Saturday, May 7, 2011

California Dreamin'

All right everybody, it's time I leveled with my readers for just a bit. One of the main constructive criticisms I've gotten on this blog is that it's not very personal - there's not enough David-ness about it. I will admit this is true, it's mostly not my style to actually blog about my personal life and way easier to geek out about news, culture, or current events. Guilty! I also worry about the long-term consequences of having a LOT of personal information permanent published to the web. As many folks have discovered, your Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, and many other profiles leave an indelible residue online even long after you've closed your accounts. Countless hapless people today are in lawsuits over termination from their jobs due to some of the less-than-professional behavior they've posted to the Interwebs. So let's just say I try to err on the side of caution, with some exceptions, and not reveal anything I wouldn't in a job interview or conversation with a stranger in the grocery store. 

Now for a change of pace! Time to get fucking personal for a second. I've been gearing up for a move to California this August for several months now. Part of my motivation for doing so is career-related - I'll just leave it at that :). 

I started looking fiendishly for jobs last year in the run-up to my graduation from UW for two reasons: 1) I wanted to gain a year or two of solid career experience before going back to grad school; 2) I simply didn't know how else to support myself independently. I wasn't comfortable with doing some of the things many of my friends had done post-graduation. Travel the world for a year? Sure, who wouldn't love to do that? I had just studied abroad for six months of '09 in Spain and I honestly didn't want to leave :D But after graduation, when the premise of "academics" (using the term loosely) is gone? How would I justify that to my parents, or to my depleted bank account? In some respects, I regretting rushing into the career world with such intensity and wish I had been more thoughtful about the choice I ended up making. Just because a company wants recent college grads and sounds good in its offer letter doesn't mean it's the right fit. This doesn't mean that my company is a bad company, just perhaps not the right fit at this point in my life. Bottom line: I'm starting to realize I want a bit more excitement and, frankly, danger,  in my life than any 9-5 career-oriented job can give me.

At 23, I have already accomplished a full-time, salaried, managerial position at a major facilities corporation. Sometimes I lose sight of the fact that I'm still young and have many more years of working drudgery ahead of me. Many of the people I meet in a professional context are flabbergasted when they realize my age, as if stunned to see that I've made it to the level of being their perceived equal so quickly. "How did you become a Safety Manager?" (at 23) is one of my favorite questions I could be asked, and there is a long and juicy story behind it for those who are interested. My point is that I've already achieved a lot of what I had intended to when I first entered the career world after graduation last year. So there is no real rush to that next promotion, or even a "lateral move" to another company. Many people who are in their late 20s or even 30s are still waiting tables, temping, "interning", or otherwise indulging in the life stage that's coming to be known as "adultolescence"

Which brings me to California...Ah, yes - magical, sunny, clusterfuck California! Matt and I are looking at California not just because of its weather and for a change of pace - it's the chance to have the freedom and yes, perhaps just a bit of "edginess" that life in Seattle seems to have exhausted itself of. Our friends are intimate and well-established, we have good jobs and a great apartment in a great neighborhood. Everything is pretty much as it should be for we future members of the bourgeoisie :) Perhaps we are already there!

We now have our sights set on San, let's take a second to let that sink in. SAN FRANCISCO!!! First, San Francisco is almost impossible not to love. It's an intimidatingly gorgeous place filled with exciting, walkable, unique neighborhoods. I want nothing more than to simply be a part of it in this time and place in the world. It is also very expensive, but not nearly as bad as I first thought. A decent two-bedroom apartment in a good area can be had for about $2,000. With Matt and our future roommate (shoutout to my favorite Jewbaby, Rachael Mammen!), this is very do-able even if I were to get a temp/admin job or work as a server. Hell, I could work at a Trader Joes and still afford $700/month! Part of my motivation is to establish in-state residency for when I begin grad school in fall of 2012. My hope is to get into a Masters of Urban Planning program at either UC Berkeley, UCLA, or USC, though I'll also be applying to Hunter College, Columbia, Harvard, UTexas at Austin, and several programs in Europe. I've already taken the GRE's and am working on letters of rec, and I'll be finishing up applications this fall.  California is probably the place cursed with some of the worst urban planning systems in the world, yet also some of its most innovative centers of knowledge. The upscale foodie-industrial complex of San Francisco/Berkeley and the decayed suburbia of the Inland Empire might as well be on different planets. Both have something to offer in terms of unique planning challenges.  Fingers crossed! But grad school won't start until a year from when we move in August. So the way I see it, I have a year to establish residency, work, and make connections. Matt is just returning from interviews this weekend, so he could conceivably move within the next few weeks, in which case I would hold out in Seattle until our lease is up in August. I already have contacts at several very good temp agencies who will be getting my call soon :) And then the next chapter begins!

Looking East from Castro towards the Mission

View from Buena Vista Park in the Haight

Alcatraz - view from Telegraph Hill

Sunset on the Golden Gate

North Beach sunset

Coit Tower
Needless to say, California and its opportunities, its culture, its problems have been on my mind a lot lately. I came across this documentary via GOOD magazine. GOOD  has been an invaluable resource to me on California because the whole magazine is pretty much like a place-based Bible circumscribed to fit my interests. They have sections on urban planning, politics, culture, the environment, and economy that seem to predict my interests before I even think of them! They also have great resources on up-and-coming non-profits, movements, and the sorts of under-the-radar issues that end up defining the mainstream news media agenda when it finally pulls its head out of its ass. 

I found this short documentary on California's economic woes and opportunities via the GOOD website. It's a Dutch-produced short film tracking people of varying economic and social backgrounds and how they are tackling life's challenges post-recession in the city of Los Angeles. Subjects include homeless (formerly lower-middle class) families living out of their RV's, ex-gang members, immigrants, and new bohemians in Silver Lake and Los Feliz. Some of the hipsters / bohemians featured around the 39:00 mark really struck a chord with me. The subject is an architect who starts an urban communal farm in the middle of the city. She has much to say about "the way forward" out of California's mess, even giving a shout-out to bike infrastructure, food systems, and other topics my fellow CEPsters would find intriguing. Very interesting stuff, the video is about 40 mins long, I highly recommend you check it out and post your thoughts!

Here's the intro:

"California is a strong brand, the state of new beginnings, dreams and movie stars, of surfers and a wonderful climate. But the Golden State is bankrupt and the city of Los Angeles is running out of cash. Public services are being cut and unemployment keeps rising. At the same time, optimism, entrepreneurship and the belief in the power of America are stronger than ever.
In Los Angeles, we meet five people who are going through a transformation in their lives during this crisis. Justin and Christine lost their jobs and are now living in a van with their two young sons. Charles has gotten out of prison after fourteen years. Mizuko prepares her children for the future by making them at ease in virtual reality. Laura has taken advantage of the crisis by buying land cheaply and starting an urban farm and artists collective Fallen Fruit maps the abundant free 'public fruit' available in the city. Who are the pioneers who are reinventing the new America and how do they see the future?"


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