Friday, July 29, 2005

Eviction exclusive: the story behind the story

I earlier reported that my landlord evicted me by email. Since then the only words he has actually spoken to me has been to ask what time I am moving out on Sunday (he wants to be there to keep an eye on me). Henceforth he will be known as The Wanker, because, well, he is one (apologies to my parents or anyone of delicate sensibilities who is reading this - you'll get over it).

Last night my other housesmate, who is lovely and sweet (and incredibly flexible, but that's beside the point), and I had a chat. She repeated over and over that it is not me, I haven't done anything wrong, rather The Wanker is a little crazy. He was off his meds for a while there, although apparently he's back on them now. Anyway, it turns out he evicted the housemate before me in exactly the same way for no reason. And in fact he even evicted her once, but retracted the next day. The first she knew about it was when a family turned up to look at the house. The only reason she stays is because it's such a great house in such a great location, and she has the patience to deal with him.

She agrees I should just get out because the energy in the house is awful now. Even though I knew it wasn't anything I'd done or some major character flaw of mine I wasn't aware of, it was reassuring to hear her say it.

A couple of things really piss me off though. For a start, The Wanker (gosh, there's something so satisfying in writing that) both advertised my room and showed it to someone before I even knew he was evicting me. Secondly, in his ads on Craigslist he says that he values open and honest communication and that he's easy going. He also lies about being able to see the Golden Gate Bridge from my window. Finally, he seems to be assuming that he'll be deducting stuff off my security deposit - he probably will find a miniscule scratch on the granite bench (counter) in the kitchen and blame me. At least I haven't paid any bills (electricity etc) since moving in, so once that's taken off it won't leave too much deposit for him to do me out of. I bet he'll try though.

This morning I said goodbye to our lovely cleaning lady. She only comes to our house once a fortnight, but usually I'm the only one home and because I speak Spanish (she's from Guatemala) I talk to her quite a bit. I told her what had happened and she said it wasn't that great a job so hopefully she'll quit. She's been bringing her kids lately and I always give them paper and coloured pencils and the youngest usually draws me a picture. Today she drew me angels and hearts and stars with faces and it says "le deseo mucha suerte" (I wish you luck) and there's a heart around my name. Awwww. It was quite sad saying goodbye.

I'm also getting a bit teary when I think about leaving Berkeley. I've really loved it here. But I'll definitely be making the most of my last few months here. I'm so glad I'm moving out of this house, so I can have a fantastic last couple of months.

It's Friday night and I'm in the middle of packing up my room. That sucks. Oh well, it will all be over soon.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

and the kiwi flies

Not too far for now. About a mile south, from south Berkeley to north Oakland. I'm moving on Sunday, which will be interesting as I expect to have a hangover from a birthday party on Saturday.

I'll be living with an Indian bridge retrofit engineer, who is promising to be quite a character. He's weird, but in a good way. The house is something like a hundred years old, and it's right by the freeway but when I was there the window was open and the noise level was ok. I think it will be interesting but not perfect, but that doesn't matter because it's likely to be for only 3 months anyway.

I'm fairly certain I'll accept the position in Australia. Still asking questions to make sure I know what I'm getting into. Also, there's the minor technicality that I haven't been officially offered the job yet. Details, details.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

OMG they offered me the job

I think I'm moving to the wops of Australia. Where I will be a university lecturer. Imagine!


Monday, July 25, 2005

A strange weekend...

... in which the following events transpired.
  • A complete stranger bought me a drink. This hasn't happened in, oh, decades. I was in the city with two friends and this guy came up and said he would buy us drinks if we went and said hello to his friend, whose birthday it was. So we did, we got our free drinks, and about 10 minutes later the guys all left anyway. Weird. They were from Reno.
  • I went out for a barbecue and got home 30 hours later. My friend The Composer is housesitting in the South Bay, in a house with a swimming pool, so a couple of us went out there Saturday afternoon. And just never left. It was a lot of fun, even though he made us watch a really long and weird French movie called Celine et Julie.
  • We tried to teach a dog to swim. My friend's dog Porter came out with us. Even though he is part duck (i.e., he has webbed feet) he hates the water. A great deal of time was spent, and amusement had, trying to get him in the water. Methods included carrying him in and trying to coax him with a pinecone.
  • When I finally got home, it was to an email from my landlord, who lives in the same house, asking me to move out. No reason given. I actually don't have anything in common with him at all, and he's a bit weird, so I have no problem moving out. I had been vaguely thinking about it, but hadn't done anything about it. I will miss the kitchen though.
  • And then the weekend ended with a sing along around the piano at my old house, and the neighbours had to come over and tell us to shut up.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Wish me luck

I have an interview in Australia on Monday.

Unfortunately, rather than fly me over, they've elected to interview me by phone.

It's a university teaching position, and I'll cross the bridge about deciding whether I actually want to live in the middle of nowhere in Australia (and let's face it, once you get away from the coast, everywhere is the middle of nowhere in Oz) once I get to it.

On the list of places I might end up next year, Sri Lanka has moved significantly up the list (postdoc position has opened up, I will be applying), and I've decided not to apply for a job in Nigeria, having been told that because of the security situation there, it's like living in a prison camp. NZ and US still both possible options.

I guess the world is indeed my mollusc of choice (to quote Terry Pratchett).


Monday, July 18, 2005

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Saw Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Stern Grove yesterday. They were ace. Stern Grove is a free summer festival that's been running for 65 years. The woman sitting next us had been going for the last 50.

It was really crowded, we got there before 11am and still had trouble finding a decent spot. Concert started at 2pm. It was cold - the famous San Francisco fog stayed rolled in all day, despite the fact it was sunny and hot when I left Berkeley. Luckily a friend of a friend turned up with a spare sleeping bag (as you do) which he lent me.

There were 8 of us on our little blanket, 4 of which were being sensible and quiet, and 4 of which were drinking wine and talking a bit too loudly and waving pink flamingoes around. I'll leave you to guess which group I was in.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Flying Kiwi vs the City of Berkeley

Warning: kind of boring post about a stupid parking ticket

So one day, I go to move my car because I've parked it in a two hour spot and I don't want to get a ticket. Now, I clearly remember parking in a sensible manner, space behind me, parallel to the curb, wheels turned in, handbrake on (facing uphill). When I get back however, my car is no longer parked in a sensible position. It is now half on the footpath* at an angle, resting against the car behind.


There is a note on the windscreen** from a police officer asking me to call her. I do so, and she says it seems somebody had bumped me, but the eyewitness description didn't match the numberplate, and there was no damage anyway, so case closed.

Except, there is also a parking ticket for $47 for parking across the footpath.

City of Berkeley loves giving out parking tickets. I once got two, one after the other, for the same violation. I forgot to move my car the night before, so my bad, I paid them. But in this case, hello, what idiot parks a car like that?

So I write to the nice people at City of Berkeley offices and explain.

They write back and say, sorry, insufficient evidence, pay the ticket.

Evidence? At this point I'm tempted just to pay the ticket. But no. I go to the City of Berkeley offices (which in itself was a challenge, given I was on the wrong street to start out with), stand in a queue for 30 mins or so to put my name down for an Administrative Hearing. Sounds impressive, eh?

About 15 mins later I get called in to an office. I'm ready to fight. This superbly nice woman says she's reviewed my case and she agrees, I don't have to pay. Oh.

Bit of a letdown really after all the buildup. But at least I won.


*sidewalk, whatever
**windshield, whatever

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Cycling the Golden Gate

I go into The City (San Francisco) most Saturday mornings for hapkido, and then I like to take advantage of being over there and hang out for a bit. So far I've cycled around Golden Gate Park and seen the bison, played tourist at Pier 39 and been to SFMOMA (museum of modern art). One of the items on my list was cycling across this:

Isn't that a great rendition of Golden Gate Bridge? Our cleaning lady's daughter drew it for me.

So anyway, on Saturday I decided that is what I would do. And I took my camera along as blog proof, of course.

Here is my bicycle at the BART station.

All the BART stations (BART = Bay Area Rapid Transit = metro / underground etc) are on high alert since the London tube bombings, as you can see (or not - the red writing bit) in this photo. Well, the main effect seems to be that they've closed all toilets at BART stations. I was going to make some humourous comment there about not being able to plant bombs until you've gone wees, but it doesn't really seem all that funny. Sorry.

Anyhoo, I went to the city and did a couple of hours of hapkido training. Like this:

Yep, do that one all the time. Actually, I do have proof of my hapkido training in the form of some rather interesting bruises. Here is a sample. I suppose in theory those they could be from something else, but I can't think what.

So, after hapkido I had some lunch and then set out for the bridge. It was a windy day. I started having second thoughts. From Fort Mason the Golden Gate Bridge was still a loooooooong way away.

Then I saw a group of tourists on these. These aren't the actual people I saw, but they looked like just this. Five of them in a row, funniest sight.

So I finally got down to the marina and it was really windy here and I was cycling against the wind. At this point I decided I may as well just stop on Fillmore and find a cafe and tackle the bridge another day. But then I thought I may as well go as far as the Presidio, and then go back and find a cafe. Even from the Presidio, the bridge still looked really far away.

But then I realised it couldn't really be that far, because I was already underneath an onramp made of bridge material (there's a special name for the colour, but I can't remember what it is).

I considered the fact that my destination so far seemed to be a pet cemetery - quite a pretty one, but really, I'd cycled all this way, and a pet cemetery under a bridge didn't seem like the ideal ending point to my adventure. So I continued in the hopes of finding a cafe...

... and found myself on the bridge. I was told once that almost all suicides are from the city side of the bridge, and that it was a mystery why. Well, it's not that difficult to figure out - the bicycle path is on the far side, and the pedestrian path on the city side. And it seems to me a suicider is unlikely to cycle there. I've also heard that one guy jumped off the bridge twice. The first time he miscalculated in heavy fog and landed on the fort. He broke both legs, but as soon as he could walk again he went back and got it right.

So, I did it. I cycled across the bridge. Back in '98 I actually walked across the bridge when I was a bona fide tourist, and I remember it being quite boring. Cycling was much more fun, especially the huge gusts of wind when rounding the pillars.

And here is proof that I made it across. Well, proof that my bicycle did, anyway.

According to this guidebook I have, it's all downhill from here to Sausalito. Liars! But it wasn't too bad. And so I arrived at the pretty little town of Sausalito. Its sister city is Vina del Mar in Chile, where I once walked into a bollard and got a huge bruise (I do bruise easily, I admit). We stayed the night in a cute little guesthouse and visited Valparaiso and Pablo Neruda's house at Isla Negra... but I digress.

I had an iced coffee* sitting outside at a cafe (yay, finally, a cafe!) and found myself sitting next to two uniformed motorcycle police officers. I looked at the badges on their uniforms, and yes, it said CHP! They were CHiPs! OMG!

Then I wandered around and looked in the shops, and then, because it seemed to be the thing to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I had an icecream. Icecream makes me breathe funny, but it was a very nice icecream (I had butterscotch pecan, in case you're wondering). And this view back towards San Francisco and the Bay Bridge made it even more enjoyable.

And then the ferry arrived and it was time to head back. What, you didn't think I was actually going to cycle all the way back, did you?

The ferry took me back to Pier 1 and the BART took me back to the East Bay. Here's a map (thanks, Google maps!) of where I cycled, more or less. It's about 8 miles, so not really all that far. Being a satellite image, you'll find if you squint really hard you'll see me cycling across the bridge!


* an iced coffee in America is unfortunately not the same thing as what you'd expect in NZ and Australia (and possibly the UK?). To Americans, an iced coffee is just black coffee with ice in it. Not the wonderful dessert in a glass incorporating caffeine, cream, icecream and sometimes a chocolate fish. But I've discovered that asking for an iced soy latte, while it makes me sound pretentious, does somewhat deliver. And while on the subject of coffee, I've only just discovered (after living here a year!) that a long black is an americano. Duh!

Rainbow Warrior

Today is the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior. I remember this well, and it makes me feel old!

We were living in Belgium at the time, so I don't really know what the reaction was in New Zealand. But I knew the French had blown up a Greenpeace ship because they didn't want Greenpeace to stop their nuclear testing in the Pacific.

The immediate effects for me were:
1. My French teacher kept on stopping in the middle of the class, looking at me, and saying accusingly in a strong accent: "Rainbow Warrior".
2. We were required, as kiwis, to get visas to enter France, and were only allowed to enter for 3 days. As far as I know, we never bothered getting the visas, and kept on driving across the border every fortnight (Dad was the church organist at an English-speaking church across the border in Lille) in our Belgian-licensed car.

This visa thing did cause a spot of bother for my sister when she went to fly out of Paris back to NZ. They accused her of being an illegal overstayer because of lack of valid visa and her French was too good.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

More jewellery

This is a hematite necklace I made. There is a matching ring but I don't have a photo of it on hand.

Hematite is supposedly a calming stone, and according to this website, not only does it dissolve negativity, but actually transforms it into the energy of Universal Love. Wow. It also apparently helps with blood disorders (from the Greek haima = blood), and assorted other ailments.

Although on the whole I find making jewellery calming, I don't remember these hematites being particularly calming. In fact they were right little buggers to set.

I don't wear this one much, cos it is quite chunky, but I probably should wear it a bit more so as to create more Universal Love. We can always do with more Universal Love.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005


I'm ecstatic! I made the Bloggies ratings! New in at number 8! Woohoo! This is, like, the best day of my life! And, unlike people who have already been at number one, the only way is up!*

Now I just have to figure out what I did right. I suspect somebody might be hoping for some free jewellery. And I did mention The Gays TM a few posts back, I had a suspicion that might work in my favour.

Maybe they just felt guilty for forgetting to make me a bloggies badge. As well they should.


* or down to 9 or 10. Or back out of the Bloggies ratings entirely. Oh the anxiety!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Fourth of July weekend

Every now and again someone asks me what 4th of July is like in my country - do we have fireworks etc. Huh? And why, exactly, would we celebrate 4th July?

Highlights of my 4th July weekend:
  • Hanging out on Bolinas beach with two friends and a dog
  • A Brazilian barbecue where I felt like I was in a different country entirely - lots of Portuguese and Spanish being spoken, fantastic Brazilian jam session in the living room (and a Brazilian complimented my drumming skills! yay for me)
  • Talking to my big sister in NZ, whose birthday it is today
  • Turning up at two separate barbecues, saying hello, grabbing food, and leaving, because we wanted to catch the fireworks
  • Walking really fast towards the marina to see the fireworks, and arriving just in time for the finale
  • Making plans for hiking in Marin, scuba diving in Monterey, a road trip to Portland, Oregon
  • Sleeping in
This marks the end of my first year in Berkeley. I've discovered that it can take a year to really settle in somewhere and make the friends you really want, rather than the friends that just happen to be available. I've been lucky in that I have a couple of good friends that I met in my first weeks in Berkeley in the first house I moved into, but I'm just now making some really good friends at work - it makes all the difference.

I'm not really sure what 4th July is all about (something about signing some declaration?) but for me it was a lovely celebration of friendship. And fireworks and beer.