Monday, July 30, 2007

San Francisco

A city! A real city! Living, as we do, in suburbia, I’d almost forgotten how much I love a big city. I remembered this weekend, as we traveled to San Francisco—a mere two hours from our apartment. We drove over the Bay Bridge and found ourselves in the streets of the city—with skyscrapers hovering over either side, high-end shops sharing ground-floor space with delis and coffee shops, and people (people!) walking everywhere, briskly ascending the many shockingly steep hills. A city!

With the exception of European cities, San Francisco was the first city I’ve ever felt to be New York-like in spirit. It had a vibrancy, a liveliness, that felt familiar. We heard a variety of different languages everywhere we walked. There were people waiting for public transportation. There was a Chinatown with shops full of souvenirs and rice bowls and lanterns and luggage. There were neighborhoods full of good restaurants; museums; stores; parks. People were picnicking on the lawn of a park, waiting for an outdoor concert to begin. There were feisty, aged urbanites (“Stay on the right!” an old lady shouted at Andrew, who was taking up too much sidewalk space.) And so much of it was distinctly San Francisco: the cold mornings when the fog is still hovering over the city; the cable cars; the hills, truly scary to drive over; the lovely bridges. I rarely feel like I could live in a city I visit, but I felt that here.

We chose this weekend to visit because Andrew’s sister and a friend were flying in to run a half-marathon. After we arrived on Saturday morning, we took a walk down Market Street, then took a cable car over to the Mission neighborhood to check out the Tartine Bakery, which we’d read about in the New York Times (“my favorite bakery in the United States,” said the writer—obviously, we had to try it). It did not disappoint. We walked through the Castro neighborhood after that, browsing in some cute shops; we went to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and watched fortunes being wrapped in cookies; and later, we had dinner in North Beach (a good carb-heavy Italian meal for the runners).

Sunday, Andrew and I watched the runners finish the race; then we all went to brunch at Sears Fine Food, famous for their mini pancakes (eighteen to an order!). The San Francisco MoMA was next (thankfully breaking what I suspect may be my longest museum-free spell in many years). A baseball game (some kind of important record-breaking was going to take place) drew Andrew and the others to a bar to watch, while I took a walk to the Ferry building, to check out the fun artisanal food shops inside and take in the lovely view of the Bay Bridge. Dim sum in Chinatown rounded out our day. Then we reluctantly retrieved the car from its parking garage and headed towards home.

However, we made one final stop before getting on the highway: the Golden Gate Bridge, the first sight of it for both of us. Shrouded in fog, it is one of those iconic, almost mythical structures that make me really feel a city. The city skyline was barely visible beyond the fog; we were surrounded by Japanese tour groups, Spaniards (their holidays have begun; last year at this time Iberia went on strike and stranded thousands people in the Barcelona airport, including us), and many other tourists. Seeing one of the world’s great sights, and one of the world’s great cities (many repeat visits are definitely in order—we barely cracked the surface), is good food for the soul as we head into another suburban week.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Introducing...The New Us!

Hello. I'd like to introduce myself, Margo, and my fiancé, Andrew. We've undergone some great changes in the past few weeks. Once urban-dwellers and world-travelers, we've moved to suburban California. After an uncomfortable period of adjustment, when Andrew's face paled at the sight of the office park where he'd begin working, we seem to have settled in just fine. This week, we made a big shopping trip to a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The air-conditioning inside was phenomenal. The prices were ridiculously low. The aisles were wide, our cart almost too big to push. There, we bought a small grill. Last night, Andrew grilled us bratwursts on our small deck. We're considering buying a used SUV. Andrew actually wore a polo shirt to work today, rather than his standard long-sleeved button-down. ("I look like I work at Best Buy," he said doubtfully.) Who are we??? It is officially the New Us.

Truth be told, grilling was perfectly pleasant, the northern California evenings dusky and cool. And the suburban grocery prices are shockingly good. Some things--our deck, our grill, the apartment complex's pool and hot tub (I guess not Wal-Mart)--are definitely worth sticking around for.

Nonetheless, the skin of the New Us might have to be shed again, sooner rather than later. It's possible--very possible--that we might be moving back East. We might be leaving the Wal-Mart Supercenter behind (seriously, it was the biggest store I've ever seen, anywhere--so big that my legs actually hurt after walking the length of it a few times to get what we needed). It's, thankfully, very possible that we will not be buying a Jeep Cherokee, regardless of how low the price is. We don't have any inkling yet of what might happen. But each day, the amoebic uncertainty hovering before us takes on a few more edges. The shape--whatever it will be--will surely emerge soon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Looking Up

It's always this way, isn't it? With freelancing, I mean. There were a few weeks of nothing--finishing up one project, but nothing new coming in; and now, suddenly, I'm scrambling to organize myself enough to get started on several new things. It's the blessing and the curse of freelancing. But I've given up the temping idea (though they've bothered my references and perhaps will still manage to find me the *perfect* assignment) and have spent the past few days sending resumes out en masse for freelance work. Two good things have come through--both steady and well-paying. One of them is even interesting (and they contacted me even though I realized yesterday, to my horror, that there was a typo in my cover letter, which extolled my attention to detail. That's the problem with trying to work at Panera.)

Anyway. The other big news is that…we bought a table and chairs! It makes all the difference. It really does. And today we're getting internet service hooked up. We even bought a little desk lamp, some more kitchen things, and did a big grocery shop. It's almost like we're making a real home.

So it makes sense that today would be the day that Andrew has the phone call with the Spain/NYC company. They haven't called yet, and my stomach is in knots. They could say "Gracias but no gracias." They could say "When can you come to Spain?" They could say "Let's set a start date in September." We may be off-loading this weekend everything we just bought. Who knows?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Another Saturday Night


Another Saturday night and I ain't got no furniture

I could go buy some, but we might not stay

Now how I wish I had someplace to sit down

I'm in an awful way.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Driving Fact

It occurred to me recently that I have done more driving in the past three weeks than I've done in the past eight years. Strange, no? But true. I rarely drove when I lived in NYC, save for the occasional driving I did during visits home. And I never drove in Spain--all the cars were stick-shifts, so Andrew was the designated driver for all of our explorations. But here, there is no option. I must drive, every single day, heaving myself in and out of the car, holding my breath as I ease into our unreasonably difficult parking space at the apartment complex, maneuver along the roads as I drive Andrew to work, drive myself to Panera to use their free wi-fi, drive to the mall.

Andrew, in casual conversation with one of his co-workers this week, mentioned that he hadn't had a car in New York. His co-worker was flummoxed. How did we get groceries? How did we do anything? How did we live? How could we stand going to the grocery store more than once a month? I forget sometimes that having a car is the norm, not the unpleasant exception. She was also (understandably) shocked by his mention of the recent New York Times article about the fact that parking spaces are being sold in NYC for $225,000. Ah, New York.

In any case, my driving skills are coming back, slowly but surely, and I'm definitely better now than I was three weeks ago. My maximum speed has risen to 50 now, and I can, very occasionally, muster up the courage to change lanes. Progress! A bright side of all this is that I can once again freely wear very high heels. I couldn't do that when there were long walks to the subway/metro, grocery store, etc. , often over cobblestones. Small things...

Temp Time

Here’s a little something I’ve learned in the few weeks I’ve been back in the U.S.: it’s not so fun to stay at home all day here. There is nothing blissful about morning coffee, about long, sunny afternoons, about sitting down at my desk. There are myriad reasons for this. First, I don’t really have adequate coffee-making paraphernalia right now, and there is no splendid terrace (kitty-corner from La Pedrera!) on which to sip it. The long, sunny afternoons here (once spent strolling down Passeig de Gracia! Walking to the port! Browsing through a museum!) are dulled to an unrecognizable blur here in our suburban, air-conditioned apartment. And I don’t have a desk to sit at yet. Any “settling in for the day” takes place on the floor.

All of this, clearly, is a far cry from the pleasures of working from home in Spain. And so I had the thought this week that perhaps it’s time to find an office job—just for a little while, just until we know better what our plans are, just to bring in a little extra cash to jump-start our savings for a house. Writing is too hard to do without any kind of domestic calm; freelance work is less desirable since staying home is less so too; there aren’t any museums or beaches in which to spend my hours; and I’ve started to strain my eyes from reading so much. (That’s all just a long way of saying I really need to get out of the house.) So I called a long list of employment agencies this week, intent on finding work as a temp. I’ve temped before, in New York, many years ago; admin temp work is actually quite satisfying when the money’s good, and, lacking any domestic detritus to organize here, I was actually looking forward to organizing someone else’s stuff for a while.

This decision, I see now, was perhaps ill-advised. First, no one will give me any work; they say it’s a waste of time for me to even come in for a typing test but that they'll keep my resume on file in case a job comes up that fits my skills. No one seems to get that I'm not looking for a job that fits my skills--I just want to get out of the house during this strange, unsettled period. I finally did make it into one place for an interview, and I see now why the other places were reluctant—a large part of the “orientation video” I had to watch after filling out paperwork talked about the importance of not filling soda machines or lifting water-cooler bottles if it wasn’t explicitly part of my job description. The recruiter I talked to seemed puzzled about what I was doing there, unsure even what to ask me, and she wouldn’t even tell me any of the jobs available. “Just an example,” I coaxed. “Just to have an idea of what’s out there.” She said one current offering was working in customer service at a manufacturing firm for $11/hour. Irate customers and dismal wages—I shuddered. “Right,” she said, cringing. “This isn’t New York.”

It seems the executive-level, high-paying temp work I expected based on my NYC experience is simply nonexistent here. After my interview there I was, back at the apartment by 2pm, trying to figure out how on earth one spends one’s days without furniture, without cooking utensils, without museums or places to walk or cafes in which to people-watch, in this Soulless City that is our suburban home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Phrase of the Day

OWKWS [OOK-wiss]: A phrase added to any run-of-the-mill statement of possibility that indicates that statement’s current impossibility. For example: “We can buy some serrated knives—owkws” or “We really need to buy a roll of paper towels—well, owkws” or “It’ll be great once we don’t have to sit on the floor anymore. We can get chairs owkws.”

Its translation, of course, is “once we know we’re staying,” and we’ve been saying it so much over the past week that I finally just abbreviated it. We have many, many things we would like to buy, including but not limited to serrated knives and internet access and a jar of salt and table and chairs, but it simply does not make sense to purchase these items until—yes—until we know we’re staying. And so our unfurnished, haphazard, chair-less state continues, broken up pleasantly by swims in our pool and our plans for our next weekend trip.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A California Road Trip

This weekend, loathe to spend too much time sitting on the floor in our furniture-free apartment and determined to see more of California, Andrew and I decided to take a road trip; so Saturday morning, we set out for the coast. We were quickly out of the suburbs and into farm country—and then into territory far wilder. When we hit Route 1, it was really just us and the road. Route 1 meanders along the coast, with not much around except state parks. My idea of the California coastline was of sunny, sandy beaches and lots of sunbathing blond people—an idea that was proven absolutely and wholly incorrect. In reality, the northern coast is cold and foggy, rocky and wild, with more sea grasses and brush than beach towels. Sometimes the fog hovered just over the water, so that driving along the roads above it was like being above the clouds—more like flying than driving.

We stopped for lunch in Bodega Bay, at a little seafood shack called The Boat House. The sign outside advertised BBQ oysters as their specialty, and we were intrigued. We sat inside instead of on the little deck—it was truly chilly outside—and ordered fish n’ chips and the oysters. What came to the table was a plate of oysters on the half shell, sizzling from being on the grill, smothered in BBQ sauce. The oysters were gigantic—I was glad they were cooked; they would have been hard to stomach otherwise—and overall they were an interesting seafood experience.

We headed north from there, leaving civilization farther and farther behind. We saw isolated houses here and there, and a few other cars, but mostly we saw other people only when we pulled off the road and descended the bluffs down to the ocean. It was far too cold to swim, but we put our feet in; and at one beach we spread out a sheet and read for a while.

Eventually, we reached Point Arena, where we had a reservation at The Seashell Inn. We’d driven through some beautiful areas, with lovely-looking B&B’s; Point Arena was like their wayward, hippie sister. The houses were painted bright, odd colors; one had large, brightly-painted wooden cutouts of angels affixed to the rooftop and the tree in front. There was an organic burrito shop, a restaurant called the Phoenix, and a yoga/spirituality studio with large stone elephants flanking the entrance. We had dinner at the Phoenix—more fish n’ chips, gumbo, and locally brewed beer—then retreated to the Seashell, in all its fifties splendor, to read.

Sunday, we had breakfast at a local diner, then headed north once more to Manchester beach. It was beautiful, as well as strange; the sand was strewn with driftwood and thick, solid, alien-looking seaweed that looked like it might slither away at any moment. A few people had built lean-to’s out of driftwood (the whole coast is a camping-fan’s heaven).

We decided to head home by an inland route, and the drive took us through thick pine forests and incredibly curvy roads. We stopped in Boonville, home to the Andersen Brewery, for a tasting of some of their beers; and we stopped along the road a few times to collect pinecones. We found bagsful of medium-sized pinecones, as well as some monstrously large ones that Andrew foraged for on a steep wooded hill. Just a few weeks ago, Andrew was studying for his MBA at the number-one business school in Europe; and now we were collecting pinecones in the middle of nowhere, California. Very strange to have traveled to this particular point from that one.

The final leg of our journey took us through Napa, and we would through vineyard after vineyard—a wine-tasting tour will be a perfect next road trip. It was a lovely weekend excursion, nice to know that good seafood and lovely daytrips aren’t that far from us even here in suburbia. And when we came home, we took a dip in our pool and hot tub—definitely nothing to complain about. If we indeed stay here for a little while, I think we’ll be able to fashion quite a nice little life for ourselves. We shall see what this week brings.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

One Thing I Love

One thing I love so far about CA is Trader Joe’s. It sounds funny to say that pretty much the only thing I really like so far about the West Coast is a grocery store, but so it is. I was familiar with Trader Joe’s before this. There was one in Dayton, and one opened in NYC just before I left, so I’ve had occasion to try some of its offerings in the past. But it seems different here, and cheaper. I’ve gone twice now—there’s one not far from this apartment—and feel overwhelmed whenever I go in; there's so much to choose from. It’s the perfect store for this stage, since many of the products are pretty much heat-and-eat. For people without too many cooking utensils and not even a bottle of olive oil or jar of salt, it’s ideal.

And the big news of today’s excursion to Trader Joe’s is this: I walked! Despite popular belief, it is possible to walk from the apartment to Trader Joe’s. Granted, the walk is less than scenic (i.e., along a busy highway), but there are sidewalks, and two intersections at which to cross the road, and even though it was really hot and the frozen products I bought may very well have melted on the way home, soon to poison us both, the point is that I walked somewhere. I left the car in its covered parking spot and went somewhere on foot. Splendid.

A New Home in Citrus Heights

Here’s the good news: we’re out of the MDPOE. Thank goodness. We couldn’t wait to leave that place, so we packed up our stuff and checked out Tuesday morning before I drove Andrew to work. Goodbye and good riddance to that soulless place.

Now we have a new home, in Citrus Heights. It is a truly lovely apartment, one we very well may have chosen even in another city. It's a studio, but larger than a NYC studio, and there's a fireplace, a nice little deck on which we're permitted to put a grill, a pool, and a 'clubhouse' with exercise equipment, a sauna, and a pool table. It is nice to have our suitcases in one place, to know that housekeeping isn’t going to knock early in the morning; yet I hesitate to unpack completely, since we may be leaving soon. And though it’s definitely a good thing that we’re here instead of in another hotel, a new set of problems have arisen that almost drove me to a breakdown Tuesday morning in Target.

The main problem is this: this apartment is unfurnished, and we’re loathe to buy anything to furnish it until we know for sure we’re staying for at least the three months we’re supposed to. It is entirely possible that we’ll be leaving within a week or so. It doesn’t make sense to buy a bed and table, dishes and sheets, when we might just have to pitch them in a few days. But we can’t not buy them, either, because what are we supposed to do? We have to sleep on something. We have to have something to eat off of. We have to have a lamp. So I went to Target with the intention of getting the basics. But as I filled my cart with good Target deals—an entire 16-piece set of plates for $10, a floor lamp on sale for $5—I kept thinking about all the plates and lamps I already own, stored in the attic in Connellsville. I have far nicer things than what I put in my cart and paid for. We’re in a black hole of needless but necessary spending right now. And let’s not even talk about the rental car.

It’s an impossible task, this furnishing-but-not-furnishing, but we’re making slow progress. We have an air mattress to sleep on, and two stools for the kitchen counter so we have a place to sit. Nonetheless, we’re in a kind of quasi-life, here but not here, still unsure of where we’ll be this weekend, next week, the week after. We should, hopefully, know something soon.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A Driving Scare

Oh my. I just went out to the bank to get a money order for our new apartment-signing tonight, and even though I'd carefully written out all the directions, I accidentally wound up on the freeway. "Noooooooo," I screamed as I was swept up into the traffic. I maintained my old-lady speed of 40, got off at the first exit and, after calling Andrew, managed to get home. I HATE DRIVING. No, let me amend that: I hate driving in a new place. I don't know what's wrong with me: I just cannot get the lay of the land here, road-wise. Andrew already knows what roads are parallel to which others, how to get to Target the back way, etc etc. Meanwhile, on the sheet of directions I've been keeping I have to write down everything, even which way to turn out of the MDPOE's parking lot. It just does not make sense to me. What I wouldn't give for a metro map right now--now that I can decipher in a heartbeat. I have to go pick Andrew up at work in a little while; let's hope I can stay freeway-free.

Nightmare at the MDPOE

Last night I had a horrendous dream that took place here at the MDPOE. It involved bugs (I found a small black bug right before going to bed, so that's understandable) and a grisly murder. I woke up completely freaked out. There is a very strange, bad energy here that I cannot wait to escape from.

Happily, we will be able to escape soon, since we were approved for our new apartment in Citrus Heights. We'll move in tomorrow. And though we'll be sleeping on an air mattress and continuing to eat from plastic silverware and paper plates until we're more sure of what's happening, at least we will be in our own place. Progress!

Another Day at the MDPOE

So, it was another day at the MDPOE. We tried to spend as little time here as possible. Fortunately, our housing situation seems to be looking up: we dropped off our applications for the studio in Citrus Heights, and we might be able to move in as soon as tomorrow or Tuesday. And we may be able to live there for as long as four days! (Seems incredible, but true, that we could very well be heading back East this weekend.)

A few bright spots of today: we discovered a Trader Joe's just across the street from our potential new apartment; and we stopped into a few stores today to get the lay of the land for our wedding registry, which we'll tackle this coming weekend. It's nice to fantasize about devilled egg plates and cheese boards and coffee makers--and having a home to go with them.

Andrew starts work tomorrow, which is exciting but also sad; since his classes ended in March, we've spent pretty much all day, every day, together, save for a few days when he was in Jacksonville and I was in Connellsville. It'll be strange spending the workday apart now. Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well with his new job! And let's all hope that tomorrow is indeed our last day at the MDPOE.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The MDPOE

Well, here we are in our new "home" away from home, a studio efficiency in Extended Stay America, a long-term-stay hotel. The ESA--or, as I prefer to call it, the MDPOE (Most Depressing Place On Earth)--is truly awful. We are, as I described yesterday, in a tiny hotel room that's called an efficiency because of its tiny kitchen. We're here for three nights, before we--hopefully--move into our new apartment. Outside our window are a parking lot and a freeway. However, we got a very cheap rate on Priceline, and it's close to Andrew's job, so we are accepting the trade-off.

Last night, we went to see a light movie to take our minds off all this, "License to Wed," which we thought we'd enjoy because it's about a wedding but which was awful. We were hungry afterwards, and the only place open was the In N' Out Burger, a fast-food restaurant. Immediately upon entering, Andrew and I both felt the hairs on the backs of our necks stand up--that sixth sense left over from living in NYC and Barcelona (real cities) that indicates that a place is one we'd best leave as soon as possible. We took our burgers to go and ate them, cold and soggy, back at the Hyatt. Today, we moved to the MDPOE, then went to the mall and had lunch in the food court. Then we went to the grocery store and bought sandwich fixings, paper plates, and plastic silverware (only one fork and one spoon were provided by the MDPOE), in an attempt to save a bit of money over the next couple of days. We're now back at the MDPOE, drinking beer and vacantly watching TV--there is nothing else to do. How did this become my life? And can I have my old one back, please?

As we ate our lunch from styrofoam containers today in the food court, Andrew observed that just three weeks ago we were sitting outside in Barcelona, eating huge pots of fresh mussels and drinking claras, on our way to the beach. We are both just dazed and horrified at what we've stumbled into. My fingers are crossed that Andrew adores his job on Monday--then at least we'll have a solid, good purpose for being here...It will make everything more palatable. So will unpacking my suitcases.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Suburban Hell

It's clear to us now why we can't seem to figure out this city: it's hardly a city at all. In fact, what we now know for certain is that we've entered a suburban hell. Today we drove to Roseville, where Andrew will be working, and realized with horror that he'll be working in an office park. Few things, for me, are more depressing than an office park. Freeways wind around the area, which has no sidewalks but an abundance of malls, fast-food restaurants, and shopping plazas. "This is hell," Andrew declared as we drove around (only one of us can be pessimistic/freaking out at a time--a vow we made some time ago that just might make it into our wedding ceremony). "Things could not get any worse than this."

We had driven to Roseville to try to find (still) an apartment. Within an hour or so after emailing the Dorm Room guys that we wanted to sublet their place, we decided we should instead try to live in Roseville so Andrew's commute will be easier. We made an appointment at an extended-stay hotel, where we'd found a studio efficiency available on a month-to-month basis. It was pricey, but would probably save us money in the long run because it's already fully furnished, including plates and pots and etc. But what we found was that the extended-stay hotel is simply a nightmare. Imagine a very, very small hotel room, not even a particularly nice one. Now imagine two people living there. Imagine one of those people spending all day in that room, with nowhere to go but Target or the mall if she started to go a little stir-crazy, with no one to talk to all day and absolutely no sounds save for the gusty hum of the cooling ducts. Talk about Valley of the Dolls.

Next we visited an unfurnished studio in Citrus Heights, near Roseville. It's small. There's no furniture. But it's cheap, and we can rent it month-to-month, and the security deposit is small, and there's a pool. We're taking it. Not so much because it's ideal--but because it fits the very strange set of criteria we have right now, more or less. We're staying at a hotel for a few more nights, and we'll hopefully move in next week, assuming they "accept" our "application." Seriously. We're the best tenants they'll ever see. They'd better take us.

And so begins our suburban experiment. We are both more than a little horrified to find ourselves here, and we highly doubt we'll be here for longer than three months (if we even wind up staying that long). Many years ago I read Henry Miller's "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare," and though I don't remember even one detail about the book, the title kept leaping into my mind as we drove around Roseville today. This is our air-conditioned nightmare. One can only guess what the next few weeks will be like.

One small bright spot: our new apartment is just off a street called Sunrise Boulevard, which actually intersects with a street called Sunset Street. So I could potentially tell someone to meet me at the corner of Sunrise and Sunset--how philosophical. How metaphysical. It makes me want to write a dramatic, overwrought poem called "The Corner of Sunrise and Sunset."

A New Day

Today, a new day, has begun. It is 108 F outside. We have been slavishly feeding the meter all morning yet still got a parking ticket. We quasi-decided to take the "dorm" apartment in Davis, yet no one has returned our calls, suggesting that the apartment has been taken. We're back to zero. Let's hope things improve. We're supposed to check out of the Hyatt tomorrow.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Search Continues

The search for an apartment continues, after a brief hiatus on the 4th. Things are not looking good. There are no short-term leases, the month-to-month rentals we've found have been too expensive or come with roommates, and we've given up on finding a furnished place altogether. We're facing two complications: 1. We don't know if we'll be here longer than three months. 2. We don't even know if we'll be here past next week, since the Spain/New York job is once again in the mix.

At this point, we're pretty much ready to wash our hands of the whole Sacramento experiment and hightail it back East. Nothing is working out the way we expected. We still don't see anyone on the street, and there's no "downtown" like we're used to; no shopping strip, no big bookstore, and we still haven't found a grocery store. But I realize now why no one's outside: it's the hottest place I've ever been--over 100 each day; it's hard to breathe outside. Being outside even for a few minutes makes my skin feel so hot and tight it's like being a rotisserie chicken. And the car we have is already proving a pain; we have to keep running outside to feed the parking meter, and we can't seem to rustle up enough quarters. Where, where, are all the professional thirty-year-old couples? Where are they living? What are they doing? Where do they buy their groceries???

Of course, if he loves the job here, we'll be fine--then we'll be able to find a nice apartment that we can really be excited about. The problem is just trying to find something cheap and short-term, which limits our options considerably. We've seen some beautiful houses and apartments here that would be wonderful--we just can't consider those at this juncture. And I'm sure the city will grow on us once we understand it a little more.

In any case, our moods are less than happy right now, and we're wondering if we shouldn't just pack it in. I'm sure we'll feel differently tomorrow but I wanted to record this low spell nonetheless...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Apartment Search, Day One

Today we set out to find an apartment. The search did not go well. We tried several areas--downtown Sacramento, Davis, Roseville--but didn't find a neighborhood that seemed like it could be a home. The problem, too, is that there are very, very few options for a short-term furnished rental. In Davis, we found one apartment kind of in the middle of nowhere that seemed to promise a Valley of the Dolls-style nervous breakdown. We visited another apartment and were shown around by a kid who must have been no more than nineteen; it was his college apartment and he was leaving for the summer. It was like being inside a dorm room, complete with a foosball table. The two apartments we saw in a complex in Sacramento were nice enough. However, in the first, I found an enormous cockroach in the bathroom. In the second, there was a giant millipede in the sink. Needless to say, these little treats did not bode well.

So we're back to zero, and tomorrow is a holiday so our search won't resume until Thursday. This is a strange city; it seems deserted, empty, like no one actually lives here. We haven't yet found a bookstore, or a grocery store, or a pharmacy. And even though the time difference is only three hours, I am just completely exhausted. It was not the best day but we are both determined to crack this city and figure all this out...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

More Complications!

Working on a West Coast time zone is just ridiculous. I just had a 6am phone call with an editor in Dubai, who was ending his work day. (I'm still on East Coast time, so I'm wide awake.) Long story short--I was just offered a super-cool writing job that I'm not sure I'll be able to take, since it requires a physical presence in Barcelona. As of yesterday morning, I would have had to decline the project. But who knows now? I may be working on it next week. This situation keeps getting more and more layered and intense.

Minute by Minute

We're in Sacramento. We arrived last night, bags in tow, to one of the smallest airports I've ever seen; then took a cab downtown, which was like a ghostown at 9:30pm. We checked into the also deserted Hyatt and looked at a list of restaurants in the neighborhood; few were open past 10pm, many just until 9. Fortunately we found a P.F. Chang's open till 11. Only three other tables were populated.

But guess what: we might not be staying in CA. Yesterday morning, just two hours before we left for the airport, Andrew got an email that seems to confirm what an ambiguous phone call Friday evening suggested: he'll be offered another job, one he may prefer to this one, one that not only will be based on the opposite coast but will take us back to Spain temporarily. As I predicted, we were at the airport and Andrew was frantically trying to call the woman in Spain; there was the possibility of not getting on the plane, of buying a different ticket. He was unsuccessful, so we got on the plane to Sacramento--more because we don't really have anywhere else to go than any other reason. But last night, when the bellboy hauled our luggage onto a cart and joked, "Visiting for just one night?" I had to say, "Maybe."

So here we are in CA. We could be here for five days or five years. We could be buying a car this weekend or flying back to Barcelona. We could be apartment-hunting this week or just having a strange little vacation. I have never felt so displaced in my entire life. Like Schrodinger's cat, we're in several states at once: neither here nor not here, staying nor not staying, planned nor unplanned, knowing nor unknowing. It's 5:45am. By the end of the day our entire plan may have changed once more. Things are changing literally minute by minute.