|A Mirror into Ken's Past -- 1986|
Donna was less and less happy in Alaska. The SCA group wasn't one she was comfortable with (and she had, unfortunately, made some enemies by not being really careful in how she worded some things ...).
She decided we were going to move to California. Note "she decided", not "we decided". Well, I figured what the heck? I am a computer jock, I can get a job in Silicon Valley easy. So, I agreed ... This decision sounds easy, it really wasn't. I was going to be leaving a place where I had a LOT of friends, I had a job I really enjoyed, and I was pretty happy. I was going to a place where I knew very few people, I wasn't guaranteed a job, etc. Not to mention the fact that I generally hate moving. In a different light, Alaska was home -- it was where I really figured out a bit about who I was, I had basically really grown into myself there -- I was comfortable in Alaska with my life, my job, my friends and myself. Moving away was one of the harder things I ever did, although I didn't realize when I did it what an impact it would have.
If I'd really been paying attention I would have realised that this was what Donna had wanted in the first place. She came to Alaska ultimately with the plan that I would move to the Bay Area with her. I think she even said so more than once, but I can be really dense at times (you don't have to agree so loudly!).
Donna packed up her stuff and left a couple of weeks before I did. I wanted to finish the class I was teaching -- having a change of instructor in a four month course right at the end is not good, and I felt I had a responsibility there.
I finished classes, finished packing (we'd sent a bunch of stuff down already). I tried to sell the car. I didn't manage to do that. I had to leave it with Mary who I gave the legal rights to, so she could try to sell it. She didn't, and ended up using that car until it died. She took over payments on the loan, and when it was paid off my credit rating went way up.
The last couple of days before I left I stayed with Kylson and Robin. One of the volcanoes near Anchorage (not Mount Spur, I can't remember which) went off a bit and there was ash everywhere. I was worried my flight would be delayed. It may have been, I can't remember now. I made it to Oakland in decent shape.
Back to California
Life can be interesting sometimes. I was born in California, and 29 years later I moved back ... well, not to the same part of California, but ...
Donna made arrangements for us to live in a place she had lived before moving to Alaska. There was this house in downtown Oakland, a nice old Victorian style house. We lived in a single room in the attic (small, which was hard, but the rent was real cheap), and were able to share the bathroom, kitchen, living room and dining room with a couple of other people who lived there. We didn't see all that much of the others living in the house, and I am not real sure how many there were. There was one lady who had a little terrier (yappie dog). Most of our stuff was in a friend of Donna's house (Steve Beck and Kathy Berte) -- on a palette in their garage.
Donna had found a job fairly quickly. I did not.
As you might imagine, especially if you know me, I got a bit stir-crazy. Living in small quarters, no car and no job was really hard. I took a lot of my frustration out on Donna, which I really shouldn't have.
I got unemployment from Alaska (that was weird -- I was getting almost twice the unemployment from Alaska that I would have gotten from California ...). That helped, as at least I had SOME money.
I job hunted and job hunted, and sent out resumes, and job hunted. I had one interview at the Kaiser Data Center shortly after arriving, and they didn't have a job for me. (I think there may have been some idiotic political stuff there -- I had contacted them before moving, and they wanted me to come down and interview for some position at a point where I couldn't -- if I did that, I couldn't have gone back to Alaska and then come back ... I didn't have enough money! Anyway, I think the HR person there was upset with me that I couldn't tweak my life enough to do that one interview. Maybe I'm just being paranoid. <g>)
In the SCA I was having problems as well. Donna had a circle of friends that she got back in with. Unfortunately they didn't know me from Adam, and I wasn't making it easy because I wasn't happy and wasn't really trying to fit in. At the time I felt that they weren't accepting me, but I think it was really the other way around. I have gotten to know most of these folk a lot better over the years and can honestly call some of them friends now, but at the time ... no. I was in a rotten head-space. I'm sure glad I got over it. Unfortunately it took awhile.
The one place in the SCA I did feel like I fit in was in the College of Heralds. I had been a herald in Alaska, so I had a lot in common with these folk. I knew Eilis (Lee Forgue) from when she had come up to Alaska in January of 85. The current leaders helped me fit in a lot (Fred Hollander and Lee Forgue). Somewhere in there they put me in charge of the Herald's Handbook, which hadn't been updated in many years. The reason was that I had started to write something when I was in Alaska as an "Oerthan Herald's Handbook", so I had already made a start in that direction. This gave me something productive to do.
My diary is full of "No job ... still no job ... really depressed ..." entries from this period. I remember spending a lot of time pounding the pavement ... reading a lot (which meant having to go to Steve and Kathy's place and get stuff out of boxes), getting the TV set up in that small room ...
We went to a bunch of SCA events in there, but I don't remember them well. I know we had to bum a ride or borrow someone's car to do it.
In October we got an apartment in Berkeley. This was an apartment that was being vacated by another SCAer (Aelfwynn Gyrthesdottir). She left it quite a mess and the place was a real dive. It was near the University and was part of a house that had been split into three apartments. There were cockroach problems (that was no fun -- they are not native to Alaska, and so I'd never dealt with them before ...), no heat (the landlord refused to fix the heater), it was not a great place. But it was close to the campus, close to public transit, AND it wasn't a single cramped room.
During the relatively short time we lived in that apartment there were two fires. One was apparently caused by the "Berkeley Arsonist" (the fire department said it fit the M.O.). The other was caused by a homeless person who set up camp in the car port and set their mattress on fire. Luckily the Berkeley fire department responded quickly in both cases! Both times the fire didn't do any damage to anything but the outside of the place, so all the people and their belongings in the house were ok.
In August (in the SCA) Steve won the Crown for Kathy. Kathy offered to buy enough tools so I could make her Queen's Cyphers. I was thrilled. We worked up a design and I did most of the work in the apartment, and went over to Jim Early's house (James Greyhelm in the SCA) to use some of his equipment to polish and finish them. Looking back on photos they weren't my best work, but I didn't really have a shop to work in. These tokens were given by Kathy in January when she stepped down as Queen. This got me back to doing something in the jewelry area.
In late November or early December I got a job out in Brisbane. Brisbane is south of San Francisco. Getting to this job meant a combination of: bus to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit -- the train system), catch another bus in San Francisco (because BART didn't go out there at the time), transfer to yet ANOTHER bus somewhere along the line, and then on top of it all walk about half a mile to the job site. When it was raining that was not fun. On the other hand, the walking was good for me. Coming home was just the opposite. Luckily there was a cafeteria in the building, or lunch would have been hard for me (the place was far from pretty much anything in the way of restaurants, etc.). For awhile before I was laid off I was getting a ride to and from work with my manager which at least saved me the hassle of the public transit part of things. On the other hand, it was a bit uncomfortable as she was a difficult person.
The job was for the Juillard Alpha Liquor Company (JALCO). Basically they were a redistributor of wine and other alcholic beverages, and the things that go with all of that. My job was mostly working on a combination of a PC and Macintosh (transferring data via modem, oddly enough), to create catalogs that were put together on a regular basis. Updating the data was the hard part because things went on and off sale a lot.
I also did a lot of support for people not familiar with PCs. I had learned a lot about PCs at the Alaska Computer Institute, and I really enjoyed doing that stuff. My manager (Celia(?)) was ... er ... difficult. She really didn't know her stuff that well, but she was great at claiming someone else's work as her own. I was always frustrated dealing with her. The job overall was not great, but ... it was a job.
By this time, I had been introduced to gillions of SCAers (or so it seemed). Like everything else, there were more people in the SCA here than I could possibly have imagined, living in Alaska. I was overwhelmed.
Donna Green -- well, while I wasn't happy, we were still together. Unfortunately I was putting a lot of strain on the relationship, and it ended early in 1987. More on that ...
Catherine Keegan -- Keridwen MacAoudhegain in the SCA -- she tried to help me out in the job area when I first got to the Bay Area. Later we became friends, but at the time like a lot of folk, I was a bit scared of her (she has a daunting personality, and she's a tall woman). Once you get to know her she's not as scary as she seems to be.
Tim Bray -- Keegan's husband. In the SCA he's now known as Colin de Bray, although he used to be Colin dearg. He's a very intelligent, funny guy, with way too much talent (feeling a bit jealous ...). Tim is one of those people with enough charisma that if he decides to go do something, he usually has a bunch of people who follow along. Tim's birthday is exactly one week before mine, which is interesting to me, if no one else.
Steve Beck -- Stephen of Beckenham in the SCA, was friendly, but as part of Donna's "crowd", didn't really know how to deal with me. If I had been a fighter in the SCA that might have helped (we'd have had that in common). We get along okay now, but at the time it was uneasy.
Kathy Berte -- Sariya al'Musad (at the time) in the SCA (now Sophie Xylander aus Augsberg), Steve's wife, was always nice to me but like the others in this group of folk, I don't think she quite knew how to interact with me. I wasn't being the most outgoing person in the world and was often quite withdrawn. She and Steve got divorced sometime later and Steve's married to someone else. Kathy's not playing in the SCA at all now but she sometimes come to 12th Night. I saw her at an Oak, Ash and Thorne concert in 2001, and she seemed to be happy.
Toni Whyte -- Genevieve de la Mer Bleue (she's changed it since to Genevieve de Vendome) in the SCA. Lovely, kind, talented lady. She really tried to be nice to me, but I don't think I was ready for that at the time. Toni was married to Sagen, but that didn't last for very long. She's single, I think, now. She went inactive in the SCA for some time, but is now active again. She's been one of Donna's best friends for many many years. She and Carolyn (my wife) and I all get along well, which is great.
Fred Hollander -- Frederick of Holland (for those who know much about SCA history, yes, this THE Frederick of Holland). Flieg (a nickname he's had forever) and Eilis (see below) were great in helping me find a place to feel welcome in the SCA, and finding me things to do. While we don't always see eye-to-eye, he's always been there, and is a good friend.
Lee Forgue -- Eilis O'Boirne in the SCA. Same as above. We've had some minor fallings out over the years I've known her, but we still get along. I get along with her kids pretty well, too ... At the time I didn't get along well with them, but once they grew up (and once I got over myself ...)
There were a bunch of folk in the heralds who I got to know over time, and I'll probably talk about them on and off through other parts of this narrative, so ...
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