2020 catchup

Greetings from the literal COVID-19 hotspot of the world. Don't worry, I'm triple masking for your protection. And if you're wondering if LA is really as bad as it looks on the news, be assured it is much, much worse. But I'll come back to that. 

I'm starting this post on January 1, 2021, sending a dispatch from a desk that was sadly quiet last year. I figured I'd write an interesting-to-no-one catchup post and then, being the cliche that I am, rededicate myself to more frequent posting this year. 

work

The company I work for (a restaurant and butchery that sources from our own farm) had already begun to move into the delivery game before the pandemic. So when lockdowns started happening, we just pivoted to that entirely. On top of our restaurant menu, we added some pantry staples. We made it so that you could buy pretty much everything we sell on DoorDash, UberEats, PostMates etc etc. My entire life became managing 17 different smart tablets. So many tablets. Tablets tablets tablets. Tablets that had to be monitored, updated, checked, and rechecked all day long. Tablets that glitched and froze, that shorted out in the extreme heat of the market, that regularly died at the worst possible times. I was a tabletherder, tending my flock of sensitive electronic sheep. I wanted to throw them all in the fucking LA River most days - but they were what kept me in a job. So thank you, tablets. 

My company also created an app, and we outsource the delivery for those orders to PostMates. All this to say that when foot traffic to our locations dried up entirely (because people were either not allowed or too scared to leave their homes for food), we had the means to stay afloat. 

I want to say a thing about my work here, and how incredibly lucky I have been. No one would envy me the glamour of managing a small restaurant. But holy shit is my company amazing. Holy shit are my bosses that absolute best. When everything started to unravel in March, before anyone really knew what we were dealing with, my boss's boss - the director of the company - came to me and asked me what I wanted to do. He gave me the choice to stay open, to close, to stay partially open, to just run delivery and kill walk-up service - to do whatever I felt comfortable with. We stayed open, but after a couple of weeks, all the news had me so wound up and terrified that I asked to take a couple of weeks to work minimally, and do as much as my administrative work as possible from home. For two weeks, every few days, I snuck into my store at 5am, before anyone was around, to do my accounting and ordering. I was given a four figure belated Christmas bonus so I could afford to do this. Like I say, my company is amazing. And I wasn't the only one being appreciated; in mid-summer, every hourly employee in my company who'd worked from the start of the pandemic was given a permanent hazard pay raise.

Our location stayed up and running all spring, summer, and through fall. At first I was legitimately terrified every time I left my house. Every cough I heard coming from an open apartment window on the overcrowded street where I lived (still in Koreatown, at that time) convinced me that I'd be dead within days. Every ambulance wail, every too-close co-rider on the subway set my nerves on edge. Then the city really shut down and no one was out and about - and then, then it became weirdly thrilling to be the only person in the train car. The lone soul walking through the heart of downtown to work. It was apocalyptic and eerie, but there being essentially no one around, I felt safe. 

Cut to the last day of November, and my boss and the head of HR pay me a surprise visit to say they're shutting my store down temporarily, at least until outdoor dining is allowed again. I've spent the past five weeks working at our West Hollywood location, at first filling in for a COVID case, then covering for the GM who's taking his PTO, and after that I'll just be there a few days a week to support.

Wondering how the fuck I get to West Hollywood without a car? Combination of train, walking, and scooter pass. If it was summer I'd hate my life. But every day I walk through gorgeous Hancock Park, get tons of fresh winter air, podcast/book listening time, and exercise (~23k steps a day), and I fucking love it. My legs are absolutely unreal, like I haven't seen them look like this since I was 25, and yes I know that's the dumbest thing in the world to care about right now but silver linings, people. 

LA

If you don't live in LA right now, please take a moment to be thankful. It is so bad. So, so bad. And I say this as someone who spends a lot of time walking through some of the most impoverished areas of the city. All of Wilshire between mid-city and downtown is now a second Skid Row. Homeless camps and tents everywhere. Koreatown is in shambles. Many, many businesses in downtown, mid-city, and even the eastern parts of WeHo are still shuttered and boarded up, if not gone under entirely. It is so bleak, and rips my heart out daily. The homeless have always used the subways as shelters, but now it's at a level I've never seen. Dozens of bodies in sleeping bags, all around the downtown stations. It's the only place that's warm at night. I live across from a food bank that has lines around the block several days a week. It's gut-wrenching. 

People are desperate and angry. The streets are full of the mentally ill, the dangerously unstable, the displaced energies of those without homes or jobs or food. I have never been aggressively cat-called or straight up verbally abused - for no fucking reason whatsoever - as much as I have in the past six months. Men who I don't even glance at have randomly screamed obscenities or explicit invitations at me, with absolutely no provocation. I won't walk through downtown or enter the subway without EDM blasting in my ears anymore. I'm pretty tough about all of this, and I learned my lesson about engaging with these nuts a couple of years ago when I was attacked -- but sometimes I come home and feel so defeated and lonely, and just wish there was someone to hold me and stroke my hair during this insanely dark time.

love life

Which brings me to the fact there is no one on to hold me and stroke my hair during this insanely dark time. 

Kenny and I kept it going all spring and summer, despite our occasional very painful hiccups. We had some absolutely unreal times, getting together and hiding from the world for a few days at a time in my beautiful new place downtown. I took him to the forest for his birthday in September, and that was kind of the last of it. After that things just went downhill. He's got some stuff to figure out, some pretty big demons to slay, and in November he moved out of state to be with family again. I was gutted. Then time passed, and I realized that we had more than his demons between us. We had fundamental failures of communication, respect, consideration, and care. They would take a lot of work, to work out. I don't know. I miss him. It's a hard thing. 

friends

My two closest LA friends, Erin and Costa, both lost their jobs in the pandemic. 

After his second layoff, Costa moved back to Nebraska. Every ten years or so I grow close with a guy with whom I'm so simpatico that it's ridiculous. Costa is one of those guys. We just exist on the exact same wavelength, and it's glorious. I miss him terribly but we talk all the time. I had tentative plans to go see him this winter, but I think I need to be a smart squirrel and save my nuts right now. In the meantime I enjoy living vicariously through his adventures. His life is full of friends and trips and fearless forward motion and it inspires me greatly.

Erin, who lost her job in the spring, also lost her father to an aneurysm this summer. This is after a breakup of an 11-year relationship at the end of 2019. Fucking brutal. She spent most of 2020 back home in Ohio with family. Right now she's in NYC interviewing for her dream job, which, if she gets, would actually be back here in downtown LA. If she gets it, that would be a massive fucking win for her, not to mention keep her in my 'hood - so I'm rooting hard. If she doesn't land the job, she will most likely move back to Ohio in March.   

Cameron and I text daily, and my buddy Steve up in Sacramento has been killing it (he got into body scanning machines early in the pandemic and is making a fortune). 

Other than that, I have a few local friends I see or talk with occasionally. But yeah, most of my besties are gone or soon to be, most likely. 

It's a shitty fucking time, generally. 

me

There have been good things, though. The pandemic, and being alone and scared so many nights, forced me to learn some serious self-soothing techniques. My self-talk is unrecognizable from what it was just a couple of years ago. I'm taking better care of myself physically than I ever have, and my diet has completely changed. Tons of greens, almost no meat, and I've managed to make foods I didn't think I even liked staples: quinoa, chia seeds, spinach, kombucha. I feel (and think I look) healthier than I have in years, which is an awesome footnote to an otherwise crap year.

And I guess that's a good stopping point, for now? Let's see if I can come up with starting points, next. 

Happy 2021. I missed talking to you.