Part 2 is here.
Warm seashell pink, a lot nicer-looking than you'd think. I went to college in St Petersburg and got to love the place for its old-Florida vibe. East of my school was a curvy-street subdivision from the 20s called Pink Streets because… you guessed it. Ed's house and neighborhood exuded that vibe. There were no curbs, no steps or changes in elevation. When Ed wanted to work on his hog he just rolled it into his living room, also his workshop and my classroom. His neighbor Suzy had a big ol' gray cat she called by some ridiculous name, Miao Miao or Frou Frou or god knows what. She & I dated for awhile. After she broke my heart by moving away, Ed took in the abandoned Miao Miao, in real life a mean old tomcat. Ed renamed him Dick the Bruiser and they became inseparable. Soulmates.
Like ya do. But when I graduated in 73, job prospects in St Pete really sucked. So I went to Tallahassee, got a good-paying professional job, and brought it back to St Pete with me so I could have one more year in the subtropics, make up with my girlfriend Linda, and get serious about meditation. And love, what it's all about.
Anne reminded me of my sweetheart Lynn. Tim was living in Tallahassee with his wife Anne, so I stayed with them at first. It's always good to have a place to crash. Anne was the coolest person I'd ever met back then. She was funny, whip smart, and kind. I could never see what she saw in Tim, and eventually neither could she. His second wife Deborah was much more his speed. Anne had a great influence on my brother; some of her qualities rubbed off on him, temporarily. We were sitting around drinking beers a few days later. I was contemplating how the hell to parlay a degree in Comparative Mythology into a job, when he said Hey you should talk to Rick, he has some kinda high-powered job with the state now.
Twice the minimum wage. I tracked our old buddy Rick down and made an appointment. His office was in a strip mall, not impressive, but that was about to change. I blathered on about college for a while until he fixed me with a look and said, But what can you do? I said, I can write. He said, You're hired. I started the next day. $3/hr, good solid pay.
When pigs fly. Rick was Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Evaluation, Fla Dept of Health and Rehab. The Bureau's job was to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of state programs, from end-stage renal care for kids to Meals on Wheels. My job was to make technical reports a little less boring, obtuse & contradictory.
Don't live in a trailer. A paycheck on the way, I rented a trailer on the outskirts of town and settled in, briefly. My trailer had a big hulkin' AC unit, but the only way I could cool off was to lie on the floor in the 18 in of cool air that accumulated there.
Especially given my bone loss. My mom lost all her teeth in her 40s because of bone loss from periodontal disease. So I did not grow up in an oral hygiene positive environment. My dentist in St Pete was concerned about my oral health, so he referred me to a periodontist in Tallahassee as I was leaving. The periodontist was about to retire and was taking very few appointments; I think I was his last new patient. He said my mouth was in terrible shape due to lousy brushing and never flossing. I needed periodontal scaling and root planing, which he did in two appointments; it was a bloody mess. In the follow up appointment he spent 90 minutes teaching me how to take care of my mouth. He was thorough; I was lucky to catch him right before retirement when he was so relaxed. I had bone loss and would soon lose my teeth if I didn't stabilize my mouth and take excellent care. I was listening. He had behavioral advice for me. He said don't use toothpaste. People get a mouth full of foam, spit it out & and think they're done. He taught me to brush for much longer with no foam. He taught me to tie floss in a loop rather than wrapping it around my fingers. People fail to floss or cut it short because floss hurts their fingers. I still brush and floss like he taught me. My dentist here in Seattle is impressed with the health of my mouth more than 50 years later.
Fake it till you make it. The evaluators I was translating for had backgrounds in planning, public admin, and statistics. Once I saw what they were doing I realized I could do it too, except statistics, and we had statisticians for that. I quickly graduated from just editing their words to writing up results sections, then whole reports for them.
Made it! An experimental program was getting underway in Florida: Integrated Nutritional-Social Services to Elderly People. The idea was to keep people out of nursing homes by strategically helping them out at home. There was money for full-time independent evaluators in 3 Florida cities: St Augustine, Miami Beach, & St Pete. It was a contract job, not career service, but it had the same professional requirements & pay. I was now a contract Planner & Evaluator I.
She spoke Augusta Blueblood: aristocratic, but with dark vowels that sounded Polish, or Arabic. Velarized! I'd always wanted to live on the beach, so I rented a cabana in back of a house on St Pete Beach. This was also close to my old school, not because I wanted to hang out there, but because Linda, my ex, was still there, now in her senior year. I left her for a mad affair with Liz, whose most lasting contribution to my life was her accent. I collected southern accents, and could speak 4 or 5 in addition to my own North Florida Cracker.
In retrospect Deros sound a lot like body thetans. Anyway, I wanted to make up with Linda, and after a while she forgave me and lived unofficially off-campus with me part time. Linda was also interested in meditation, and we checked out various local meditation teachers and the like. In the 70s there was no shortage of weirdos. One weirdo could rid my body of Deros: Destructive Robots from another planet. But it would take repeated visits. I thought it was weird that interplanetary baddies would have an English name.
One good apple. Among all the charlatans, we found Reverend Marty. She was founder/minister of a new age church. Linda & I both became ministers as well, after an 8-month ministerial training program. But that was later, in Tallahassee. In St Pete she was a breath of fresh air in a nest of new age vipers.
This was not helping me keep my girlish figure! Living in a beach town had gradually lost its charm, and rents were more reasonable in St Pete proper, so Linda & I moved into an apartment on 6th St South just north of Bartlett Park, a sweet green open space with tennis courts and a pond fed by Salt Creek. It was also close to The Chattaway. Established the same year I was, the Chattaway is a St Pete legend. The Chattaburger became a favorite weakness of mine. Their fries were skin-on, fried kinda dark. They nestled greasily with the Chattaburger in a wax paper lined plastic basket.
Feed me Seymour. I learned of the danger of houseplants in this apartment. Not toxicity, competition. I'd gone houseplant crazy, adding one here, another there. A sweet potato vine ran rampant around several windows. It was getting darker and darker in our apartment. The houseplants were shading us out! Once I realized it, I did a big cutback. Watch out for those plants, they're hungry.
An old vacation house on a giant wooded lot. When the money for my evaluator position ran out, Linda, Marty and I all caravaned to Tallahassee, where we rented my boss Rick's lake house. It had a dock on Lake Bradford and grand style: a 2-story Great Room with a limestone fireplace at one end and an internal balcony.
It was the scene of a memorable tryst. Marty and Linda had spacious rooms downstairs. I lived upstairs in a smaller room with a private bath that was drafty in the winter; we were all happy with our choices. My balcony overlooked the great room.
Friends and lovers. Linda and I had drifted apart; we were no longer lovers but stayed good friends. Lanette, an old friend that I'd almost but never quite been lovers with in school came through town on her way out west. She modestly rolled out her sleeping bag on my carpeted balcony, but when I got up in the morning I lay down beside her and we snuggled, which we'd done a lot back in school. This time one thing led to another and we had a lovely time up on the balcony.
Once over the hump we settled into having a lovely time in general for several days. We even made love in the cypress dark waters of Lake Bradford, hanging onto the end of our dock, where we learned why you don't do that.
They burrowed in and chowed down. The lake house was a great place for projects. I always wanted to grow watermelons, and the lake house property had plenty of space. The lake house property also had plenty of squirrels; they love watermelon too, who knew? Before any of my melons could get ripe, I found a hole in it.
So were my lumps of clay. I'd also always wanted to try throwing pots, so I bought a used kickwheel: no electricity for me, Ima do this all authentic. It was touted as a meditative practice: to center the lump of clay one must first center oneself. But I'm hopelessly eccentric.
The crush never went away, but we became friends anyway. A more successful crafter lived across the street from the lake house. Jennifer was a weaver, with several big old Leclerc looms, and I had a crush on her. She offered to weave me a coverlet as a gift; I would just buy the yarn. I had already been attracted to boucle yarns she was using for shawls, so that was a start. I was into earth colors in those far-off days, so I picked brown for the base color. Into that she wove a plaid of green, umber & terra cotta. It made my drafty room feel much snugger in the winter.
Jennifer moved to San Francisco to be in a better market for weavers. A couple years later I flew out to SF to visit her; I still had a big crush. She'd rented a warehouse loft in the Mission District with plenty of room for big old looms. It was less than a block from Taqueria La Cumbre, and I was suffering from a serious misapprehension: I thought I'd tasted a burrito before. The burritos at La Cumbre are heavenly. Not to mention huge. Nothing ever came of that crush, but I had a great time in SF, and I finally got to taste a real burrito.
Anna was drop-dead gorgeous. There was also a smaller house on the big wooded lot, home to George & Anna, new age entrepreneurs. George was big, Greek, and bearded; they were go-getters. They ran a sandwich shop in a relatively nice strip mall near the FSU campus, just down the street from the pizza joint where I later met Sally. Their signature sandwich was a sesame pita stuffed with lettuce, Greek salad, alfalfa sprouts & hummus, dressed with garlicky tzatziki, add avo for a quarter.
Now meditation! George & Anna were interested in meditation too, and after some discussion we started having weekly chanting + meditation sessions down at their sandwich shop, which had a room next door that was unfurnished except for pillows and a nice wood floor. They had music there sometimes, and community meetings. We'd chant for a half hour then do a half-hour sit. Followed by socializing, which I was fine with in those days even without booze. Is introversion a thing I wear? I suspect it's more like protective coloration. Nothing to see here, move along. The new age church had a stylized lotus logo. I got t-shirts made that combined the logo with the name of the church; they were popular among the faithful. I was an old hand at t-shirts, having designed one for the Fish Farm that made the words Fish Farm into the body of a fish propelled by a big wagging fishtail.
Fat cat. Back to "writing." I was able to wiggle my way over onto the career track, kinda like a walking catfish crossing the highway, one of Fla's more memorable exotic pests. I eventually made Planner & Evaluator II, with my eye on a coming P&E III vacancy that I actually had a reasonable chance of getting.
A princely sum in those days. I was now making about 17k, and could easily afford a nice house in the suburbs. I started shopping around a bit. I could see myself settling into the P&E III position and riding it to the top of the payscale; P&E III was as far as you could go without becoming managerial, something I wanted no part of.