Move Out, Don’t Bring Me Down

So I’m starting to get ready to leave town.  I’m going to try to downsize as much as possible for the next two weeks, doing KonMarie, giving stuff away, and selling stuff on LetGo.  I sold my bed today, after listing it for six hours. I’m trying to sleep on my air mattress now but it’s a little difficult due to A/C holding steady at 81ª.

If I manage to get rid of the big stuff, I will downgrade the POD I reserved, and my move will be cheaper and easier.  It won’t be the first time for me to start over from scratch.

When I showed up in the desert three years ago, before I knew anybody, I would get an empty feeling when I saw the windmills. The desert was a place where I work but there’s nothing to discover, nothing to look forward to. Just work. Any discoveries I made were outside of this desert valley, on the coasts, in the big cities, or in México.

I started getting that empty feeling again after some of my friends moved away. Feeling that emptiness again after going a year or so without made me realize that I must have been doing ok here for a little bit. It was a rule of mine after Shanghai that I had to have non-work friends. That didn’t happen for me, here; all my friends were work friends.  Luckily, we all became outside-of-work friends as well, but I did get annoyed when we talked about work too much when we were off the clock.

Anyway, that empty feeling lasted for about a week, and I have new missions now; downsizing, Hong Kong, packing, driving to Seattle.  Just got an offer of free boxes, so I gotta post this and go.

Must be the clouds in my eyes

I woke up today before the birds started chirping, around 4am.

At about 8:30 a.m. I showed up at R’s apartment complex with a thermos full of coffee and a keto-friendly baon that I packed for him. Packing a someone snack for the road feels like the deepest core Filipino instinct. He put me to work vacuuming, and then when I was done he gifted me the vacuum cleaner, which he was going to throw away anyway. My own vacuum cleaner will move on to Goodwill.

We got the manager to inspect his empty apartment, which is now spotless, and after that he turned in his keys. We walked to his car, said goodbye, and he drove away, waving to me in the rear view mirror. I felt dumb about waving so I just put my hand in the air.

I didn’t feel particularly sad, that I could tell; but I started crying as I was walking through his complex to my car.  I cried all the way to Washington Street, and then I cried past St. Francis of Assisi and all the way to Highway 111, and then I finally stopped and exhaled at about Fred Waring. I don’t think I ever cried about another dude before; the last time I cried at all was in 2007 when my sister dropped me off at the airport when I was leaving for China.

Anyway, it feels silly now, all the crying. R is a very close and sincere friend; we supported each other a lot through these last few months of transition. The word I give him is “reassuring.” He’s a good man, I wish him well in the Society of Jesus. It pains me that we didn’t take a picture.

I made it back to my apartment and I sat with a neighbor for a while, and overshared. Now I’m back in my cool apartment, with zero desire to eat, read, or watch TV.  I have a massage appointment in an hour and maybe afterward I’ll see a movie.

No plans for tomorrow, Sunday. Monday I’ll report for jury duty.

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Old Plaza, LA

Why I Help My Friends Move

Ten years ago, I wrote this post: The Blow Off…

Recently I’ve been through a festival of flaking, and it wasn’t the apologetic, unavoidable, understandable kind.  It was the blow-off kind of flaking, the unapologetic, inconsiderate kind, the kind of flaking that ruined all my plans and left me home alone, with nothing to do except think about how mad I was. It was the kind of flaking that, when compounded, ends friendships. In the end we managed to get past it, but I feel like we wrecked the paint job scraping the median.

What happened was that China, the nation, mandated that everybody work on Saturday and Sunday, in order to have a longer block of days off for Dragon Boat Festival. They had done something similar for Spring Festival earlier that year, and I remember being livid for having to go in to work on that Sunday.

So for that Dragon Boat Festival Sunday, I was prepared to work and just grind it out, because I needed to save my personal days for when I left the company. But when my number-one amigo J told me the itinerary for that Sunday, I immediately emailed that I was going to take a personal day.  In the morning, there was going to be a swanky brunch for S, who had just earned her PhD. Later, there would be a walking tour of the historic Jewish quarter of Shanghai, organized by my brilliant friend M. Later, I had plans to meet my new friend for dim sum, and then after that I think the plan was to just hang out with J, our last night to hang out. He was leaving China for good later that week. We also agreed that I’d take him to the airport to see him off later that week, which meant a lot to me. So I requested two personal days; one for Dragon Boat Sunday, and one for airport day.

It turns out that J was a no show for the brunch, the walking tour, and the dim sum. People looked to me, to ask what was going on, and I just apologized on his behalf and forced a smile. I was embarrassed, and I wished people would stop asking me. I wished J would at least answer my texts, if not theirs.

After all the events were over, I went home instead of going out with the others. I was too annoyed to go out, and I didn’t want to go out annoyed. So I sat in my apartment annoyed instead, and then went to bed.

The next morning at work, J finally texted me. He said he had drunk too much the night before, woke up at 3pm and then didn’t feel like going out, so he stayed home for a few hours and then later went on a date. He said he was “keeping it real,” and I think he was annoyed that I was so disappointed.

I thought to myself, oh I have very seriously misjudged our friendship. Or maybe it somehow ended without me knowing. Either way, it’s over. I deserve better than that.

I answered his texts, saying, “Look, I just need my backpack back, I left it in your apartment and my camera is in it.  I still want to see you off at the airport on Friday, but if you don’t want me there, just tell me now; I should not waste both my personal days if you’re not into it…”

Seconds after I sent that text, the phone rang. I took the call on the stairs of the rooftop patio. It was J, apologizing, saying that he had forgotten that Sunday was a work day, that I had had to take a personal day. It wasn’t a very compelling reason to blow me off, so even though he was apologetic, I stuck to the only thing I really needed from the situation; I wanted my camera back.

J offered to meet me for dinner sometime that week and I said, “Look, I just want my camera back.” He told me to name a night and we’d go out for dinner; I said, “Fine, Tuesday night.” He responded that he had a date Tuesday night. I asked about other nights and he actually had dates every night that week. I told him, “Look, I don’t need dinner, I just want my camera back.”

There was a pause and he said, “I will cancel my date for Tuesday night.”

I took a breath. I realized our friendship actually was important to him; important enough to cancel a date with his lady friend.

Of course it is preposterous. I signed and said, “no, I’m not going to ask you to cancel a date.” But I did see that he was serious, and I give him credit for offering.

“Lunch,” he said, “I’ll meet you for lunch… today.” I think it was already 11:00 in the morning; he would really have have to hustle to meet me for lunch. While I was thinking about it, he reminded me, “Look, you want your camera back.” Son of a bitch!

I met him at a dim sum place. He handed me my backpack, and I checked inside and saw my camera. Mission accomplished.

I don’t remember what we chatted about, but it was pleasant, like nothing had happened, like I hadn’t just got horribly blown off 48 hours earlier. It felt like we was boyz again. My notions about the end of our friendship were fading fast.

So at a lull in our pleasant conversation, I told him, “J, you know I didn’t really want to come today.”

He said, “I know, mate.”

“I don’t allow people to treat me like that… I just needed my camera back…”

He interrupted. “I’m really sorry, mate.” I could tell he meant it.

So that’s it. I am a sucker for sincere apologies. If someone apologizes to me sincerely, I actually feel embarrassed that I got mad. It takes very little to make me feel whole again, and suddenly it’s behind me.

I guess I’m taken aback by sincere apologies, I did not grow up with them. My Filipino parents, aunts and uncles, and older generations, would not apologize to save their own lives. They are so proud, that they would cut their own livers out of their abdomens before taking responsibility for the impact of their words and actions. Filipino American kids of my generation are not equipped to negotiate after a sincere apology. We have known all our lives that we would die mad.

So now I know that I will tolerate horrible, friendship-ending level offenses, and just move on, if there is a sincere apology in it for me. I admit, I’m kind of a sucker.

Anyway, on June 5, 2009, J and I got in a cab for Pudong airport. It’s an hour cab ride, I think we were probably late, and there was a pit stop. There were no grand final monologues, just regular amigo chatter. We got his bags checked in and we walked to security.

At the entrance to the security, J turned to me and warned me about my sunglasses, hooked onto the button of my shirt, and then hugged me, crushing my sunglasses. I think my words were, “oh, there’s hugs?”

My parting words were, “hey, thanks for everything…” and he replied, “No; thank you!” And then we said bye and he disappeared into security.

That was the last time I saw him, ten years ago last Wednesday.


The only person I ever told this story to was Aussie K. J was a mutual friend, and I had accepted his apology, so I didn’t feel like it was something I should blab about.

At the end of the story, K asked me, “Why was it so important to you to see him off at the airport?”

“I wanted to say goodbye properly,” I said, and then I thought for a moment and realized the real answer. “I see my friends off, because when it’s my time to go, I want someone to see me off, too.”

K nodded in a thoughtful Australian acknowledgement, and asked, “Who’s seeing you off when you leave on the 29th?”

I said, “Yah, well… nobody. It’s a Monday so everybody will be working…”

She interrupted, “I’ll see you off.”

A few weeks later, K and I got in a cab to Pudong airport. We were not late, and there was not a pit stop. I was so grateful that she saw me off, it really meant a lot to me.


And that’s why I offer to help people move. Or at least offer to help.

I know that soon, I’ll have to move. And when I do move, I hope someone will help me.

Cover to Cover

Monday. Morning workout: a lot of deadlifts. I spent the day in my classroom grading papers. In the evening I had a massage.

Tuesday.  I went into the office early, put my gradebook to bed, and then boxed up my personal belongings to move out of my classroom.  I went home for lunch and a nap, and afterward, went back onto to move my boxes out.  R texted that he would help the next day, but I rounded up some help (ES) and just backed my Prius up to my classroom door and loaded the few boxes into the car.  R gets credit for having offered to help, but in the end I got it done without him.

When I got home, I found that my copy of Amber Scorah’s Leaving the Witness; Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life had arrived. Amber is a dear friend for over a decade, and I’m so proud of her for telling this story.  I will have my thoughts and reflections on the book in a later post. For now, it seems like Amber is on a media blitz promoting the book, with interviews on NPR, CBC, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, etc.  In addition, she published another opinion piece in the New York Times, and the NYT Book Review is coming out on Sunday.  She also mentioned something about People Magazine… her publicist has really made things happen.

I read the book from cover to cover.  I started around 5pm, and finished it before midnight.  I only took two breaks; one to make fried rice for dinner, and the other because R wanted to meet me for frozen yogurt.

Wednesday. I felt too sore to go to the morning workout, so I skipped it (big mistake, I’m more sore today). I met R and went to help him move his bed, which he gifted to a coworker. We delivered it, and the three of us had lunch at El Mirasol, which was better than I remembered it. I went home afterward, tidied my kitchen while watching Tidying Up with Mari Kondo.  For dinner I drove to La Quinta to meet R and L&ES for dinner at the Grill on Main. There was some sorbet later, and a quiet drink.

Thursday. I skipped the workout again today, because I was too excited for Amigo Day Encore. I picked up R and we googled for a beach that didn’t have a lot of traffic.  We ended up in Oceanside. We went to the farmer’s market, walked the fishing pier, and napped on the beach (it was cloudy) for a couple hours until it was time for lunch. We went to Maan’s Mediterranean Grill for lunch and then found a Yogurtland before going to Carlsbad beach for a couple of hours. After that we drove back over he mountains, making a pitstop at Cahuilla Casino.  While in the casino, the power blinked off and all the casino machines rebooted, which means we didn’t play any slots, just continued back to the desert. We stopped and took a couple of pictures at the vista point, noticing a fire near my house.

I dropped off R at his place and then came back to my own; watched some more episodes of KonMari and ate spaghetti.

Tomorrow:  who knows. Maybe I’ll write about Amber’s book. In the evening there might be frozen yogurt. Early Saturday morning, R will bring back the air mattress I loaned him, and he drives away for good.

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

decluttering.001I’m moving back to Seattle this summer. Someone was kind enough to offer me their condo to rent, it was a sweet family deal!  Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for them) they have found a buyer, so I won’t be able to rent that spot. I gotta live somewhere else. I’m glad, of course, for the owners.

The tricky part for me is now finding a place to land with all my gear, without a deposit. My current plan is to crash with my sister for a while, it won’t take too long to save up. The trick with that is I’ll have to put most of my stuff in storage while I’m living in the guest room. I’m not too thrilled about that, as I will have to be organized and intentional about packing. Grr. However, I am looking forward to spending quality time with my sister and brother in law.

Then, when it’s time to move, I’ll have to pick a weekend and make it all happen. I’m a little worried about that.  The best thing I can do, probably, is go rid myself of extraneous belongings.  Again. Start over.

I have three weeks in June to read and watch Mari Kondo, and to Mari Kondo my current apartment. That has been my plan all along. Besides that, my only other obligation is jury duty. And occasional Southern California adventures.

One regret I have is that it turns out my friend R is a talented de-cluttering consultant in his own right. I think he’ll be long gone before I’ll be able to exploit his talents.

It goes without saying that all of this would be easier if I had a bunch of money sitting in my bank account. I have to work on that aspect.

Things Are Going To Be Different

Here’s how I hope my life goes when I move back to Seattle.  Hopefully when I check in on this post after a year, I will have checked off all these boxes.

  • Workout every morning, 5 days a week.
  • Take the bus to work and back every day, unless I need the car for something important.
  • Weekend adventures. Not just relaxing: actual adventures. Hope I find amigos aventureros.  This means I have to plan all my classes and clear my grading folder by the time I go home on Fridays.
  • Check in regularly with my far-away friends.
  • Have a close-knit circle of non-work friends.  Non-work friends can be people from work, as long as they don’t talk about students, or toxic people at work.
  • Attend Deaf events, like the weekly ASL Meetup at Appassionato
  • Sell soaps.
  • Figure out a guest-room situation, so friends can come visit.
  • Have a paperless home, and a plastic-minimum life.
  • Put money in my retirement and savings. When I retire I want to be able to travel at will, and still spoil my nieces and nephews.
  • Learn something new; maybe woodworking or ceramics.
  • It might be nice to have a podcast again.