When Remodeling Means Rats

The other night, Ryan, Aaron, Mike and I went on a stroll through Hayes Valley stopping by House of Sushi.

2157 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA

I saw a sign that I thought was funny. Engrish always is right?

While I thought that was funny, and took to getting a shot of it, either Aaron or Ryan picked up on another sign…

Since when did “remodeling” mean “we have rats or some other disease carrying vermin and this isn’t our first warning so we are shutdown until we can prove to the city that our restaurant isn’t going to kill or sicken our paying customers”?

I love sushi. Like, really love sushi. And normally in a situation like this I would be thinking, “Oh my G-d, what if I had eaten here?!” Luckily, there is Yelp…

Night Light

What an awesome night tonight turned out to be. Twitter buddies @Airrun, @JHolman23, @jasetrevino and @Marris_Returns came over for wine, bread, cheese, and fun.

It was my first pseudo tweetup since moving back to San Francisco, the first time I had seen Jimmy since he moved here from Missouri and the first time I had the pleasure of meeting Jason or Aaron. We listened to music, watched some hilarious YouTube videos, talked about everything and nothing at the same time.

It was a pretty awesome night. Even Ryan got to join in on the fun which was such a pleasant surprise. Seems any other time we do something like this, his hectic work schedule gets in the way. Now I just can’t wait for the next time I have friends over for wine and a great time.

The photo of the day, way up there, is yet another one from the roof of our apartment shooting into the neighboring backyard. There is something about this particular apartment and their 6000 watt light that shines light pollution across the common grassy space between the buildings that is so romantic to me. It’s what I imagine a Gregory Crewdson photo would look like if he had a crew of one and a budget of none.

I’m Moving Back to California

While it might be the worst kept secret, ever, I wanted to give myself time to tell each of my friends (as best I could) the news face to face before posting it here on the web. But, yes, I am moving to back to California, and quite soon. In fact, as of this writing, I have roughly 21 days left of life in Missouri before I head west to the Golden State.

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Visiting San Francisco

I’ve been staring at my screen for the last twenty minutes or so trying to decide just what I wanted to title this blog post. Choosing the right title for a post is important. Will my title convey the post subject of the post succinctly? Will it capture the attention of a potential reader? Will it SEO? Will it blend? Will it give the wrong message?

Obviously I just gave up. Oh well. Better than something totally cheesy like “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” with an embedded video from YouTube of Tony Bennett singing…well you get the point.

A few weeks ago, as many of you know, I took a trip to California to see Ryan, our new apartment, our amazing friends and to get a little bit of a break from the Midwest. The trip was awesome. I had an amazing time and if anyone were to ask me, yes it was too short. My time in the Golden State also brought up the question of why I was living in the Show-Me State. Why am I living 2,500 miles from Ryan working a job that can be done from anywhere in the world?

In fact, I did much of my job while I traveled across France, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Germany. If I can do it from Saudi Arabia through a government implemented firewall, I can certainly do the job from San Francisco.

No need to dwell on my longing for California, let’s instead, celebrate the great times I had while I was there! including a morning stroll through Dolores Park!

It was a long trip out there. Started way too early in the morning and didn’t end until around 2 in the morning my time. Long day. But who can complain when you have Ryan picking you up at the airport to drive you to your new home in the city?

When we got home, he gave me the tour of the apartment and neighborhood, talked about how wonderful it would be to live there together, full-time, and finished the moment off with a climb to the roof and a stunning view of the entire city.

The next morning I went to the roof to take this picture. Be sure to click to enlarge!

Our apartment is in a great area for us. Just a couple of blocks from a Safeway, a couple of blocks from a MUNI station, not even a block from a bus station and snugged in just outside of The Castro. When I previously lived in San Francisco, I lived on the other end of Market, about five blocks from Union Square. It was a different life then. Seemed I made whatever excuse I could to go down to the area where we now live and enjoy the higher altitude, the slower coffee shops and local color. I worked near Union Square but ached for The Castro, Mission and Haight.

I think it was the second night in town when I lamented to Ryan of the good ‘ol days. The days when I lived with Mike and Kevin in Santa Rosa. It was right about the moment that I turned to Ryan and said, “You know, I really wish you could meet Mike. I think you’d really like him…” when I’m interrupted by a callout, “Justin?!”

It’s Mike and Kevin, standing 15 feet from the front door of our apartment! By the way, Mike moved to St. Martin a few years ago, a Caribbean Island not known for its proximity to San Francisco.

It was amazing. We went out for drinks, Mike and I caught up on all the changes in each other’s lives while Kevin and Ryan, likely, shared embarrassing stories about me.

I couldn’t think of a better way to close out a night in San Francisco than that.

Living Long Distance

Seems like I keep writing blog posts about change and loss. How depressing right? And come on, after a summer where your precious goldfish went to bigger waters, four of your best guy friends moved away, a semester where you said goodbye to two jobs and a ton of great classmates, a year that your parents moved to Saudi Arabia and your apartment of the last three years was vacated… what the hell else could you have left to say goodbye to?

Believe it or not, something bigger than all of that recently left, moved away to the great left coast of California.

Ryan and I have been trying for years to get back to California, visiting at least two times a year since we started dating three years ago. I never thought it would be Ryan that would move to San Francisco first but it sure did happen that way. Just a week ago Ryan made the long drive west to start a new chapter in his and my life.

We’re both baffled when the two of us think about how much has changed for us over the last three years, how much we’ve endured, grown and loved. When I moved out of the downtown apartment we were both so excited to actually, officially, share a home together. I think that lasted all of around 2 weeks. After a whirlwind summer between coasts for education seminars, job interviews and some well deserved vacation time, Ryan got the great news that he would be moving to San Francisco for a fantastic new job.

Oh, and me? Well… I’m here in Columbia. I’m continuing my work here, which I enjoy so much, paying a mortgage, which I am not enjoying so much, and thinking about the day I get to make the very trip Ryan made nearly two weeks ago.

It’s actually kind of funny. Phoebe, aka @fotofobe, joked that Ryan and I were the only two people in a long distance relationship who lived in the same house. Never a truer statement was spoken. You can see a typical Monday through Friday on the right.

I only worked 5 hours on Sundays so my weekends were mostly free. Unfortunately, Ryan often worked 24 hour shifts on Saturdays so there goes the weekend.

But I guess what I’m really getting at here is this. For three years we lived together and more or less barely got to see each other. We took trips from time to time, we were lucky enough to have a few weekends off here and there but really, on average, we saw each other only a handful of hours every week. It’s insane right? Yet it never messed with us. If anything it only made the time we spent together more important and more cherished.

We always looked to the summers, when I wasn’t in school, for long trips to California or somewhere on the east coast. This summer, for the first summer ever, I was done with school and had entered the real world. That is to say, I had a job. Which also means, our summer together traveling never happened.

In less than a month I will be flying to California to spend a week with Ryan in our new apartment in San Francisco. Do you have any idea how exciting that is? After a summer behind a desk and away from Ryan, we will finally have some time together, for an entire week! I cannot wait.

Ryan moving away has been incredibly difficult but I refuse to let it be the coup de grâce of my life here in Columbia. I’m so lucky to have some great friends still left here in Columbia, a job that let’s me travel and iChat for us to video chat.

Big thanks to Laura, Chadd, Korrie and Dave for being there for me. I may not be showing how sad and lonely I am but with you guys, I don’t have to.

So look forward to lots of pics from San Francisco soon! It’s been forever since I broke my camera out and shot things I wanted to shoot. Way too long.

Goodbye is the Hardest Word to Say

There are a lot of people that come and go in your life. Your childhood best friend, your first boyfriend or girlfriend, college roommates… You get the idea.

I've done a lot in my short time in existence, which just recently hit the 26 year mark. I've lived all over the place, up and moved across the country three times. I am lucky enough to have friends all over the state, the country and the world. It never fails that I will be in a random city, for a random reason and I bump into someone I know. Just last week my friend slash coworker Amy, aka @adifran, and I went to Blue Springs Missouri for a Think First event.

Amy and I weren't there more than ten minutes before two people came up to me, a classmate from Advanced Photography and a guy who couldn't quite pin down from where exactly he knew me. A little later I bumped into a friend of a friend.  

A couple of years ago Ryan and I were in Chicago, about to hop onto the L when, what do you know, someone who pledged my fraternity recognized me. He and his girlfriend road with us to our stop, we talked old times and parted at the next stop. 

But then there are those really special people in your life. The people you don't expect or don't even realize how much they mean to you until it sneaks up on you. 

As a kid there were these people in my life. My brother Patrick who I looked up to as most little brothers do. I wanted to be just like him for the longest time. I don't think he ever really knew how much I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Even today, when I need that really big life changing type of advice, he's the first on my list. He was the first family member I came out to. Without his support I wouldn't be where I am today.

The next person in my life was my cousin David. David and I were best friends from childhood. We summered on the beach every year together, we went to the Cayman Islands together, we built forts, we did all the things you do with your best friend… breaking into swimming pools, talking shit, camping out, you know the drill. When I decided I was going to move to California David was the first person on my list of people I wanted to live with. A couple of weeks later the two of us were driving to California for an adventure like we'd nothing we'd ever dreamed of.

In high school there was Joseph. I could tell Joseph anything, he could tell me anything. Together we somehow survived uniquely difficult junior and senior years. It seemed like our friendship blossomed overnight. One day we were two parts of a huge clique of friends, the next day we were best friends. Our nights were shared going out to dinner at Chipotle or Macaroni Grill, driving up and down FM 1960 blasting hip hop music, buying music and finding comfort in our shared company. Always kind, always funny, always there for me and up for just about anything.

One way or another I said goodbye to each of these people. Patrick is married to the most amazing person in the world and living off in Houston. David is also married, which is a bit of a shocker, he always was such a heart breaker. Joseph, this was perhaps the most surprising. He's in Korea teaching English, getting a law degree and generally exploring the East in a way that would make Dhani Jones jealous.

I would argue that the hardest part of goodbye is the feeling of emptiness it leaves you. There are these people who have made such a strong impact on your life, they have shown you love, they have taught you about yourself and the world, they have been there for the good and the bad through laughter and tears, love and pain. What they leave behind is a pit, an endless abyss of negativity. You are happy for their ability to move on, move up and move out. You know you'll see them again, that you can talk on the phone or online and that you'll still be friends for life. But your heart fights reason.

Your heart reminds you of everything they were to you, everything that is now lost.

These are holes you are certain can never be filled back in by anyone or anything else.

Enter Chase. 

Chase entered my life after I abruptly moved back to Columbia from California. Little did we know we were dancing around each other nearly our entire lives. From living in the same part of Houston, to the same part of Tulsa. We went to the same concerts, even an obscure Jason Mraz concert my senior year of high school. We both loved the same music, the same obsession with technology, movies and shows. Who would have thought that this total stranger would become like a brother to me?

I have Chase to thank for a lot. Would I have Ryan in my life without Chase? I'm not so sure! He brought so much to my life in a really unexpected way. At the time I didn't really have many straight guy friends. Most of my friends were other gay guys or girls who attracted gay guys like moths to a flame. I have Chase to thank for the next two people on the list. 

Corey, over there on the left eating Dave's bicep.

The first night I met Corey I thought… David? He reminded me so much of my cousin and proved to be just as cool, fun, exciting and generally bad ass. A little over a year ago I realized just how important Corey was in my life. He and chase moved to Blue Springs with their band to do the music thing full time. All of a sudden I felt this emptiness like I hadn't felt in a long time.

When Ryan was in the hospital and with a dangerous prognosis, Corey was the one I went to. He comforted me in a moment of absolute vulnerability. I was emotionally drained, physically shaken and felt like the world was closing in around me. I drove from the hospital to Corey's work. I made it all the way to the counter before I broke down into a sobbing mess. 

Corey brought me the level of comfort, compassion and love I needed so dearly. He held me, dried my tears and absorbed some of my fear and despair.

And in then there is Sam. An incredible photography, a fantastic musician (like Chase and Corey), passionate, funny and ridiculously in touch with his feelings and the feelings of others. There is nothing I couldn't share with Sam. His heart is pure and his mind is open.

It's a little funny how when I think about Sam my words begin to fail me. In place of words are memories, his last night in town at the Snorty Horse, Scouts concerts, bar hopping around town, photography talks, trivia nights, tequila shots at The Artisan… Thinking about these memories literally brings a smile to my face. He shares a heart and humor paralleled by only one other person I've ever had enter my life, my high school best friend, Joseph.

I get lost in the memories of these three guys. A mixture of happiness and sadness overflows me. This time a few months ago we were hanging out and then, one by one they moved away. Sam was the first to go followed by Corey and then Chase. They moved up, on and away in the exact opposite way that they entered my life.

Not going to lie. The night Sam left, signifying the inevitable end of one of the best periods of my life, I was a big ol' mess. Cried my freaking eyes out. 

A lot of people have entered my life. These people came and went, they made their impact. They were friends, roommates, classmates, boyfriends… They were for me the most important people in my life at the time.

Things were different with Chase, Corey and Sam. For the second time in my life I felt an endless sense of loss. There was something unique to these three people that affected me in a way only my brother, my cousin David and my best friend Joseph had before. It was in the night that I said goodbye to Sam that I realized something. That whole left ages ago had somehow been filled by these three guys. I realized that there are people put into your life to fill a certain purpose. To help you grow, learn and love.

Twice in my life I've had this experience. Who could ever expect to be so lucky?

I put off writing this blog post for quite a while. June 22 I started writing and over a month later I'm here to finish it. Why am I finishing it now? Well I got some other big news late last month. Ryan, arguably the most important person in my life will also be leaving. We're both excited, scared, nervous and happy about the big change we're both about to experience. In a few weeks Ryan will be living in San Francisco and I will have to say goodbye, temporarily as I stay here in Columbia.

But that's another day and another post.

Sam, Corey and Chase moving away was incredibly hard on me. I felt that familiar emptiness. But today I smile at the prospect of visiting Sam in Seattle, Corey in Florida and the incredible excitement at Chase's wedding in December. They will be a part of my life for the rest of my life and I can't wait to see where we all end up. Who knows, we might some day find ourselves back in the same city together, drinking PBRs and grilling some burgers.

I can't wait to see what happens next!

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Sayonara 302

When I discuss with someone all of the places I have lived or visited the next question is typically, “What, was your dad in the military?”  When I combine that my parents now live in Saudi Arabia the question typically lends itself to “What, are your parents spies?”

Yes. My parents are spies.

Actually, as a kid we didn’t move all that much.  Born in Austin Texas, my parents moved to Houston around two years later.  There we lived in a duplex.  As I strain to remember that house, a few memories come to mind.  The hole in the fence my brother and I would climb through to visit our neighbors.  The red glitter stickers and the Rock 101 Jukebox sticker on one of the windows.  I remember the kitchen and my mom going out the door to work while I ate breakfast and my dad took care of us when he wasn’t at the station.

How my parents managed to work as hard as they did and do such an amazing jobs as parents I will never know.

After a few years there we moved to the first house my parents ever purchased.  It was on Lively Lane.  It was a big two story house with an amazing back yard, a treehouse we built and a curious sensibility.  It seemed like the American Dream.  We lived in that house for around six years before the neighborhood started going downhill.  In fact the entire area of Houston was showing its unfortunate true colors.

So we move to Bellville, a small town about an hour outside of Houston.  We buy a fixer-upper on five acres.  For the next six years we convince ourselves we’re country folk.  We have a truck, a tractor that didn’t run from the day my dad purchased it, a collection of chainsaws, a giant chicken coop, two horses and a sandy driveway that was more reminiscent of a New Mexico sand dune race track than anything else.

Growing up in a small town was great.  I loved the lifestyle, the friends, the culture, the quaintness of the Fair, that the hangout was the Shell station and that you never had to worry about locking your doors.

In 2001 we discovered we had outgrown Bellville so we headed back to Houston.  We bought a serious fixer-upper this time.  A pretty huge house with mold damage.  By the time my parents were done fixing this place up… well, it was amazing.  I loved, loved that house.

Then I went to college.

Dorm number one, Wolpers, the Engineering dormitory.  Awesome roommate, awesome neighbor.  Well, one of my neighbors was awesome, the other one threatened to kill me. Soooo, off to dorm number two.

Graham.  New roommate.  He was a Catholic choir boy slash sleep eater slash compulsive masturbator. NEW ROOMMATE PLEASE!!!

Graham again, only this time with my best friend, Geoffrey.  We lived together there until I got an apartment, aka The Brothel.  (Parents move to Tulsa)

Around a year later I move to Forestville California.  Bet you’re wondering what happened in between huh? Too bad! 😛

So I’m in California staying in my family’s cottage/river house/vacation home/construction zone.  I quickly meet Seth in Santa Rosa and more or less move in with him.  It is closer to my job and to school.  That is, until Seth moves to San Francisco, I follow along but spend about half my time back in Forestville, until the rainy season comes.  I’m forced to move in with some friends for a few months.  Mike and Kevin.  Awesome friends.  I lived there for a few months and then stupidly moved in with this guy I met at Starbucks.  He needed a roommate and I felt I needed to give Mike and Kevin their place back.

My new roommate turned out to be a total psycho.  So off to San Francisco.

I’m in love. Amazing apartment five blocks from Union Square.  A seriously amazing experience and one that I have never forgotten.

I move back to Columbia, my parents move back to Houston. (I love omitting segues)

Move into the Fredrick with my friend Kevin for the summer.  Then to Sterling with Jim and David and then back to the Fredrick a year later.

And that leads me to the entire point of this post.  I think I just set a record for burying the lead, behind 700 words.

The moment I stepped foot into Apartment 302 I knew it was for me.  From the foyer I told the leaser that I’d take it.  Turns out the place was a hot mess.  But with the expert help of my parents we turned it into the best apartment I’ve ever lived in, the closest thing to home-away-from-home you can get.

Apartment 302 was the epicenter of change for me.  New job, new major, new passion in photography, new friends and most importantly, where Ryan came into my life.

In May I graduated and with the closing of my academic life so closed the door to 302.  I moved out of the Fredrick and into Ryan’s home.  Never have I felt so attached to an apartment, not since my place in San Francisco.  Seeing the apartment empty of all that made it mine was heartbreaking.  I felt like I had just lost a best friend.

The empty space where my bed once rested now bare.  I can remember the creaks of the floorboards, how the closet door never really closed and how loud radiator was in the winter.

This is where Cake and a Movie Night originated.  Dozens of movies, dozens of cakes and over a hundred strangers passed through.

Definitely the best part of his apartment was the living room.  I can’t put into words all of the magic spelled in this space.

Happiness and heartbreak.  Discovery and discouragement.

Many of you reading this have been in my apartment.  That’s one of the crazy things to me.  It’s not just that this place meant so much to me it’s that it affected so many other people.  I imagine it as a nucleus circled by these collected memories.

But as the story goes, all things must come to an end and now I’m working on a new life in a new home where new memories will be made, new obstacles conquered and all that comes along with it.

Why not leave a comment with your favorite memory at this apartment? I know a lot of you have many to share 😀