At 3:20 a.m. on Sunday, August 24, in The Bay Area's Napa Valley, about 50 miles north of where I'm living in Oakland, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake, the biggest in California since the 1989 Loma Prieta 6.9 quake, shook the region. Hundreds were injured and a few were killed. Buildings and highways, mostly in Napa Valley, sustained heavy damage. The governor of California, Jerry Brown, declared The Bay a disaster area.
I slept through the entire thing under a floor-to-ceiling shelf filled with VHS tapes that could have easily toppled over and crushed me.
After working two 40+ hour work weeks and ending weekdays by polishing new songs for a new band (more on that later) before drinking enough to sleep on a tile floor, I decided to sign up to cater a 1,500 person event that Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight. Because of exhaustion, my nighttime earplugs and the bourbon I'd drunken I was able to sleep through the natural disaster that frightened an entire geographical population out of bed.
This is my life in Oakland so far and it rules. We (James, Charlie and I) are sleeping on the living room floor of a West Oakland three-bedroom that our friends from Tallahassee, Florida, moved into last year. I work at a great cafe downtown with a view of Lake Merritt and make music in a warehouse practice space near our crash spot, both within walking distance from my floor-nest. We met two of these friends on tour last year when we played four or five dates with their band Aughtsong throughout Florida, and met the other roommate when we got in from this past summer tour. We're all rent-paying members of the same practice space and share the same ideals: more amps, more music and more jokes. Of any and all circumstances that we could have found ourselves in, this is the absolute best situation for us all. Even with seven people (a girlfriend flew in from Florida last night) sharing a household, we've been able to live with and enjoy one another's company for over a month now.
And that time is now, finally, drawing to a close. As we made our way out here our friends were keeping an eye out for rental properties that we could potentially afford, which is probably the most difficult part of moving and/or living in The Bay Area. Housing costs are at an all-time high and the race to find, apply for and get an apartment is absurdly terrifying. Plus there's the guilt of becoming a part of the gentrification of an urban, impoverished area and the task of sorting out everyone's opposing views on which neighborhoods are 'safe' and which aren't.
We've figured it out, we think. Next door to our friends' place and within the same quad-plex building is a three-bedroom that's just about refinished after an arson nine months ago - which may or may not have been caused by a homeless man who'd been squatting in the backyard according to neighbors. The rental company has taken an exorbitant amount of time to process our applications and make any progress whatsoever into letting us pay them money to live there, but it seems that everything is crawling towards a resolution.
I can't explain how elated I feel about having my own bedroom, let alone my own house. Sleeping on the floor - albeit with a nest of sleeping bags and couch pillows - is different when you're a band on tour because you're typically in town for one-night-only (unless you're van breaks in Austin). It's easy to get up and drive your shift in the van, read a book, listen to music and sleep in the van on the road after playing a set the night before, drinking, sleeping on some stranger's floor and doing whatever dishes you need to before splitting. When you're on tour you're part of a group with an itinerary and each member has to work to keep the proverbial show on the road.
Living on a floor is especially draining when you work full-time and have no personal space, private time or control over when you can really sleep. It's enough that you could sleep through an earthquake. I haven't had the atmosphere to write since we got here, for this blog or for other purposes, and my body feels as though I've been on tour for two months now. This is the way it usually goes though, that just when everything seems like it's going to fall apart you find a place to land. You'll survive.
We're slowly putting our lives together again. I've got a lot of projects in the works and we'll have new music out very soon. Oakland is more inviting and interesting every single day. I still can't believe that we made it here or that I left in the first place. Everything is sorting itself out though, and soon I'll be writing from the comfort of my own Californian bedroom.