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Steve & John's West Coast Move


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2004-10-03
After four days of nearly non-stop effort, most of the boxes are out of the condo and off the patio. We have filled the paper recycle box for the building twice with just the packing material from our move and the cardboard recycle stack large enough that it is intruding into our parking space and touching the motorcycle. The storage unit we rented is almost full; initially I had nice stacks - this one for Christmas decorations, that one for the pottery collection, etc. - but that fell by the way as more stuff went into storage. Today was Castro Street Fair, but we didn't go. We did ask some friends who live nearby to allow us to hold a garage sale in front of their apartment. We set the prices really low - one customer thanked John for "keeping the spirit of the garage sale alive" - and sold about half the stuff we wanted. The rest will go to charity on John's way home from the office tomorrow.

There are a few boxes of mostly tools on the patio. We are talking about getting a plastic yard shed to store those. We're also talking about planters and trellises for the patio. This is a good sign, as it means we are starting to feel comfortable enough here to begin to make plans for projects.

There are a few regular boxes and all the picture boxes still inside, but mostly the living area is the way it's going to be for the forseeable future. We had to put most of the family photos, crystal, etc. into storage, but it looks like we have everything well enough in place to function. I even bought flowers today. (We used to have flowers delivered twice a month, but we're not going to do that for a while until we see how the budget settles out. We also don't have cable TV yet).

Our friend Jeff from Colorado was in town, dropped by, and introduced us to Paul, who rents from another friend of ours here. Everyone in this town really does know each other. Actually, it felt really good to be doing normal stuff like meeting friends at our place before going out for dinner.

So, eleven days after arriving, we're doing pretty well. There are things that are bothersome. For example the weather is either clear, hot and humid or cloudy and cool; air conditioning is still on the agenda. The crowds everywhere are still a problem for us. And there's that nagging feeling that something else is going to happen to the cars or the condo.
2004-10-06
Monday night we put pictures on the walls. We put about one third of our stuff up; the rest will be going into storage. Despite the fact that we have very large walls (this is a loft after all), there's really very little wall space at eye level and we don't have any huge pieces that would look good way up the wall. Getting used to the earthquake picture hangers is interesting. There's a different offset depending on whether you use a nail or a molly bolt to attach it, so it is more of a challenge to line things up than with the normal kind. And they are expensive.

Speaking of expensive, I checked out two gyms yesterday. I really haven't worked out seriously since the Fort Collins meet in August, so I'm itching to get back. Neither of the two I looked at had a decent place to do deadlifts although both are considered serious gyms. The membership at one was 50% over what I paid in Denver. The other was 3 times as high! It's like they base the membership on Bay Area housing prices. Both are bicycle distance from the condo. This is important to me - I used to drive through rush hour traffic to get to the gym in Denver and I really hated it. Besides - driving to the gym in one of the few US cities that you don't need a car just seems wrong.

I'm noticing an "all or nothing" attitude toward service here. People are either extremely enthusiastic and helpful or they do the minimum. There doesn't appear to be any middle ground. We've dealt with very friendly people setting up phone service, checking our VIN at the DMV, etc. Then we've had cashiers who won't look you in the eye, restaurant servers that never check back after the bring the food, and the repair person that says he can't estimate the job and doesn't know when someone will get back to us with an estimate. Certainly we have run into both extremes in other cities, but there doesn't seem to be the middle ground of pleasant and efficient.

It's been sunny most of the day today. Unfortunately, that means my office is about 90 degrees F, but it's a welcome change from the heavy clouds and only 2 hours of sun we've had the past two days. We've ordered a ceiling fan to help mitigate the heat. Maybe we'll need to get some full spectrum lighting. I didn't realize how much we'd miss the 300+ sunny days we are used to. I'm sure I'll appreciate the weather more in the winter when it's (generally, but not always) warmer than Denver.

We're having some neighbors over for dinner tonight. It will be good to have a night off of working on condo stuff and starting to get into a normal routine.
2004-10-09
Thursday's big task was DMV. It took three hours.

I had appointment to get my driver's license, but arrived early and there was no line. Actually, I went through the whole process in less than an hour. In most states, you walk in, take the tests on computer, pay the fee, have your picture taken, and walk out with your license, but here, so close to Silicon Valley, the tests are on paper and manually graded, and you only get a paper "temporary license". At least I still have my passport as a picture ID that I can use next week when I go on a business trip. Still, renting a car could prove interesting.

We sailed through the vehicle registration process with our cars two weeks ago, but the motorcycle this week was another story. The agent had some difficulty reading the VIN and the engine number, and then wait for processing was over an hour. Fortunately, the renewal will be by mail.

We stopped in the Haight and found a nice eastern African restaurant. One of our favorite restaurants in Denver is an Ethiopian place, so this was sort of comfort food for us. The neighborhood reminded me of a dirtier and yet more commerical version of where I used to live in Washington DC. I don't really remember much of the original hippy stuff, so most of the retro-hippy atmosphere of the stores is pretty much lost on me.

Friday I checked out a few more gyms. One had a trainer who is a powerlifter and he recommended a powerlifting gym - in Concord. I looked at places that ranged the gamut from the size of our loft up to super luxury clubs. The place I decided on is a litter farther than some of the others (though still a short bicycle ride) but has the stuff I'm looking for. I'm swallowing hard and dealing with the price.

John left work a little early for his turn at DMV. When he got home, we decided to take a drive in my car with the top down. On my first trip to San Francisco several years ago, John wanted to take me to Twin Peaks to see the lights of the city, but the higher we drove, the more fog rolled in. We had a similar experience again - as we got to the Golden Gate Bridge, the fog got so thick you couldn't see the first crossbeam on the towers.

2004-10-11
Three days of sunny weather - finally I'm starting to feel like myself again.

Saturday's HOA meeting was good - lots of enthusiasm for making the building a better place to be. There have been several units sell in the last few months, so this was the first chance for most of us to get together. The building has gone from mostly commercial space when it was built to mostly renters and this year to mostly owners.

The Bears meeting was another story - it was non-existent. Although a meeting was listed on the calendar, the president explained that "since everyone has e-mail, there's no need to have a meeting, but the bylaws say we have to". My immediate reaction, was "then either do things at meetings that can't be handled by e-mail or change the bylaws", but that's apparently not the way things are done here. For a city that appears to the rest of the world to be the first to adopt every new idea and trend, I find an amazing amount of resignation to the status quo. It seems people here are more interested in cleaning up a landfill on the other side of the planet than picking up the trash on their own street.

John wanted to go for a bicycle ride on Sunday morning, so we went over to Fisherman's Wharf. Yes it's touristy, there's no reason you can't enjoy the things in your own city that tourists come to see. Breakfast was appropriately overpriced. While we were out, we did some other errands including going to the flower market a few blocks from our place. I suppose it was a sight to see me riding the bike while carrying a big bunch of flowers. We rode past the line of people waiting to get into the EndUp bar for 'after hours' Saturday night (that's late Sunday morning to us) . Then again, I used to walk through some rough areas carrying flowers on my home from work when I lived in DC.

Later on Sunday we took Tasha to the beach. She's never seen water that runs away and then comes back, so it was lots of fun to watch her chase it and then run from it. We forgot to take along our kites, but then we're only about half sure where they are. The water was of course way too cold to get in and the air was a bit cool for sunbathing. The sand is more grey and the beach dirtier than I'm used to, but I suppose I'll get used to it. While we were out there, we joked that "this is obviously NOT the beach where they filmed the beach scene in 'Tales of the City'".

2004-10-12
It's still 'one step forward, one step back'

One Step Forward - Last night we bicycled to the the gym then stopped at a great Thai place for dinner on the way home. It's just the sort of urban experience I've enjoyed in both DC and Denver. I like being able to walk, bicycle, and take the subway everywhere.

One Step Back - I was sitting on the patio this morning having breakfast when I noticed someone two buildings away. He walked out on the rear stairway of the building and began to urinate. He was about 8 years old.

One Step Forward - It looks like another sunny day. By the end of last week, even "fog is so romantic" John was pining for sunshine.

One Step Back - It's 8AM as I write this and it's already about 80 degrees F in my office.
2004-10-14
We ate dinner last night on the patio because it was cooler than inside. We took the convertible and went for a drive up Twin Peaks. It was a clear comfortable evening and the lights of the cities around the bay were sparkling, just the sort of scene to make you glad you're here. Much like Lookout Mountain outside of Denver (although a lot closer), I expect Twin Peaks will be where I/we go to step back and think when things get to be too much.

We talked about the move and how it's been much more of a challenge than we expected. There have been things we didn't plan for, like the mosquitos, the crowds, and the loft being so hot. Every previous time we've moved we've moved up - to more space, a better location, a more functional floorplan, etc. - and this feels like a big move down. We agreed we'd give it a year to see if the advantages of living in San Francisco outweigh the things we gave up in Denver.
2004-10-17
We tried to do less house stuff this weekend, although there was a trip to IKEA and two Home Depots on the agenda Friday night. We're looking for a light for the entry and after looking at the selection at IKEA, settled on one from Home Depot - one that two stores were sold out of.

Saturday morning we went to Sausalito to see the Army Corp of Engineers Bay Model. It's really fun to watch the 'tides' come in and out, seeing the flow of water into the bay and seeing the familiar sites from the perspective of where the water, not the land, is the focus. I really enjoyed it. When my brother and sister in law visit sometime, I'll have to take them - they study water flows in southern Florida.

A friend of ours in Colorado hooked us up with a friend of his who lives in Sausalito. We met for lunch and he took us on a short hike in the national recreation area behind the Marin headlands. We talked for a quite a while about living in the city, (which he did for years) versus living in Marin. Moving is not really an option - John's commute to Menlo Park would be unbearable - but it was interesting to get his perspective. It felt good to hike and the fact that it was fairly short and mostly level was good since we haven't really done any serious hiking this summer. Having such quiet trails so close to the city is incredible; I'm hoping we can get out to do more of these.

Tonight, we went to Teatro Zinnanni with some friends we met in Australia a few years ago. Yes, it's sort of a tourist thing to do, but why should we let the tourists have all the fun? When we mentioned doing it, our friends said they'd been wanting to see it for a long time. Sometimes it takes a visting friend or newcomer to the city to make you do the tourist stuff in your own town. We exchanged stories in between the various acts that make up the show and punctuate the courses of dinner. The acts are the kind of things popularized by Cirque du Soleil - hand balancing, juggling, arial ballet with fabric, hula hoop stunts, etc. The music is a mix of classic rock and the wonderful mid-century classics that I love - several Cole Porter numbers, "Fever" etc. Apparently I really made the evening for one of the performers: He brought an electronic instrument out on stage and asked me if I knew what it was; I said "a Theramin" and he just beamed. And he could actually play it, which impressed me. All in all, it was a great evening.

The thing which wasn't great all weekend was the weather. It was oppressively grey with periods of just enough rain that you get wet if don't have an umbrella but just little enough rain that you feel stupid using the umbrella. At least the loft cooled down enough that I didn't have any trouble sleeping on Saturday night. It's trade-off - see the sun and have the loft too hot to work or have the loft comfortable and deal with depression-inducing cloudiness.

We're still asking ourselves if we made a mistake by moving here. There are so many little things that we're finding to be frustrating and they add up. Hopefully, if we can do more stuff like this weekend's hike and show we will start to see the balance shift toward the "it's good to be here" end of the scale.
2004-10-21
We've been here four weeks and we're finally starting to settle into routines. We had only a few minor projects on the condo this week, I got to the gym twice. We went to dinner with the bears at Hooters. (Yes, Hooters. It was actually a lot of fun.) I haven't seen street people having sex on the sidewalk for over a week. It's been mostly sunny.

That's not to say everything is rosy just yet. My office is still hot, though for a shorter period of the day. We still have a few boxes in the condo that need to be reviewed before they go to storage. Storage in the loft is still a problem, as is the unsolved problem of getting a 12 foot ladder into our unit so we can change the burned out light bulbs.

So after a month here:

There is the San Francisco I expected: The abundance of "how do you sleep without crushing that" hair styles and "avante garde" fashion statements, the political causes that seem to exist only here, the conflicting proposals on the ballot, and the fact that an exotic dancer named "StarChild" is running for the school board.

Then there is the San Francisco I didn't expect: For a city with strong anti-smoking laws, everyone seems to smoke. Certainly more than I've noticed anywhere outside the South and possibly Las Vegas. For a region that prides itself on being high-tech, I keep finding things that are behind the times - the inability of DMV to make a driver's license on the spot, banks that can't attach a joint checking account to two website logins, stores that can process only my card as a credit card, not as the debit card it is, the inability of an internet service provider to give us a static IP on a non-business account, For a city with a supposed mellow attitude, "customer service" seems to be a foreign concept. And I'm using the car much more than I expected because there are places that are inconvenient to get to using public transportation off rush hour.

I've made two other long distance moves. When I moved to Washington DC, I quickly fell in love with the city. The city wore on me over time and I could see only the negatives by the time I left 9 years later. Likewise, I quickly fell in love with Denver when we moved there. The city maintained it's hold on me and I still love it. San Francisco seems to be much more of an uphill climb. Continuing the cliche - perhaps the view at the top is worth it, but right now we're only getting glimpses of it.

2004-10-26
We're wearing out the road to Twin Peaks, but it really was a gorgeous clear night with a nearly full moon tonight...

Saturday we felt like we were in Seattle; actually the weather here has more in common with Seattle than I expected. The whole day was full of the kind of rain I hate - not enough to use an umbrella, but enough to get wet every time you get out of the car. And we got out of the car a lot as we had several errands to run. Good thing our plans for the evening were staying in and having friends over for dinner.

Sunday was the exact opposite - the day was sunny and warm and so were our moods. We drove up route 1 with Tasha and went to one of our favorite restaurants in Bodega Bay. Then we went for a short hike in Armstrong Woods. Tasha was sort of confused by the redwoods - they were so much bigger than any tree she's ever seen before I don't think she realized what they were. Coming back into town, the city shined like a well polished diamond. It was one of those "reason to live here" days.

The news this morning was about the "severe storm" last night. We can hear rain spattering on a metal cap of the patio wall, and last night didn't seem like much rain at all, certainly it was mild compared with storms in all the other places I've lived. But at least the storm cooled down the loft and I was able to work today without running the fan. The other good news is that our ceiling fan arrived today; if the installer can get a sufficiently sized ladder around the corner at the top of the steps and into our unit, we should have it installed this weekend. If it can equalize the temperature difference between the upper and lower levels (sometimes about 20 degrees F), maybe we won't have to install air conditioning after all.

The inconvenience of having a small place and a storage unit elsewhere is sort of bothersome. In our previous places, I just had to go downstairs (basement or common storage area) to take something to or retrieve something from storage. Here it takes about 20 minutes to do the same task because it involves walking to the parking garage, retrieving the car, parking it in the building, getting the stuff from the loft, going to the storage place, parking in the building again, taking the stuff to the loft, taking the car back to the parking garage, and finally walking back home. So, I'm adding local storage to the "Next House" list.

Hmm, I'm not sure what it means to have a "Next House" list when we've only been here a month.
2004-10-31
I was walking the dog on Friday and some woman stopped her car and asked me "Where is California?" My first thought was to say "all around you" but then I realized she probably was looking for California Street.

The one thing we tried to get done on the condo this weekend was to get the ceiling fan installed. Once again, we had a no-show contractor. There seems to be a lot more of that out here than we are used to. He's rescheduled for Tuesday.

We caught up with some friends every day of the weekend. We've also got a friend staying with us who is visiting from Nebraska, so John took him up the Marin headlands and such. I even met another gay powerlifter when I went out tonight. Even the weather was great (although someone warned me about the coming rainy season). Maybe we're adapting after all.