I’ve been in California for two months now. It seems like a long and a short time all at once–so much has happened, and yet it happened so fast, that to think that it’s already been two months and I’m a few weeks short of my birthday is very strange. How could it possibly be October already? There’s a lot of ground to cover since my last post.
Two months ago, when I arrived in LAX with two bags, sometime past midnight, exhausted, H and her dad, S, greeted me, and he asked, “So, is this it? No more apartment in Brooklyn, just you and these two bags?” I nodded. Just me and my two bags with the necessities–clothes, knives, digital scale, pastry cutter, and percolator. (I know what’s important.) It’s still kind of crazy to think everything I really needed could fit two suitcases.
The first week was quiet. I slept, adjusted to the timezone, went to Santa Barbara to drink wine and see H on her last day of work; later in the week we went to the beach, ate gelato, and talked about our road trip. At the end of my first week, we drove down to San Diego for the day. We went to the wildlife park and sweated it out alongside the animals, then rewarded ourselves with a trip to a brewery. And another brewery.
A few days later, we left on our official road trip, starting in Yosemite. Two days before leaving, we lucked out and were able to reserve a campsite in the center of Yosemite Valley. It is easily the most beautiful place I have ever been. At one point, H wisely remarked, “This is awesome. Not in the way people usually use the word, but rather, ‘I am in awe’ awesome.” We were awe-struck. On one day, we hiked something like six miles and climbed 2000 feet. It was a challenge, but we had the most wonderful views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, and the domed mountains of Yosemite. I haven’t felt so in awe of and connected with nature in a long time.
After Yosemite, we drove to San Francisco and spent a few days there with H’s cousin in the Sunset. My previous trips to SF had only included the tourist-y areas, so it was exciting to see something different. One morning, we made a trek out to Ocean Beach for biscuit sandwiches; the sandwiches were great, but what really struck me was that hey, there’s a beach in SF! Although I’ve always known SF is surrounded by water, it never occurred to me that at the west end of the city would be a sandy beach full of surfers–I always assumed it would be more piers. (Like Manhattan.) How cool would it be to work by the beach? H suggested maybe working at the biscuit place, but I wasn’t sure that was the answer. Still, I was taken with the neighborhood.
From SF, we went toward the East Bay, where we stayed across the hills for a few days with H’s aunt, uncle, and cousins. By the time we left the East Bay and drove back down to Santa Barbara, I was starting to feel sick–after fighting off whatever it was for so long, through hiking and wandering and allergy-inducing cats where we were staying, it finally hit me with full force when we arrived back in Santa Barbara. Thankfully, H’s parents, S and L, came up the next morning and were able to take me back toward LA in the evening, where I proceeded to go into barely functional mode through Labor Day.
Once I was better, H had only a week left at home before leaving to study abroad at graduate school. S and L had decided to throw her a big party, so S and I immediately got to planning the menu. We originally were thinking of simple brunch fare, but once H mentioned that she wanted her grandmother’s potato salad, we launched off into a Russian-inspired menu. (I’d been looking for an excuse to make piroshkis anyway!) Between the party that Sunday, and another family party we went to on Saturday evening, S and I cooked for three days straight, essentially. It was a magnificent party and feast. Not only that, but between making the shopping list, breaking down what had to be done on each day, finding ingredients at the local farmers’ markets, and cooking, I was reminded of what I enjoy so much about cooking in the first place.
When the party was over, I helped H pack, and off she went on September 9th. At that point I’d been out in California for a month. I started to “get to work” the next day, scrolling through housing ads, figuring I should find a place to stay so that I could start interviewing up north. I started putting together a list of places I might want to work and drafting a potential new resume for myself. And then, somewhere in the midst of the search, I looked through my daily Good Food Jobs email, and saw something that caught my eye: a coffee roaster in SF looking for a pastry chef/kitchen manager. It was named after a neighborhood in Belfast where one of the owners grew up, and they made Irish soda bread, among other things. Responsibilities included going to the farmers’ market, and perks included all the coffee you can drink and music on vintage speakers, so you could rock out while baking at 5am. I laughed. Did someone write this posting just for me? So I shot off a resume and a ridiculously enthusiastic couple of sentences.
I tried not to think much more about it. The next day I had a wonderful and wine-filled lunch with S at his friends’ artist loft in downtown LA, and I had such a good time that I thought, “Hey, I could totally hang out in SoCal for a bit. This place is pretty cool.” So, of course, I got an email from the coffee shop on Friday, asking me to come in for an interview on Monday! Initially I freaked out a little–where would I stay? How would I get there?–until S calmly told me to take H’s car, drive up, and stay with her aunt and uncle in what I like to call the “Far East Bay.”
Up I went. I packed for about four days, figuring I’d be back, even if they hired me. Then came the interview. It was easily the coolest interview I’ve ever had. They set up a table outside, brought out a few warmed up slices of bread and butter, brought me a cappuccino, and we talked about the job and everything we had in common–New York, Ireland, working in and being disillusioned by publishing–who’d have thought! They asked me to come back and trail in a couple days, but it was already clear, this was happening. I walked the couple blocks down to the beach afterward, sat in the sand, and thought about how a month ago, I didn’t even know this neighborhood and beach were here, and now I might work here.
I spent the next day trying to figure out housing, when up popped a one-month sublet through someone I knew that knew someone. I got the sublet, went to the trail the next day, and it was a done deal–they asked me to begin training the following day. So much for packing for four days!
It has now been about four weeks since the day I drove up here. S sent me one of my suitcases, which arrived last Monday, so I finally have more than four-days-worth of clothes! It’s been an amazing and exhausting whirlwind. I know that I’ve never worked such long days, and I hope that I’m able to increase efficiency and cut back on overtime now that I’m running the kitchen. I’m working with wonderful people, though, so the long hours aren’t so bad.
And speaking of wonderful people–that is what I have been most taken by since arriving here. I have met wonderful, kind people who have taken care of me pretty much every step of the way so far. It has been amazing. S and L took such good care of me in SoCal, and they’re even bringing the rest of my stuff up when they come up to visit in another week. When they sent me up north, their family continued to take wonderful care of me for the two-and-a-half weeks before my sublet started. They fed me, took me to an A’s game, gave me some extra clothes, a place to sleep–I mean, wow. They even lent me a bike to take into the city with me. And when my bike had problems the other morning, one of the owners of my now-workplace checked it out, then took it over to the bike shop for me, where she got the guys to do the work for half the price. Just wow.
I can’t be anything but amazed, grateful, and humbled by the way that the universe–in the form of family, of people–has taken care of me since I arrived. I came out here not really knowing anything about what I would do, where I would go, or how I would get there. I had a small starting point–fly to LAX, do a road trip with H–but to sit here and look back at all that came from there is a beautiful thing. And I’m not done! This is just the beginning of a new chapter.