Destination: Berkeley, CA

Jan. 26, 2011

The next day I showered and checked out.

(NOTE: I made sure to carefully survey the room for belongings before I left but somehow I managed to leave my nice Nikon camera behind, with all those wonderful pictures I took along the PCH!! I think it was tangled up in the bedspread. I didn’t realize this until the next day.)

I went across the street and had a little breakfast (eggs, toast, and bacon) at a tiny deli for the reasonable price of $4.99. It was terrific and I sat in a window seat and soaked up the local character of this section of SF. Delighted….

They did offer free breakfast at the hotel, but it turned out to be a store bought plastic tray of fresh croissants from a grocery store. No utensils, napkins, or jam. So I passed on it.

Before I headed out for Berkeley, I had my first appointment to see an apartment. I met Valerie Gryfakis, and the apartment was AWESOME but almost out of my price range. Valierie was adorable and I had such a good feeling about it.

Then I left and went to Fisherman’s Wharf – the place I know best about SF. I had a Peroni and battered beer shrimp, then walked the wharf and bought stupid souvenirs – I love those things! I bought a magnet with my name on it, a new SF coffee cup, and a baseball cap that said San Francisco.

I went across town for my second apartment appointment at 3:30, which turned out to be in the Tenderloin and impossible to get to – I circled the block twice before I figured out how to get into the paid parking lot. I told Fernando, the way gay leasing agent, that actually, I didn’t want to live in the Tenderloin. Before I left, I asked if I could use the ladies room. The door to this building was always locked and the ladies room required a special key that only Fernando had – that’s what it would have been like to live in the Tenderloin. Then I left for Berkeley, again using GPS. Thank god for GPS.

By now, it’s 4 pm rush hour and lots of traffic. After a nerve wracking 45 minutes across the Bay Bridge (please god, no earthquake for the next 15 minutes) then zig zagging through Berkeley (suddenly earthy and crunchy compared to the frantic industrialism tourista of SF), I arrived at Kat and Alison’s house. These were the only two people I knew in all of California, and after a few frantic emails from Atlanta, they had graciously offered to take me in while I transitioned.

Sweet Noah greeted me and let me into the basement apartment, and even offered to help me with my bags. The place was big – and cold. But it had more going for it than other places I had considered looking at. It was a very acceptable place to set up base camp for a few days free of charge. It’s a cold damp basement, but big and roomy with a washer/dryer! It even had a wall-mounted flat screen with rabbit ear reception (no cable), which provided a surprisingly good variety of HD programming. Alas, the bed was a pull-out sofa that had seen better days. But combined with my new pillows and electric blanket, I slept very well in relative comfort. No bed complaints.

Kat and Alison had obviously taken pains to ensure that I was comfortable. The apt was filled with small touches to welcome me – a welcome note with an annotated map of local eateries. An alarm clock set to the correct time. Pots, pans, utensils, and soaps. It was so thoughtful of them.

Sadly, Kat had to leave for LA the day I arrived to see her dying mother and I didn’t get to see her.

Alison stopped by after work and invited me up to have burritos with she and her two boys, Noah and Theo. I was hungry and accepted. It was lovely and the boys were lovely. I enjoyed watching Alison parent – an involved, present parent. Later I learned that this is the Berkeley norm…everything is geared around child rearing.

It was about this time that I realized I had left my camera somewhere. While I couldn’t believe it, I concluded it had to be at the hotel and, given the seedy nature of the establishment, I assumed I would never see it again. Overwhelming sadness combined with road fatigue and I finally broke down in tears. What have I done? What am I doing here? Right on cue, my ex called and I let it all out. As usual, she made me feel so much better. I don’t know what is to become of us, but I do love her so much. She is such a part of me, now and forever.

I had been following Craig’slist ads for sublets and corresponding with folks about them. All were ghastly overpriced for their run-down and cluttered state. I started to worry that someone else might take the first place I saw on Divisadero, so I made a decision and sent Valerie and Paul an email saying I would take it. On my ex’s advice, I asked if they would take $2500 instead of the $2800 they were asking, and they happily countered with $2700 and no deposit. Sold! Plus they wanted me to move in ASAP. I have an apartment in SF!! A very nice apartment with a dedicated parking space in a garage!! It costs almost as much as our house in Atlanta but for three months I can afford it and it’s mine!

I sent everyone who had been following my journey an email with the address and some pictures from the Craigslist posting. Alison was shocked that I had found something so soon, and I think she was a little sad. She had expected me to stay for a couple of weeks. As it turned out, Kat’s mother died, and Alison had to pack up the boys and the dog, and drive to LA on the same day I moved out.

(And now the best news of all. I called the Americas Best Value twice to ask about my camera, and the second time I called, they said they had found it! I jumped in my car and drove across the bridge to get it. There it was, at the front desk, in a neat plastic bag with my name on it! I was so thrilled!!

I have driven across the United States by myself, detoured to San Diego to visit friends, and found an apartment in San Francisco that I can call home for the next three months. I cannot believe it. I did it.

My new life has begun.

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