The Golden State
Yep, I made it! I'm now living in California! It hardly seems possible sometimes; part of my mind keeps thinking, "Hmm, it's late winter and it's sunny and warm out; I must be on vacation and I'll be going home soon." But no, I'm here to stay.
Moving day was the hardest day. I woke up around 7 am and the packers showed up at my apartment at 8:30. (Being in Wisconsin, I kept confusing myself when I thought of "the packers"; no, the football team was not coming to my apartment!) It was pretty eerie watching all my stuff disappear into boxes, although they did keep remarking about how many books I owned. I think they filled 16 boxes before they even started on the bedroom (where the comics were). Even I was impressed.
I hadn't quite finished everything I needed to do on the computer before they arrived, so I finished printing out some of the "stuff lists" I'd drawn up over the past few weeks, and then removed my Mac's internal hard drive (I'm always a little surprised how easy computer surgery is, although obviously Apple's making it even easier with the new G3 Macs).
The truck and loading guys showed up a little after noon and started carting out boxes. The packing finished up a bit after 1:00. When they arrived, I put my cat Newton in the bathroom, along with the cats' throw blanket which lives at the end of my bed (Jefferson often curls up on it at night with his paws hanging over my leg). I eventually managed to corral Jeff from his hiding place behind the futon and threw him in the bathroom, too. I think both cats calmed down a little once they had a safe space and had each other to snooze with.
I continued my apartment cleaning as the movers carted things away. When they were about half-done, I started to feel really quite sad, looking around the apartment and seeing spaces where things used to be, and remembering times I'd spent in that apartment. Playing with the cats when they were kittens with my then-girlfriend, many hours spent happily reading or watching TV in my papasan, etc. I get very attached to the places I live, and it's hard for me to leave them. At least these days I can try to console myself with the knowledge that once I actually leave that I put it all behind me fairly quickly.
The movers finished up around 4:30, including driving my car into the back of the truck. I bid them goodbye (after signing a whole bunch of papers), and went back upstairs to keep cleaning. I let the cats out of the bathroom. Jefferson immediately started meowing and looking panicky, as if to say, "Where did everything go?" Newton's reaction was more to run around and say, "Wow, look at all this cool dust!" Jefferson eventually managed to secret himself on top of the fridge behind some cupboards - basically, the one place in the apartment where I couldn't reach him - so when he briefly poked his head out I grabbed him and put him back in the bathroom. Poor guy.
John called from California around 5:15 to say, "Okay, I have your plane flight, your time, and your airline. But what I don't have is your... airport!" Whoops! I told him I was flying into San Jose, and he confirmed he'd meet me the next day.
At 5:30, Tracy showed up with her vacuum, and she very generously offered to help me finish cleaning. Since the sun was setting, and since my apartment didn't have much built-in lighting, I vacuumed first and finished cleaning the spots that would soon be poorly illuminated. Then Tracy noticed that I 'looked rather pale', and I admitted that I hadn't eaten a thing all day. So we walked downtown and had gyros - I bought Tracy's, of course. We returned and finished up the cleaning, which went fairly smoothly. There were a few indentations or weird blemishes on the walls, but overall the place ended up fairly clean.
Finally, Tracy drove me, my luggage, and the cats to the hotel where I'd be staying that night. I ended up in a smoking room due to the cats. Tracy hung out for a few minutes, and then said goodbye. She really did me a great favor with her help with the cleaning, and I'm really grateful.
Needless to say, I was totally bone-tired by the time she left - around 9 pm. I was also rather restless, which made for a bad combination. I bought a soda and spent some time walking around the hotel, and chatting with the guy at the front desk. In the room, Newton was checking everything out, while Jefferson was hiding under the bed.
Around 11:00, I went to bed. I slept fitfully. Jefferson came out and investigated in the dead of night, but vanished under the bed again when the hotel started to wake.
I got up a little after 7 am, and went through my morning routine slowly, checking my luggage and such to make sure everything was in order. I went over to my apartment at 9:30 to check out, which seemed to go smoothly. The woman from the rental company gave me a list back to the hotel, and on the way when I told her I was going to work for Apple, she mentioned that an old friend of hers works for Microsoft and was in town the previous week to recruit at the UW. I mentioned that a guy I know had also been there to recruit for Microsoft the previous week, and she said, "Oh, you mean Steve? I met him." Yes, Madison is a small town.
My friend Andrew from work came over at 11:30 to give me a lift to the airport, in his Honda Accord wagon (probably the largest Japanese car I can remember seeing; SUVs and vans aren't 'cars'). I gave the cats their tranquilizers shortly before he arrived, and they were indeed quite mellow. Andrew helped me carry my stuff in, and since I was nearly two hours early, there was no line at all and everything went perfectly smoothly. I'm also very grateful to Andrew for his help, since I had had concerns about being able to get everything to the airport.
The trip itself was unremarkable, save for the snow flurries that were hitting both Madison and Chicago (where I transferred). Not much snow accumulated, but visibility was reduced and I was concerned the flights might be cancelled because of it. Well, we did get to Chicago twenty minutes late due to landing conflicts, but the transfer went smoothly, and I arrived in San Jose right on time.
John met me at the airport, and we picked up my luggage and the cats. Newton looked pretty frightened in his kennel, but Jefferson was loafed up on his towel with an expression that said, "I'm not going to speak to you again until the year 2010."
John watched the stuff while I took a courtesy van to get my rental car. They gave my a Toyota Camry, which is huge compared to what I'm used to; we were able to get all my stuff into the one car, and John and I drove to the building where I'd be moving into temporary housing for a month while I look for an apartment.
I'm glad John was there, because my brain was working at about 25% of it usual performance, and I was having trouble with things like the fact that the building's front door was locked. We did manage to get in, and I got my door key from the lockbox outside the door. John took me out for dinner and we had a nice, quiet time. After another fiasco when we got back to the building (my door key didn't unlock the building door; it turns out the building keys were on a table in the apartment, and we hadn't noticed when we brought the stuff inside), we got back, and watched Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (a truly terrible episode involving the holodeck's lounge singer's imaginary hotel being taken over by the mob; now I remember why I don't watch this show).
And, of course, I'm grateful that John was able to meet me and help me get over the last hump in my move to the west coast.
The cats were pretty spooked by the new apartment, of course, and Jeff hid under the bed while Newton explored. Jeff didn't even really come out at night, and it would take days for him to really settle in. But, we were all there, and the madness had come to an end, at last. I slept better that night, strange bed and all.
I had four days to kick around the Bay Area before starting my new job. I didn't exactly make the most of them, mainly because it took me a couple of days to really shake off the fog of the move. But that's okay; I know that moving is traumatic, and I recognized that I had to give myself time to just find my groove again.
Thursday I went grocery and toiletry shopping. I also did a little walking around and enjoying the weather (highs of 55 - in late February!). That evening I got together with Bill and Julie Humphries, a couple of transplanted Madison fans whom I've become friends with at cons (they, after all, were working on WisCon long before I was).
Friday and Saturday I drew up a list of stores - a couple of book stores, about eight comic book stores, and a map store - and drove around the San Jose area getting myself oriented to the area and to the stores. There's one comics shop which is in walking distance of me, but of course it's the least of the eight I visited. The first really good one I hit was called Heroes, which is in Campbell, just south of San Jose. Another, What's Hot Comics and Cards, is in Santa Clara and had an impressive back issue selection, with good prices. But I've tentatively decided on Big Guy's Comics and Cards (which doesn't really have any cards) as my main stop. It's in Mountain View, and happens to be on the way to the house of a guy (Subrata, who I met through John) who hosts a gaming session every Wednesday. It also has a good selection of new and old stuff, and seems like a good first choice.
The bookstore of choice (which I determined after a quick experience reminded me of how much I utterly loathe Barnes & Noble; stiff atmosphere, awful organization, and pitiful selection) seems to be Kepler's, which is in Palo Alto near Stanford. Good selection of stuff, and convenient parking. Subrata also turned me on to Future Fantasy, a decent SF&F bookstore in Mountain View. I will need to find some good resources for used SF books, though.
Friday I also went in to Apple. It turns out my boss wanted me to spend my first week in WebObjects training, which meant I'd miss the usual orientation sessions, so I needed to sign some documents to get my health insurance and other stuff set up. I also met some more people on my team-to-be. My boss, JP, is a very upbeat and friendly person with a marked "can-do and let's get it done" attitude. My last two bosses have both been a little on the reserved side in comparison, so I must admit I was a bit taken aback by the difference; but JP's willingness to do what he can to cut through obstacles makes him easy to warm up to.
Sunday Subrata hosted an off-day gaming session; we played some Settlers of Catan, and I introduced those assembled to The Great Dalmuti, which seemed to go over big. I also finally figured out the VCR in my temp housing and taped and watched some cartoons. A nice last day before the work week.
As I said, I spent this week in WebObjects training. The instructor was very nice, and very good. the class was very well paced for the class (of 15) as a whole, although I must admit that I personally found it a bit slow. But that's probably a good sign, especially since I was deliberately pushing myself to overachieve in the class, feeling that if I'm going to be on the R&D staff for the product that I ought to do so.
(I feel odd talking about this stuff. I have always been a little conflicted between talking about myself and my abilities, and not wanted to be a braggart. Karen tells me that it's difficult for smart people to accept who they are without being looked upon by others as freaks of some sort. It is hard; late last year when I was trying to be a little more forthright about my abilities I was getting ragged on by a correspondent of mine for doing so.)
Of course, being in class all week meant I wasn't able to do much during business hours; specifically, I wasn't able to start looking for an apartment besides buying a Sunday newspaper and perusing the ads. I did set up something with a realtor to go on a tour of some area apartments on Sunday, but that was about the extent of it. Other than that, all I really did during business hours was to go get my Apple badge, which is what gives me access to the buildings. That was actually a pretty neat moment, realizing at I'd been validated as an Apple employee.
I had dinner with John a couple of times, and spent some time after the class meeting the WebObjects team, setting up my cubicle, and my computers. Wednesday morning my car arrived, and I was told that all my stuff was in storage. Going from the sleek, large, modern Camry to my little aged Civic was a little jarring, but my first drives on the freeway suggest that it will work out.
Finally, Thursday evening I managed to get Telnet installed on a Mac and connected to my Fullfeed account and caught up on my e-mail. I received 140 messages while I'd been away, many of them either spam or messages from journallers' notify lists. Of course, I'd signed off my high-volume mailing list and notified nearly everyone I knew that I'd be away, so few people sent me personal e-mail.
I was a little manic when I got connected again, feeling like I was bouncing off the walls. I guess I'm an addict.
Saturday John and I went to a place called Hobees for breakfast, which John said was pretty much his favorite place for breakfast. I had a pretty decent french toast meal, although the toast was a little on the dry side. (Admittedly, I'm a french toast snob. I'll try their pancakes next time, as I have a much broader taste for pancakes.) Afterwards we drove up into the hills and hiked for a couple of hours. The day was overcast and cool, but turned out to be nice hiking weather once we got warmed up. I did a pretty good job of keeping up with John, my one pitfall being when we were fording a stream and I fell and banged my knee. I was in shock for about ten minutes, but felt much better soon enough, and it turns out I only got a light bump; I must have just hit something sensitive and ended up with some intense short-term pain.
I'm really looking forward to doing more hikes and enjoying the scenery out here. I think John is looking forward to hiking with me, as well. Eventually, I may even develop something resembling the endurance that he has - though probably not unless I start playing racquetball five or six hours a week.
Well, I need to find an apartment by the end of the month. I figure as long as I can afford it, it can hold my stuff, and it doesn't suck, then it will hold me for a while, at least; long enough to find something better, if necessary, though obviously it would be nice to find the right thing on the first try. From my driving around, it seems like Campbell, Mountain View or Palo Alto would be nice places to live, although Santa Clara, Sunnyvale or Cupertino would probably be acceptable, as long as I don't end up in a bad neighborhood. I'd like to live a little distance from Apple, if only so I can have a not-totally-wimpy bike ride to work.
The big challenge is that apparently very few places in the area allow pets at all, although predictably cats are a little easier than dogs to house. We'll see. It's possible I'll move in with John, who has a large place north of Palo Alto. I'm not sure; it's not clear the cats would do well in his apartment, and I'm not certain I'd like a roommate. But there's a little time yet to decide.
I need to get my car inspected and registered in California, and I need to investigate getting myself a driver's license. Along with apartment-hunting, those are high priority tasks for next week.
I have some other friends in the area whom I haven't yet contacted, plus I haven't yet achieved my goal of getting out to enjoy some of the Bay Area nature resources. When the days get a little longer, I hope to be able to drive to the seashore and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean; that should be something!
So, there's no shortage of stuff that I need or want to do. But I know I'm going to feel out-of-sorts until I have a place to call my own, and I'm surrounded with my familiar things once again. But I feel confident that these hurdles can be cleared, and that a few months from now things will be moving right along and I'll be enjoying myself out here.
It all still seems hard to believe, though.
And, of course, I don't yet have my Apple e-mail account, so I couldn't send myself e-mail because I had to configure things before I could send e-mail.
How did I solve the problem? Well, it turns out that Microsloth Outlook Express doesn't care whether I have an account, or any other BS like that, so I just batched the entry up in an MOE message and sent it to Fullfeed. And it worked.
All hail Microsloth and their cheap-ass software with security holes big enough to drive the Starship Enterprise through. I hate to say it, but they saved my ass.