January 17, 2018
This morning, we had breakfast in the library. We chose the library because it is where the wood stove sits, our companion this winter, more so than ever before, as the snow that began falling last night, continues to cover our world.
In a few hours Kate fly’s to Los Angeles, on business; it will be a quick trip, she will deliver a four hour lecture, to the CISO of a multinational company, in the same city where she once walked from building to building to read electric meters.
Today, the 17th of January, is a day when we step back and reflect, on our 31 years together. As we ate and talked, surrounded by books, I commented on the fact that when we started our life, I barely owned one small case of books. Kate pointed to the World Book Encyclopedias, which still sit on the shelves, and then commented on a few other books that I had before I met her; I was surprised she remembered the books that well – but in all due fairness, she has moved those books a lot!
We met in Columbus, Ohio, and soon Kate dropped out of The Ohio State University, and we drove someone else’s car across country. I do not know if that is still something that is done, but back in the day, people would advertise for someone to drive their car to some destination, the driver would pay for the gas and get to their destination, and the car owner would have their car delivered to where they liked.
I do not remember what kind of car it was, maybe Kate does, but we filled it with what we could of Kate’s life from her college apartment, including a small refrigerator and even at the time, an old stereo and headed west, on our first of many road trips.
Shortly, after we pulled into California, from Ohio, the car began to give us trouble; we made it to Upland, before the engine caught fire. There were phone calls to be made and we needed to find a place to spend the night; we ended up at a Best Western Hotel, close enough to the gas station to walk the cars contents to. When we checked in, carrying not only our suitcases, but the refrigerator and stereo, the clerk who looked at us a bit perplexed, seemed entitled to a story. We began to tell him what had happened, and he offered Kate a job; he needed someone to work the front desk.
Kate said no, she was not interested in the job; I barely let the words escape her mouth, before I chimed in that I would take the job!
He gave us the key to room 110, and after we settled into our first home, where come morning, I would be steps away from work, which was perfect as we were carless in southern California. I earned enough money to pay for our room and keep us fed, at the time that was enough to meet our needs.
Before I had left the country, six or seven months prior to arriving back in California, I had used my Shell credit card to give my car a tune-up, buy new tires, and replace the alternator. I had packed up my life into about five boxes, that I left in the garage of the person who I turned over my car keys to, to start her up once in a while, during my sojourn to Europe, where I had run away to after my Father’s death and a few other heartbreaking events, that I did not have the skills to address.
The trip to Europe had been expanded to include Israel; that journey was memorable for many wonderful and fantastic events, but unfortunately also marked by serval traumatic events that culminated in me arriving back in the States, standing in a terminal at JFK, and wondering what I should next do?
I was incredibly ill with a respiratory infection, that I had seen a doctor for, while in Israel. In the airport, I debated whether or not I should go into the City, and see what I could do with the little money I had left or head to Columbus, where my Mother and sister were living. I wisely chose Columbus, where what I remember is getting off of the plane, making my way into a taxi, and showing up at my Mother’s home, where she came running out to meet me, when I pulled up unannounced.
There must have been a hot shower and something to eat, but I do not recall. It was a good three days before I got out of bed and began to reassess life. During my first week there, I went into a second hand store, of course, and bought the book A Women’s Room, by Marilyn French. I could not put the book down; I felt like I could relate to every female character and it forever changed my life.
Most of what we would now collectively call #MeToo moments were on those pages, I continued reading and crying and writing in my journal, thinking I need to deal with all of this mess, which previously, to A Women’s Room, I did not have the proper vocabulary to define the issues.
I went to an employment agency for temporary clerical work, my fall back job, thanks to my 8th grade typing class; and soon had a job in downtown Columbus, where I worked with those grand IBM punch cards. When that job ended, I got a job at one of the college bookstores, where I was paid to ‘play’ with books; but that too was a temporary job.
It was not long before I decided that I needed to go back to California and collect my few boxes of possessions and resume my real life; I told Kate she could come visit me in the summer, when her semester was done, but by golly Kate had always wanted to live in California and pre-med was no longer where her heart was, thus we found that car to drive west.
I do not remember what our bank balance was when we started, but I do know that it was pittance. We drove mostly old Route 66 during that first adventure, and did not spend the first night in a motel until we reached Flagstaff, of course stopping to pay homage to Winslow, Arizona, where for six life imprinting months I had lived as a child.
We were robbed in that motel, in Flagstaff, perhaps the reason we have never spent the night there again, but continued on to California, where I will never forget Kate pulling over the car, the moment we crossed the border, so that she could change from her jeans into very colorful JAM shorts.
Soon we were in Upland, living in room 110 of the Best Western, trying to get my car back, that did not happen, and attempting to start this new life.
The hotel I was working at, where we lived went bankrupt, and we were suddenly homeless and unemployed. We were allowed to pitch our tent, one of Kate’s possessions that had made its way west with us, in the back yard where my car now lived, that the person refused to return to me. Eventually, he gave us a very old Volkswagen Beatle, as a trade, I think wanting to get us out of their backyard. The car did not make it to Long Beach; we had to drive it in the break down lane, but at least it got us to a beach where we could pitch our tent, once again.
I must say, if one is going to be homeless, the beaches’ of Southern California are the place to be; we went from living in a tent to living on a tiny boat, owned by Kate’s boss, at a pizza parlor where she earned ten cents a pie!
I started working in a book store, it turned out my office skills had become a bit outdated – it was no longer a typing test, but rather a word processing test, I had to pass to land a temporary job, at an employment agency. Kate would stand outside a paint store, after making the pizza dough, and I would wait on the other side of the street, waiting for her to be picked by a paint crew for the day, before heading to my job.
Eventually, we saved enough money to get into an apartment, on Mariquita Avenue, in Long Beach. We bought a mattress and box springs from someone up the street, for twenty five dollars, then a hideous sofa for about the same amount of money, and finally as I went off to work on a Saturday morning, I gave Kate our entire bankroll, forty dollars, and said you need to go check out the garage sales – we need everything. I came home that night to a patio table and four chairs that did not last the month – she had spent all of our money on that set of furniture. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed, but I must say, we still have that table!