Tonight I finished my second UC Berkeley Extension class, Writing Skills Workshop.
Below is a little teaser of the intro to my final paper. The whole thing is just over 3k words long – probably a little too much to post here. So I’ll just give you a taste.
When my husband and I first discussed moving to San Francisco, he proclaimed, “There is no way I’m moving to San Francisco! Unless we can live on a boat…” In his opinion, living in San Francisco had two major drawbacks. First, it was a major city, and we are not city people. From the comfort of our home in the lush green of the Pacific Northwest, we took a stroll down Google Street View of San Francisco and saw nothing but walls of stucco and concrete with infrequent street trees. Second, as if that wasn’t enough, consider that most of San Francisco was built on fill, and practically on top of an active fault line.
Take about a million of people, cram them into forty-nine square miles, give them century old buildings to live in, and then shake things up a bit. Sounds like fun, no? Well, to my emergency-aware, and prepared, better half, this did not sound like a good idea. Living on the water in a self-sufficient structure, ideally off the grid, would be the best scenario he could think of in the face of this much risk. Plus… adventure! Squeeze two people into a forty-foot sailboat cruiser, especially when one is over six feet tall, and you are bound to get adventure… or disaster.
The problem with living on a boat, aside from the very real possibility of unharmonious home life, is that you pretty much have to buy one if you want to live on one. Add in moorage fees and taxes and miscellaneous repairs, and you bought yourself a nice little money pit. When we were living in Seattle, we’d owned a small sailboat that I’d inherited from my father. It was not big enough to live on, and not big enough to sail around the world on. But it was enough to teach us about boat ownership’s perils to the pocketbook. No thanks. I was not agreeing to purchase a boat.
However, I recognized that, given how much I wanted to pursue the job opportunity that would be relocating us, and how set Captain Safety Pants was on the dangers of urban living on a fault line, compromise was going to be necessary. I agreed to consider living on a boat if he could find one we could rent for a short period as a test.
His search may have started with the objective of finding a boat to rent. However, in the process, my husband stumbled upon the Craigslist category “sublets and temporary rentals.” He eventually did find us a boat to rent, but that wasn’t until the end of a two-and-a-half year journey of living in other people’s houses.
Within a week of my accepting the job offer, we had our first three months’ living arrangements planned out. First we would housesit for a nice lesbian couple at their home in South Berkeley so that the pair could spend some quality time in Oklahoma. Then we would be house and cat sitting for a Baby Boomer couple in El Cerrito who planned to spend a month in Bali.
Both of these options allowed us to have much nicer accommodations than we would otherwise be able to afford on our meager housing budget. The first place we stayed in cost only $1000, total, for almost two months, and the owners paid for a house cleaner that came every other week. The house could have easily rented long term for around $4000 a month.
The second place was free in exchange for feeding and playing with the owners’ two Siamese cats, and watering numerous plants, including more orchids than I had ever seen in one house before. The orchids came with about three pages of instructions on proper care and feeding. After a month, the orchids proved to be more overwhelming than the cats, especially since the cats didn’t really want to have anything to do with us anyway.
By the time we were halfway through our stay at our third housesitting gig – this one for a Baby Boomer couple in Bernal Heights who wanted to spend the summer at their house in France – we were hooked.
There’s more to the story, and maybe at some point I’ll share it, but that’s enough for tonight.