2003 was a seemingly endless toilet flush of doom and despair …
As bad as 2000 (when the tech sector died), 2001 (9/11), and 2002 (Afghanistan, recession) were – 2003 was, for me, the worst. Yeah, the U.S. took down Iraq, and we even found Saddam, but on the home front – at the personal level – 2003 was a seemingly endless toilet flush of doom and despair.
Around mid-summer it became clear that I would not be able to stay in the Bay Area. The place, and the house, I thought would be “home” for the next decade or two was not to be. I moved to the Bay Area partly because I figured as a high-powered technologist I could always find work there. Not in the Bush economy, though. Nothing. After sacrificing mind, body, and spirit to Technology for 20 years, I wasn’t even able to get an interview. That kind of dedication is about as valuable as a used condom in today’s coin.
In the New New Economy, the rich stay rich and everyone else is fileted alive; the blood and entrail cleaned away with powerful water cannons. Compare the number of CEO’s and CFO’s who’ve gone to jail for fraud to the number of people you personally know who’ve lost their homes, marriages, and lives as a result of the actions of these rapacious greed-heads.
Anyway … once I decided go, the next question was where? I decided to go down to L.A. where it’s at least 25% cheaper to live and a friend of mine was getting a start-up going. Now the rest should be easy – sell the house, live off that cash for a year or so while we get the company on its feet.
Well the first buyer on the house had a crooked realtor who used a crooked termite inspector. So that wasted almost a month of time. I felt I had to move – NOW – so I did, before the house was sold. Moving to a new city, with no documentable source of income, and owing more money to VISA and MasterCard than you have in the bank is not what one would call pleasant. But what the Hell? GonZo is as GonZo does, eh?
The house sold – and the offer came on the day I predicted it would. But it was a financial ass-ramming. With all the fees, commissions, and other charges I ended up with about 2/3 of what I had expected going in. But that wasn’t the end of the nightmare. In fact, the L.A. weirdness began before the house was sold.
The week after I arrived in L.A., the grocery workers at all the major food stores went on strike. So great, try to set up a new apartment and no grocery stores are open – big angry picket lines in front. The gripe was that the stores wanted employees to pay part of their healthcare benefits. Now, I’m as suspicious of Big Business as any anarchist, but when whole companies and, in some cases, industries are vanishing, we have people going on strike because they’re being asked to pay part of their medical insurance premium? Hell, I haven’t had insurance for almost four years. So pardon me if I don’t sympathize. (As of this writing, this strike is still ongoing at 2 of the 3 major stores.)
A couple of weeks later was The Fires. Most of Southern California was ablaze. Some of these fires were set. Some just happened. But there was a pall of smoke over most of L.A. for days and you could smell the smoke everywhere.
Then there was Ahnold. the Governator. ‘Nuff said.
Then there was a snow storm in Watts. Snow in Los Angeles? Yes … and enough to require shovels – several inches. If that isn’t some kind of sign of karmic imballance, I don’t know what is.
Then the quake which, fortunately, didn’t hit in a heavily populated area. But it was still pretty big and was felt across most of the State. (A couple weeks after that was an even worse quake in Iran which killed thousands – so whatever is going on this year sure as hell isn’t isolated to California.)
And a few days after the quake there were killer mudslides in L.A. County.
Welcome to the Hotel California. Indeed.
And, on top of it all, the day after Thanksgiving my friend – the one I came down here to work with – died. Just dropped dead on his kitchen floor.
So, goodbye 2003. You were a real shit-hammer of a year for a lot of people. A lot of folks went into 2003 thinking it couldn’t be worse than what came before – only to have their spines ripped out and beaten against the pavement to harvest the marrow. Many of us who Survived have had to question our self-image and our view of the world around us, and the creatures we inhabit it with. So, for that we are stronger. And meaner.
2004 has to be better, if for no other reason than that just about everything that could go wrong with the planet, the economy, and life in general already has done so in 2003.