I moved into a small apartment in West Hollywood in the first week of February. My roommate, Mark, seemed normal when I met him at first, although he did sweat a bit much and seemed to have a strange twitch. The apartment was his, and he was letting me stay on the couch for a couple weeks for a small charge. He apparently needed the money since he was in a car accident.
While I was at Mark's, I spent pretty much all day online, looking for places to live. I spent some time walking around town and taking care of logistical things, like a bank account and social security card. I lived very inexpensively and came up with a budget that I was going to stick to in order to save as much of my salary as possible. I also spent a lot of time arguing about money with the folks at Kaiser. That, in addition to the logistical problems around my relocation, caused my start date to be pushed back a great deal.
While I was in West Hollywood, I tried to spend as much time as possible out of the house. The reason was that I learned soon after moving in that Mark was a meth addicted homosexual. Now, I have nothing against meth addicts, or homosexuals, or Mark, but it was pretty uncomfortable because he was very unpredictable. During his meth binges, he would be up for days at a time, and I sometimes woke up on the couch at 5am with him sitting right next to me. He would also have random men over at various times at night and they would leave pretty soon after. He also didn't seem 100% right. Despite all of this though, it was very useful to stay there and have a parking spot, and we got along fine. I made several trips to check out apartments and gave the thumbs up to just about all of them (I was desperate)! The one that I liked the most was at this complex called Pasadena Gateway Villas. It is very central in Pasadena and the price was reasonable. The two guys who needed a third roommate chose a girl instead of me though. This whole process was really starting to bug me! This was the case... until one day I had an amazing idea:
Step #1: Lease a 3 bedroom apartment
Step #2: Post a craiglist add for roommates
Step #3: Let them scramble for you
Step #4: Choose your favorites
I knew this plan would take some finesse, but I immediately jumped on it. I called Pasadena Gateway Villas the next day and learned that they had a 3-bedroom available, but it was currently reserved. I drove up there to check it out and made friends with the folks in the leasing office, Nevine, Ariel, Chris and Chase. Because we got along so well, they decided to let me have it, despite the reserve, pending credit approval.
**Picture of PGV**
**Picture of Leasing office folks
My credit score was horrible, but I had sex with a credit official and they maxed it for me, just in time. Once I had the place booked, I put my ad on Craigslist. I immediately was inundated with responses. I scheduled the first twelve people in for visits that week. With few exceptions, they all wanted in. Because I needed one person to be temporary so that Jared could move in later, I ended up going with Claudia Muyle, a Belgian girl from Saudi Arabia, and Dan Coatta, a rocket scientist from Michigan who worked for NASA. Here's us three kicking it:
**Pic of Dan, Claudia and Me**
When we moved in, none of us really had furniture for the common area, and I didn't even have my stuff from the East Coast yet, so we pretty much lived on the floor for a while. I even slept on the floor. Fortunately, all the pillows that I had, and my sleeping pad, made me comfortable enough.
On the day I was signing the lease, I was just hanging in the leasing office when Ariel asked me if I liked asian girls. I was sort of like, uh, i guess so. Next thing I know, she's on the phone with a girl named Jenny, telling her to get down to the office. Of course this was the way I wanted to meet a cute girl!!! :-/ I tried to play it smooth and relaxed, but when Jenny asked Ariel what was going on, and all she did was point at me, it made it hard... Somehow, in spite of it, I actually did spend some time hanging out with Jenny, and we grabbed Thai food at a place called Saladang's that weekend. In the presence of all those young and innocent leasing office workers it was nice to have someone to hold a decent conversation with. Here's a picture of us early on:
**Pic of myself and Jenny**
Jenny is a very thoughtful, generous and considerate person. She helped to make me feel comfortable in a town that I had just moved to, and introduced me to a number of people. It made it that much easier to forget about my injury. The first people that I met through Jenny were Gabe and Sarah:
Pic of Gabe and Sarah
And also her good friend Chai Ming:
Pic of Chai Ming
There were also a number of others. I could tell right away that some of her friend's feelings on material things were a bit more overzealous than my own, but I tried not to let it be an issue. In spite of my efforts however, it wasn't long before I had a falling out with Gabe, and apparently his brother. I was the last person to learn that this falling out had happened though, and I still feel that it is quite childish. Nonetheless, I still had Jenny's favor and we spent a lot of good time together. A couple of weeks into March, Rafaela visited me from the East coast, as we had planned. Dan, Jenny, Rafaela and I took a day trip together to Sequoia National Park. I drove Jared's poor little car. The drive to Sequoia is about 3 hours, due North of LA. The drive starts interesting, but it's pretty boring through the central LA basin. I did get to see my first tumbleweeds though. :) Here's a picture of Dan and Jenny in the back seat:
The drive into the park from the highway is absolutely beautiful. The landscape becomes increasingly hilly, with strange rocky outcroppings and gnarled trees. It looks very magical in my estimation:
Once we got closer to the park, we saw warning signs that tire chains might be required. This probably meant more money, and we tried to get past the entrance without them. Unfortunately, the rangers would not allow that and we had to turn around and find some. The first place that we stopped offered them for $45 per day, which is a complete ripoff. Since we could split it, we didn't care too much, and we hurried up and put them on:
The road inside the park is known as General's Highway, and it is extremely precarious and twisty. It snakes it's way up this valley here:
The views from the road are breathtaking, and fortunately Jenny took some shots with her super camera. This is a rocky outcropping on the far side:
And here's an outcropping on the near side that's called Moro Rock:
The road is basically switchbacks up the one side until it gets high enough to transition over the ridge and onto the back. We snapped this picture at around that point:
After we hit it from the back, the chains were really required, and we were up at around 6000 feet. The road had a good deal of snow on it, but being from Rochester I could probably have gone without the chains. However, the penalty for going off the road was a little steep (HAHAHAAAH IT'S A PUN!!!!!) so I was happy to have them on.
The first place we stopped was a short loop called the Big Trees Trail:
I was excited about the prospects of a short hike through the big trees, until I noticed how much snow there was:
Since my crutches sunk into the snow like metal through snow, I was going to have a rough time. In spite of it, I managed to make it around the half mile loop in just under an hour :) The trees truly were huge, and these weren't even the biggest in the park! Here's a picture of Rafaela and again of her next to a sequoia for comparison:
Here's a beautiful picture that Jenny snapped of two sequoias side by side:
Arguably my favorite thing about sequoia was how sexual everything was. Just check this stuff out!!
Isn't that just crazy?!?!? And you thought I had a dirty mind, I didn't even take those pictures!!!
After the phallic forest, we went to check out the General Sherman tree, the largest living organism on Earth. It was a small hike to get there, and Dan snapped some fantastic panoramic shots! Again, you have Rafaela for size comparison.
Here's a picture of Jenny and me in front of the tree:
After the tree, Dan and Raf decided to go sledding in Wolverton before we went home:
The drive home was very boring and everyone was able to fall asleep except me, the driver :( I immediately passed out upon reaching my floor.
A couple of weeks later, Martin passed through town on his way to New Zealand to pick apples for six weeks. He scheduled it so that he would have a few days to hang with me in LA. Since he didn't have long, we were only able to check out places like Mulholland Drive and not take any serious trips. Martin did snap these two pictures from Runyan Canyon Park on top of the Hollywood Hills:
Notice the giant iPod advertisement... and buy one. now.
Martin left after only a few days, and it was back to hanging out with Dan, Claudia, Jenny and her friends again. We found a few opportunities to go clubbing at this place called Menage in Pasadena and a club called Boulevard 3 in Hollywood. Boulevard 3 is a lot nicer than Menage:
***Pics of Boulevard 3***
***other clubbing pics***
Everyone else was going out to these high-profile clubs almost every weekend, but I kept to myself more and tried to get reading done or make some excursions on my own. After a couple more weeks, Martin's brother James visited, and I picked him up at the Burbank Airport. He had just gotten done with a two month stint in Lake Tahoe doing snowboarding photography. He was excited to be in LA and brought some serious pot brownies with him. As soon as I picked him up, we headed out to Joshua Tree.
On the way out of Burbank we noticed a huge clowd of colored smoke that I thought may have been a chemical fire:
We then noticed that it was coming from the back of the Hollywood Hills, which were burning. Apparently some kids had set fire to the brush there, we learned later on:
Further out towards Joshua Tree, James snapped this picture of the windfarm at the pass between the LA valley and the Morongo Valley:
Once we reached the town of Yucca Valley (where Chase and Chris from the leasing office grew up) we spotted some goth kid driving a hearse. Now THAT'S goth-core:
When we reached the entrance to the park, the rangers told us that there were no campsites left available. This was unfortunate and completely unexpected. I later learned that the park commonly fills up by Friday afternoon in the good seasons (Spring and Fall). I decided that we would enter anyway, and just try to ask someone to let us put up our tent on their space. Fortunately, (as is usual with me) the first group of people we asked said it was ok. We offered to share some of James's pot brownies in exchange. They were eager for the deal. The guys were about our age and were in Joshua tree to do some rock climbing. Over the course of the night, we got to know them a lot better and became pretty good friends. Here's a picture of a cactus right near the campsite:
During the course of the night, we all ate some of the brownies and popped a few Vicodin that I had brought. It was a very pleasing evening. At one point though, we had a bit of a scare since we were burning a Yucca stump again, and a ranger came right next to our car and stood there for like 10 minutes looking at us. He didn't do anything though, and we were very happy when he left. We continued laughing and talking until about midnight when we hit the sack.
The next morning, we decided to follow the others on their way to go rock climbing. James and I figured we could try to scramble around the rocks a bit. By this time, my leg was a lot better, and I was able to hobble a decent distance without crutches. Here's a pic of me and the guys under a Joshua Tree, in Joshua Tree:
Here's a picture of our friend climbing up 'mental gymnastics':
While they were climbing, James and I tried to find our own way to the top of the rock mount. We figured that with some ingenuity, we might be able to scramble up a back way. Surprisingly, we were actually able to make it to the very top. Here's a couple pics from when we got there:
On the way down from the rocks, I accidentally slipped and slapped a prickly pear cactus. My hand was covered in about 70 small thorns:
Taking them out was a bit painful and I drew some blood. Nothing terrible though. Here's James and I behind one such cactus:
After climbing, we decided to check out some Native American Glyphs that were put into the rocks nearby. Apparently someone from Disney had painted over them in the 60's, but the runes themselves were still there:
And finally, here's a picture of the group all together just before we split ways:
As usual, Joshua Tree doesn't disappoint, and James had a great time as well.
At some point, back in Pasadena, my stuff arrived from the East coast and I was finally able to make my apartment the way I wanted it. Along with the furniture off craigslist, we were able to turn it into this:
**Pic of Apartment**
Also, my Job at Kaiser was now well underway. I pretty much am doing the same things I did at Epic, except I get more props because there are fewer competent people to compare me to. I am being paid a lot more, and I am putting up with a lot more politics. I can't complain though, since I can bike to work (~1 mile) and I still feel fulfilled and interested in my work. I do have some reservations about my potential for growth and advancement, however, and anticipate that I may need to do more moving around to get to an optimal position.
Forward to Summer 2007
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