We left off with me driving around Southern California in a daze. I remember at one point making a tearful phone call to my mother from a public phone in a mall. I spent the weekend driving around looking for a place to live. I was determined to be out of the way when my mother’s friend came home from vacation. As a drove through Huntington Beach, I saw a “For Rent” sign just a block or so from the beach. A very blond woman and her boyfriend were happy to sublet the available room to me. They would also be my only friends in SoCal and because of this I was slow to realize the problems this couple had.
My next hurdle was discovering that cars matter. When moving from the suburbs into downtown DC, I gave up my car which made life easier. There was plenty of transportation options and parking was a nightmare. Well, I had a culture shock experience as the converse was true in Orange County. I called up employment agencies only to be told that I needed a car to get an interview. When I finally started to get a few temp jobs, it took a few buses and hours to get to a location that a car would get you in 30 minutes. Eventually I borrowed someone’s cast off bike to get around. I was using up my meager savings and living off of Top Ramen. When my roommates/friends told me that we were being kicked out of our townhouse apartment, I believed the story that it was the previous roommate’s fault. We found a house for rent together and I even took on the primary responsibility for the lease. I was having a tough time and not ready to give up on my only social contacts.
When I wasn’t working, I hung out watching the boyfriend who was a tattoo artist. This was my introduction to the idea of tattoos as art. I only knew the tattooed sailor stereotype before meeting this couple. I watched him create the drawings from scratch and then painstakingly ink them onto skin. I was fascinated and amazed as I watched feathered wings spread across the back of a large motorcyclist. I pondered the idea of getting a tattoo but couldn’t settle on anything that I might like forever. I also hung out with their beach friends and even went to a pot festival if I remember correctly. Pretty funny for someone who doesn’t smoke pot. Sometimes I think I would have made a good anthropologist because I enjoyed immersing myself into experiences very different from my own while maintaining a certain detachment.
However, I became concerned when I realized that the blond was doing crystal meth. When she started staying up all night doing it and blaring music, I realized that I had to leave. I had finally gotten a steady employment gig and sleep was really a crucial element for me. I started searching for another apartment and when I found a little old lady who was renting a room in her house, I thought it would be the perfect respite for someone a bit weary from all the bumps in the road. Sure at 24 I would prefer to hang out with people my own age, but at that point a “grandma” figure sounded quite comforting. However, it turned out that the cosmic joke was on me.