Sciamachy

(n) a battle against imaginary enemies, fighting your shadow.

This has been a busy month for me professionally, but my blog has suffered a case of the complete antithesis of NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s a shortened version of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Many aspiring writers use this month to complete novels and can track progress via a website, earn badges, and generally be productive before the holidays. I have not yet actually participated in that as of yet, as any novel in my mind cannot be confined to being excommunicated from my brain in only the month of November.

I haven’t written much this month on my blog. If I’m being honest, I’ve wanted to, but I just found myself not wanting to share what I’d been bouncing around in my head.

The nearly unstoppable demons of my depression reared their ugly heads this month, and since I made the conscious decision to wean myself off of the antidepressants this past spring, I need to use alternative means of shutting them up. That makes things harder, more manual, and completely exhausting.The things I have told myself while sad and alone are horrible. I’d never say them to anyone else, so I don’t know why the demons think it’s okay to say them about me. It’s a full time job, ignoring these assholes so I can just function with some level of confidence and nonchalance so not everyone knows the internal battle happening at any given moment. I must have had a really stupid look on my face all month.

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What’s happened while I’ve been gone? Paris. Work. The climate change summit. Work. Donald Trump impersonating someone with a disability.

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My gym got new recumbent bikes which ride like butter. Work. Thanksgiving with my aunt in southern California, and seeing Mockingjay Part 2 at a theater with waiters/waitresses bringing me booze and food while I let my fat cells multiply in a comfy new leather recliner. When did theaters start doing that??? Where have those been all my life??? Back in the good old days in Australia, my flatmate and I smuggled in personal BYO champagne bottles (no cups) to the theater for our me time and enjoyment of the Kath & Kim movie. It was nice. Different. Unusual.

And, since it’s November 30, I’ve managed to avoid the Movember movement where moustaches abound like a 70’s porno.

So, not much. Ok, some. I feel like I’m finally resurfacing after being underwater. I can’t really see or hear, but I’m breathing so I think I’m ok.

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I just wanted you to know I’m still here. That’s kind of a big deal for me after the month I’ve had. It’s an accomplishment.

I’m hoping I will have more words to share and the desire to share them next month. I’ve sat in my head too long and it’s time to move on. I’m ready for December. November, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

Obstacles as real life

I’ve just spent the last 3 days in Atlanta for a conference. I initially signed up before Cheddar came into my life, and I was hesitant to go on my first trip, leaving him home without me for 4 days. My best friend did me a solid and looked in on him while I was gone, played with him, and spoiled him in my absence.

That freed me up to open myself to the experience of a work conference. In my state of mind of late, this could have been hit or miss. Many of my colleagues would be there too. I was apprehensive, because I’m not one to drink the work koolaid. In fact, I’m struggling to keep a positive outlook when it comes to work. Everyone goes through it, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I departed San Francisco airport Tuesday, allowing myself a full day of travel ahead of the Wednesday start of the conference. I’d hoped to arrive at a decent hour Tuesday, maybe hit the gym, order room service, take a bath, and have a good night’s sleep before the full-on agenda kicked in.

That was not to be. Unfortunately, the flight to Atlanta Tuesday ended up being a total clusterfuck. Thanks, United. I had a connection in Houston, which should have been no problem. Bad idea, as it turns out. I have 14 emails notifying me of the various delays we experienced, as well as 10 text messages. Clearly, consistency of communications is not United’s forte.

“You see, what had happened was…” (one of my favorite phrases, by the by) we were notified the original aircraft was unflyable due to maintenance that couldn’t be fixed in the short amount of time we had until take-off. A new aircraft had to be located in a nearby hangar, and transported to a gate nearby for us to board instead. That accounted for about 4 of the delay notifications, each approximately 15-30 minutes in length. Dangle that carrot, United. By some miracle, a new aircraft was located within an hour, so our flight was not cancelled. We boarded the plane, and got onto the runway, and I was so ready to make up for lost time.

Then, news from the cockpit: this aircraft had a maintenance deadline by midnight, and there was no crew on the ground in Atlanta to perform it, so that meant the maintenance had to be performed before we could depart. We left our place in line for take-off, and headed back to the gate. Defeat. More delay notifications.

Back at the gate, we remained on the plane while the maintenance was performed, and we finally received the announcement that we were ready to hit the runway. Joy. However, one small hitch. A tow truck had to pull us out of the gate, to be able to get to the runway. That tow truck had broken down, in the path of our plane. So a tow truck had to be called to tow the original tow truck out of our way. More delay notifications.

I should have arrived in Atlanta around 8:30pm. I checked into the hotel at 1:30am. Add to the mix that I was sicker than I’d been in over a year. My eyes wouldn’t stop watering, I was sneezy and leaking through my nose. By the time we finally got into the air, my ears had popped and plugged so many times I do believe I was underwater, while I was in fact in the air. Painful and uncomfortable do not even begin to describe the entire experience.

The conference itself saturated my mind with great ideas and food for thought which would help me on my client work in the upcoming busy season. If one has no choice but to go forth into the fray, it’s best to bring a gun to a gunfight, rather than a knife.

I was pleasantly surprised. I’m no joiner. I don’t get asked to present anymore at these events, since I’ve come back from Australia. While having the opportunity to travel abroad enriched me personally, the US doesn’t seem to appreciate my unique experience, and I slipped down the ladder a few rungs. Fine by me, I didn’t want to have responsibility anyway.

I enjoyed myself with coworkers, and had a good time. I caught up with an old friend the first night of the conference at a local gay bar and an old reliable Mexican food joint, on what little sleep I had. The second night, we had a huge offsite event – a block party closed off to the general public across a row of 4 restaurants: American, Italian, BBQ, and German food. The bar in each restaurant was open with no money exchanged by attendees, and no one was counting. The buffets were out with insane amounts of food which could probably feed one of the “Stan” countries for a week (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc.)

I write this on the plane headed back to San Francisco, after one of the funnest afternoons I’ve had in a while. Many coworkers from the San Francisco office are on the same flight as me. There is a sense of connection. The plane is not full of strangers, but of colleagues. We’re friendly and tipsy thanks to the airport bar next to our gate which we took over in advance of boarding, and it’s had an amazing impact on the remaining passengers. There is no ill will, crankiness, or general rudeness. There is safety. There is friendship. It’s actually kinda fun. This has never happened to me before. I’ve maybe known one or two people on previous flights before – but never nearly half the plane. These flight attendants won’t know what hit ’em.

However, my heart weighs heavy, as the news breaking in Paris was blowing up my phone via CNN alerts as we boarded. My safety, my comfort, comes at a huge cost for those on the other side of the world, going through a horrible tragedy I cannot even fathom.

I had the opportunity to visit Paris for the first time 6 months ago. It came as a surprise, how much I enjoyed myself and liked it there. I had fully anticipated to like Rome, Italy, infinitely more. That was not to be. I stayed at an Airbnb in Republiqué, and visited the statue at Republiqué where the Charlie Hebdo vigil was held.

Tonight’s events hit me hard, despite my jovial surroundings, and bring a low hanging despondent fog across what was the most cheerful workday I’ve had in a long time. Tomorrow morning, families will receive the worst of news. Some will wake up in hospitals, forever changed, only to learn of the horrific occurrences of November 13, 2015. Some won’t wake up at all.

All I can express is gratitude for what I have and have not, that my loved ones are safe, and a yearning to express concern for those affected in the Paris attacks. I had a most inconvenient trip out here. But I’m ok.

I hope you and yours, dear reader, were not affected, and that you take those small moments of joy that surprise you in a good way, and cherish them.

All too often in life, we think we just need to get through this or that, and then we’ll be free to enjoy life. Obstacle after obstacle presents itself, and we distance ourselves from the end goal of happiness, thinking if we can just overcome that obstacle, we can then enjoy life. But life is funny that way – it IS the obstacles. It is the work conference. It’s the delayed flight. It’s missing your newly adopted kitten, wondering if he misses you at home, if he thinks of you, even if it’s only in relation to your ability to open that bag of treats.

Take life for what it is, obstacles and all, because you never know when it won’t be yours to live anymore. Peace to all on this day of mourning for what happened Paris, and how some people still engage in attacks like these. It is the city of love, and love will prevail. That is the only way to truly conquer hate. Love.

Locals vs. tourists

I have written a few times previously on what a disaster San Francisco housing is. From the point of view of my own lease (here), as well as the venture capital flooding the area with high salaries to attract and retain employees (here), who can then afford the astronomical rent/housing costs.

One aspect I haven’t covered is Airbnb’s role in the San Francisco housing crisis in particular, which has only truly become apparent to me with a measure on the ballot today, which would limit short term rentals to 75 nights per year for any property in the city. Airbnb has spent a reported $8 million to urge voters to vote no on Measure F (see article here). The other side, Yes on F, has a mere $250K from supporters to help target voters.

Airbnb is a bay area startup (shocking, I know) valued at nearly $25.5 billion, and there are very powerful and influential people who own that private company. I knew that in Sydney, a friend of mine listed a mattress on the floor of his living room in Kings Cross on the site as available, and it supplemented his income to allow him to make ends meet. He clearly did not take advantage of the site to make it his primary income. I didn’t realize that some people do, professionally, legally, using it as the giant loophole it’s become.

There are actually people out there who lease multiple apartments in the city, for the sole purpose of listing them on Airbnb. If they listed a place at $150/night, that would be a steal compared to the hotel room prices which can vary anywhere between $250-400/night. If that person leases out that apartment every single night of the year on Airbnb, they would make $54,750. Subtract costs for rent (which may only be $2,500/month totaling $30,000 for the whole year), and that person is suddenly left with a hefty profit of $24,750 per unit they provide on Airbnb for that year(less costs for furniture and incidentals/accidents/cleaning).

So even if the $2,500/month would be too pricey for me to be an actual long-term renter in the same apartment, there is still demand for an apartment at that price. It ends up changing the very constituency of the market. Since builders, developers and landlords want to supply at higher prices, and long term renters do not demand at higher prices, suddenly, San Francisco becomes a city of de facto hotels offering competitive rates for tourist accommodation with that “homey” feel. Instead of a city with residents and voters and the locals who once made it weird and awesome, San Francisco morphed into a city of tourists with no skin in the game, leaving politicians and “the bad guys” to continue unquestioned and unchallenged.

Check out this article on the “dark side” of Airbnb which offers a great perspective I hadn’t previously considered. There are people out there being evicted or otherwise prevented access to housing as a result of other greedy people taking advantage of the system via a socially acceptable startup grown from the same soil here. There isn’t enough good data to pin it all on Airbnb though, and there’s good reason for that – Airbnb doesn’t want us to be educated about what is really going on here.

When I went on sabbatical for 2 months, it hurt me to my very soul to pay $2.5K/month for rent (for a total of $5K for those lucky ones who can do math in their heads). I couldn’t list my apartment on Airbnb to supplement that, which means my time off had a premium of $5K I could not recover. Partly because my lease didn’t allow it, but also because even if I had registered my unit with the city, the city would have turned around a tattled on me to my property management company. It hardly seems fair to be unable to take advantage or utilize the company that is making so many others rich.

Yes, I voted this year, and it wasn’t even a year with an election of a president. I voted yes on Prop F, before the rhetoric and campaigning started. I am a resident of San Francisco, and a voter, and despite the power that seems to have melted away with that title, I exercised mine today. Exercise yours.