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February 20, 2017

Pittsburgh Train

6:17 am MST Leave house
7:00 am MST Arrive canopy airport parking
7:15 am MST leave canopy
7:25 am MST Arrive DEN.
7:31 am MST Clear security
7:38 am MST get to gate c34

In the morning, I wake up and drive to the airport. On the way, I rehearse the city that I'm flying to. "I'm not flying to Ontario today. Today, I'm going to Oakland."

I plan my arrival at Terminal C this time. Now, when I arrive at Terminal C, I don't just look for Oakland (and I pray that the monitors are working properly and for once, they are.) But this time, when I see Oakland, I check the flight number also. Flight Number 1376 to Oakland. There it is. Gate C34. Now, I race down to the gate.

I record my time every step of the way. Not for any real reason. Just so I can get some understanding of how much time I spend commuting.

7:48 am MST get preboard pass
8:06 am MST boarded plane
8:35 am MST pushback
8:46 am MST Wheels up
10:19 am PST Wheels down
10:22 am PST at gate C34

"I need a preboard pass for Flight 1376 to Oakland," I gasp. I'm so proud of myself. I know my flight, my destination, and I've even made it to the right gate this time.

"Do you need a specific seat on the flight?" she asks.


"Do you have your boarding pass on your phone?" She asks.

I proudly show her my boarding pass. She hands me a piece of paper.
The one thing that I always, always, always forget to ask is "how full is this flight". Like, the last thing you want is Lurch sitting beside you in the middle seat on an empty flight.

I board the plane and now I panic. I can't reall which side of the plane I should sit on. Finally, I decide on seat 2A. I usually sit on the other side of the plane for this flight, but I figure it will all work out. The whole flight, the ground is completely socked in in fog and rain clouds.

We land and I bolt off of the plane to the BART to Oakland Airport connector. Only now do I realize that it's raining pretty good. And, I don't bring my Colorado jacket to California because it's too heavy. But I failed to check the forecast in Oakland, or scratch that...I new it was raining in Oakland, and I was too stupid to bring an umbrella or a rain coat.

10:24 am PST deboard
10:30 am PST BART connector
10:44 am PST coliseum station

At the Coliseum Station, I go to use my new BART Clipper Card. I'm so proud that I have the card. I just got it last week. I use it now instead of the little temporary paper cards that the tourists use. Now, it's like I'm an authentic SF Bay Area commuter with my blue plastic Clipper Card.

I put my card up to the turnstyle and somehow, it's declined. It directs me to see the agent in the little monkey cage beside the turnstyles.

"Why won't it take my card?" I ask her.

She looks at my card, and then back to me. Something is wrong. Only now do I realize that I'm trying to use my Southwest A+ Frequent Flyer card isntead of my new Clipper card. They're both blue, but other than that, they look nothing alike.

I'm just mortified to realize my stupidity. I switch and use the right card and now I'm down at the Colisuem Station, waiting on the Richmond Train.

The BART train system is not easy to figure out. Not for me, anyway. I have a photo of the BART train map in my phone, and I screen shot the photo every week to keep it in my recent photo group. There are a lot of trains that come by here, but the only one I can take to get to work is the Richmond Train.

11:00 am MST Richmond train.
11:10 am MST 19th st station

So, I hop on the Richmond train and head for the 19th Street Station. Now, it's easy enought to get off at the 19th street station, but there are countless entrances to this station from the street level, and after weeks of practice, I've gotten pretty good at popping up on 20th Street and Broadway. But it took me a while to figure it out.

So, I pop up at 20th and Broadway in downtown Oakland, CA. I decide that I'll be clever and go ahead and grab lunch before heading into the office. Now, I should point out that today is a holiday. President's Day. But I've decided to come into Oakland a day early to get some work done and also see the city.

11:20 ikes

I walk north on Broadway to Ike's. I just realized that Ike's was on Broadway last week, and I've eaten there several times.

When I get to Ike's, the place is deserted. All of the chairs and tables are stacked up in the dull rain at Broadway and Grant.

I go inside. No one is inside. They don't have tables or anything. You're supposed to sit outside and feed the pigeons. But today, no pigeons. Only a rained out plaza. I order my sandwich, then sit around and wait indoors.

11:35 leaving ikes
11:45 kaiser building

It's only a few blocks to the Kaiser building, but it's cold and rainy and miserable and when I get to the building, it's completely locked. Tighter than a frog's ass.

Now, I'm not really sure what to do. I didn't bother to make a reservation anywhere for this week, because....well...because I'm an idiot, I think.

So now, I'm not sure what to do. I check the rates at the Marriott, but it's $300 a night, and my cell phone is about to die. I'm trying to find a room on AirBnB, and my phone is dying, and I don't have a charging cable for my iPhone, for reasons that escape me. Normally, it's in my suitcase. Today, it isn't there. Who knows why?

So, my phone is nearly dead, and I can't charge my phone because I don't have a cable. Also, my laptop is nearly dead, and I don't have a place to plug it in. I don't have a place to stay. And I'm outside in the cold, wondering how I got here.

12:19 pm PST

My phone is about to die, and now, I start searching for a place on Air BnB like it matters. I've got to nail something down here. I'm not good at using this Air BnB App. It's very confusing to me. But finally, I figure out how to tell it that I want a whole house, not just a room in a shared house. Last week was a nightmare, sharing one house with 3-4 other people. Ugh. I want my own place this time.

I'm looking for a place near Rockridge Station on the BART line, but the place I liked last time appears to be booked up. Finally, I put in a request to rent a private place several blocks away from Rockridge station, but the check in time is 3:00 p.m., which won't do. I need to check in immediately, so that I can get in out of the rain. So, I leave a note to the renter/slumlord, and it says that it hasn't officially booked, as the slumlord has to agree to the terms I've stipulated in my little note.

And my phone dies.

So, I'm sitting outside like a homeless person, wondering how I get myself into these situations. A cold wind is blowing, and I'm shivering. I need shelter. But I can't even make a phone call. Slowly, I begin to realize how screwed I really am. Like...I have cash in my pocket, but I don't have a functioning cell phone. So, I can't even go online and look for a place to stay. I can't call Uber. Or Lyft. Or AirBnB.

Now, I start to think about the homeless people. What would a homeless person do? I remember how every time I go into a coffee shop or a McDonald's, I see countless homeless people huddled inside for shelter.

Now, I have a plan. I'll march down to Mia Terra Coffee Shop on 20th and Broadway. If I buy a coffee, they won't throw me out, and they have internet access.

12:29 pm PST Arrive at Tierra Mia Coffee shop.

So I walk about 4 blocks in the rain, order a cup of coffee, and sit down insde the Tierra Mia coffee shop. It's good to be out of the weather. That was a crucial move. That was smart. Now, I'm out of the weather. But I can't charge my laptop because all of the other patrons have hogged up all of the outlets. Also my cell phone is dead, and I don't have a cable to charge my phone, and my laptop is nearly dead, at least I have internet access and my laptop is still functioning (barely).

I sign into AirBnB and the woman messages me and tells me that I can have the place, but that the maid will be cleaning the place until 3:00 p.m. I briefly scan the email she sent, and see that it says "the key is under the mat" and I'm like "great"...at least I have a place to go to get out of this weather.

But now, I can't call Uber or Lyft with my phone, as it's dead and I don't have a charger. So, I decide to hop on BART, ride to Rockridge Station, and then walk the remaining distance (about a mile) in the rain.

Fortunately, when I come out of the Rockridge station, I see a bus parked under the overpass and I'm like..."hey...people ride buses, don't they?"

So now, I'm interrogating the bus driver. She leaves in about 12 minutes and goes pretty much where I'm going. So, I climb onto the bus without paying and sit there and wait 12 minutes while she does whatever it is that bus drivers do when they're not driving buses.

Eventually, she drops me off and I walk about 2 blocks and find my Air BnB. Perfect.

I walk up to the place, and look under the mat, but there's no key there.

Now, I'm royally fucked. I have no internet access. No cell phone (it's dead). And I'm not near really anything. So screwed.

Now, I'm thinking that I'll have to find an apple store and get a cable to charge my iphone. But, I can't call Uber or Lyft, and I don't even have internet access at this point. mother. fucker.

So, I'm thinking it's a mile walk back to the Rockridge station....my whole day is pretty much ruined at this point. Then, I come up with another plan. What if I just stashed my little CC Filson suitcase and camera on the front porch, and then started going house to house, knocking on doors to see if someone could help me.

So, the second house, a woman opens the door. I explain my situation. She lets me in, and gives me a charger that fits my iPhone 5S, and I see in her front family room, charging my iPhone. "You know...there's a CVS pharmacy about 3-4 blocks from here...just go down that road," she offers. Like...who even knew that CVS carried iphone chargers? I certainly didn't.

She disappears into the back of the house.

After charging for 5-10 minutes, I can use my cell phone again. I message the woman and she explains that I was supposed to go to the back door to find the key under the mat.

Now, I walk back over to the house, and now the maid is there, and she's laughing, and lets me into the house. I grab my suitcase, and go inside the hosue. The house is huge. It's a queen anne revival style house, and it's massive. Kitchen, foyer, family room, dining room...I'm thinking how lucky I am to have found this place on Air BnB. And all for only $83 a night. What a deal. I should write a book, I think.

There's even a cell phone charger on the counter that fits my iphone 5S, so I take that, and now I'm charging my cell phone in the family room and, at some point, I mention to the maid that the key was supposed to be under the mat, and suddenly the maid realizes that I'm not supposed to be here. Because obviously this place doesn't rent for $83 a night.

"If the key was supposed to be under the mat, then you're supposed to be downstairs. Not here. Come..."

Now, she's explaining to me that I have to leave, that someone else is living there. I'm supposed to be downstairs. Will this day never end?

So now, she whisks me out of the house and into the cramped basement apartment which seems like $83 is about right. Not the whole house, obviously.

At some point, I realize that I no longer have my Canon DSLR with the 17-85 mm lens. This is not a good feeling. Maybe I left it on the bus? Or the plane? Or the coffee shop? Who knows.

I get the maid to let me back upstairs, and then I go out onto the front porch, and I find where I left the camera underneath the bench. Lord I am losing my mind.

I return to my little basement prison, and I tell the maid, "When you get ready to leave, maybe you can drop me off at the CVS pharmacy," which she agrees to.

2:51 pm PST

When we leave, she's driving this insanely nice crew cab truck. She drops me at the pharmacy and drives away. Insie the pharmacy, I buy an iPhone 5S cable and an umbrella. Total cost? $45. i think the cable was $30, which is highway robbery, but what else can you do? I can't live without my phone.

Then, I walk home in a driving rain, with my new umbrella, and my Canon 100-400mm IS USM and my DSLR, shooting every flower I pass because, hey....if we're not going to go out and see the world, then why are we here, right?

Posted by Rob Kiser on February 20, 2017 at 3:56 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

February 13, 2017

Shot Out of a Cannon

Shot Out of a Cannon

I get into the office at about 11:30 a.m. PST. There aren't many people here, but right away, Pallab says we should go to lunch first, before we get too crazy buried into work.

Yes. That sounds like a plan.

Now, I'm looking for a place to stay on Air BNB. I want a place on the Richmond/Fremont train line. Last week, I had to keep switching over to the Pittsburgh/Bay Point line at MacArthur Station. This time, I want to be on the Richmond/Fremont line so that I don't have to keep switching over. Find a 1 room apartment for $83 a night at Ashby Station. Book the room. Now, I have a place to stay.

People are trickling into the office now...Raghu...Ben...Asok...John...
They are coming in from all over the place. NYC, Chicago, Jacksonville, Toronto...

By 12:00 noon, we're all heading to lunch...where shall we go? Ike's.

Heading towards the stair well and Nassir meets us there.

So now, we're walking through Oakland to eat lunch, and the stories are coming out. Where were you this weekend? What did y'all do? So, everyone is sharing their adventures from a different time zone. At Ikes, the place is packed. You can't even get in the door to order your sandwich.

Now, Ben comes by on his electric bicycle.

He's heading to a new bakery in Oakland...Firebrand Artisan Breads - to get some chocolate banana croissants.

We're all sitting in the cold huddled around some open tables, swapping stories about what we did over the weekend.

This is the fun part, really. Like...this isn't like when people go into work on Monday and hate their jobs and hate their lives. This isn't like listening to the caged bird sing. It's about hanging out with people who fly all over the world every week. Globe trotters. They have the best stories.

We get back to the office, and it's just sensory overload. Like...I did almost nothing in Colorado this past weekend. But now, it's like you're suddenly riding a rocket into outer space.

We're planning what nights we'll go out this week and where we'll go, etc.

I get back to my desk looking out over Lake Merritt. Seagulls flying by. I have more food than I could eat in a lifetime. And now, we start planning what we'll do this afternoon.

Posted by Rob Kiser on February 13, 2017 at 2:29 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

February 9, 2017

"Dear White People"? Fuck You Netflix.


Posted by Rob Kiser on February 9, 2017 at 7:22 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink

February 6, 2017

Sir...You're flying to Oakland

In order to stay young, you must change.

The world is a blur.

I go to the airport, and don't even know where I'm flying to. Seriously. I don't think that's ever happened to me before.

I'm standing at the gate to fly to Ontario. And she's like..."Sir...you're flying to Oakland."

FUck me. So I am. Yes. That's right.

In Oakland, I just can't really believe that anything is real. Sensory overload. Like...this is your life. Take 2 steps forward.

They're jackhammering up the street outside my building. They're refurbishing the building behind us into Uber's headquarters.

Fresh cut flowers on the corner. At lunch, homeless people crawl in out of the rain and huddle noisily in the corner.

You don't see this in the mountains of Colorado. You can sort of distance yourself very easily from the world around you. You can hide from civilization without much effort.

But out here, in the city, you're sort of thrust back into the game.

Everything is very intense. Competitive.

After work, I catch Pittsburgh train up to Rockridge station. As I'm leaving the station, I pass a woman. She's fallen and she can't get up. A small girl bawls inconsolably beside her. A couple of BART personnel are hunched over her. She's splitting her jeans from the ankle up. Tearing away her pants leg. The whole scene is surreal. It's so different in the city. You just don't see this shit in the mountains. I just keep walking. I'm not clear that I can help.

Get out and start wandering down College Avenue in the dark, in a light rain.

Find my room that I rented on Air BNB and it's just so nice. No words. I'm wandering across the street, looking for dinner.

Like, I'm so exhausted there just aren't words. Some type of emergency ambulance type vehicle comes blaring down the street, piercing the night with bright lights and sharp sirens. And then another. And another.

The city lurches from crisis to crisis. Lights and sirens. Awful emergencies that paint the fear in you. Make you glad you're alive, but also imminently aware of how close we are to a sudden, painful death.

Stop into a chinese restaurant for dinner.

At the table next to me, two children are stealing the show. "They grow up fast," I want to say, but I don't say anything. They don't need my advice.

At the end of the meal, I hear the parents reading a fortune. "In order to stay young, you must change."

They disappear into the rainy night and afterwards, I wander down towards all of the emergency vehicles at the Rockridge BART stop. Ask a homeless guy what's going on.

"Some lady fell....I think...that's what I heard just now anyway."

And I think about that. It was the woman that I saw on the ground trying to gnaw her foot off. With her little girl bawling her eyes out in her arms. And I walked right by without stopping. I'm sure there's a special place in hell for me, but it's not like I could help her.

Now, I'm thinking I could use a beer before I crash for the night. Ben N Nicks is across the street. Now if I can just get there without watching someone die.

Posted by Rob Kiser on February 6, 2017 at 9:20 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

February 5, 2017

Peaceful Hills 10


Posted by Rob Kiser on February 5, 2017 at 2:50 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

February 1, 2017

The Cookie Girl

I'm sitting at my desk in this warehouse perched on the edge of the Bad Lands, trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Trying to figure out what to do with my life. I'm trying to figure out a little puzzle in the app...it's not working quite right you see. So, I talk to my buddy up in Oakland for a bit. But, the problem is fairly complicated, and it's hard to get him on the phone, so I decide that I need to be in Oakland next week.

"I'm going to work in Oakland next week," I say. "So we can try to sort out this error we're seeing in the Budget Export."

"Sure," he replies, and that's all that there is to it.

Now, I'll go to Oakland next week. I much prefer to be in Oakland over Riverside, as Oakland is a vibrant, metropolitan community. Riverside is sort of a bedroom community perched out on the edge of the Los Angeles Basin. It's, at best, a remote suburb of Los Angeles.

Oakland is a bustling community of orphaned miscreants. A fusion of fascist libtard Dimocrats, just waiting to explode should Trump do anything at all, really. So, I like Oakland better, as there's better chance to get some riot photos there.

At some time in the afternoon...3:30 or so, the cookie girl comes around with a tray of cookies, and everyone gets to take one. Why? I have no idea. I don't know how this got started, or whose idea it was. But, this is where we are. I've decided I'm going to Oakland next week, and now the girl comes by and gives me a cookie. And now, my confidants show up and they bring me more cookies....the people that don't eat cookies get one for me and bring it in surreptitiously after the cookie girl leaves.

This is the racket that I run here. It's not a bad way to pass the days.

Posted by Rob Kiser on February 1, 2017 at 6:31 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

The Mouse in the Bathtub

At home, a cat prances into the bedroom, meowing loudly. I know that he has a mouse. This is how he announces his success. They all do this. This is nothing new. They're happy...proud even, with their success in hunting mice. I don't know where they get them, but they bring them in at a rate of about 1 a day.

I scoop up the mouse and put him in the empty bathtub. This is sort of a compromise. You can have your mouse, and you can eat it to, but let's not make a mess.

Surprisingly, the cats catch on to this. The mouse is now in a place where he can not escape. They can bat him around at their leisure, then go and take a break. When they return, the mouse is still there, awaiting his fate.

From the cat's perspective, this is ideal. And, fairly quickly, the cats start putting the mice in the bathtub on their own. This surprised me. I wasn't aware that they could be trained, or learn to do this on their own. But they quickly picked up on it.

From the mouse's perspective, this is not really an ideal situation. It's a special kind of hell, really. Basically, now matter what the mouse does, he's just killing time, waiting for the inevitable fate. Waiting for the cat to come back and finish him of in a horrible, surreal death. The cats will inevitably, rip him to pieces, and devour him, depositing his head on the carpet.

The Bad Lands

At first, it just seemed like we were all in this big warehouse in the desert, near the Bad Lands of the Inland Empire. It was hard to understand the difference between us and them. Some people seemed to be working with us. Some people seemed to be working on other things. In the glaring desert sun, it was easy to imagine that we were all working on the same things.

But slowly, the creacks grew deeper and wider, so that it was obvious that some of us were contrators and some of us were employees. As they hired more employees, we were moved to other areas and into different cubes. Then, as they hired more and still more, we got pushed further and further, until we were leapfrogging down row after row to get out of the way of the ever encroaching mob of new hires. They were louder and louder until eventually, we had to confront them. "Who are you? And what are you doign here anyway?"

So now, we're leapfrogged down into the barest, darkest corner of this desert warehouse, waiting our fate. Probably, we will end up in Oakland. That's the rumor mill.

And it occurs to me that I am the mouse. Living in a special kind of hell. My bathtub is the LA basin. And the cats are the 25 year old kids straight out of college that are put into management positions.

Posted by Rob Kiser on February 1, 2017 at 10:10 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink