It’s been a month since we arrived in the USA – we haven’t seen a lot of the country, but we have seen a lot. We saw a bank robbery in Millbrae, California when we went to go meet my friend for dinner. Officers had the Bank of America surrounded and were using AR-15s and drawn handguns as curious onlookers took pictures with cellphones – and yet, no mention of it on the news. It was real, there were no film crews and those were real cops with real concerns – but there it is. We went to Folsom, California and my daughter and I caught a case of the Folsom Prison Blues, while the wife scoured through antique shops looking for Moroccan tea glasses. No luck on her part. As I wrote before, we got to experience the emergency room, an ambulance and surgery when my mom’s back injury took a sudden bad turn. I’m glad to report that she’s recovering from two surgeries and doing much better. In fact, we’ve only done a small triangle in Northern California thus far. We arrived in San Francisco, stayed in San Mateo where we loved the park and little museum at Coyote Point. Then we went to Redding to stay with my mom. From there we came to Sacramento where my friends are fighting the legal system to try to keep their house from being stolen- technically, the bank considers them squatters – we’ve been house sitting for them for two weeks now while they traveled in the Southwest. So we’ve been house-sitting a very nice squat. While here, we’ve explored the American River, old town Sacramento, and checked out the history of California at the Sacramento History Museum and the California Museum of History. We’ve strolled through the grounds of the State Capital and I’ve introduced my wife to American Car Culture. We’ve gone to a drive in movie, gone through fast food drive thrus, and even tried to buy Caladryl at the pharmacy drive through. We’ve also driven all over looking at thrift shops, dollar stores, and garage sales.
Last weekend we went to San Francisco and visited the California Academy of Sciences with my sister and her kids – my wife had never seen a dinosaur of any kind before so the bones/model was astounding to her. She asked if they have dinosaurs in the zoo – which I found completely awesome because since her studies were focused on English in Morocco, she never studied zoology – it’s one reason I’ve brought my daughter to the USA – say what you will about the schools here – they are better than most in the world albeit certainly not the best the world has to offer. While we’ve been in the USA, I’ve been perpetually on the computer looking for work, finding a car, earning what money I can from my own business. This has yielded a handful of interviews and may bring a job – but until it does, I’m hesitant to rent a house anywhere because I want to keep my options open – rent in the Bay Area is freaking steep – first, last, and deposit will kill our savings (because I just spent the rest paying visa fees, flying my family from the other side of the world, and buying a car and making it all legal) and without a job to follow up on that – life could get fairly terrible fairly quick. It’s astounding how fast the money flies out even without rent…gas and food aren’t cheap. Still, we’re making it. So far, so good. Next for the job and the house….resting time is almost up. If the right job doesn’t happen in the Bay Area, I’ll take us up the coast to Seattle and Bellingham and then onward to Hawaii- at worst, we can live on the beach and fish all night. It’s better than blowing my wad on an expensive house that I may not be able to pay rent on in two months time. That’s my thinking anyway.
Dishwashing Dude looking for a job where I don’t have to think and where I go home with clean hands each night.
1998-2013 – No Relevant Work Experience – was working in tech, social media, and travel but always insisted on washing the dishes at home.
1996-1998 – The Station Pub – Bellingham, WA – Technically, I was a bartender, but I also had to wash all the glasses. Left when automatic dishwasher was installed.
1997- Anna’s Caddyshack – Dishwasher. Quit when promoted to Sous Chef
1994-1996 – Top of the Tower – Raleigh, NC. I started as a dishwasher but was unwillingly promoted to head bartender because of my incredible people skills. I still snuck in and washed the dishes.
1990-1994 – US Marine Corps. They only allowed me to work in the pot-shack for a month during mess and maintenance duty and then I was forced to go to my assigned job of Senior Radar Air Traffic Control Supervisor. I wanted to wash dishes but my test scores were too high.
1988-1990- JJ North’s Chuckwagon. Dishwasher and occasional busboy.
1987- Scandals Restaurant – Dishwasher. Left when promoted to Sous Chef.
1983-1986 – North Shore Tavern. I had to work under the table for the first three years because I was underage for employment. Resisted efforts to be made into a chef or waiter but in the end had to quit when they promoted me to Sous Chef.
1980-1983 – Newspaper route and assigned chores at home of dishwashing nightly.
1971-1980 – Not allowed to wash the dishes because too young.
1970 – Washed fake dishes in the womb, parents mistakenly assumed I was ‘kicking’
As a new immigrant to the USA and California, I want my wife to understand where we are and the history of this place. She’s never understood my love of bacon, sourdough bread, movies, aviation, and Mexican food – it’s all fairly understandable when you realize most of my childhood was in California gold country. Last night I forced her to watch this PBS documentary about the Gold Rush. Today, we went to the Sacramento History Museum and strolled through Old Town Sacramento. I think she might be starting to get it…
This is a spectacular documentary about the Gold Rush of 1848-1856, the largest mass migration in human history, and the birth of California as a part of the United States. Well worth the 2-hours to watch and if you’ve ever been to Sacramento or San Francisco, wondered how California stopped being Spanish and Mexican, or why there was a huge migration of Chinese to the USA during that time. This will answer the questions. Great history. Great documentary.
It’s only been two weeks since I arrived back int he USA, bringing with me 9 bags, an Arab wife who has never been here, and a 20 month old daughter who is also fresh off the boat. The visa process, as I wrote about previously in Smooth Living and via social media was a year long process of forms, griping, and headaches – but we made it through that. I bought our flights through Emirates airlines and we flew from Casablanca to Dubai and then after 7 hours in the beautiful and mall-like Dubai International Airport – we flew the long haul from Dubai to San Francisco, California. At this point, it might make sense to share a couple of my Social Media updates:
Tired. — at Dubai International Airport (DXB). (April 17, 2013)
#microvictory Flew over the North pole, saw the tallest building in the world, and brought my family to the USA. It’s been a hell of a day. (April 18, 2013)
Back in the USA after a long time away….we freaking fucking made it. Hell yeah..now…not sure what. (April 18, 2013)
And so, my more than four years all around the world and my round the world trip of epic proportions came to a close. I wrote a bit of how it felt on Vagobond in The End of Vago’s Journey.
One of my best friends, Jeremy, provided us with a hotel to decompress and get over jetlag the first two nights. I fell in love with San Mateo, the peninsula, and Coyote Point while we tried to adjust to the time schedule. My brother was in San Francisco visiting my sister and so we had a mini-family reunion where, for the first time, our kids (with the exception of my brother’s three eldest) all mingled. It was a child fest as Jazzy, Ava, Elijah, and Sophia ran around and went nuts playing while we ate bacon and eggs for dinner. Bacon, was one of the things I missed most along with maple syrup and so my sister thoughtfully decided to make our dinner a breakfast instead. My brother had waited for us so he could offer a ride up to Redding where my mom and her husband live – I hadn’t intended to leave the Bay Area so soon but it seemed like kismit so after just two short days – we piled in his big truck and drove three hours North. I hadn’t wanted to go to Redding so soon but my mom had never met my wife or daughter and since her husband is a master mechanic, it made sense to head up there, get the visiting out of the way , buy a car, and then move forward to finding a job and creating our American life. They told us we were welcome for as long as we wanted and so my plan was to catch up on my work, arrange some interviews in the Bay Area, find a car with the approval of her husband, and finally to head back down and find a house. Three days seemed like it would be plenty.I told my wife to leave most of our nine bags at my sister’s since I figured it would be a short stay anyway.
My brother and his family stayed the first three days and it was a very nice pleasure to have all of us together. My mom’s husband was pretty patient as his normally quiet house and kingdom filled with kids and grandkids. During those three days, it wasn’t very possible to get anything done. The women folk were visiting and I was searching through used cars on Craigslist and realizing that everything in the USA, especially cars in California had become much more expensive than when I left. I’d thought I could find a beater that would run well for $1000. For $1000 there were often not tires or running engines included. I began looking in the $1500 range – it wasn’t much better. My mom had been buying baby things for us and she loaded us up with a playpen, high chair, toys, stroller, the works. She and my wife were hitting thrift stores and by the time my brother left Redding, we had more stuff than we had left at my sister’s and it felt like we had more than we had in our house in Morocco. My mom had hurt her back several months before and went to daily physical therapy sessions. I’d forgotten that without a car, you can’t do much in America. I walked six miles to a Best Buy because there was no bus and no taxis that I could find and saw only two other walkers on the way…both homeless. My laptop had broken somewhere between SF and Redding so I needed a new one…turned out Best Buy didn’t have what I was looking for so I ordered a Chromebook from Google and had it delivered. Fuck yeah. Online shopping and the USPS. Awesome. Two days later it was in my hands. Getting simcards for our phones wasn’t as simple as it is everywhere else in the world, but I managed to get us a couple of T-Mobile prepaid phones and one of the sim cards worked in my GSM smartphone, though Hanane’s was locked. Finally, on Friday, after 5 days in Redding, I had the chance to go look at used cars. I’d found a couple that seemed like they might work, a 95 BMW and a 72 VW Bus.
My mom had the time to drive me out to the boondocks to look at them. I just needed a car. I was going crazy in Redding and feeling like a prisoner in my mom’s house. The BMW was $2000 and the VW was $2600. The advantage of the bus was it was a VW bus, it ran well, I could work on it, and being older it was exempt from California’s smog laws. My stepdad hadn’t taken any time off work so he wouldn’t be able to look at a car until Sunday and at that point, who knew what would happen, I needed to just do things on my own. The BMW had a broken (cracked) front windshield the owner said he would fix for $130. I checked out both cars, test drove them both, and decided that the BMW was the safer car for my family. I offered him $1500 and he took it. Next began the process of getting the car smogged, getting insurance, and changing the registration and ownership – nightmare. It didn’t pass the first smog test $30. I took it for a little tune-up $100. I bought some maintenance items $30. I took it back to the guy to get the window fixed $130. I took it back to the smog and it failed again $30. I took it to a mechanic who told me it would pass after changing the o2 sensor $290. I took it to the smog shop – another fail $30. I did a little bit of complaining and finally it passed $30. I changed the registration $202. I got insurance $143. And suddenly, there it was, a high mileage but legal and well running car for a grand total of right around $2300. That’s what it costs to get a car that is safe, runs, and looks halfway decent in California. About the same as flying three people halfway around the world. Airfare, visa, car – and our savings is looking very very battered. I needed to find a job.
Then, on the edge of being victorious. My mom’s back had big problems. A social media update might express this best:
In the past 24 hours I saw the American Healthcare System in action. Holy shit…completely fucked up, and yet, great medicine. My mom had to have emergency back surgery. The surgery went well and she is recovering well… but to get to the surgery required an ambulance where the paramedic was scared to touch her and made her move from her bed to the gurney without his help (presumably because of lawsuit fears), the ambulance dropped her off at the emergency room where they put her in a fucking chair (with a major spine injury!) for 13 hours while she waited to be seen by a nurse, a doctor, or an anaesthetician…one nurse came and guided her in breathing but for the most part they ignored her as she moaned and groaned and cried in pain. Finally when she began vomiting from the pain, they gave her some drugs and then she had to wait another 6 hours for an MRI because the MRI machine broke so they had to take her to another hospital…after that the neurosurgeon came and from then on, everything was incredible…top notch treatment, care, surgery, and, inchallah, recovery. The problem was the nearly 24 hours between emergency call and treatment and the careless disregard which she and everyone else in the emergency room were treated with…like Leonard Cohen said, America, the cradle of the best and of the worst…(April 27, 2013)
This was the same period I was having the smog issues with the car.
I see that the healthcare sucks, that public transportation outside of major metropolitan areas sucks, and that as a result Americans are forced to buy expensive cars and subsidize the auto and health insurance industries as well as the oil industry through being wage slaves to support their auto, transportation, health, and insurance costs – that the need to work all the time makes people eat less healthy foods thus increasing health issues, and that in general when I take a walk, the only people I encounter walking are either homeless, mentally ill, or on drugs. I’ve only been back ten days and already someone I know from high school was shot, my mother had to sit 13 hours in agonizing pain in the emergency room, and I’ve had to shell out about 1/3 of my savings to get a shitty car, make it pass inspection, and insure it…Wow. God bless America…. (April 30, 2013)
Two major surgeries later and a stint in the ICU and mom is recovering. Not the homecoming we expected but we were willing to stay and help out with chores, cooking, and other stuff- we figured out though that her husband just needed his house to decompress from the trials and efforts of taking care of my mom. Poor guy has a daunting task ahead of him. Mom’s recovery will be years with at least six months before she can walk again. With the car ready and mom stable, we decided to give him some breathing room and came down to Sacramento, where, as luck would have it, friends needed a house/cat sitter. And now, two weeks on, here we are with friends, with car, with place to stay, and with America ahead of us.