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Thursday, February 14, 2008

matters of the heart

that song "i left my heart in san francisco" has definitely been meaningful to me. i decided today, to write about the way i got to the city, and the way i left san francisco. it was the end of something both beautiful and tragic for me. i knew that things were changing, and as i drove across the bay bridge and made my way south to manhattan beach, i was overcome with sadness as i knew my life would never be the same as it had been while living there.

i had moved to sf in late '99. i had become angry for living for 10 years waiting to die because of hiv. in 96, the "cocktail" came about and suddenly i wasn't going to die. it seemed, i now needed a life plan and that pissed me off. i had wasted so much time in fear and frozen. so i decided to move to a city that might have a little more going on and where i might have a bit more fun.

it's so funny, too, 'cuz there was a huge blizzard in truckee when i was headed there. we got stuck and had to wait to get through, i had to buy chains in order to get my van and the trailer with my car through the high country. was it foreshadowing what was to happen- being stuck and having to fight to get through?

but i made it to the city. a day late, but i made it. i had an apartment set up next door to the place where some old friends were staying. they had secured a basement apartment on great highway (across from the ocean) for me. and i was paying the outrageous sum of $500 a month.

i had friends, i had an affordable apartment, i had a secure job doing corporate travel in downtown sf. my life seemed like it was from a book. this too shall pass, as the saying goes. my manager asked me to move to an onsite job at a pharma company in south city. i had a car, so it was do-able.

but when i got to that account, i was pretty horrified. there was a completely homophobic guy working there, who only gave me negative vibes. and there was a very butch woman who collated tickets that was just as homophobic. it really cranked my shaft to think i had moved to san francisco in order to experience hatred and prejudice in the ways i was witnessing. i began to go out more because i was frustrated, i was lonely, and i was tired of feeling both those things as much as i was.

the partying created less sleep, which exacerbated my mental health issues (i'm bi-polar) and i starting having resentments about having to work in such a gruesome environment.

i found a new job, located back in downtown sf. mind you, i had been with the other company for 3 years, so i had a really nice 401K, vacation, insurance, etc... but these things didn't mean anything next to the excruciating abuse i perceived myself enduring at the onsite. the new job lasted a whole 2 months. it was a dot-com and things and they had lots of cash when i started. i had been indirectly steered towards looking outside the company for airfares by one of the managers, and made the mistake of ticketing some personal things on the companies' iatan number and had a snafu. i got canned. i was stunned. i blamed others. the dot com bust hit. corporate travel was experiencing hard times. dot-coms were falling like dominoes. there was a gallery in sf which kept pinning up business cards of extinct companies along a wall in the gallery. weekend pink slip parties were common.

finding a new job was tough. i was still reeling from the ego punch of being fired. i had been drowning my sorrows ( big surprise) and i talked my uncle into giving me work at his office in LA. I started commuting to LA on mondays and home on thursdays. i had a job at an italian restaurant st fisherman's wharf on the weekend. the schedule was grueling. the partying was endless. the money was okay. the rest was little.

then 9/11 happened. it was stunning. it was like watching a movie. only it was one i didn't remember seeing before. the world stopped for a few minutes, but i didn't catch my breath. on 9/14 i got laid off from both jobs. i became bitter. i drove to las vegas for my uncle's wedding, totally pissed off that he would lay me off and expect me to spend money on a hotel and parties just as i had lost both my revenue streams. but i went anyway, because i wanted to be bitter.

i went back to sf and didn't find work until march. the new omni hotel had opened and i got a job as a server. it was a stroke of luck and a big pain at the same time. i didn't want to be a server anymore. but i needed the job. i started partying again after work. somehow, i started smoking crack again. oh yeah, i picked up this guy on polk street and we started playing regularly. he was hustler and loved to get high. i would do almost anything not to be alone.

i came down with shingles. god, those things hurt. i got put on vicoden and was taking about 6 a day for 6 weeks or so. i got kidney stones twice, and i just got so weirded out, that i decided i didn't want to be on hiv meds anymore and that the only reason i was working at that shitty job was so i could have insurance and be on meds.

but i went back to work, still taking vicoden. i went to a party after work and some people were smoking something from a glass pipe. it was chunky and solid, then flame was applied, it turned to liquid, the pipe was rolled back and forth, and it turned to smoke. i tried it and the pain from my shingles disappeared for the first time that i could remember. i went home and tinkered in my house all morning. i couldn't wait to try it again.

i next smoked meth about 2 weeks later. after about a week from that point, i quit my job. i was hanging out at golden gate park, buena vista park and baker beach park all the time. i didn't come down again that i remember while i was in sf. i was hallucinating, i was hiding from reality, and i slowly disassembled my life. cashed in my 401K. never paid rent. became obsessed with sex, computers, and parks. i became a ghoul. i felt as if i was communicating with another world. i didn't feel part of this world, i felt transcended and plugged into something else.

but my world was crumbling. my landlady, who had treated me like a prince, was completely through with my jekyll/hyde behavior. i had become irresponsible. i had become a whore. i had beoome a borg. i had become a vampire. welcome to drug addiction. i barely even noticed that my old friends had moved to hawaii, and the new friends i had met had gone to new york and maine. i wasn't speaking to non-user friends anymore. they only looked at me with horror in their eyes as i had lost so much weight and had become tweakish and psychotic.

and so i had no options but to drive south to friendlier territory (i hoped). i headed over the bay bridge for the last time. i felt as if i was losing a part of myself. one that i knew i would probably never regain. i had further bridges to cross and burn, before my run was through.

i miss that city. sometimes, my heart aches for the sunshine, the fog, the vistas, the hills, the ocean, the fantastic food, the nightlife, the culture, the vibrational rate. i love that city. love that city. but i don't think i left my heart there. now that i really consider it, i didn't. i lost my heart there. i lost touch with my heart when i met tina. i made room for her to move in and i didn't care what she got rid of.

i'm glad i've come into contact with my heart again. i've been blessed this way. i sometimes wanna whine because i don't have it all, but when i look closely, i see that perhaps i really do. i have been put in touch with my heart again. i stopped trying to solve it all. i've stopped fighting so much. i started believing i needed help. and i started looking for it. and believing it would get here.

i wish a miracle such as this for you. i wish you are able to find your heart, if it's lost. and my trek to find my heart again began with recovery. it is quite a trek, it takes time and effort, but its value is unmeasurable.

now, this song, i haven't heard in about 20 years. it used to be so much on my "faves" list. you might want to turn it up a bit if you play it. i'm typing this last line as i'm listening to it. this song and jane olivor still give me goose bumps. it reminds me of days with my first partner. one of the few loves of my life. definitely a time when love had found me.

happy valentine's day. may love find its way to you, too.


Marc said...

I left my keys in San Francisco once.
Glib am I. That was quite a story. Although I don't think you lost your heart. Tina just turns our heart into another organ of the body for a while. We still look and hunger for connection, we still ache for intimacy, even as we become incapable of having it.
I think we do misplace our souls, though, because we make the drug our higher power. And when we get that back, our heart resumes its original form.
We should rendezvous in S.F. for some kind of round-up, don'tcha think?

Java said...

Do you think you could live there again, or is it too much a part of a previous life? Would you be tempted to fall back into the old ways, hook up with tina again?

The way you talk about the beauty of sf is heartening. I've never been there. I think I'd like to go.

Texaco said...

My God I love Jane Olivor. What a treat. Thank you.

I don't think you've ever really told so much of your story in a linear fashion here. It was great to read. With each new paragraph I was reminded of my favorite line the the Big Book -part of Bill's Story- "Gradually things got worse."

Until "i started believing i needed help. and i started looking for it. and believing it would get here."

Me, too. It was exactly like that for me. Today was hard; very hard in fact, but since help arrived I've never had to do this alone. I've never felt the same isolation or pain that I once endured daily. No inconvenience or obstacle in my life today compares to the pain of living inside a bag.

Northwest said...

Thanks for sharing your story. Your path to oblivion -- and back -- set in a place you grew to both love and hate, is a theme I can connect with. My partner and I met in DC and both enjoyed the party scene there, and then descended into a hell of our making there. And ultimately, we left DC and relocated to my partner's hometown of Seattle to get a new start. And finally, after almost fucking it up again, we managed to yank ourselves out of the nightmare of crystal meth. And hard as it is sometimes, I choose to live without the regret that would be so easy to have when one considers some of the nastier consequences of past drug use.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you found your heart again, too. Happy belated Valentine's.

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