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Things I Will Not Do (Part 1)

In the top drawer of my filing cabinet, in a hanging green file, there is a manila folder labeled “Things I Will Not Do.” Inside is a piece of college-ruled paper with things like “buy a cowboy hat” and “pay to get into Disneyland” scribbled on it. Most of them are crossed out. In fact, the list has really become just a symbol for my ironic attempts to cheat destiny; it’s turning out to be a road map of things that I will do. I should have labeled it, things that will make God laugh.

Live In The Pacific Northwest

As you may recall, I graduated from college in 2003 and immediately went to Switzerland for three months to hang out with six year olds. I even wrote a book about it. Upon returning, I was well-educated, well-traveled, well into debt, and well, unemployed. I was living with my parents in Southern California, so when a job opening surfaced through Cal Poly’s career services center for an entry-level Industrial Engineer in Orange County, it was a no-brainer to apply. I even managed to get an interview, which I thought went well. That was late in 2003, but this story really begins way before that, in 1998, when I first met Road Scholar Luca.

My relationship with Luca would come to be represented by a series of traditions that all eventually get broken (not unlike that list hanging in my filing cabinet). First it was tea time, an hour daily when we would sit with friends in the University Union, enjoy a cup of Earl Grey, and watch all the pretty girls go by. Then it was Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!, our weekly late night excursion to local downtown watering holes to prepare ourselves for the week ahead. In 2002 Luca was a Las Vegas virgin, so he and I decided to begin a short-lived tradition of traveling together for our birthdays (his in March, mine in February). The last such trip was in 2004. At the time, Luca was finishing his graduate degree in Idaho, with plans to soon begin working as an Agriculture Inspector for Customs and Border Protection in Seattle. We decided to rendezvous in the Emerald City.Luca and I enjoying a chilly ferry ride during our Seattle trip.

As our trip neared, I had all but forgotten about the Orange County job. I called a few times to follow up and was told there was a freeze, the organization was being realigned, the managers had changed, etc. It all sounded like half a dozen ways of blowing me off. I had given up on the gig as a viable opportunity, by that point following up only because there was as yet no formal closure. But destiny is a fickle bitch.

It turns out there really was a reorg, and the new hiring manager used to be my neighbor when I lived with my parents (the first time—you know, when you’re actually supposed to live with your parents). Back in those days I was the head of our block, so to speak, and I used to organize summer block parties. Since the Cozy Bear is a musician, we always had a live band, and it tended to attract the attention of people from more than just our block. One of those people lived directly behind us. Her name was Marilyn and, ten years after crashing our first summer block party, she would become my manager.

I had already accepted the job in Orange County by the time Luca and I took our trip. Negotiating my start date, I disclosed the caveat that I had already booked a trip to Seattle. Marilyn not only scheduled my start date for after the trip, she generously arranged for us to take a tour of the Renton facility, even though I wasn’t on the payroll yet. Renton is home to the best selling airplane of all time, and the production system had just been converted to a moving line. I was impressed. I was also convinced that, while the Pacific Northwest was undeniably beautiful, I definitely had no plans to live there. The geography that contributes to its beauty also contributes to dreary skies and horrendous traffic. Over the years I’ve had occasion to revisit the area many times and reaffirm my position. Coming off a two year stint in Idaho, where shoveling snow is practically an Olympic sport, Luca saw the region through slightly different eyes. He’s lived there ever since. 


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