Southern California reflections, February 2013

Posted: February 8, 2013 in Travel

Fuck it, blog. Let’s write some shit today.

In seven hours, I’ll be on a plane to that place in the south of California known as Long Beach. I made the reservation a month ago on a total whim. Why not, I thought as I booked the ticket. I have a fairly insatiable need to throw myself onto a plane at a moment’s notice. If this doesn’t happen every few months, I go a little bat-shit.

It could be said that I am already a little bat-shit, but that’s beside the point. PS – go fuck yourself.

Long Beach is the home of many of my more dubious victories and defeats in my formative years. I lived there when I moved out of my parents’ house in 1999, went to college at CSULB, got my degree in journalism (one of said dubious victories), and made it another year there before I had to force myself into a dramatic change of scenery in late 2005.

I graduated in 2003 and found a job as the editor-in-chief of a small community newspaper in a conservative area of Orange County known as Seal Beach. Much to their chagrin, I was a flaming liberal at the time, and thought all conservative republicans were brainless morons with no soul and nothing but cruelty and hate in their hearts. I still think this today, but they’re not all terrible. Some are worse.

Writing for that paper was an interesting life lesson for me. I was naive, young, inexperienced and thought I knew everything. I think that comes standard with anyone straight out of college. It was almost as though I was hired at that paper just to eventually fire myself. The readers were intensely divided as to their feelings about me – I strove to publish content that was relevant, timely and accurate. The owners of the paper wanted to sell as many ads as possible, and didn’t give a fuck about editorial quality.

This quickly put me at odds with the men at the top.

I did things my own way, and I wanted to bring an edge to a newspaper that was otherwise full of fluff and filler to justify selling advertising. We had locals write movie reviews, and a pastor had his own guest column that was thinly-veiled Jesus propaganda. He would rarely mention any references to anything religious, but when he did, I took them out before press time. He complained once, but I told him the press is not a PR vessel for the church. He didn’t respond to that very well. I debated on telling him that wasn’t very Christian of him, but I somehow exercised restraint.

My job there took me through many trials and tests that nearly broke me on more than one occasion. I met a girl in Long Beach while working there, and she fed me lie after lie and eventually took over my life before I even realized it. My naive brain had not yet tasted true deception and scorn, but that changed with that ill-fated relationship. Everything about it was wrong and should never have happened, and my distaste for that entire situation grew venomous.

Things at the Sun were not going well, in the meantime – my publisher was a mean-spirited fat woman who survived leukemia and used that as an excuse to put herself on a pedestal above everyone else. Much like the pastor who didn’t take well to my informing of my feelings of news and church, I did not take well to Publisher’s treatment of anyone she deemed lower than her pedestal.

Of course, I was at the top of that list.

Maybe this is where it all started – my slow-rising disdain for California. Southern California, to be more specific. I think about how this all went down sometimes, and wonder if things had been better after my graduation if I’d have stayed around longer. I wasn’t making any money, had no room for growth at the paper (how much higher can a journalist get than “editor in chief” straight out of college?), and was constantly lied to by my superiors. I give them credit, though – they knew how to take advantage of the inexperienced.

But no. I doubt any of this would’ve been reason enough for me to stay. I came to the realization that what I was doing was simply spinning my wheels, with no clear vision ahead of what I wanted to be. I did know one thing, though – Seattle had been calling. My visits there were growing more frequent. I even signed up for membership at the Mercury, a private goth/industrial club on Capitol Hill, before I moved up here. It was beginning to feel undeniably like home, and she was beckoning to me every day.

The pain of not being here became too great. I couldn’t explain it at the time, but I suddenly knew where I had to be. And it was Seattle.

When I packed up my car with everything I owned out of my Los Alamitos apartment in December of 2005, I was happy. I couldn’t wait to get on the road and leave this place behind. The paper had cleverly waited until my birthday to fire me, so I wiped the hard drive of my PC and took all my notes with me on everything I’d ever done. I went next door to the Irish pub to have a farewell shot, and the bar owner knew there was something wrong right when I walked in. Perhaps shooting whiskey at 9:30 a.m. blew my cover.

When I walked back into the newspaper office, there was some asshole sitting at my desk, sorting through paperwork and talking to the publisher.

It was my replacement.

They hadn’t wasted a single bit of time. This had been a long time coming, obviously, and they made no effort to hide any of it. I was quiet, but then the wonderfully awkward moment came when I realized this dickbeard of an editor had parked his car right behind mine in the back, effectively boxing me in. I told him of this, and he cooperated in moving his car, but the moment was uncomfortable and I distinctly remember wanting to punch the bastard in the goddamned throat.

With the paper in the rearview mirror, I had what I thought would be a small send-off in Long Beach for my upcoming relocation to the Pacific Northwest. I invited some people to come have a beer with me at Murphy’s, a local pub that I frequented. I was blown away when roughly 30 people stopped in throughout the night to bid me farewell.

It made the goodbye bittersweet, but it was the right thing to do. My blood was not meant to subsist in this environment. It was time to go.

So, whenever I return to Long Beach, I think about all of this. I reflect back on how far I’ve come in my life and where I was when I left. The streets all look different in that town now because I’m seeing them through different eyes. The people sometimes look like cardboard cutouts of each other, all desperate to be different by blending in. The paradox is an odd phenomenon I’ve watched for a long time. It’s strange to think that I even lived in a place like that for so long now.

But these are all musings from a perspective that has evolved over the years. My former self; the one who lived in Long Beach once upon a time, is like skin that I shed a long time ago, and whenever I look at that shed skin now, it’s just an unrecognizable form of something that once was.

And it hurt like hell to get rid of all that, but I don’t regret a single minute of any of it. it’s what brought me to where I am now, and whether or not you regret the choices you’ve made along the way, I’d always like to think wherever you are is right where you need to be.

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