Sunday, June 4, 2017

FTT Off-Topic: A Time Capsule Post

Yes, Sandwiches
Not sports, not sorry, read or don't.

Saturday, June 3 was my 30th day away from friends and family, having started a new gig in the Bay Area (aka, the San Francisco / Oakland / San Jose axis). On Sunday, June 4, I move into a room with a 6-month lease, for about $200 less a month than what I paid for the previous six places.

I probably won't see my wife and kids for another 2.5 months at the earliest, and the most likely event right now is that I won't live with them routinely for another year or longer. Oh, and Saturday was my birthday. Not a meaningful number, but still, a number.

It's been, needless to say, a very strange month. Mostly, I've been driving from place to place (the 3K miles from New Jersey to here, the commutes to and from work and gym), doing the job, and working out. 25 workouts in the last 28 days, taking up 140 miles of running, 15 sessions pushing weight, the last 21 days in a row.

Here's what I've learned and seen outside of the gig, and from my first 30 days entirely on my own.

> Every Air BNB has a bummer factor, and it's either hidden or obvious. The obvious ones are burned out light bulbs that haven't been replaced because the owners are clearly absentee, parking that's clearly not been a plan for anyone involved, ratty carpets, retrofit walls, and so on. The hidden bummers include terrible water pressure in the shower, odd collections of random weirdness in the kitchen cabinets, mattresses that wreck you, or sudden discoveries of things that are unsettling (rat poison! glad you are taking steps and all, but still, rat poison! now I get to think about rats for the rest of my stay here! not good!). The last one had a private bathroom, and there's something wonderful about not needing to take keys to the toilet. It's the little things, really.

> I am a dream Air BNB tenant. I'm clean, quiet, host no visitors and keep to my own room. I'll also give you useful feedback, like Hide The Rat Poison After You Are Done Using It.

> Having to move every week has made for strange behavior. I don't think I've wasted a single purchase in the past 30 days, even when something was a weak move, that hasn't gotten used, damn near immediately. Not a single drop of milk, piece of fruit, etc. It's an odd combination of cheap, eco-conscious, wanting to make sure every move can be achieved in a single car load, and not having regular access to trash and recycling.

> Buying stuff is an odd call back to college, honestly. I needed an iron, a bowl, a pillow, and later today, a fridge and microwave (again, needing to stay in the realm of stuff that fits in the car with everything else). It's not what I was anticipating doing at this age.

> Air BNBs mean watching everything on a laptop or phone, because televisions and cable connections aren't a thing any more. I've been cable cut for 30 days, and watch my sports at gyms and sports bars. It's nearly as good and dramatically more time efficient, and eating solo is actually better in some ways, because it's all at the bar and seems manly, or something. I'm long past the event horizon of changing core consumer habits, and yet, I'm likely to now, at least until the NFL season rolls around. And maybe even then, because by then, I'll have been on my own for 4 months, and the habits will be pretty ingrained.

> The time zone and traffic is something you can use. The distances here aren't very far, but the population density is so high, you'll easily spend an hour to go 20 miles, what with bridges and accidents and construction and heaven knows what else. Texting is dangerous and awkward, and we're grown ups and able to have conversations. Besides, conversations when you are on your own are important. They keep you from talking to yourself, which makes you feel, um, what's the word? Crazy. Yes, crazy.

> I don't really have any idea of how to be a husband or parent right now. I'm here because the opportunity is amazing, my skill set and background didn't translate quickly to pick up a new gig when the old local one went away, and some part of me never really wanted to leave here in the first place. And, well, the ability to continue to pay the mortgage. But the distance situation, despite technology making things easier than ever before, is just pressing. When you are in the same room, you can wait someone out when they need emotional support, use touch, and just do so many other things. Like many things, it's a work in progress.

> After a decade away, this place is still great, in ways that people who live here just take for granted. The things that are done at my job are world-changing. The people I work with are, well, almost intimidating in their prowess. The weather ranges from comfortable room temperature to perfect; you rarely use air conditioning or heat, and every day feels like a day that you should get something done.

It's also, of course, astonishingly expensive, and that comes on top of the usual generational point of everything seeming too expensive. The place I'm going to move to will offer me a private bedroom and bath, in a nice quiet area, and will likely take me an hour to get to work. I won't have access to laundry or a kitchen. I'm probably going to limit myself to microwave meals for a long period of time, and routine visits to grocery stores because I doubt I'm going to get any significant freezer space. This will cost me, no lie, nearly a thousand bucks a month, and that rate is likely below market rate, at least for now. The vast majority of leads in this price range have been obvious scams, with cut and paste sob stories from foreign operatives trying to hustle a payday.

Which makes the entire experience of being out here, at least up to now, kind of like being a janitor in Disneyland. All around you, people seem to be having a great time, spending their money freely; you, on the other hand, don't get to do that, because your money is tied up in housing I don't live in. People ask me what I do for fun now, and the answer is, well, not very much. I go to the gym, I stream stuff on Netflix, I play my guitar through a headphone jack on my amp, I think about my job and try to raise my capabilities at same, and I sleep. Mostly because I've worn myself out from the gym work, and I do the gym work.... well, in part to make sure that I'm tired enough to sleep. Eventually, maybe I'll work on some other project (stand up? mandolin? fifth book? more blogging? second job?), and I've been scanning MeetUp and CraigsList for a possible poker game or open mic, so that'll probably change at some point, but for now, no.

I know this is all temporary, and I know this is what I signed up for. It's nothing that I can't handle, and at the same time that I'm going through all of this, my wife and kids are adjusting to de facto single parenthood. Probably the harder job.

In the long run, this will be the best thing for all of us. In the short run, we don't lose the house or have to cash out a 401K or do some other terrible decision.

In the short run... well, it's time to pack and move, go to the gym, and try not to feel bitter about everyone else getting to ride Space Mountain. Or having conversations with people that know them.

More as life changes.

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