Currently I am in a loud, noisy Starbucks just off the 101 freeway at Pismo Beach. I have overall very positive associations with this town... since it was a vacation spot in my early childhood--11 or 12 years of age. I am stressed out, but can simultaneously feel relaxed... in a certain way.
I have driven through Pismo Beach perhaps a dozen times. The first time I consciously remember was that first vacation, in which my parents reserved a cozy, mom-and-pop hotel right along the bluffs at Pismo Beach. My sister and I had a blast because all we did at the ages 9-11 were jump from the steamy hot jacuzzi to the cool (relatively speaking), heated swimming pool, amidst the air of the frigid summer, dense fog. We also ate out at quite a few restaurants, but the most memorable of experiences was when we walked along the beach (maybe the summer of 1993), my sister and I collected piles and piles and piles... of SAND DOLLARS!!! We were sooo excited, because we never saw sand dollars around the southern California beaches (they are there, just not washed up on the shore). We had so many sand dollars that we had to be picky and choosy about which ones to take home. We also had to wash and scrub them to prevent them from smelling in the car. The second time our family went to Pismo Beach (two or three years later, with a been-there-done-that-anticlimactic attitude, we stayed at a worse hotel), all the sand dollars that were abundant along the beaches... were all gone! Though it was a child's dream to collect riches and treasures from the shore, I look back with an "ecologist's hat" and wonder about such a massive sand-dollar mortality! What caused all these sand dollars to die and wash up to shore? Is this a rhythmic event, or is it a rare event? At what interval? What is the appropriate sampling rate in time? How would one know what the true cycles would be?
Beyond those two family vacations, I passed through Pismo Beach when I was commuting from UC Davis to Riverside, as well as going on a painfully eventful trip to an NCAA tennis tournament at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (Fall 2002) (I lost to some Russian girl, don't give a shxt), as well as excursions up to the Morro Bay mudflats and Oso tidepools (am I right?) with Armand Kuris' invertebrate zoology courses. The tidepools were infested with really cool invertebrates, but it was the first time I found the rocks so striking (they were "dyed red," thinly sliced in rhythmic layers, and slanted at a 30 degree angle), I asked the invertebrate expert TAs, "What the heck is going on with these rocks? Why are they like this?" and none of them could answer me. I was baffled that these biology pros knew jack about the broader abiotic (geologic) context of their pet pea organisms.
I think a lot of individuals in the Starbucks here are vacation-goers. I feel a bit more relaxed. So, yesterday... I left Santa Barbara pretty late--right before dark--still some light left in the sky--right after a wonderful conversation with Jules (who was discussing about deep-time and the dresser-drawer effect with sifting and sorting memories), and I was excited because I was heading towards "Bill's Farm" in Nipomo, California--which is pretty well-advertised on hostel sites, as well as the WHOOFER site. I had a conversation with a young student back in February about his experiences at Bill's Farm. He said it was a lot of fun but he said it's a bit messy and dusty. He also recommended I brought my sleeping bag.
I called Bill--or Bill Denneen--who appears to be a local celebrity "ecoterrorist" biologist who banged on his drums loud enough to save some plots of open space from development--and he seemed to be a very exciting, enthusiastic older fellow. After looking at some pictures on the wall (I know I am jumping ahead here), he has this long white beard and appears to look like a mountain goat--let alone a wannabe Darwin-look-alike. I am sorry but the only legitimate Darwin look-alike alive and in my life is my (and THEE) evolutionary biology professor at UC Santa Barbara. Bill was very kind to provide directions for me to get to his farm in the dark. He even left the light on for me in the yard. I approached Nipomo around 10:30 pm (after some outings in Santa Maria, foraging for beef and turkey jerky, as well as stretching out and jogging, as well as discussing my "feminine irregularities" with my sister (psychologist and medical-expert-in-training), and as soon as I left the freeway, I swiftly ventured through the boxy buildings of Corporate America (Vons, Starbucks, Autozone, Mobil Gas, etcetera), and soon after hit the "boonies" of Nipomo. After a painfully slow ride on a couple of open, residential streets (I had to pause to check every single street sign, just like what I was doing as a Domino's Pizza Delivery Girl in my first year at UCSB--boy I wished I had my GIANT flashlight with me!), I finally saw the sign "Bill's Farm" as well as a "Kids for Sale" sign (in which Bill provided a search image for over the phone). Bill was pretty adamant about females acquiring professions other than motherhood--for a multitude of reasons, ranging from biological (chicken analogies) to human population-ecological to cultural-servitude-slavery, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I am very in favor of his ideas, and he would most certainly be excited about my efforts of going to graduate school, but I find that he squacks too much about them. And that having a cool job and raising kids are NOT mutually exclusive tasks (take for example, Sarah Simpson, the Earth Science Editor for Scientific America with two adorable, rambunxious boys to take care of as well!). Bill and my father are also perhaps in agreement, "Career first, then family. First you have to establish an identity and maintain your sanity... then you can start building a family." But the issue is my father never made this a big deal. It just was what it was. This perspective suddenly became a "big deal" as soon as I came to college and started seeing these "affirmative action" opportunities for me in higher education simply because I was a female. And slowly, I was learning that American treatment of females today is very different from the rest of the world, even though there are huge residuals of male dominance factors in the construction and infrastructure of this society. I am actually angry that Bill Denneen squacks so loud about this issue--like a male rooster indeed, he even wrote several opinions articles on this topic in the local newspapers!--and that fundamentally this female choice of profession should be a "non-issue." It is indeed a quiet battle inside me, and in all females, and I honestly think that the female choice of profession--whether biological, or societal, or a combination of both--should simply be an internal dialogue within each person and a quiet battle of priorities. Such a very personal issue should not be broadcasted like Sports or Entertainment. I barely even knew Bill and that was one of the first issues he brought up with me over the phone. The female profession issue--and that I should never get old and cynical....
Nevertheless, Bill seemed like an intriguing person and I merely went on my way for the first time... in the dark... to Bill's Farm. I didn't know where to park so I pulled in the driveway. I had a few doubtful moments, whenever I am in a dark place and especially out of context--I can get negative visions--like the whole Blaire Witch Project effect, the whole I Am Legend-rabies-infected-fast-breathing-mutant-human-effect--but I kind of hummed to myself to calm my horror fiction thoughts down and just saw a black blank slate instead. I couldn't make out much of the house, and at first I was very confused as to where the "front door" was... until finally a light shined to where I stepped . I can say, walking forward, from the front door, was the accumulation of the most CLUTTER, and DUST, and COBWEBS and ANCIENT TO RECENT papers posted and mounted EVERYWHERE!!! I mean, EVERYWHERE! I thought hostels were somewhat cluttery with advertisements, but this was clutter to the 11th dimensions! I thought I had maybe some "low hygeine standards" compared to my housemates Kyle and Karl (I have a series of coffee and mouthwash stains on the floor of my room in Goleta, to which I have been better about cleaning up and maintaining), but this was just... atrocious! Bill said he left the hallway and room light on as to where I was to proceed in the household. I went into the hallway, and finally into the room, which contained a bunk bed and two delapidated one-story beds, in which one bed contained two beat-up, delapidated dolls-stuffed animals I couldn't even make out what they were. Everything was coated with dust and cobwebs. Too many daddy long leg spiders to count. Either I was to work the farm for 2.5 hours or pay $15 a night.... More like work this farm 24-7 until bare minimum sanitation! (I remember toward the end of my grandfather Ray's life, he had a difficult time maintaining the household, and my mother and father came and helped him out... maybe this guy is going toward that end of the road as well, because my grandfather's house was 20 times cleaner than this house... even though it was considered "dirty." It sucks, Ray. Totally sucks. You're still alive in my head, very alive. It sucks like we have to go through this stupid I-gotta-die ritual, and it went about the way it did. I'm sure it was totally dumb. Whatever.)
Anyway, what do I say? When I think about the interior of this household of Bill's Farm, I feel like puking.
Well, I was tired, and so I just carefully chose a single-layer bed and wrapped myself cautiously in my sleeping bag. The whole place smelled like... I am not sure... a stuffy library that had just been rediscovered on the bottom level of an Egyptian Pyramid... after thousands of years of rotting and decay.... Shxt. Shxt. Shxt. I thought about how I REALLY wanted to just sleepy nice and comfy and cozy in my car (which even my housemate Kyle thought it was "dirty"--well, it's dusty from wildland fire ashes, it's an hour's worth of cleaning and vacuuming for sure, but I would rather sleep in my car than this room).
The issue is, I woke up three hours DYING OF THIRST. You can't blame me because I had eaten quite a bit of beef and turkey jerky from Target around 10:30pm. I woke up and had no water in the room. I had no fluids in the car except for some residual Diet Mountain Dew and Coffee Bean Coffee. I walked around this stuffy house and opened the refrigerator. Nothing. There was WHOLE milk in there--not fat free--and I soon found out it was spoiled to the nth degree. There was one drawer that had drinks guests had to pay for--and it was only Natural Ice Beer--no sodas. Since I found no bottled water, I returned to the room and decided to try the tap water from the sink. And? Well. I placed some in my mouth... and it tasted like latex. The water drip into the sink left a distinctive outline between the dust and the clean areas. I spit the water out. I then stepped back again into the kitchen. The water at the kitchen sink tasted like latex, except twice as bad. I was becoming more and more desperate for water. Finally, I was so much in pain of thirst, that I popped open a dehydrating Natural Ice Beer, to quench my thirst--which it did for only about three minutes. I laid back in my sleeping bag, sat their for three more minutes. The rooster squacked, the two dogs barked out in the yard. I saw some really old alarm clock underneath the bunk bed catty corner to the bed I was laying on--3:30 am. My mind started directing itself, "I am so desperate that I quenched my thirst with dehydrating beer. This is substandard living. I want to sleep in my car." I quickly rose from the stench, aggragated my belongings, left a check of $16 (15 for three hours of sleep in a wronchy house, 1 for the beer), was swiftly greeted by two, slobbery, friendly black dogs outside, backed out of the driveway, and vanished from the vicinity.
My brain is already trashed up enough. The last thing I need to do is be drowning in a landfill within the interior of a home that is supposedly a hostel and an organic farm. What is this? Compulsive hording? Honestly the owner of the house may consider getting a caretaker!
By that point, I was happy to greet any other forms of civilization at gas stations. First, I bought 1.69 overpriced water bottle. I was hunting for fat free milk, but no one had fat free milk! The second gas station, I finally bought one pint of 1% fat chocolate milk, and the third gas station--an ampm mini market just out of Arroyo Grande--I bought a quart of chocolate milk. NO ONE HAS FAT FREE MILK AROUND HERE!
I proceeded off the freeway near by a Motel 6 and a Denny's off 4th Street--the borderline between Pismo and Grover Beach, saw a 7-11 after a couple of miles off of driving, found a place to park near by (in front of a rather large house), grabbed my sleeping bag, and went to sleep... until the morning hit, and these two hispanic guys started to do noisy yardwork right at the house I parked in front of.
I didn't realize I was so close to Grover Beach. I parked by a little fish restaurant and cleaned up my car a little bit. I walked to the beach, only to admire the vast stretches of sand and dunes, and how the terrain seemed concave in which I could see Point Conception all the way down south and some other Point all the way up north. It was beautiful.
I started to wake up and worry aout filling out my NSF form. Some guy with coffee greeted me and asked me if I jogged. And so I wished I had jogged.
And so here I am.
Life doesn't always go according to what is planned... or expected in the head. Instead of griping, I suppose I document the occassion, and find myself laughing... ten years later.... If I am still alive, that is.