Old School

Getting back home from dinner had two options: public transportation or Lyft. Given that there were three of us (myself and my parents), I opted for Lyft. It would be faster and only 10$ more than all three of us taking multiple transfers between different transportation systems.

Plus, it turned out the recent heat wave (100°F plus mugginess) caused some power outages. Not sure the public transportation systems (electric based) would even be running.

So our driver was Azeem, who had been in the area for a few years and came from Afghanistan. He chuckled at my father’s request for turning up the AC; it had already been on, but he wanted it full blast. He politely turned it up.

He was neither the chattiest nor the quietest of Lyft drivers I have encountered over the last few months (I have been using Lyft more because of the buses I must catch to go part of my journey home do not run on a more frequent basis. If I miss it, I will have to wait a full half hour or 45 minutes for the next.) Even so, he was friendly, and I made sure to mark that in giving feedback. I also always write comments; tonight it was my gratefulness for his air conditioned car for a 30 minute ride.

As we made it to our destination, Azeem parked to let us out. My mother and I exited, but my father remained in the car: “Wait!” he says, “Did you tip him?”  He pulled out his wallet and is going through his bills.

“Dad, that’s in the app.”

“Wait, he needs a tip.”

“You tip in the app.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get the tip.” 

To the Lyft driver, I say, “Sorry, he’s old school. He thinks you are a cab.”

He just smiles, amused, and then grateful when my father hands him a twenty dollar bill before exiting his car.

I tipped him in the app anyway.

Shooting the Messenger

The scene at dinner:

[I am seated with my mother, father, elder brother S, and his partner O. It is a charming, old Italian restaurant with dark red tablecloths and curtains, plus pretty Tiffany-style lamps for each table.]

Mom: I messed up on Facebook. I’m so confused by Messenger.

O: What did you do?

Mom: I don’t know what happened. I was trying to create a group on Facebook, and next thing I know, I’ve sent a bunch of messages to people, and they’re all saying they aren’t interested. So I deleted my page.

S: You were trying to create a group? I am confused. What were you doing?

Me: Were you just trying to make a group list of your contacts, like for privacy permission?

Mom: Yeah.

Me: Ohhh. I bet Messenger sent a bunch of messages to people in your contacts telling them you joined Messager–and Facebook then will try to get them to download the Messenger app if they try to view new messages while on mobile.

Mom: I think that is what happened.

Me [ready to stab a steak knife through the table]: I HATE THAT MESSENGER SHIT.

[The table breaks out into laughter.]

O: So tell us how you really feel.

2017: A Year of Many Changes

I realize that the year is only a little more than half over, and it has been a tumultuous year so far. This is my life recap:

January
Work: I began working overtime constantly. My strict adherence to trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance became impossible with the work demands. 10-11 hour days became a new a norm.

Love: My one great joy was a long weekend with Seabiscuit for his birthday: Point Cabrillo was beautiful. We went naked hot-tubbing together in Mendocino. We saw whales spouting off the coast. I had never been so happy as that special weekend with him.

Home: Chaos. My ex-boyfriend still refused to move out even though we had broken up roughly 9 months ago.

February
Work: The overtime continued. Fellow coworkers on my team began to leave the company, adding more to the workload for me and the few left behind.

Love: Seabiscuit confessed he loved me, but two weeks later he broke up with me, saying he needed to fix things in his life first before being in a relationship. I was devastated and only had consolation in that he said he still wanted to remain friends, see plays together and wanted to see a Monet exhibit together with me. I think things had gotten too serious for him (neither of us expected our relationship to become so serious so quickly) and scared him. I still think that. He also announces he is most likely going to be taking a job in Texas. A double heartbreak.

Home: After a nightmarish drama (including threats and calls to the police), the ex finally moved out the last day of the month. He took the three cats with him, and I am still sad, even now, that I never got to say goodbye to them.

March
Work: Still craziness as the team shrunk. The burnout began as I felt more and more unappreciated. My boss told me we all have to make sacrifices; her inconsistencies in her directions began. I became very unhappy with work.

Love: Heartbroken and still trying to navigate what it means to be friends now. It was a sudden shift from daily emails to maybe an email or two a week. A great light in my life was no longer there to comfort me. I cried a lot. At the end of the month, he decides against the job in Texas. I wonder then if that was also partly why he broke up: to not have me be a deciding factor in the job decision.

Home: My parents moved in next door. Literally next door. We share a wall. I begin trying to clean the mess of the apartment to make it my own home.

April
Work
: The burnout continues. I no longer know who my boss is anymore as she has become someone I don’t recognize. Our team continues to shrink. I become the sole person on the team as the only other team member left comes down with shingles. When I describe how overwhelmed I am to my boss in a one-on-one, she tells me: “What I’m hearing is this is a role fit issue for you. Maybe you should start looking for work outside of [Company].” she also tells me, “You don’t seem alive anymore.” I realize then that this place I felt was my second home for over 3 years is now a hostile environment.

Love: It is my first time seeing Seabiscuit since February. We see a play late in the month, Dog Sees God, with a couple of my friends. Before he leaves, he hugs and kisses me on the lips. I am happy about that but more confused than ever and still brokenhearted.

Home: I have ripped out cheap, built-in particle-board closet cabinets in order to remove a smelly old strip of carpet (about 60 square feet). It reeks of cat, and no carpet cleaner can get through to the strip of padding straight out of the 1960s that has been glued to the uneven concrete floor beneath it. Fun. Lots of home improvement fun. And chaos as I destroy cabinets. It’s also weird getting used to parents next door. We put in tile to replace the carpet.

May
Work: It’s all downhill. Resentment builds along with the burnout. I feel my boss throws me and the other member of our team under a bus. Despite telling me we all have to make sacrifices and that I need to work now, now apparently it’s my fault I’m burnt out and working more than 8 hours. She used to care about our team, but that care has been MIA for a while now. Our team grows, but it’s a too little, too late effort. By the end of the month, I begin considering other jobs and looking.

Love: Still struggling to understand my relationship with Seabiscuit. It is hard feeling I’ve lost him. I keep asking about when we shall see the Monet exhibit together as it ended that month. At the second to last weekend of it, we tentatively set a date to see it together. I am then heartbroken when he announces Friday he shall see it with his daughter instead but I also realize I can’t be angry with him. He wants to spend as much time with his youngest daughter before she goes to college. It is a double pain. I go to the Monet exhibit separately with a friend instead. Unbeknownst to me, the same painting that is his favorite of the exhibit becomes a painting that inspires a poem when I see it.

Home: My parents offer some comfort, but the boundaries between my apartment and theirs need to be set. While I am grateful for their help, I also feel overwhelmed by constant presence. Sometimes I just need peace and want to be alone. They help with repainting the apartment. The apartment is chaos as things get shuffled around and I haven’t replaced the cabinets I destroyed.

June
Work: At this stage, I’m having multiple moments weekly where I think to myself, “Why don’t I just get out of my seat and quit this job RIGHT NOW?” I feel it is important I quit soon. I know that I will not be able to keep giving 100% any more. The resentment is building, and I don’t want to be that asshole who quits and leaves a mess behind. I will give 100% up until my last day. I apply to a job that opens up and land it by the end of the month.

Love: Still confused. I see another play with Seabiscuit, As You Like It, and am nowhere nearer an answer to our relationship status. We kiss, hug, and hold hands while together. It is very confusing. While our email contact is still distant from what it was, he pulls through during important moments, like especially bad days at work and to help me prepare for the job interview I had. I read the book Sex with Shakespeare and am convinced Seabiscuit is my lost other half. I cry while reading the book. It is the most important book I have read in all of 2017 and might be one of the most meaningful ones in my entire life. (I am grateful for Dan Savage having mentioned it in one of his columns as well as column’s wisdom.)

Home: It is still a neverending work in progress. Painting is still underway. The apartment feels like it will always be chaos.

July
Work: The first week of July, I’m in Alaska on a cruise. Work since then has been chaos, but I know my boss is supportive and will help me grow in ways I’d never expect. Long days, a long commute, and lots of work piles on. Despite how hard I have to work, I know things will get better.

Love: When I realize it is 5 months since Seabiscuit broke up with me and that our relationship lasted just a week or so shy of 6 months, I am very hurt and sad. One friend, whose wedding I will attend later this year, tells me to get over “Seaface”. I am more hurt. I feel people do not understand why the relationship is special. I got to see him today for our play, The Glass Menagerie. We hold hands almost the entire time. I want to talk about us, but as he tells me about his daughters, I hold back. While I am sad to not get more time with him, I am happy for him in seeing how happy he is to spend so much time with his daughters.

Home: I really gotta set boundaries with the parents. It feels intrusive, even though I know they mean well. I feel like I will always be alone if they do not give me space. And after a long day at work and a long commute, I just want my own space. Painting is mostly done but still in progress.

So as we get closer to just 5 more months left, I wonder what’s going to happen next?

Dads and Daughters

Even though R and Dina are gone, the parents are still in town until Monday morning. Last night, we ate at Dad’s favorite place in Berkeley (Sliver) before–well, let me not get ahead of myself here. We went to IKEA. I wanted a bench, a simple bench for the window of my apartment (still a shortage of eating there, which my father complained about constantly while in it).However, Dad insisted on a loveseat Bygyll or Mygyll or some other Swedish name, you know how it is. I was extremely doubtful we could fit furniture of that size and the three if us in his car. 

He asked the IKEA staff for measurements of what the boxes are that it comes in. They printed it out for him and he determined (in 100% confidence of Dad-is-always-right mode) that it would fit.

Then we got separated as he had to keep running to the bathroom but only came back as he said he couldn’t find it despite all the signage and arrows. So my mom had to escort him, but her phone was dead from (what else?) playing Pokémon Go. I waited a bit to see if they would find me before checking out as I wanted confirmation the sofa WOULD fit before buying it (if I didn’t, I knew I would be hearing him complain for the next two years every time they visited about having nowhere to sit.)

After browsing the rest of the store, I waited in Self-Service. I waited 30minutes before I went ahead and moved to check out, paying for the couch. It wasn’t a purchase I could pick out myself in the self-service section, but one the staff had to pick out from the back once I paid for it. I met the parents as I’m paying for everything.They move the car to the loading zome while I wait for the 2 boxes that are being picked out from their backstock.

The IKEA guy brings out the boxes, and as soon as I saw them, I knew we were in trouble. Sure was a hell of a lot bigger than I was expecting. Well, this will be…fun. Dad damn near threw a tantrum as we played Tetris with the poor IKEA guy in the middle. I grew worried Dad was having a sugar low and/or about to have a PTSD/dementia episode and hurt someone. He got the crazy eyes when he shouted, “Goddammit!” and I thought we were minutes away from a 5150 call.

The good news:

The boxes and three people CAN fit in a KIA Sorento.

Buuuuuuut in order to accomplish this, both middle and rear seats have to be fully flat. Thus, Dad was forced to curl up into a snail position, wedged between the side and the largest box. He did it in the trip from IKEA in Emeryville to Sliver in Berkeley, and then from Berkeley to San Francisco.

We managed to avoid any tickets and made it to my apartment in one piece. I then had had to go up three flights of stairs five times. I carried the stuff up myself. Dad attempted to help with the largest box, but really it was all me pushing.

Family–never a dull moment.

I shared this story with Seabiscuit and found his reaction (from a dad’s perspective) a perfect ending:

OMG. Dad in moving car, no seat belt, stuffed in a small corner of his own making. The epic metaphor of fatherly wisdom.

Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside.

Mr. Fix-It: Part Two

Prepare yourself, gentle readers of Northern California, for a life-changing experience. I hope you are seated, but not too closely together to another chair.

On Monday the five of us (me, my mother and father, my brother R and his girlfriend) had traveled up north to go on a cheese tour. On our way back from goat cheese and wine pairings, we stopped at a Peet’s Coffee in north Santa Rosa. I hadn’t had coffee all day and felt deprived; it isn’t their coffee I love so much as their espresso.
I ask everyone their order except my father because what he says he wants is not what he wants; he says hot coffee with steamed milk, but at the ratio he considers perfection (i.e. when he won’t complain and ask the barista for hot water or to microwave it), what he really wants is a latte. I order everyone’s drinks while everyone’s taking turns at the restrooms. I put together two round tables and bring together five chairs for us.

For whatever reason, when my father sits down, he grabs another chair and pulls it close to his own even though we already have enough. I go up and grab our drinks as they come out.

Everyone is enjoying their drinks, even my father. I help my brother with his phone because he couldn’t figure out how to get Pokémon Go working. (I still don’t play it, but I knew what the issue was.)

My father decides his drink needs one more Splenda, so he moves to get up but immediately sits back down. There is a look of pained horror on his face that I find baffling.

“What’s that face for?” I ask. “The Splenda is right over there.”

He hangs his head down and shakes it.

“What?” Now all of us are turned and looking at him, giving our full attention.

After a long pause and more head shaking, he says:

“These chairs were too close together, and when I moved,” here he lowers his voice, “I pinched my scrotum.”

If any of us had anything in our mouths at that moment, I am certain we would have either choked or spit it out. Instead, we all began laughing, me especially because if he hadn’t pulled in the unneeded sixth chair to begin with, there wouldn’t have been a problem.

When he finally got his Splenda, he stayed standing a while, hovering over us.

“Why aren’t you sitting down?” My brother asks.

“He’s still in recovery from his chair incident,” I say. More laughter.

I shall never be able to visit that Peet’s ever again without remembering this story. And if you, gentle readers, should find yourself at that Peet’s in North Santa Rosa, be careful where you sit, knowing that two chairs there once pinched an older man’s scrotum.

Mr. Fix-It

My family came to visit, seeing my new apartment in San Francisco for the first time.

My dad, in typical fatherly fashion, had to make himself useful by playing Mr. Fix-It.

“What’s wrong with your sink?” He asks, as if he doesn’t already know.

“It runs slow,” I answer.

“Did your friend not live here for a long time?”

“He has been gone a while.”

“The pipes are probably clogged with silt. I can fix this. Do you have something I can use to clean the pipes, like a hanger?”

I find an old dry cleaner’s hanger with the cardboard bottom and hand it to him. He pulls the cardboard stick part off and starts messing with the sink.

The rest of us continue doing normal family visiting things, like talking. I hear him continue to tinker away with the sink, flushing water, and seeing how slow it drains.

Finally he moves on to the metal part of the coat hanger and bends it like a fishing line and hook. He starts trying to clear whatever gunk buildup he can reach with it. Then it gets stuck.

He calls my younger brother for help, figuring a younger, stronger person could get the coat hanger unstuck. My brother fails, and it starts looking like we’ll need to take apart the pipes.

My father likes to tell people how he once visited a fortune teller who read his palm and told him that in a past life he was a great Chinese philosopher. Confucius, he decided.

As I relay the news to the rest of the family that we now need to make a trip to the local hardware store to fix the sink, I joke, “In a past life, he was an abortionist.”

“But not a very good one,” my brother adds.

Dad Stories

So my family is in town, and we hung out at my older brother’s place in the Castro for a while. It was me, S and his boyfriend Oscar, my mom and dad, our younger brother R and his girlfriend Dina.

We started talking about broken bones–whose broken them and what. R has broken both arms (both due to rollerblading) and had crutches for a while, but nobody could remember what he did that he was in crutches twice. Dina broke both her wrists in high school while trying to protect herself after falling backwards; one broke right after the other healed and had the cast removed. My mother has also broken a wrist and had pins in her arm for a while because of how badly splintered the bone was in her case (she slipped by a pool). I’ve only broken a big toe; it was two years ago.

Jacob and I were on our way to the gym, walking there, and a man and his kids were on one side. The kids were running, so we moved to the other side to let them pass. However, the side we were then on had one of those large plants with long leaves that flow over the sidewalk, and it partly masked the unevenness of the concrete. My feet got tangled, and I tripped. In trying to stop myself from falling, I kicked my right leg out–slamming my right toe directly into the back of Jacob’s heel. I had to wear an orthopedic shoe for a few months; it wasn’t something they could cast.

Then S asks my father, “But you’ve never broken anything, right?”

He hesitates to respond, and my mother, myself, and R begin to laugh.

“Well, I have,” he says slowly.

“It’s the stupidest way to break anything,” I say.

S, puzzled by the rest of us laughing, asks, “What did you break?”

“I broke my toe,” my dad says. “In a movie theater.”

“How did you do that?”

“I felt an itch on my big toe, and it wouldn’t go away. So I bent my toe and pressed down really, really hard.”

“So you’re either really weak or really strong–which is it?” R laughs.

“Wait, so you broke your own toe? What did the doctor say when he found out?”

“I lied. I said it started after I’d been exercising in the pool.”

“He wanted his doctor to have an impression he gets more exercise than he really does and not admit he broke it himself while sitting down,” I say, still laughing.

“And then they took forever to tell me that I broke it because they thought I might have gout and they made me do blood tests before doing an X-ray.”

“Because you never told the truth!” I exclaim, “They had no idea you broke it yourself!”

“I told the truth eventually,” my dad says.

“Really?” I ask. “When?”

“When I saw a different doctor.”