Well, here I am in California. It's been quite a summer!
Hours after launching the last issue of Archipelago I raced around my mountain cabin plucking possessions and tossing them in my little car until the car started to burst at the seams. Then I hopped in and headed south!
Betsy and I spent our first three weeks together in the tiny room she was renting from a friend. During the days, while she worked, I established a bank account and went apartment hunting. After we settled on a beautiful apartment near the beach (see VC 21 John 16), I battled one bureaucracy after another to rent a refrigerator, set up the phone, turn on the electricty, etc. And since neither Betsy nor I had a stick of furniture, we spent much of our free time seeking bargains. And of course there were all the knick-knacks to buy, interior lights, shelves, glasses, kitchenware, and food to put in the refrigerator.
During one week of scurrying about my glasses shattered, the brakes in my car failed, the battery in my Mac-wristwatch went out (taking all my phone numbers with it) and my hard disk died.
Meanwhile, I was (and still am) furiously hunting for a job, any job. Almost every day I mail or fax another resume. I write cover letters, I drive here and there, I make endless phone calls, fill out towering stacks of forms, nag my headhunters (all of whom are named Bob for some reason) and jump through one hoop after another.
Usually I am ignored completely. Occasionally someone will bother to send a form rejection letter. And, VERY RARELY, I'll actually get an interview. Each interview (I've had four) has been totally different. In one I had to go through what amounted to an orals exam in front of six inquisitors, answering questions, defining terms, running up the board to draw a network topology diagram, writing a program with a general purpose subroutine, and doing work at the terminal, all of this under strict time limits. (And that was just for the semifinals!). On another interview I had to trot along side two executives as they ran from office to office. Months of this, and still not even an offer.
Fortunately, Betsy and I have managed to have a lot of fun along the way. Her friends are becoming my friends. After five years in a culinary wasteland I have been hopping my way through restaurant heaven. We've been to concerts at the Santa Monica Pier, a spectacular symphony and fireworks display at the Hollywood Bowl, window shopping in the largest and grandest shopping malls on the planet, hot tub parties, a private massage (this IS California after all), art festivals, night clubs, Disneyland, a Dodgers game, and even a few quiet afternoons at the beach. All rather breathtaking for a hermit from Montana.
In many ways, traveling from a cabin in Montana to the freeways of southern California is like travelling from the nineteenth century into the twentieth. In some ways it's so wonderful that I feel like I'm living in a new Atlantis (at its peak, just before the collapse). But the insane bureaucracies, and the institutionalized mistrust, and the constant feeding of numbers into computers have led me to ponder the decline of western civilization. If we are in the midst of a decline, surely California will lead the way into the abyss.
[I saw a great bumper sticker the other day: "If you think the system is working, ask someone who isn't!" I have been having deep philosophical discussions about this with anyone who will listen. As soon as these ideas finish percolating you can expect a voice card or two on the subject.]
So, in short, Betsy and I are flat broke and having the time of our lives. I can hardly wait to push the Future button and find out what happens next!