***This is going to be long and rushed with less detail than normal in order to get this out while retaining a sense of delirium – Find me here and on Medium for now: @pawkyweasel***
I haven’t written a post like this in two years. Wasn’t sure if and when the motivation would bubble. It’s a matter of brain chemistry, really, and maybe a little spiritual caca that I know some of us what to believe in. For anyone who has been depressed or molested by anhedonia (sorry), then you might better understand how someone could go this long unable to create without forcing it. The affliction hit me hard, folks. After my last post I was once again overcome with the mutant anhedonia which always—motherfucking always—leads to mutant melancholia and irritability. Every goddamn time. By then I was used to the cycle but still tried to fight fire with fire, rage with rage. And before the villain’s return, I was given a few weeks on that deceptive high that makes you feel like an uncrowned king—as in you feel powerful enough to give a dirty-south beatdown to a Norse god with a sweet hammer of Uru. Or, more specifically, you feel like you can move back to the hive of Silicon Valley and start a digital media company. Ah, hopes and dreams.
And that’s why I ditched Portland. On July 15, 2016, I bought a one-way to San Jose and prepared to leave the next day. I had given the Crystal Hotel my two weeks less than a week prior and was even staying there while I planned my escape. Packing wasn’t a problem since I was still rocking my one small suitcase, meaning I was ready to go nice and early the next day. All I had to do was leave without any of my coworkers seeing me—not only because I had stolen this sweet umbrella with a katana’s handle that no one claimed, but because I was still a wee shameful about leaving like a weasel. I can’t remember the exact number, but I had called out multiple times during the last few weeks. It was weird to acknowledge the sudden urge to leave the city I was sure I’d spend years in. Again, I had hopped on an Amtrak in Sacramento with my one suitcase and sat for sixteen hours all the way to Portland. It was supposed to be a new beginning, you know? And it was at first dangnabbit. As my other posts explain, I was trying to live a life worth writing about. This made my last moments in Rip City one of the strangest adrenaline rushes I’ve had.
I left the hotel from a side exit on the first floor that opened onto W Burnside, I think. By the way, right when I was leaving I overheard a woman moaning so wildly that I thought she was faking it. I remember being torn because I wanted to hang around and get off on the visuals her tigress moans produced in my imagination. Ha! But I had a plane to catch, people. Plus, getting caught hanging out in a hallway with my bags packed and ready to go (Wild Bill voice) would have fucked with my head more than was needed. Exiting the hotel flooded me with a clean energy and I was calmer than expected—focused and dialed in. I caught the train somewhere on SW Oak, I think, and once aboard I knew I had 45 minutes to think about my time here. I was too excited and confident to be somber, but I did think about the people and things I’d miss and that would stay with me for life. I thought about Little Bird and Diana the most. I knew I had hurt Little Bird and had ruined the life I was supposed to have made here. I cut out without a goodbye to anyone. Hell, the only one who knew was my boss whom I had reminded myself to email that, hey, I know I put in my two weeks but really I meant five days—sorry. I was heading back home to Silicon Valley, finally ready to embrace my home and be my own boss. Fuck yeah, hoss.
I let the bittersweetness sink in about Powell’s, Little Bird, Diana, NW Portland International Hostel, Killer Burger, the Alphabet District, The Pearl, the long walks through downtown (days and nights), the Crystal Hotel, the kimchi poutine at Zeus Café, the beer, Leoni and Anna, Becky and her lovely little NE arts & crafts bungalow, Prasad, the food trucks, the murals, Blue Star, the International Rose Test Garden and my soul-searching treks on Wildwood trail, getting drunk before work at the Whole Foods that just happened to be directly across from the hotel. I recalled bouncing around between the Crystal Hotel, the Ace Hotel, hostels and Airbnbs. I thought about the movies and beer at Bagdad. I even thought about Keiki and Roderick. I let myself enjoy the sinking warmth each memory released. It had been a great almost-three months—and for some reason I’ve been telling people that “I lived in Portland for six months,” which I will stop doing immediately.
I was so sure that this was the right path. I had even dressed like a techie: light purple Banana Republic dress shirt from Goodwill, dark blue Levi’s and Nike Pegasus’s colored like something fit for a goddamn Miami Dolphin’s fan. It’s time to be an entrepreneur, I told myself. My plan was to stay in an Airbnb and then network and meet the folks whom I’d partner up with. Ooh, it felt so right! But first I’d stay with my sis and the kids before “returning to Portland.” I stood with them for ten days according to my notes, and really the only thing I remember is when Yani chucked a Mophie at my face that left the bridge of my nose with a nice red lump. When my sis dropped me off at the airport I was not as confident in my plan as before.
All I did was sit in some obscure corner of SJC and worked things out in my head. I sat there for about two hours, I think, feeling less detached from the alertness and reality I had left Portland with. For a moment I even considered hopping on plane out of the country if possible. I was so calm yet confused that everything became surreal: the faces, the lights, the sounds, the time. Finally I made my choice and lyfted to Mountain View—home of Google and their self-driving eggshells. This was August 8, 2016. By the 11th I was again stricken by mutant melancholia. Bad. Later I walked to a Buddhist temple on Shoreline and just sprawled out on an old wooden bench in the shade. No one else around. Parking lot sans cars. The drowsy streets under the desaturated light of the afternoon sun.
I wanted to do nothing but sit and think and eat sea salt and vinegar kettle chips—which I eventually walked across the street to buy before returning to my bench to finish the whole bag. It’s amazing how flat you can feel during this bullshit. You’re flat and numb yet there’s this soft prickle of sadness that won’t allow you to forget nor fully enjoy anything. Everything takes more effort. There’s little motivation and all decisions are uncertain in a way that becomes maddening. To feel such a high followed by such a loss feels like a candle suddenly blown out that you keep trying to light but can’t, the smoke a mischievous reminder that won’t dissipate. Better yet, I imagine I’d feel just as shitty if someone had cast a spell that was slowly transferring my youth and lifeforce to him or her, a spell made more powerful by robbing me of feeling or energy—thus making it harder to fight back.
Not again, I told myself. And because of this sudden casting from Mt. Olympus, I spent the rest of my time in Googleland avoiding others in the hostel, walking around, catching flicks, exploring the Google Plex as well as riding around Palo Alto and Stanford on the Google bike I borrowed. My only noble deed here was introducing a Korean lad to the Santa Cruz peanut butter brand. Yeah, I made a few techie contacts, but all I really wanted to do now was sit and read on the beach. The drive to start a company was gone.
By the 15th I was in Santa Barbara. I’d never been. The only images I had of the times to be had were from some friends who lived and went to school there—friends that, in my state, I was going to avoid at all costs. I was supposed to be back in PDX, remember? Anyway, I exited the bus not long after the pm golden hour had begun. And it was golden, baby. My GPS showed that I was not far from the beach, but before I could enjoy what I had come for I had to secure lodging. So, I walked to the IHSP Santa Barbara hostel on N Milpas St, one built from a small white California bungalow. However, I forgot to read the fine print that this was a student hostel. It was the only place within my budget with vacancy, and by some cosmic miracle that brought out the blessed heart of Cali Cutie at the front desk, I was able to convince her I had just graduated SFSU by supplying my student ID number the memory of which I pulled from the ass of whatever guardian angel was with me. Thanks, bruh. Anyway, I was locked in for a week. I knew where the road would lead next, but at the time I planned to enjoy what I had journeyed for: to wander in the sun and to read and to try and feel alive.
I walked Milpas straight to the beach and first saw it as I rounded Cabrillo ballpark. It reminded me of Venice—only cleaner and with less bums and funk. They were there of course, this being California and all, but the small-town chill was there. And fuzzy though my memory is, I’m sure I walked down E Cabrillo Blvd towards SBCC. Everything lay golden and vibrant. People skating. People playing soccer. Roller blading. BBQing. Boozing. All of that swell stuff. My plan was to hit the beach tomorrow morning and then go for a longer walk. Much of my time here would be spent finishing 1Q84 on Leadbetter Beach. I also walked around the campuses, drank tall cans, enjoyed acai bowls at Backyard Bowls, coffee at Santa Barbara Roasting Company, tacos de cabeza from a food truck, and many a bowl of poke at the Santa Barbara Fish Market.
By the 24th I was in Sacramento. Again, I knew where I’d end up soon, and so I wanted to enjoy the city close to one home that also happens to be the capital of my birth state. I stayed at the HI Sacramento Hostel built from a huge Victorian mansion painted like a goddamn artichoke. My time here was spent much the same as in SB. At one point I remember being surprised at how much I loved the areas I had explored—especially midtown. I’m guessing it was due to its resemblance of Portland, which I was still thinking about with much nostalgia and confusion. A week or so later and I was back in Lincoln after a cab ride that cost me 120 bucks. The driver even gave me hug yet wouldn’t give me a discount, the fuck. He hugged me because I reminded him of his son with my philosophy of wandering and not being worried about retirement. He didn’t get the full story, of course, because talking about depression through disillusionment (and thoughts of suicide) does not inspire cab drivers to be proud of their work and life choices. But thanks for the ride, my good man.
Now, I knew my sudden return would be a nice jolt to the family, but at the same time I had the nagging intuition that something was not going to end in my favor. A few days was all it took for Mike to explain that I could not stay. Not a good fit, he said—but he was sorry. So, I was given a few weeks to find a j.o.b and a new place. And despite my ol’ pal anhedonia, I was hurt by this. But not as much as Mom was. She was rendered powerfulness by Mike and Pat’s decision as well as my own. So I did what they asked.
In two weeks I was hired by Insight Coffee Roasters in Sacramento and then saved enough to move into a three-bedroom condo on La Riviera with two dudes. Being a barista was better than Whole Foods, no doubt, and the sudden accomplishment of a goal put some extra sap in my twig. However… I was then fired the day before moving into my new place. No funny stuff here, folks. According to the recovering addict GM Mike, my decision to show my coworkers the dick latte IG page was sexual harassment. Fired on the spot the very next day.
I thought about suing but the blow was at such terrible timing that I was once again reduced to the shell I had been since leaving Portland. Yet, somehow, I summoned enough will to score a spot within UPS as a package handler just before peak season. And what a scam of disguised slave labor that place is! Goodness me. I quit after three weeks once a wall of boxes fell on me. The pricks left me trapped in that trailer for three hours, with packages still arriving and falling into the pile.
A week or so later and I was hired by Whole Foods Arden. This occurred after I had remembered that one of my former soups at the Roseville store was now customer service team leader at Arden. It was desperate attempt. But I was not fucking around. My money was gone after moving in with Nick and Nick (yes, they had the same name). Anyway, if I didn’t get a job within a week I would be late on my first month’s rent. So, I asked to speak with RJ and was relieved that he recognized me. And maybe it was me being neurotic under the stress, but a part of me thought that he had the “Oh, shit” face when he spotted me. I was worried, folks. My luck at Whole Foods may have finally run out, I thought. But then I got the call. I was back at Whole Foods and the beers were flowing and the steaks sizzling once again.
I need to remind you that I am trying to post all of this without going into too much detail since that would lengthen this post a smidge past online readability. So, I will say that my life in Sacramento was meh. My old chums anhedonia and melancholia were still fucking with me. No escape when retail is your source of income, folks—at least for me, that is. The housemates were soon put off by my solitude but again they never had the full story. Only the “I just like to sit and read and daydream” explanations. And just like in Mountain View, as well as my last adventures in Lincoln, San Jose, and Portland, I thought about death a lot. I was too aware of my past. These feelings had arisen many times before, only to me their cycles had grown more intense and longer lasting. You spend months like this, with memories spanning years, and eventually a certain way out does not seem as scary or irrational. Not pretty, folks.
By March I was fucking miserable. More than ever I felt like an android simulating the cruel programming of a sociopath. I was dissolving. I was bored with everything—even reading. Reading often felt forced and took more concentration that normal, which irritated the shit out of me. I knew how I wanted to feel. I knew that I wanted to be a writer and an intellectual and that deep reading and discipline were needed, but then that annoying urge to just be a lazy fuck would weasel its way in and I knew that I had to give in or I would continue to lose. By lose I mean burn out and risk going longer without the desire to read, learn, or do something creative. In the past, many a fucking time, I would try to power through the laziness and lack of desire because that’s what I thought hosses did. But being realistic meant that I had to be honest too. Bullshit aside, I was still getting caught in a cycle that sooner or later would destroy me if not handled wisely.
So, I did my best to not force anything. It’s called going with the flow. Trivial and simple it may seem, yes, but letting go while focusing on doing what you feel like doing is crucial when you spend the majority of your time bending to the will and lifestyle of others—as in weasel customers, bosses, lovers, housemates, roommates and landlords. I have never been shy about letting people know that the jobs I’ve had and my living situations always left me feeling less in control of my life—variables that I had been unable to change for years, and ones that I thought about more than sex. I must’ve been something royal in a past life, because I want to spend the rest of my life with full ownership of my time while using my wits to enforce my will when needed (thanks, Haruki). Certain things are unavoidable thanks to the power of government, of course, but one day I will have no boss and no landlord.
I will continue to weasel my way around society. One day most of my time and energy and money will belong to me. Anyway, I spent my off time determined to go with the flow. If that meant not wanting to ever write again, then so be it. I would not force it. I remember napping all the time. I remember getting high on edibles daily. I sat and drank beer while staring at the wall and thinking of whatever bubble that floated to the surface. Other days I took long walks. I worked out a lot too. Not forcing anything was starting to work its magic.
But then my mom almost stabbed Mike to death.
That kind of made my life worse. It was April 8th—three days after my 30th birthday. I was at my sister’s when the call came. Ergo, the next year was the true Twilight Zone year of my life. There were mundane (and embarrassing) tasks like getting power of attorney on her accounts. And my mental state, with my lack of feeling despite this case being about my own mother, left an ironic shame. Even this couldn’t magically motivate me. No surprise that my healing was delayed as my symptoms took advantage of this gift. As the reality of it continued to sharpen, the surreal agony was joined by a guilt I knew I deserved. The joy and life I sought would continue to allude me as punishment. The reason is simple: before the stabbing I had been avoiding her since December 16th. My condition and her personality were a combustible mix that ended in arguments that were scary, sad, and often left me feeling sick. I knew what she wanted from her son, but her confusion was due both to my filtered expressions and her own neurosis. It was the longest cold shoulder I had given her, and the obvious irony doused my life’s painting with more black and blue ink.
By September I was being forced out of my place. Our newest roomie pulled a weasel crossover on us by not signing and left me and Nicky Gunz with an incomplete lease and a landlord (the other Nick) demanding his money. And thanks to mom I was now the owner of Beya, our 11-year-old maltese—meaning I was still broke af. Explaining my situation to Nick was useless, and the only thing that gave us leverage was an oversight I discovered in our lease and payment history that showed each person was locked into a certain amount: me at 500, Nicky Gunz at 450 (even with his bigger room), and the other roomie at 600. My reading of Sacramento law told me that this oversight left the unsigned lease both ambiguous and void. I’m sure the little smug fuck made sure the next dopes to rent were put under a better written lease with no evidence to suggest three separate leases—and especially no clauses about the option of month-to-month once the lease expires. I felt like a lawyer pointing this out. I told him to take me to court if he was that confident. We then reached an agreement to be out in a week and I was given my deposit and prorated rent. I was content with the compromise since I had been planning my escape anyway. A week later I was back in San Jose and staying with my sister.
I even managed to transfer back to Whole Foods on the Alameda. For five months I would dick around in the produce department while suffering from lack of sleep due to having to sleep in my sis’s living room with the family staying up until midnight before my 4am shifts. And I am not a parent. Being an uncle didn’t give me the epigenetic second wind exhausted parents get. Anhedonia is worse when you’re not sleeping. Sometimes I slept in Mom’s car because ear plugs were no match for the combo of TV dramas and kid’s voices. These were days and weeks and months when more than ever I felt stuck between two worlds and the jelly-like membranes of time. It was hard, folks. I can understand why people turn to pharmaceuticals to cope, and if it weren’t for that indomitable force within me whose origins I still wonder about, I might have given up. I can feel its cunning maneuvers against the living flesh that’s impeding the purpose I’m starting to accept as divine. Exaggerated or not, something kept me from giving in to my strongest desire to die. Some of it belongs to the irony of not wanting to put my family through my death after Mom’s incarceration. It’s shitty to think about but it also possesses a sad reality.
I’ll always remember the day I took Beya to Oak Grove Guadalupe park on a beautiful afternoon at the peak of affliction. The pain and the paradox of Mom’s situation along with my decision that dying would be okay left me crying during the entire walk through the park. All of it condensed at once. I couldn’t stop and then embraced it once the pleasure of the great cry flowed through me.
In February I left my sister’s after Ian became uncomfortable with me housesitting while they visited Disneyland. So, I let most of my evil but justifiable ideas float away and then moved in with Pop, my grandparents, and two of my tias—you know, normal Mexican shit. There were cons sure, but the best pro was my own room. Soon my system was recharged and was given respite from the corrupting symbiote trying to do me in. Things were coming together. The shakeup reassured me that I had to change two variables in order to heal. One, get out of retail. And two, get my own place. No more roommates. But in Silicon Valley that meant getting the fuck out.
I saved what I could and waited for an opportunity to transfer stores, and after some bullshit between Seattle, Philly and St. Louis, I was hired by Whole Foods PTB after accepting a pay deduction. Yes, PTB as in Pittsburgh, PA—rated the second most livable city by the Economist in 2018. It’s also the next Portland, OR. This growing city of rivers, bridges, elite universities, and its pasty hipsters feels like a prototype of Portland with less homeless and vegans. Anyway, I had some time before the move—which I mostly spent with Pop. We were trying to catch up on years of lost father and son time. That meant lots of beer, smoked salmon, Korova edibles and Spotify on the porch and then in the kitchen once it grew too chilly. There were trips to Carmel and Monterey and Santa Cruz for poke, beer, sand, and more smoked salmon. Coffee at Moonbeans and Crema and Philz. Trips to Drea’s to play with the nieces. Visits to the seventh floor of the MLK library to watch the blooming and inky encore of sunrise with our coffees. I missed my mom like mad and was thankful to have my dad still there and supportive of everything I was and wanted to do—even if that meant leaving him.
My favorite memory during this time is from my 31st birthday during another trip to Santa Cruz. He and I had breakfast at Café Brazil and then chilled on a bench upon a cliff at Moe’s and watched the surfers. Afterwards we got buzzed at 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall followed by a powernap in Pop’s Camry before pour over at Santa Cruz Coffee Roasters, then stopped by Bookshop Santa Cruz before Ready Player One at Regal Cinemas 9—a movie I fucking loved.
A light rain started as we left the theater, and on the ride home up the 17 Pop cut someone off and lost control of the car. The silver Camry fishtailed like the poor yellowfin we’d soon enjoy as poke probably had done. Pop grappled the wheel and sent my side into the cement wall. The car ricocheted like a pinball and the thought of dying on my birthday was there. The fear was there and as intense as needed to prepare me for what followed. But the old man regained control. The quickness of fear turning to elation still amazes me. It was a rush worthy of making me feel more alive than I’d felt in years. Afterwards I wondered if Pop and I had really died and didn’t know it yet. Thereupon we laughed and giggled the whole way home and continued this over multiple beers and deep breaths on the front porch of cool, steady concrete.
My last day at Whole Foods on the Alameda was April 10th—a month before Pittsburgh. However, there was no way I’d trek across Murica with Jack Frost’s cum all over the road. In addition to the Midwest, Pittsburgh was being blasted by a blizzard and Pop and I said no thanks ma’am to that shit. This month, like the others with Pop, would be spent the same way. The main difference was that I not only had more free time, but that the desire to read and to write was starting to boil again. I was fifty pages in with my first attempt at a novel. Fiction. I’d work on it early in the morning for a few hours until the unique fatigue arose that I’m sure all writers know about. Then I’d read and take long walks before beer and edibles and good times with Pop.
Most of these days were dominated by that dreamy post-nap and focused serenity that I crave. I can’t tell if it’s due to the meditation, my DNA or both. The more time I spend alone and in my head, the more it feels right. Its kryptonite is most people and most social interactions. These pull me away from the dreamworld and rarely give me enough magic worth carrying back. Reality is too predictable. And its people are rarely as interesting as books.
By May 2nd we were on the road. That was the day after Mom was sentenced to spend the next decade or more in prison. Weird coincidence, I know, but that’s how the dates aligned. Her face as they led her away still burns within me. It was like a zoo animal who knew the nature of its unnatural home but with no choice but to accept the paradox. It was a look of defeated dreams.
Anyway, it took Pop and I four days to reach Pittsburgh. This was after passing through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Ohio. I remember lots of jerky (alligator, buffalo, ostrich, beef, wild boar), nuts, fruit, coffee, whiskey, Spotify, stories, sunrises and sunsets. Fatigue. Stomach issues. Pop’s insulin shots. Power naps in the trailer. Edibles. A hotel in St. Louis to rest and clean up. The Mississippi. The Gateway Arch. St. Louis BBQ and St. Louis Cinco De Mayo. Pop’s joy. The smell of our sweaty asses in the truck. Red dirt in OK. Getting stuck at tolls in OK because we had no coins. Ponds and farms in MO. Downtown Columbus and its nutty night owls. Then, the skyline of Pittsburgh as we exited Fort Pitt tunnel and onto that gold bridge. Ever watch The Perks of Being a Wallflower? It’s the same tunnel. I’ll always remember the canvas of gold, orange, and grey. Brick and steel. Earth and water.
Pop stayed two weeks, more than enough time for me to grow antsy and snappy about having my own apartment for the first time. He helped me get here by loaning me the money for the Penske—another gift to remind me that he is a father and the only parent I can enjoy a beer with. I’m glad he was there to witness the beginning of a happiness I’ve been waiting years for. We said our father and son goodbyes on May 17th. By the 29th I had an interview with UPMC. All part of the plan, folks. The new life the move had given me also came with extra motivation.
And on June 7, 2018, on a golden day after a few hours at the main library on Forbes, my phone rang with a job offer. I was in Schenley Plaza just as the golden glow of morning was turning white hot with the afternoon. Before the call I was thinking of sprawling out on the warm grass with the pasty coeds, but after the call I had to keep walking. I fucking did it, I reminded myself. No more retail.
And that’s where I’m at now: a Pharmacy Services Rep for the UPMC Healthplan. No more face-to-face bullshit with needy customers. I now get to roll my eyes while on the phone with doctors, pharmacists and their drones. I get to sit in my cube eating and reading between calls. Some hate the job, of course, but it’s so different than every job I’ve had that I am content and hopeful as ever. Since high school I’ve been stuck in the job cycle of retail with little stints in logistics and hospitality. I wanted to escape but had trouble summoning enough to make it happen. College was supposed to have solved this problem but didn’t. But I have discovered the life I want to live. And with these new variables in play, I am closer than ever.
I will continue to write and read and savor the solitude I’ve secured for myself. I will continue to enjoy walking into my apartment without anyone there, and not having to worry about leaving dishes in the sink or spending more on electricity than I actually use. No more small talk with housemates who don’t know how to be alone. No more sharing. No more of their visitors. Just me and books, beers, and my thoughts. A poor weasel disillusioned by Silicon Valley could do much worse.
Until the next,