Friday, September 3, 2010

And When Your Friends Say, "What Is It? You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost"

Last night, I stood out on the fire escape in the middle of a thunderstorm, just to let the rain fall on me--just to let nature endow me with the substance that gives life. I looked west, out over the city rooftops, and watched the lightning strike, watched the lights of cars roving the dark avenues, watched the people walking below through the alley with umbrellas. It was a rare opportunity to simply see and listen, to receive whatever messages I miss while going about the rest of my life, as self-involved as everyone else.

So far, thunderstorms may be my favorite thing about living in this time zone. The sheets of rain, the electricity, the thrashing wind--plus, out here, the fact that it's raining doesn't automatically mean that every few minutes, some idiot is crashing his car into a center divide because he doesn't understand how to drive in the rain.

I'm in the midst of a battle with my bad habits--at least, those that tend to make me a pale, boring recluse. I really need to get out of the house.

The hunt for a second job is beginning; hopefully it won't be as vicious as the last ordeal, though I'm not very optimistic about that.

As I write, an almost chilly little breeze is coming in through my windows (which I fixed last night out of necessity due to rainfall, so they do open and close now), ultimately to blow my curtain in my face. I haven't noticed any telltale signs of autumn yet, but I'm starting to feel its presence nonetheless. It seems beautiful outside, and I'm slightly depressed at the knowledge that it's laundry day. But laundry day it is.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Somewhere There is a Happy Affair, a Ghost of a Good Mood

I went into Border's today to fill out some paperwork. I start training tomorrow. I feel like I have nothing to wear, but I'll figure out something. It's just now occurring to me that I should take some things to the laundromat while there's still time.

I battle a kind of loneliness some days--I'm beginning to realize that I take my friends for granted more than I thought. But mostly, I'm in love with this solitude. I sleep when I want, get up when I want, eat what I want, watch what I want. I can spend all day reading or go for walks and I don't have anybody around me to tell we what to do. Nonetheless, the "not having people around me" part of that is only worth it part of the time. I need to start being social, but lately I fail at it.

I finally got an opportunity to watch the sun come up over Lake Michigan. I live so close to the beach; it seems ridiculous that it took me this long to see it under any circumstances. It was completely incredible. And it was so nice to wear a sweater. I haven't been able to even look at one since I left. And even so, I had to take it off by the time I was walking home at eight a.m.

I'm really looking forward to autumn. It was my favorite season even in San Diego, and it has to be ten times as beautiful here. Besides, I really miss sleeping underneath blankets.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You Are The Queen and King Combining Everything Intertwining Like a Ring Around the Finger of a Girl

First thing, and for the record, I am not out of the woods by any means. But after a couple of weeks watching my situation worsen by the minute, I am finally in a position to let it improve, albeit slowly, and just run damage control.

After two or three weeks of slaving at the feet of our bullshit economic state and handing out resumes as though they were coupons for five-dollar hoagies, I finally landed a job. I filled out the application to work at Border's online, and after a week or so of pestering them, they finally offered me a position. It's pretty ideal, actually--it's quite within walking distance from home, it probably won't suck the marrow from my bones in an attempt to form me into a corporate zombie robot, everyone I've met there seems cool, and it's right next door to my favorite coffee shop--a place called The Broadway (guess what street it's on), owned and operated by Kemp and A.J., two brothers from Kenya who are both completely rad.

So, now the only problem is finding a way to pay all my bills within two weeks, while I don't know when I'm getting paid or how much. The hunt for a second job is already on; I'm looking a little more selectively now, trying to find another job that will allow me to work at my own pace--data entry, freelance work, anything like that. At least, that's how it's going to pan out until I get a feel for the hours at Border's.

I was talking to my friend Tom from back home who laughed and said, "You moved to Chicago to work at Border's." How true is that? Not very glamorous, to be sure, but at least now, with some money in my pocket and a load off my shoulders, I can finally get out and enjoy Chicago.

Lately, I've just been planted on my futon (which has to be about the most uncomfortable piece of furniture I've ever owned) in front of the fan reading and watching TV. My friend, Brandon, from Las Vegas and I have started writing an original screenplay as well, which I should really be working on right this minute.

The sun sets directly outside my window every night, and right now the residual light is barely showing among the clouds as it gets darker. Unfortunately, it's going to stay the same temperature for the rest of the night. I can't wait until I can sleep with blankets on again.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm a Man of Means By No Means

Since moving into my studio, I haven't had much time to settle into it. It doesn't feel like home yet. But it's nice to have my own space and my own things around me.

The stress sets in whenever I'm here, as it becomes more and more evident that if I don't find a job very, very soon, I won't be in this place longer than a month and then I'll have an eviction on my record and will never be able to find another apartment again. It goes without saying that I haven't been getting much sleep.

I'm doing everything I can to stay positive and work as hard as possible to fix my situation. I've been devoting all my time to walking around my neighborhood and the bordering ones, just applying everywhere I can think of.

I applied for unemployment as well, and got a call from them today. They were just trying to clarify some information so I didn't get a sense of whether I'm going to qualify for benefits, but it's a good sign, I think.

I don't know where I'm going to be in a month, but that's part of the adventure, right?


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It Goes Like This, The Fourth, The Fifth, The Minor Fall and the Major Lift

So, the not having a job is bad and that situation hasn't improved. But as I've said, it would be much easier to fix if I had a roof over my head and access to my clothes and a shower and whatnot.

Which is why I'm ecstatic to announce that ten minutes ago, I was approved to move into a tiny studio in Uptown, which will provide me with all those things. I move in tomorrow. Thank goodness.

So now, it's just a matter of getting myself into the apartment, unloading my stuff from my car, and beginning to set up my life. Once that's done, probably tomorrow or the next day, then I get to spend every waking moment searching for a job. And if I get one by next month, all my worries will be gone. All the big ones, anyway.

Right now, it's 77 degrees outside with 84% humidity, and it's raining. I still don't understand the weather, but I love it.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

If You Believed We Put a Man On the Moon

Minor setback: as it turns out, my transfer wasn't approved to work at the Landmark out here. Which is interesting, because regardless of the fact that my managers have all known about my plans to transfer since January, for some reason I'm just finding out about this now. I find it impossible to believe that no one sent my paperwork ahead of time, that no one foresaw this, that everyone told me that the whole thing was just a matter of a couple of emails and maybe a phone call when, in reality, there were several channels to go through and apparently, the district manager could simply say no at any time.

My transfer wasn't approved because I had a write-up in my file. I remember the write-up, too, I recall it being kind of a bullshit thing, a bureaucratic formality, because I lost a ticket book or something equally as ridiculous. That stupid piece of paper just set fire to plan A.

If I don't figure out a way to get into an apartment very soon, then by the time I find a new job, I'll have run through my savings and I won't be able to afford one. There is a delicate balance to maintain here while I try to keep Plan B alive--a difficult process seeing as Plan B is a deformed and weak little newborn creature and it seems pretty inevitable that it won't make it through the weekend.

So, in the meantime, I need to start working on Plan C.

There are just a lot of issues that hang in the balance now: I have to find a job, but how do I print resumes? Do I go to Kinko's and pay a bunch of money for them, knowing that in a couple of days I might have an apartment where I can set up my printer? I probably should, but then there's the issue of having clothes to wear to an interview. I'd have to buy those, too. The apartment needs to come before the job, but how is that supposed to work? And I can't answer any of these questions yet, so I'm mostly just filling out online applications and sitting around waiting.

Money goes fast without a place to keep groceries, a place to escape the houses and the people in them, a place to set my things down and just be, and all that comes out of it is this mounting guilt about not being able to do much about any of it.

Luckily for everyone involved in this transfer fiasco, this escapade wasn't supposed to be easy and I realize that. I'll make it work, I just don't know how anymore. Otherwise, I would be completely and irrevocably pissed off.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

And You Just Want to Feel Like a Coin That's Been Tossed In a Wishing Well

First things first: right now, I have had a lot of wine to drink and am quite drunk.

In other news, I found my new hosts today. In actuality, it was only several hours ago. There are four people living in this house, two of whom are nowhere to be found so that I spent the evening getting to know the other two, Evan and Destiny. They are both seriously awesome, and I knew this even before I got here due to a particularly amusing text message conversation this afternoon.

Otherwise, no developments. Being in this city makes me feel as though time has sped up and is leaving me behind. I want to paint my nails, now, and watch Lost. The little things.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Baby Baby Listen To Me, Come Across the Kitchen to Me, and I Will Tell You Best I Can

Things I've Learned Since Being in Chicago:

-People here are really nice, until they're driving.
-Studios are cheap because they're glorified closets
-I'm actually completely OK with living in a glorified closet if it means I can unpack my shit from the back of my car
-I don't miss cable, at all
-It isn't as frustrating as one would think for me to live in the same three outfits for a week
-I got more sunburned at the beach before I left than I thought I did
-I hate dry heat far more than I hate humid heat (this one surprised me)
-It's just as much of a career move to find WiFi in this town as it is back home
-As soon as the time change stops fucking everything up and I can get up really early again, I might be able to see the sunrise for the first time in my life.

Off to the bars, bitches.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Trickle of Strangers Were All That Were Left Alive

Monday was much more dull than its predecessors and really just involved going to see a small one bedroom apartment that was very charming, in a way, but was in one of the worst maintained buildings I've ever seen and isn't available until September 1st.

My apartment hunting skills are slowly improving, though, and I'm learning which neighborhoods are going to be the most lucrative, with a lot of help from my various hosts. Currently, I have my sights set on the Uptown neighborhood, which is close enough to Lincoln Park (where the Landmark theater to which I'm transferring resides), but isn't as expensive. It has a community college and a brand new Target and some cool looking restaurants and coffee shops. And, if I end up moving into the studio I just saw a couple of minutes ago, I'd be right across the street from a head shop, too. Perfection.

I've been compiling lists and making phone calls while simultaneously trying to meet some new people and make friends. Last night was my first night staying with new people, Eileen and her husband Elliot. They are an adorable rockabilly-hipster couple with just huge hearts and a beautiful apartment in Logan Square. When I got to their place yesterday, we left immediately to go see their friends--newlyweds about to leave for their honeymoon in Wales the next morning. They made us steak sandwiches and cous-cous salad and we drank and talked out on their deck, as the evening was perfect outside. They all love food and beer and music and were all hilarious and sweet. It was a great night.

By the time I woke up this morning, they had both gone off to work. I've spent the first part of my day running around and looking at studios, so I need to go back to the movie theater now and talk to the manager to try and facilitate this transfer.

If I don't find an apartment by the time I start work, which seems to be the most likely outcome, I might choose to buy a new set of work clothes rather than attempting to unpack my own, which are of course all in vacuum-sealed bags in my backseat. I think it's a good call.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So You Think You're a Romeo, Taking Part In a Picture Show

Today was pretty far on this side of fabulous. The weather was gorgeous so in the afternoon (once I woke up from my time change nightmare at almost one o' clock) Jorge and I went on an adventure to a huge arts festival that was spread out over a few miles on the North Side. We wandered the streets, stopped at a few warehouse art galleries and other such things, and ended up at a little festival area to have a couple beers and some food.

My friend Grant from Trader Joe's, who lives out in the 'burbs, met up with us and once we got bored where we were, we caught a train into Wicker Park and walked around a couple more exhibitions. There was a little block party going on with some pretty rad bands playing, so we of course just drank more, danced a little, smoked a little and ran around the place.

About eight thirty or nine, we ate some dinner and headed over to a party being held by total strangers, and I still don't really know what the occasion was. But there was a little more beer to be drunk and some more fun to be had, so we took care of both of those.

At this moment, both of the boys are passed out on the couch, wasted and snoring. I'm about to join them.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

In Your Dreams, Show No Mercy

Before leaving Lincoln, I had breakfast with Danielle who would have been my host in Lincoln if I had made it there on time. She turned out to be fabulous and we had a long talk over our diner food and coffee and suddenly I have a new friend in Nebraska.

When I left there, it was late--almost one in the afternoon. I made a straight shot from Lincoln to Iowa City to see one of my best friends from high school whom I hadn't seen in about three years. I dropped in on her where she works at the Steak 'n' Shake in Coralville. She bought me a burger and we got to catch up a little. It definitely wasn't the way I saw myself being reunited with my best friend, but it was magical somehow.

From Iowa City, the rest of the way to Chicago was a breeze, comparatively speaking. About fifteen miles outside of the city, the storm I could see brewing on the horizon caught up with me and it began to rain not unlike the rain of Thursday night, to the point where I could barely see the road or the lines that marked the lanes. Since I was only a few miles from my exit during the worst of it, I stuck to the freeway and found my way to where I was staying while driving through virtual rivers created by what was now a flash flood.

Soaked completely through, I showed up at the doorstep of Jorge and his roommate, clutching a soggy case of MGD and only slightly shell shocked from driving through the freaking Mississippi to get there.

We dried off, had some drinks, and watched TV before I conked out on the couch and woke up this afternoon at one.

It was supposed to rain all day today, but instead it's completely gorgeous outside. Jorge and I are heading out to the Milwaukee Arts Festival to meet my friend Grant with whom I used to work at Trader Joe's a couple of years ago.

Here goes nothing.

Friday, July 23, 2010

You Who Are On the Road Must Have a Code That You Can Live By

The last twenty-four hours have been an experiment in maintaining a Zen attitude in the face of complete and unavoidable ridiculousness.

Yesterday I was in the hotel lobby by six thirty a.m. taking advantage of the continental breakfast, and by that I mean trying to eat as quickly as possible so as not to taste any of it and also trying not to even inwardly complain about free food. I left St. George about seven and crawled back onto the Interstate 15 North for another stint through the desert.

I've always had an odd adoration for two-lane highways that cut through vast landscapes, a trench carved into the very living earth through land that appears otherwise untouched. This part of the trip did not disappoint. The highway ran for hours upon hours, the rest of the way through Utah.

I never before realized, not having the opportunity to, how drastically the climates and landscapes change the minute my tires cross a state line. Driving through Nevada, one is surrounded by brush and shrubs with rolling brown hills on the horizon all the time. Once Nevada gives way to Arizona, the hills immediately flatten into mammoth mesas that form a border along the road. When one comes into Utah, the mesas become jagged bright-red rock formations scattered into the distance in every direction. And I knew the second I was about to cross into Colorado from Utah, because suddenly up ahead I could see actual green plants--small bushes and evergreens--and sure enough, as soon as I have the thought that this must be Colorado, I notice the sign sitting right at the spot where the green begins, welcoming me into the state.

It was also at this point that I lost my iPod, Jesse, to a suicide attempt. It was so depressed that it flung itself off of the box on my front seat and straight into a cup of orange juice. I didn't notice for about ten minutes, and by the time I did, it was completely unconscious. I've tried to revive him, but he's in critical condition and it doesn't look good.

Once in Colorado, I head from flat desert into the mountains. Ears popping, I ascend into a universe of tiny hillside hamlets and long stretches of pines. At one point, according to my best friend on this trip, the GPS, the car and I reached an elevation of 10,000 feet. With the exception of some mild protest from the car at the climbing of these grades and some extremely harrowing construction along the road that narrowed the lanes from time to time and just increased the danger of somehow plummeting off the side of one of these Everests (from all I know of mountains, they might as well all be Everest), the drive went smoothly and was quite a bit prettier and therefore more enjoyable.

As soon as I descended from the mountains and veered off course to stop in Denver, it began to rain. Eighty degrees outside, sunny and humid, and it just started to rain out of nowhere. With the water coming down, I come up over the apex of the off ramp and can suddenly see the skyline of Denver. A sight for sore eyes by all means, this is the first actual city I've seen since leaving Las Vegas 750 miles ago (and Vegas doesn't even really count).

After refueling, I left Denver about an hour before sunset. At this point, I began to realize that getting into Lincoln was possible but would take another seven hours, putting me there at 4 a.m. local time. My CouchSurfing host in Lincoln said this would be fine, so I trudged on along the now utterly flat land, with nothing but fields expanding in either direction and a huge, immaculate double rainbow arcing over the highway.

It is at this point that I witnessed several hours filled with occurrences for which I was completely unprepared, in that they don't happen in Southern California. In Crook, Colorado, on the phone with my best friend, Jonathan, trying to stay awake, I began to notice bright yellow flashes behind dense black clouds in the distance, many miles away. For the longest time I watched the horizon, trying to discern the source of the light (and I'd be lying if I said it didn't momentarily occur to me that there was some kind of nuclear bomb test afoot--that happens in the middle of nowhere, right?).

As I drew closer, I saw what was causing the flashes. Not bombs or airplanes or fireworks, but epic bolts of yellow lightning. Every few seconds for several hours, a crack of electricity would light up the clouds to the Northwest. Eventually, a second lightning storm started up in the East, and a third smaller one dead ahead. Exhilarated and slightly frightened, I just watched it unfold, marveling at the abilities of Mother Nature for about the fortieth time that day.

After fifteen hours of driving with lightning storms everywhere, I stopped at a gas station along the I-70. Getting out of the car, I was immediately tousled by strong, warm winds that gave off noticeable static energy like something out of the Wizard of Oz. Small black beetles that might have been cockroaches without the horrific twitching antennae were scattered everywhere along the ground, and on the handle of the gas pump was a huge green grasshopper that just stared at me. Everything in sight was coated with a layer of whirling chicken feathers.

The attendant, a huge man who looked as though he should be chewing on a straw of hay and and who couldn't have been named anything other than Bubba, took my money for the gas with a slow, tedious air about him. When he gave me my change, I asked him, with my California accent, "So, this whole lightning storm thing. Does this happen, like, all the time out here? Or should I be worried?"

After a long pause, Bubba shrugged. "I reckon." Not helpful.

Back on the road, when it started to rain, it was a light shower. Enough to slow my progress some, but nothing crazy. However, the lightning storms had suddenly converged into one set of crashing bolts that were now pure white and lit up the horizon like daylight. With my iPod in a coma and my laptop's battery being dead, I was desperate for something else to listen to other than wind and rain and thunder. Becoming increasingly scared at the closeness of the lightning strikes, I rustled through my car until I found an old Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young cassette to calm myself down.

This I could have handled, until the light rain became a torrential downpour. My visibility was cut to next to nothing, and I was forced to slow down to twenty miles an hour with my hazard lights on, creeping along the road in order to still see the lines that marked the lanes. On the verge of panicking, but whispering low to myself and taking deep breaths to stay calm, I fought my way through the worst storm I've ever seen.

Finally, on the verge of hyperventilation, I saw the beckoning lights of a gas station off the freeway and literally cried out in relief. I pulled off the freeway and under the awning of the gas pumps, letting my heart rate and breathing return to normal.

There was no way I was getting to Lincoln that night--I was still a hundred miles away. I pulled my car into a parking space behind the mini mart, locked myself in, hid everything valuable, covered myself with a towel and a sweatshirt and immediately fell asleep.

I woke up this morning at eight, amazingly rested, considering. I made it to Lincoln in two hours and so despite almost dying in some kind of horrific and bloody car accident with a semi-truck or simply driving myself into a ditch completely blind, I sit in a coffee shop more than two-thirds of the way to Chicago.

I think I won this one, Nature. Suck it.

So now, I'm going to meet the CouchSurfing host I should have spent last night with and buy her breakfast in exchange for making her clean her apartment for nothing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hey, JoJo, Yeah I Know Your Name

After thirteen hours of driving one long stretch of devastatingly hot highway, I realized I wasn't going to make my rendezvous in Grand Junction with my CouchSurfing hosts.

So, instead, I'm sitting now in a hotel room in St. George, Utah, right next to the air conditioning unit turned up full blast to combat the ninety-degree night outside. I took a cold shower and drank even more, and still not enough, water in a failed attempt to rehydrate. My eyes are completely bloodshot, I'm slightly sick from the earlier tuna sandwich (I should know better than to trust fish from a place called Port of Subs next to a Target in Las Vegas), and am seconds away from taking four more Excedrin and falling into a clean bed (possibly my last for a week or two).

Tomorrow should be interesting. I have to make up for lost time today, so it looks like it's going to be about a seventeen-hour excursion. But I learned from today's mistakes, and I'll make much better time on this stint. Hopefully.

I traveled across California and Nevada, and traversed a tiny corner of Arizona before ending up in Utah. Four states in one day, yet it took me thirteen hours to drive less than five-hundred miles.

I fail.

But I will redeem myself with the amazing time-budgeting skills I have picked up through trial and error and will apply to tomorrow's drive.

This is already even more intense than I expected.

If I Leave Here Tomorrow, Would You Still Remember Me?

It was raining in San Diego when I left this morning, barely misting my parents and I as the three of us loaded the remainder of my personal belongings into my Honda.

It took a mostly fruitless yard sale and several epic trips to the Good Will to scale down the magnitude of what I own to the bare minimum--and the result still barely fit into my car. But we got the doors to close, somehow, mostly thanks to my father's unfailing ingenuity, and now I don't have to worry about it again until I have to unpack everything.

I am not ashamed to admit that I cried like a small child as I hugged my parents goodbye. I climbed into my car and started the engine as they watched from the doorway, and I tried to smile at them through tears as I drove away. Scaling the infamously steep driveway, I pressed play on my iPod, beginning the CD that my mother burned for me to begin the journey. The first track was the season one theme song from the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Imaginably, this song has since become my situational anthem.

As of that final moment, climbing the driveway, I am off on an adventure--the likes of which are completely outside my grasp. I have begun a search for something meaningful, something unavailable to me in the city where I grew up. Whether I'll find it in Chicago is debatable, it was mostly an arbitrary choice. But I have to start somewhere, and right now, every city in the world has just as much of a chance at containing the object of my pursuit as any other. With any luck, this excursion will ultimately take a lifetime.

At eight thirty this morning, crawling onto the I-5 North at an entrance I've used thousands of times before, I reset my roadtrip mileage counter to zero; right now, it reads somewhere around 350 miles.

I just rolled into Las Vegas and am already suffering the shakes and headaches of the dehydrating heat. The first few hours of driving were foggy and humid, but the desert climate swiftly took over.

I've stopped at a shopping center for excedrin and a tuna sandwich that I won't finish, as it's too hot to really eat. I was also questing, in vain, for a WiFi connection--I have been reduced to using the internet on my phone.

It's been nice to drive through the desert and really take in the scenery, possibly for the first time, though I've driven this route before, at least this far. Those of us who have lived in it or near enough to it take it for granted most of the time, and for good reason. The landscape is monotonous and sometimes vertigo-inducing, the weather is extreme, and the hill people that usually tend to take up residence in these places aren't exactly the barbecuing, quaint suburbia next-door neighbors that we who hail from southern California generally expect.

But today, I drove toward a horizon constantly lined with red hills, barely showing the incredibly vivid blue sky between them. White clouds sat in the distance, perfectly still with no wind to move them, hanging so low above the ground that they cast impossibly dark, vast shadows onto the mountains.

So now, I venture into brand-new territory; Vegas is as far East as I've ever driven. Maybe now the monotony will break up.