There was no way I could swing the high cost of housing in San Francisco by myself, so I found a house share south of the city. As a bonus, I often got to drive through Colma, the cemetery capital of the nation. There was well over a million people in Colma at the time, but only about 1,500 of them were alive.
My commute was significantly more exasperating than it had been in Portland, but I got to live in a beautiful old house with a Market Street address near Santa Clara University. It also had a revolving door of possibly loveable, but seriously oddball, roommates ranging in age from 13 to 45, and the diversity didn’t stop there.
Stu and Sarah were boyfriend and girlfriend, and straightaway my least favorite housemates. They spent their days hogging the basement, lying around and complaining about nothing. Sigh. She made me yawn. Sarah was financially supported by Stu. They hailed from Alamo, a ritzy San Francisco East Bay Area community. Why they left the comforts of the ‘burbs’ is hard for me to guess. I am not sure what they did for work (or anything else during the day) since I was busting tail for long hours in a funeral home.
Stu bragged about his party connections: “Earlier yesterday, I did manage to ingest all the audio that we recorded at the rave.” Catching my unknowing look, “A rave? A big, bad-ass dance explosion rave, which takes place at some random space? Like you Rave On?”
This did nothing for me.
My favorite adult in the house was Rand. He took my career seriously, probably because he had a bit of an eccentric job himself. He had left the drudge of spreadsheets and accounting at a good firm in Oakland to take a six-month paid apprenticeship as a cheesemaker. He explained a bit about what he did at the Cribari Creamery, and I was fascinated. He asked me if I’d like to head there because baby goats were about to be born. I was in! After an hour drive past rolling pastures, Victorian farmhouses and rows of fragrant eucalyptus, we arrived at the creamery on the east shore of Tomales Bay in Marin County. I hid my laughter from Rand because I couldn’t help but notice how similar “creamery” was to “crematory.”
There was also a law student in the house with a delightful son, thirteen-year old Andy, who I fell in love with. I imagined myself having a small person like this one day. He was bright, asked seriously fun questions, and was always happy to see me. We loved rolling our eyes at Beth, another roommate and the owner of the house.
Nothing in the house was quite right for Beth until it had a fresh shot of spray paint or string of beads hanging from it. It probably was immature of me, but Andy and I disdained her craftiness and rubber stamp collection. Each stamp had a baby kitten name like Precious, Angel, Jem and Ju Ju.
“Can you imagine what she would do if she could get her glue gun and craft box inside a funeral home?” Andy would say. “It would be so creepy, but in a Beth sort of creepy way.”
I loved that kid.
I loved Beth, too, because despite her peculiarities, she was a gracious roommate and she made peach cozies for the doorknobs. I gave it up with those.
So it was The Raving Lumps, The Cheesemaker, The Kid, The Aspiring Undertaker, and The Bedazzler. Together, we would have been perfect on a season of The Real World.
Life seemed pretty excellent, except that I was still grieving my newly single status. To supplement my low wages at SCI, I managed to land a job as a DJ at a small radio station. I was supposed to be serving up platters of light rock, but my playlist was nothing but heart-wrenchingly sentimental and truly sappy songs. Before long, management decided they’d heard Debby Boone’s “You Light up My Life” one too many times and kicked me out on my miserable can.
I tried dating. For a while I went out with a high tech entrepreneur from San Jose, but I wasn’t willing to compete with his real girlfriend — the cell phone in the left pocket of his Armani button-up. Because of our work life, we were only able to get together on weekends, but he couldn’t shut off that thing long enough to have dinner with me. Wherever we were, his pocket would ring. I would sit for two minutes–or twenty-two–while he conducted more important business. When he asked me to move in for a trial relationship, I rolled my eyes and told him to lose my number.
I couldn’t help but brag to the basement full of housemates about my ridiculously cool date the night prior at the House of Genji. I met up with a man who loved preparing animal skins and stuffing them into a lifelike form. “I guess he looked as I expected him to: he wore buckskin pants and a hunting shirt, with buckskin fringes along the seams of the legs and sleeves.”
Their eyes widen.
“Nah, just kidding, you dorks! He was wearing jeans and a polo shirt.”
A stale chunk of nachos gets tossed my way, courtesy of the male couch lump, Stu.
“Tanner shook my hand firmly and let on that he was in a feisty mood. He knocked back a Wild Turkey in record speed and proceeded to tell me about his day at the salt mine or the butchers block, if you will.” He says, ‘Some city slicker comes in and tells me I recently mounted a deer head for his hunting buddy and asks me how much I’ll charge for the six-point buck he just shot. I give him my price. He says it’s too high. He tells me that his buck is so big that I’d be amazed to see it, so I tell him to truck it over to the shop. I take a look, quote a higher price, and then he says that I should mount it for free just for the advertising I’d get from it.’”
“And then what?” huffs Stu, who’s clearly bored, but mostly drunk.
“Hold your pants on, Snarky. I’m telling a story here.
“So I ask him, ‘And then what?’ and he tells me, ‘I put the whole animal back in his truck bed and sent him on his way. I had to make the guy realize I use high grade synthetic materials to prevent bugs, molds and odors, and have never received a complaint. I’ve been around over twenty years and know my trade. Everyone wants their game trophy right this minute, and don’t understand why it takes so long. It’s an art, just like embalming.’”
“Your soulmate, dream dude, totally,” declares The Lump. And then, “My pick up line used to be that I love long walks on the beach until the LSD wears off and I realize I’m just dragging a stolen mannequin around a Wendy’s parking lot.”
The uncomfortable silence is as subtle as a flying brick.
“Why do I even bother?” I asked Beth one night.
“Because you want a man?” Beth suggested.
“Ugh. Why? Mary Tyler Moore didn’t have a man and she was just fine with it.”
“Yeah, but not too many of us are Mary. Most of us are Rhoda.”