Posts Tagged ‘University of Wisconsin’

Got My Cable Car On

January 5, 2015

“We want to do the trolley.”

My friend from college is visiting with his company on business.

“And the Painted Ladies, you know that place where they filmed Full House.”

Ugh, yes I do know.

“And the Golden Gate Bridge.”

Oh sweet jesus.

I just thought we were going to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on the past few years that we haven’t seen each other.

And how the fuck did he turn 40? Or for that matter, how am I 42?

I also don’t remember him being taller than me, but that could be because the guy I am dating is shorter than I am and I am automatically thinking that all men are shorter than me.

My friend is also losing his hair.


I gave him a little grief about the hair, I had to poke some fun, but I get it, he’s got a 13 month old baby boy, I’m sure the hair loss happened shortly after realizing that he wasn’t going to get any sleep for the first 8 months of his child’s life.

He always hollers “hola” at me because of my name and despite many years of persuading him that I do not, in fact, speak spanish, despite my spanish sounding name, the “hola” has continued.

It is like my family calling me Bubba.

Which is not a bad nickname when I acknowledge it, and I may have inadvertently gotten a new nickname from my boyfriend.

“Hey lip gloss,” he said to me the other night as I re-applied some lip balm.

“I just brushed my teeth,” I warded him off, “I need to re-up.”

Poor man.

He got more than he bargained for with this sparkle pony.

I joke that I am not going to prank him by mowing off an eyebrow while he sleeps or shaving some silly design on the side of his head; no, I’ll just dump loose glitter on his motorcycle jacket.

Or spray him down with aerosol adhesive and then dump loose glitter on him.

I have red, purple, and sky blue.

I bought them years ago for Burning Man and then never used them.

But he’s right, I do have a fondness for the lip gloss.

I like my mouth to feel a certain way and I hate dry lips.

I digress.

I basically played tourist today.

I took my friend and his boss on a little sightseeing of San Francisco.

I didn’t mind, although, truth be told, I was surprised at the number of things we crammed into a short amount of time.

They picked me up around 2:45 p.m. and dropped me off just before 6 p.m. having to give themselves enough time to get the rental car back to the airport and pick up another person from SFO for the rest of the business trip.

In that time we drove Great Highway, went up to Lands End, parked, walked around Seal Rock, Lands End, and took photographs of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Then we hopped back into the car and I navigate us to the NOPA neighborhood so that we could do a quick spin around Alamo Square Park and see the Painted Ladies.

Which actually looked really lovely in the late afternoon light.

Plus the scaffolding that has been up on one of the girls finally has been pulled down.

I’m not always the biggest fan of the Painted Ladies, I think there are far prettier houses, but the view is gorgeous and my friend and his co-hort got to snap some photographs.

Before heading to the cable car.

At least I know my cable car lines.

I did not direct us to either the downtown turn around on Powell or the one at the end of Fisherman’s Wharf.


We hopped on the California Van Ness line at California and Polk Street.

I pointed out things like a good host guide–“there’s the Masonic Temple, in case you wanted to see any Mason’s,” I chuckled when we passed the venue.

“On the left side of the car is Grace Cathedral, there’s Huntington Square Park, here’s the Fairmont Hotel with the Tonga Room, and on the other side is the Top of The Mark, where Vertigo was filmed.”

I told them about how the cable cars run and the difference between a cable car and a trolley.

I got to see some San Francisco I don’t normally see.

Then we hopped off at the end of the line in the Financial District and walked over to the Ferry Building.

They joked about hipsters and gluten-free diets and hippies and vegan donuts and I used the bathroom.

We grabbed a Boccalone sampler of salted pig parts and walked back to the Financial District and for the first time in so long I can’t remember when this actually happened, we went to a bar and watched the end of the Dallas Detroit Game.

My friend was determined to find a place to watch the last few minutes, and his compatriot seemed just as eager, I think they were on the spread (what does that mean anyway?).

So, that’s how it happened to be that at 4:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon I find myself in the hotel bar of the Hyatt Regency downtown sipping a Pellegrino and sending texts to my boyfriend who is away on business in Santa Clara while my friend drinks a pint and watches the football game.

I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.

Twice in one weekend I find myself in social settings with bars.

I’m not interested in drinking, if anything it really grosses me out, the smell of it especially, I find myself more and more sensitive to it, but I did not like that I had ended up in a bar on my day off.

I was glad to see my friend.

But I was ready to go home.

We took an Uber from the hotel bar to the rental car after the game finished and I thought, my life, it really is so different from the everyday hustle bustle of the rest of the world.

Not just because I live and work in San Francisco, but also because I practice an actively spiritual way of life that does not include drinking.

I have been reminded at New Years and again today, how the rest of the world works and plays, oh, yeah, this is what “normal” people do.

I have to say.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I don’t mind playing tourist once in a while.

But that’s not a part of town I need to revisit again.

Literally and figuratively.

That being said, it was a gift to see my friend, it is nice to see people from Madison, from UW, from that part of my life.

If only to smash home how radically different a person I have become.

“Your place looks entirely Carmen,” my friend said as he used the bathroom and I gave him the “grand tour” of my in-law.

Although not exactly the person I was when I went to school back at UW Madison, I am apparently not too different either.

Just a bit more clear-eyed.

And present.

And now back to my regular programming.

My “normal.”

Living my own little slice of San Francisco.

Away, way, way, down by the sea.

In my little bungalow that looks like me.


Start Smaller

December 6, 2013

“Maybe it’s time to forgive yourself for that student loan.”



Who do you think you’re talking to?

Forgive my loan too.

First, it’s forgive myself for being single, which, truth be told seems to be working pretty god damn well, so what if I don’t feel like extrapolating that to another aspect of my life.

I like to beat myself up.

There’s some spooky ass comfort in it.

Creepy that I enjoy the self-pity, but it’s a party I have always RSVP’d to.

What if I said, not today, or, try me later.

Or what if I did forgive myself for that student loan?

What then?

Then, I suppose, if it falls out like other things in my life have, maybe I can make space for what is supposed to come next instead of focusing on that big gigantic number that I owe the student loan sharks and I could see what else there is to see.

I spin out-and-out and spend the time being spun not even realizing what I am doing, but man, it feels busy.

However, it’s not.

It’s just distraction from the real issue.

See, when I was seventeen years old, yes, we’re going back into the Wisconsin time machine, hop in, welcome to growing up in a unicorporated small town 25 minutes north-east of Madison (that’s the capital if you are wondering.  I was trying to explain where I grew up to someone in Paris and the closest I could get was “Chicago” north of Chicago), I received a huge gift.

A gift I was sort of expecting and a gift I really did not know what to do with.

I got a full ride to school.

I have friends that escaped home life by drinking or doing drugs, staying out late, running away from home, stealing, getting pregnant really young, or having promiscuous unsafe sex.

I on the other hand, escaped into school.

It was safer.

And I was smart.

“I’m the type of person that always did well in school,” I told her, “I would, well, I would write my fifteen page term paper on Henry the V the night before and get an A.”

School was not hard.

I repeat I am an intelligent person.

But I tell you what, there are some things I just never did learn and despite having some really solid book knowledge, I was bereft in a lot of other areas that have taken me decades to work out.

I have not worked through them all, but.

I have walked through a lot.

Done lots of work.


But there are still obstacles to move through and work to be done.

“Aren’t you grateful for that?!” She said, all excited, “that you have stuff to keep working on?”



I mean, yes.

I keep coming back and practising and doing the work and getting the results and that whole, “more will be revealed” bit, well, more got revealed.

It was so simple.

Forgive yourself for the student loan.

I haven’t.

Every time I make that payment I hate it.

I hate myself more, secretly, quietly, in the depths of my soul, I ultimately am not angry with anyone else but myself.

I fucked it up and boy howdy, apparently I am still going to beat myself down for the mistakes an 18-year-old girl made.

Damn it.

So, back in Wisconsin, back in the early bits of senior year when I was applying to schools (I started getting solicited by schools when I was  a junior in high school and the amount of mail that I got by the summer just before senior year was stupid) I made the decision that I was only going to apply to one school.

The one I knew I could get into and the one I thought I would get the most financial aid for, though I am not certain that my rationale was that exactly.

It was more like this.

I think I can get into Harvard, I am pretty sure I can get into Berkeley, but I don’t think I can get money together to move there.

That’s what stopped me from applying to any school that was out-of-state, basically any school that was out of the god damn county, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the money to move out-of-state.

The family unit, me, mom, my sister, was barely making it as it was.

I was working full-time in the summers, full-time on the weekends, and going to school, well, in high school its “full time”.

I was pretty busy.

And the money just would not stay.

It was rapidly taken out of my hands just as fast as I could bring it in.

Which is another blog, another time, and well covered elsewhere.

Suffice to say, the family unit, which was barely intact, was not making it any easier for me to save money to move out West or out East.

I was going to have to stay put.

That meant UW Madison.

Here is the truth that I have never written about before, I have lied all my life about getting accepted into bigger name schools because I wanted so bad to get out but was ashamed that I didn’t even try.

I didn’t even try.

I was too busy making fear based decisions.

And I have never forgiven myself for that.

I have never forgiven the fact that I also blew my ride.

Here’s the correlation that I see now with clarity and perspective:

First time getting drunk: one month after starting college at the age of 18.

First time dropping out of school which led to me flunking all my classes except one, and that’s also another story that is funny, but not applicable here, and being put on academic probation which lead to me having my entire ride for four years revoked?

Two months later after my first drunk.

I fell the fuck apart that fast.

I should have gotten sober at fucking 19.

But I was tumbling fast, soon a drop out, supporting my younger pregnant sister and her older boyfriend as well as a plethora of other unsavory companions on bounced checks, started ironically with the first installments of said financial aid compensation.

I graduated highschool with honors, had a full ride to college, yeah it wasn’t my first pick, but it was a great school, and by the time I was 19, less than a year after I graduate highschool I was smoking crack homeless in southern Florida.

Fuck me.

Through a lot of odd twists and turns and circumstances (which if I ever get my head out of my ass around the story will comprise the full series of memoirs I have written in rough draft) I found myself back in Wisconsin, back in Madison, back in school.

I re-applied to the University of Wisconsin Madison when I was 25.

I had to take out student loans because they wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole.

I had no full ride.

I had no scholarships or grants.

I had me and a job running a brewing company.

I took out loans.

I made it work.

I got on deans list.

I was still drinking, but I was managing.

I was smart, remember.

I am smart.

I got my degree, I got my diploma, even in the end I won some awards and got some cash and “prizes” some acclaim for some writing and some of the nicest things said about me and my abilities by some of the most talented and smartest people I have ever had the honor of studying with.

But I also had $43,500 in student loans by the end of it all.

Today, 11 years after I graduated I still have $32,345 in outstanding student loans.

“Can you forgive yourself for that,” she said, “that’s where the work has to start.”

I think I am going to have to.

Because I am tired of living under the shadow of that mistake.

I am damn proud I went back and I got my degree and I did well.

I could have done better, the drinking was starting to take off by the time I was getting close to graduating, the cocaine use was only a few months past that and then less than two years later I was crawling around on the floor hoping to die.

I didn’t.

I am graced.

There are no mistakes.

I am not a mistake.

I am enough.

And I forgive myself for taking out those student loans.

I was doing the best I could with what I had.

Fuck, I still am.

Better than that, I live a life that I find full of integrity and that has no price tag.

So, yeah, time to forgive.

Not forget, I have no doubt that my experience will be of benefit to someone else, but definitely to forgive.

Because, well, see, I might want to go back to school.

If I can’t forgive that debt to myself then I won’t be able to get past this roadblock.

That’s how I see it.

And man, do I want to move past this block.

It’s time.

I am too smart to not be doing better.

It’s time.

One small step.

Today I forgive myself for my student loan debt.

One very small step toward something bigger.



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