaneity take over and accept my friend Kirsten’s spur-of-the-moment invitation to go into SF and hang out at the ocean. I’m glad I did – it was absolutely beautiful, it was my first trip on MUNI (which went through a bunch of cool neighborhoods), and I felt human again. It was nice to take a one day reprieve from the self-flagellating unemployment process and just enjoy the moment. I can seriously watch and listen to the waves crash in the Pacific for hours on end. I saw the sun turn into a sliver and set over the ocean. Why don’t I allow myself that kind of joy more often?

5. Sonoma is Beautiful
On Saturday, we headed up to wine country for a wedding. It is gorgeous up there – hills upon hills of golden vines, mountains in the distance… just breathtaking. The wedding took place at a vineyard and was absolutely lovely. It felt like the quintessential northern Californian wedding: wine, delicious food, guests from all over the world…it was a great way to end the week. Plus? I got Chris to dance with me to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” We’ve got to head back up there for a tasting tour some time.

Haters Gonna Hate: East Bay Edition

When considering a move to the Bay, it quickly becomes obvious that people are very territorial and judgy with their city choices in the area. As we were doing research on where we wanted to live, Google searches kept on bringing us back to one particular website, where the two most common questions appear to be: “is x safe?” and “what’s it like living in y?” After perusing the forums on that web site for the past six months, I have compiled a summary of the every “pro” and “con” argument you will ever see for a number of cities in the East Bay:*

Walnut Creek:
PRO: “Great Schools! Safe! Near Mount Diabolo!”
CON: “All white and snobby! It is the epitome of Blaffluence. What is Blaffluence, you ask? It’s when you have a bunch of rich people who only want to eat and shop at homogenous, overpriced chains where the staff only wears black – it’s like they built a society around The Keg. Also? It’s super hot. For two days in the summer, it get over 85 degrees…so yeah, it’s basically a smoldering hell that shits cash and Neiman Marcus cookies.”

Oakland:
PRO: “It’s like San Francisco, but CHEAPER!”
CON: “It’s basically post-apocalyptic San Francisco. So, if you’re into that…”

Alameda:
PRO: “It’s charming and old. The ferry is the way to commute to San Fran! The weather is perfect!”
CON: “They underreport their crimes. It’s near Oakland. It’s run-down and ghetto.” [seriously, people say this. By the way, the lead image for this post is a picture of one of the many gorgeous houses in Alameda. People? Get out more.]
PRO retort: “Come on, it’s not Antioch.”

San Leandro:
PRO: “People are super-friendly. The Bay-O-Vista and Estudillo Estates neighborhoods are particularly nice!”
CON: “It was nice before 1997, then it went all to shit. They’ve got crime and gangs. People shoot and stab each other at the BART station. Go to Castro Valley instead. San Leandro’s ghetto.” [again, picture of a San Leandro neighborhood:

…Sigh.]
PRO retort: “Sure the city has its problems; what city doesn’t? It’s not like it’s Oakland or Antioch or anything…”

Castro Valley:
PRO: “Great schools! Not ghetto!”
CONS: “Far from San Francisco! Parts of it are ghetto! But it’s way better than San Leandro or Hayward or…Antioch **shudder**” [Real talk, people who use this word excessively: do you even know what a ghetto is? And no, ghetto is not defined as “places that don’t have a Whole Foods.” And newsflash: they are also not “places that happen to have minority residents.” Yeesh.)

Pittsburg:
PRO: “Affordable living! You’ll always have a seat on BART!”
CON: “While it’s not Antioch, it’s a smoldering shithole that is the Roger Clinton to Walnut Creek’s Bill.”

So all in all, the negative perception of the East Bay on message boards is either you’re in Walnut Creek or in a “ghetto”, but just be thankful you don’t live in Antioch, I guess.

[To be fair to the message boards and if you came across this post in hopes of obtaining useful information: if you automatically discount every post that mentions the words “ghetto” or “racists” when describing a city, you are left with some reasonably good information. Pair it up against crimereports.com and walkscore.com, and you’ll be good to go].

*Please note that this post is mocking perceptions that I find to be ridiculous, if that’s not incredibly obvious already.

Bay Area House-Hunting, Round One

Alameda has more pre-1906 homes than anywhere else in the Bay area

Friday began with me folding clothes to put in our carry-on before I left for work.  As I bent over to place a pair of underwear on a pile, my back muscles suddenly felt like a thick rubber band that couldn’t be stretched.

“Ow…” I yelped, crouched over my pile of underwear.

“Are you okay?” Chris called from elsewhere in the house.

My muscles completely cramped up.  I couldn’t move from my crouched position.  “I need you to help me!”

Chris came in and we tried to figure out the best way to move me to the floor.  After performing what looked like 6 positions for “Karma Sutra for Senior Citizens,” he managed to get me on the floor, and I put my legs up against the wall.  My muscles burned with even the slightest move.  Suzy, my 13 year-old Border Collie, looked at me with concern, knowing something was awry.  “It’s okay,” I scratched her chest, reassuringly.  She thanked me by stepping on my hair and sticking her tongue up my nose.

In the process of her licking, she triggered a nerve in my nose that made me have a fit of sneezes.  “A-CHUun!” As the “choo” came out, I felt it through my entire back, and tried to hold it in.  It was suppressed pain.  The sound that came out made Chris begin to chuckle.  I pointed my finger at him while lying on the floor, my dogs paws on my hair, “it’s not funny! It really – A-CHUun! A-CHUun!” And sure enough, I started laughing with him, sending additional shots of pain down my back.

After working from home in the most awkward position ever, we were off to start house-hunting in Alameda by flying from Mesa Gateway Airport to Oakland International via Allegiant Air.  Allegiant is a super-discount carrier whose itemization of extra charges rivals the Thenardiers in Les Miserables. Nevertheless, they still are incredibly inexpensive, and their flight attendants seem nice.  They fly in and out of much smaller airports, providing us with our first experience in the ghost-town Overlook Hotel less-used Mesa Gateway.  Despite having seats that were not designed to recline and paying $4 for water and a Seagram’s ginger ale (that’s right – Seagram’s – not Canada Dry, which everyone knows won the Kanye Award for the Best Ginger Ale of All Time), it wasn’t a bad flight.  Chris and I used the free time to catch up on the new season of Doctor Who (the first three episodes are kind of a mess, no?).

We landed at 9:30pm, and were relieved that Alameda is but 5-10 minutes from the airport.  Unfortunately for us, the rental car area is located in east Nevada.  The airport has one shuttle bus taking everyone to the Land of Rental Cars, and we had to wait about 20 minutes for this mighty Supershuttle to arrive.  We packed in like sardines, and the driver had to turn away people when the bus literally got so full the doors wouldn’t close.  We soon discovered that because we reserved a car with an “off-brand” rental car agency, we had to take another shuttle from the Land of Rental Cars to the Island of Misfit Rentals, located in South Dakota.  The shuttle waited for us in a dark corner of the parking lot, with no lights on inside.  I thought it was abandoned as I crept up to the door.  The doors opened, and a man nodded to us to get aboard.  His stereo was off, and it was a dark, quiet space.  The driver reminded me of Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption when he got let out of prison but didn’t yet receive the postcard from Tim Robbins.  You know, that part where he couldn’t decide whether to get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’, and you were worried he’d off himself like the sweet old man with the pet bird.  Once our bus driver put his foot on the gas, I realized he was in “get busy dyin’” mode, and I looked forward to putting my feet on solid earth again.  He pulled into a weird industrial lot, and lo and behold, our rental agency was based out of a single-wide.  To their credit, the folks inside were really nice and helpful.  We finally were on our way, and arrived at our hotel at 11pm. So even though our hotel was no more than 10 minutes from the airport, it took us an hour and a half to get there.

After sleeping on a bed a skiier could do moguls on, we were off to check out Alameda.  This is a cool little island town with a lot of history – as we walked the streets, we came across a number of retro ads, old towns, and a huge farmer’s market with beautiful produce.  The entire island seems to be very walker-friendly, loaded with mom-and-pop stores and little shops and cafes.  It reminded me of the little towns along the north shore in Massachusetts, except the architecture was more eclectic – in addition to your Victorians, colonials and craftsman houses, you also have Mediterranean-style homes and bungalows similar to what you would find in the Willo district in Phoenix.  Every house had its own story to tell.

We headed over to our first home, which wasn’t in the best neighborhood, but was in close proximity to shops and restaurants.  The previous owners did an amazing job restoring the 1907 home, adding in a beautiful kitchen with granite countertops, gorgeous dark hardwood floors, upgraded electrical, and innovative windows in the partitions to make the home feel more spacious.  The biggest problem with this house was one of the corners of the foundation was still brick – a big no-no for construction in an earthquake zone.  Retrofitting foundation to meet current earthquake construction standards is quite expensive and we value our safety, so unfortunately, this home was out for us.

House #2 was a rental.  We happened upon a number of abandoned industrial buildings, and this rental home was in the middle of it all – there were no homes surrounding it.   There were no life forms present for at least 1/4 of a mile surrounding the home.  We arrived 1/2 an hour prior to our appointment.  Upon pulling into the driveway, Chris called the realtor and basically said, “yeah, never mind.”

House #3 was a rental open house.  The house was super-cute and in a great neighborhood, but the garage was roughly 3 feet too short for our car, there was no place for a dog door, our bed wouldn’t fit in the bedroom, and the kitchen was really, really tiny.  We’d compromise on one, possibly even two of these things, but all four? Not so much.

House #4 was our final rental option to view for the day, and was located on Bay Farm Island, which is the other “island” that makes up Alameda (it’s actually connected to Oakland, and not really an island).  While Bay Farm doesn’t have that historic charm that the main island has, the house was beautiful. Open design, huge kitchen, beautiful living room area, ginormous yard…we loved it.  While we would really love to live on the main island, the housing stock on Alameda is low and rental options are even lower.  We submitted an application and will find out in a few days if we can rent this lovely home for a year.

Walking felt better on my back than sitting, so we decided to finish out the afternoon walking the neighborhoods on the main island, loving the cute houses and pretty gardens everyone had.  We closed out the night having a nice dinner with friends in San Francisco.

Day two was spent checking out two houses that were for sale.  House #5 was a cute little house with a huge back yard in a great neighborhood.  Its only two drawbacks were its size (1,000 square feet, which we can get used to), and the fact that the only bathroom needs to be completely redone due to dry rot.  House #6 was, to quote our realtor “…not charming.”  It looked rather run down, needs to be tented for termites, and would need an electrical overhaul (the fuse box is from the 50s and only powers 100 amps).

We spent the remainder of our time in Alameda walking along the shore, admiring the cool breeze and views of the bay.  Weather in the 60s, little shops and pretty houses? We could get used to this.