Friday, September 22, 2006

way to make things more complicated

Yesterday, crying a little, I wrote out my thirty days' notice. Then I put on my coat and threaded my way through the piles of art supplies and books I'm sorting to pack, and walked over to the management office, up Polk Street, past the Wags dog-washing place where I stopped as always to count how many dogs were waiting for their sudsing. Twelve on the floor, one orange one in the tub closest to the window, wet and watching longingly as the dry ones got tickled by a visitor.

The receptionist made me wait for another woman, S, to take my notice, and S held me for a little while to ask some questions. Apparently D, the manager of my building, disappeared more or less in the middle of the night; "got in his mobile home and drove to another company up north." I'd known something was going on, because I got a call from them the last time I was in LA. They needed to reprogram the front door intercom and they didn't have all the information they needed because D had taken it with him. Along with, it seems, some leases that were in the middle of being processed, and a bunch of other stuff. The office has been in a froth trying to fix things. S wanted to know if there was a special key to the laundry room (the closet next to my apartment, with its one washer/dryer stack and the hot water heater), and if there was anything else I thought she should know. Weird. But we talked a little, I kept it light, and got out as fast as I could; I had an interview to go conduct.

I just got a call from S a few minutes ago. She called the building's owner--the architect who designed it, who lives on the third floor--in Singapore and told him I'd given notice. And he is, she says, very sad to hear it, and wants to know if I would consider staying if the rent increase were lowered. 5% for month-to-month, 2.5% if I sign a new year lease. This is versus the 9% month-to-month in the notice I got in August, or 5% for a year lease. "This was D's idea," S told me. "The owner told me he didn't want to raise the rent that much, but D said go for it."

I can't imagine what either man was thinking when they agreed to that--a concrete-floored ground-floor one-room studio in the Tenderloin, with no closets and no possibility of pet ownership, for more than a thousand dollars a month? What planet are they living on? The unit above me, with carpet and closets, recently stood empty for eight blissfully quiet months.

Maybe that's what the owner is thinking about. Or maybe our friendly little conversations in the hall, the fact that I really do love my place, and my early-adopter status are part of his vision of the home he built for himself here.

I'm torn. I'm supposed to go look at a month-to-month in Oakland this weekend, in a venerable live-work community I've always admired. It would be a share, but it would mean twice the space at less than half the rent, the chance to take one of my mom's cats, and a financial flexibility I haven't had since I moved into the expensive place. I could think about buying a car, for example (and I'd want to; the location's, um, isolated). I'd be around other artists instead of the over-coiffed Gap employees or whatever they are who are my neighbors now. I could work a lot less.

But I love my place. And find the neighborhood soul-crushingly sad. And like being four blocks from the library and the BART station and the farmer's market in one direction, AX and Indian food and Dottie's True Blue Cafe in the other. The Arab guy at one corner store calls me "cousin" and hugs me when I go in for sparkling water, a can of chili, a Haagen-Dazs ice cream bar. The one at the other corner store knows me by name and used to run out to yell hello to me until I asked him to stop because it's weird enough at night for me to be walking through all the other people trying to get my attention to give them some money or booty or whatever before having to ask the people smoking crack in my doorway to please let me through.

And then there are the dogs waiting to be counted and washed.

There are very few places I've lived, as an adult, that have felt like home. Everything's been so temporary. Even my last bout of Oakland--five years in one house--was never meant to last that long. For a while I was moving once a year--I learned to get itchy once the initial lease had run out. When I moved in here that was all supposed to change. I was going to make a place for myself. Everything was going to come out of the boxes. I would paint if I wanted to, hang things, accumulate plants, have mail sent to my home and not a post office box.

It's really a very Jewish dream, now that I think about it. Put down roots. Not live as if you're going to have to leave in the middle of the night, the family silver sewn into the lining of your coat, prepared to sell the gold out of your ears to buy passage if that's what it takes (and how many women learn, when they get their ears pierced as children, that this is the reason it is done, as much as adornment?) And do I have to point out that Jews and ghettos go together like pickled and herring? I mean, they made the word up for places where we live.

As I said, torn. We'll see what happens in Oakland.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

the things they carried

I can rip off Tim O'Brien, we went to the same school at different times.

I have a lot of art supplies, for a writer.

I've got a day mostly to myself here, no paid nudity or tux-wearing to do, so I'm pulling stuff together to sort, purge, and pack.

I don't often look at all my art supplies together--they're usually spread out throughout my living space, in plastic shoeboxes and fishing tackle cabinets and cigar boxes and so forth--so I'm really not aware of how much of the total volume of my stuff is comprised of paint, clay, fabric, glitter, resin, beads, yarn, paste wax, plaster bandages, varnish, decorative paper, colored inks, gluesticks, wire, ribbon, sandpaper, resin, latex, fabric dye, shiny things, sketchbooks, some strange medical-looking negatives I found lying in the street in Paris... but hay-zoos. I've been piling it up in the middle of the room so I can figure out what kind of boxes I need for it, and I'm starting to understand why my back has always given me problems. Some of this stuff I bought in high school, and I recognize much of it from my art school days. A decade ago.

What I have is too much stuff, and not enough focus. Several years ago, Slice and I spent a weekend at a retreat center up near Santa Rosa. There was a little art studio, and one night when I couldn't sleep, I went in there and mucked around with crayons and magazine pages and construction paper. I had a wonderful time, and was pleased with the results. And the whole time, I was thinking about how the limitation of the supplies was actually helping me. I made a mental note to remember that when I got home, and then of course promptly forgot.


Am I trying to reach some critical mass where it all just makes itself into something grand?

I think a moratorium on visits to Blick and Pearl Paint are in order. No matter how tempting the on-line coupons they send me, no matter how hot my discount card burns in my wallet. And no matter how comforting I find those places.
support pete panse

Just quick. This high school teacher is being punished for suggesting that his students learn to draw from the figure on their own time. This is completely absurd. One warning: if you sign the petition, you'll get a screen hitting you for a donation--I just navigated away from it myself.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

what WAS i thinking?

Some of you may be familiar with the term "mental core dump." I don't remember which efficiency expert I was reading when I first heard it back sometime in the last century, but it's a useful tool. Essentially, you write down absolutely everything that's pressing on you, from trying to remember to do the laundry to noting that your fear of global warming is harshing your mellow. At least, that's how I understood it to work. The idea is that by writing everything down, you're making mental space so you can actually get something done.

I haven't deliberately done one of these in years. Don't know why, guess I just fell out of the habit. But because I'm packing to move (they're raising the rent on the Spaceship, and my feelings about that are another story), I've been looking through old journals to see what can be saved and what recycled.

Which is how I found this MCD from June '91. I'll just share the section I found most interesting as a commentary on where I was at the time. I was about to move from Minnesota to California, so there's a bunch of dull stuff about shutting off the utilities, asking people to write me letters of reccommendation, getting my interview suit drycleaned, and so on. And then:
clean and clear all 5" discs [remember those?]
only so much I can help Julie learn her job
spending $ carelessly
VAXmania [my god, that's right, green print on a black screen]
read Five Days to an Organized Life [yeah, looks like THAT stuck]
eat regularly, take multivitamins [ha!]
do I want a unified style for new place? [double ha!]
throw away unnecessary keys [still have a problem with this]
I want to have an affair [I was, at the time, engaged, sort of]
take apart fan?
teeth cleaning

The more things change, man.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

eleven-hour bar shift

Catering really is a lot better when I'm not handling food.

Tonight's event was a wedding--between two people who had grandkids. Pretty cool. It's nice to be reminded that people can still fall in love after they've passed the age our society considers passion-worthy.

I invented a new drink! Well, I've never heard of anyone else making it. It is sweet (but not very) and limealicious. I made one for a lady who was dithering about what she wanted, and she came back with a friend for more. And while I was looking away to get someone else a beer, I saw from the corner of my eye that she was refilling her glass from what was left in the shaker. Made myself a virgin one, and while I need to tweak the proportions, it's promising. I'll tell you about it later after more time in the lab and you can help me name it.

Kenny Loggins was the after-dinner entertainment. Which was bizarre but amusing--he's looking a lot better than David Lee Roth, I'll tell you that, and he had 'em up and grooving for "Footloose". So I had all these people around my bar trying to dance and drink at the same time, as I tried to dance and make drinks at the same time. One stately white-haired gentleman was half-behind the (curved) bar, keeping time loudly by pounding his hands against it and making it shake. One lady in classic "mother of the bride" regalia lost her balance and nearly took the bar down with her. My hands were sticky with tequila and sweetened lime juice and triple sec, and suddenly I was surrounded by people who needed eight of everything and a couple of people being "mouse pirates" as they took teeny-tiny shots of rum, but that's so much better than standing around listening to the carbonation go out of my Pellegrino, you know?

But I was a fool when I told my passenger back from Napa that the mocha frapp from the cold case at 7-11 wasn't going to keep me up when I got home. Ahem.

Monday, September 04, 2006

worst. burn. ever.

But I'm home.

My lips only feel like they're going to fall off.

If you need to replace a tire because you've driven over a stray piece of rebar, may I suggest the Firestone dealer in Reno? Nice people, they have everything, the guys behind the counter are happy to flirt with women who smell funny and have playa-styled hair, and they are--and this is important--Open On Labor Day.

The one of my two original passengers who actually made the trip back with me bought me some dim sum for dinner, which I am taking to bed momentarily. The other, I did not kill. Although it was a close thing.

Sweet, sweet bed.

Not an air mattress that slowly, diabolically, deflates over the course of the night.

Some Burns are fun. Some are learning experiences. This year I learned that next year, I spend Labor Day weekend in, oh, Italy.