Searching for the Redemptive Moment
a letter from the files of an OtP contributor
If you had been leading my life for the past month, you'd understand why I'm still searching for some meaning in moving back to San Francisco. It's not the slacker paradise I anticipated when I arrived here last December.
The cost of living here is so high I couldn't just hang out and write like I'd hoped. It's true—San Francisco is more expensive than Manhattan. So I quickly broke down and took a yuccie (young urban cellphone-carrying internet employee) sort of job.
A month ago I gave notice because I thought one of three non-yuccie job prospects would come through. Three interviews later, nothing's panned out, and my job is gone, just in time for a 100% rent increase to the $3500 market value for a dump without sunlight, with crushed-in ceilings and a crazy neighbor upstairs who takes her megaphone out Saturday mornings to scold the diesel trucks.
As I packed and cleaned the flat, hoping to claim the last penny of my deposit, our yoga-loving sublessee, who'd been there all summer and was up north visiting her family, decided not to move her stuff out: "Taking public transportation back to San Francisco stresses me out." So I had to box her crap, and she's even messier than I am—used feminine stuff and other unmentionables left on the nightstand and in little corners of the room. But now she's become very clean and precise; in fact, she's so unhappy with the way I packed her favorite hat that she refuses to pay her $200 portion of the phone bill.
I've also become accident-prone. Just last week, I fell on my head while rounding a curve on my bicycle and landed on the N-Judah train tracks. I think I may still be suffering from a mild concussion. The next day, on my way to a job interview, the tailpipe fell off my car.
So now I'm broke, pseudo-homeless, living with my parents and their two dogs in Redwood City, receiving an average of a rejection letter each day. I spend my time crafting weekly letters to recover the phone bill from Yoga Chick and watching Central American soccer games and cop show reruns on A&E with my retired pop.
Add to this my failed love life.
My college friends who wanted me to move back here with them have been lying. I know that now. It doesn't rain men in San Francisco, it just rains.
Since moving here, I might as well have taken a vow of celibacy. My friend Terry who moved here from New York at about the same time claims it's the namby pamby liberal nature of California men; they just don't approach women. I think they're just more comfortable face-to-screen than face-to-face. All these yuccies.
But I had hopes for my last blind date. Not as a Mr. Right, but as a Mr. Okay, or maybe a Mr. Tonight. He was a writer, a friend of a friend.
Some hopes were dashed when he pulled up. He drove a big old American car, a sort of gypsy cab low-rider, full of newspapers, handwritten notes, and empty bottles, and yes, not kidding, fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror. In the twenty-minute drive across the Bay Bridge, he smoked five or six Marlboros while a classic rock station playing only Joe Walsh, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin buzzed in the background.
During "Wish You Were Here," Blind Date tells me about his experience purchasing the suit he's wearing—the price, the fitting, all of it. He got it just for this date.
We search for a parking spot in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district. It's Friday night; we head up Fillmore, then down Webster, up and down the Lower Haight. Blind Date's face turns red. "Didn't you say you used to live near here? Don't you know anywhere to park?" I tell him about the Hail Mary parking prayer that always works for my friend. "I'm not a Catholic," he growls as he revs up to pull behind someone trying to back into a space. He is a parking space stealer. I'm no Miss Manners, but it's pretty much the lowest thing you can be in San Francisco, worse than cab stealing in New York.
But maybe in the Appalachian Mountains where he's from, parking space stealing is accepted behavior. Besides, I tell myself, my friend Susie once said that she initially got turned on to her boyfriend Daniel by his patient and generous driving patterns. Daniel turned out to be a crazed stalker, so I've come to accept that courtesy on the road isn't everything.
Blind Date's friend is having a pre-wedding party at a bar. It's filled with standard San Franciscan hipsters—twenty- to forty-somethings in skateboarding clothes and wool hats. The conversation: "Blah, blah, blah, Napster, blah, blah, blah, business plan sucks, blah, blah, blah, pre-IPO."
Parking Space Stealer proceeds to describe to me how he lied on his application to get into journalism school and how, two nights ago, he drank dozens of tequila shots and threw up and blacked out on the drive home. Does this qualify as too much information? I remember another first date with someone who told me he had had a kid at age 18, went into rehab, and was the winner of the "vagina envy" award from the English department of his small liberal arts college.
The retro band plays, "We've Only Just Begun." I tell the space stealer that my parents own the album The Best of the Carpenters.
"You remember albums. How old are you?'
"30. Oops. I mean 31."
"Are you sure you're not older?"
I wonder if BART is still running and I can make it home on my own.
The Young 'Un will ask me three more times during the date, "Are you sure you're not 40?"
Maybe, I think, as he downs another whiskey sour in one gulp, I will have an epiphany. I will uncover the negative karma that led me to this experience. Maybe Bad Date would, like Ben on his date with Elaine in The Graduate, take me to a drive-in diner and reveal himself to be confused, sweet, and having an affair with an older woman. It's pretty painful to imagine my 63-year-old mother as Anne Bancroft with leopard-patterned lingerie, but no more so than any other element of this evening.
But there's no such resolution. He takes me back to my housesitting gig. I don't even think of a kiss, and my dream of leaving my California convent is over.
But wait, a few days later, he calls. I don't call back. The next day, he calls again. Maybe, I think, if the date is on my terms....
We go for a run. Most of the time he's out of breath, so he can't talk. He doesn't smoke and he looks much better in shorts than in his Men's Warehouse suit. So I actually have a good time and stop thinking of him as Bad Date and begin to think of him as a potential running, maybe even smooching, partner.
But then he doesn't call. A week later, I leave him a message. He never calls back.
So I was rejected by Bad Date-Running Partner-Parking Space Stealer.
But that's just one of many things—jobs, agents, apartments—that's happened, or, more accurately, not happened, in the past month.
I know. Maybe it will all work out.
But if the redemptive moment doesn't happen by 2001, expect me back in New York City, where rejection makes you feel like you belong.
As for now, I'm hoping to hold out a little while longer before begging for my yuccie job back. Meanwhile, I'll continue to couch-surf, housesit, and take in "Matlock" and Spanish soccer with my pop.
At least in the suburbs, there's always parking.