Memory Lane

November started with an election, you may have heard about it.  Two old white guys, one the antichrist, one not.  [Depending on who’s reading this, your interpretation of the last sentence may vary.]  For us, the person who wasn’t a racist, wasn’t a misogynist, didn’t insult prisoners of war, listened to the scientists about COVID, and didn’t attempt to politicize literally everything was the choice, no matter who he (or she) was.  Speaking solely for myself, there are certain things that are disqualifying, and if those disqualifying things are present, but you “overlook” those things because of party, you’re putting party over country and you’re an asshole.  But you don’t read this for my political leanings, so I’ll just keep it moving.

I bring this up only for context (well, not entirely for context, but mostly), because on Thursday 5 November, we drove up to the Spanish consulate in Los Angeles, and the election was theoretically still hanging in the balance.  From everything I had seen and read, from objective and statistics-driven experts in the field, it wasn’t really in the balance.  I’d come to understand, or at least thought I’d come to understand, how people can be so confident about how an election can get called from “limited” data.  In a given state, say Arizona, the ballots from literally any district are instructive.  If in 2016 there were 50,000 votes in Town X, and 53% of those were for the Republican and 47% were for the Democrat, but in 2020 there were 55,000 votes and in Town X, and 48% of those were for the Republican and 52% were for the Democrat, assuming there was no huge influx of persons, that indicates Democrats voted in higher numbers and/or that some of the independent voters flipped.  If you have enough data from enough districts, it becomes increasingly easy to guess the results of the districts that haven’t reported their results yet, as all of the districts, and voters within certain demographics, are correlated with one another in some form or fashion, using algorithms beyond my comprehension.  Anyway, by 5 November, what I was reading was that it was in the bag for Biden, but Crystal hadn’t been reading the same stuff I’d been reading, so we were listening to the updates from Pennsylvania and elsewhere on the drive up to Los Angeles.

We woke up early, and I saw the sunrise for once - if they're always this nice, I should wake up early more often. On the drive to Los Angeles, it was a bit like a drive down (or up, since we were driving North) memory lane.  On the drive north on the 5, we passed right by two of Crystal’s former offices and two of my former offices.  We also passed by the 78, where our former house is inland a couple miles.  Then, in Orange County, on the 73, we went past where Crystal worked when we got engaged.  Just before the 73 merged onto the 405, we passed by where we first lived together, in Costa Mesa.  We got off the freeway at La Cienega, where we used to get off all the time to drive to our apartment (actually two for me, at different times) in Los Angeles.  The consulate was just a few blocks east of where we I lived in 1998-1999, and where we lived together in 2000-2001.  Most of what we saw looked more or less the same, with some notable construction (e.g., around the Metro just south of the 10 in LA) here and there.

We got to the consulate about 15 minutes before it opened, and we waited patiently in the waiting area on the ground floor, before the person told us we could go up the elevator.  Once in the consulate, there was seating for maybe 20 people, and roughly 3-4 windows to speak to people, although only 1-2 were being used.  They told us we needed copies of certain items, so we took everything and walked a couple blocks west to a Staples, where we tried our best to stay organized and make collated copies that applied to either me or Crystal.  I was very nervous, and didn’t want to screw anything up, but I didn’t want to take too long either.  There were also lots of people wanting to use the copy equipment for this and that, and Crystal and I didn’t want to monopolize the equipment, so a couple times we stopped so others could use it.  After 30-40 minutes we had all the copies, then went back to the consulate.

We thought we were fine, but apparently not.  The lone remaining issue was the medical insurance.  We showed them the stuff from the insurance company, but this wasn’t good enough for them.  They explained exactly what they wanted to see, which was something explicitly stating that any healthcare related to COVID would be 100% covered, and then they told us we needed this back to them ASAP.  I’m not sure why they needed this ASAP when they’d taken several weeks to get back to us, but this was a (seemingly) easy fix, and the last thing we needed to procure our visas, so we considered this a “win” in our book.

For lunch we drove across town to Pacific Palisades in another trip down memory lane, to one of our favorite restaurants during our time in Los Angeles, Vittorio.  In addition to their pasta, we really loved their buttery garlic knots, which are to die for – thankfully, they’re still on the menu.  We got them, some other food (don’t remember what), and a bottle of wine.  Whilst at lunch, one of us had the idea to look up a konditorei, and we found the Vienna Pastry Shop, which looked like it fit the bill.  So after lunch we rushed over to Santa Monica before they closed, and out of about 20 things that looked spectacular, we limited ourselves to 2-3.

We continued the “memory lane” theme on the drive back to San Diego.  We stopped for some drinks at Splashes in Laguna Beach, where we’d had our rehearsal dinner as well as many other memorable events over the years, including hanging with my grandparents (who had to miss our wedding because of health issues, but could come the next year), and, to a much lesser degree, meeting Robert Englund a couple times (apparently he lives just down the beach).  After Splashes, we made a quick stop just down the road at the Ritz-Carlton, where we got married.  Then, on a whim, I detoured to get a couple drinks at Jake’s Del Mar, where we went almost every Wednesday for years between, roughly, 2007-2019.  Coincidentally, our friend Dave (he's actually in one of the photos on the main page), one of the bartenders there, told us that he had just put in his notice, so it seemed like fate.

On 7 November, the networks finally called the election, whilst we were at brunch at the Waterfront bar near our house.  Figuring 1) there would probably be celebrations all over San Diego, 2) Hillcrest would probably be one of the largest, and 3) Hillcrest was within walking distance, we spent the afternoon celebrating with thousands of other folks, and it was the first time there was any sort of collective happiness in at least 8 months.  It was perhaps the best day of 2020, which I realize it not saying a whole lot.

Almost every night after we got back from the consulate I was contacting insurance companies, trying to find something that satisfied exactly what the consulate wanted.  I say every night because Spain is 8-9 hours ahead of California, 8 in Tenerife and 9 on the mainland.  So the “working hours” for all these companies was 00:00-08:00, Pacific time.  I had some leads, but nothing concrete.  Then, on 11 November, the consulate pinged us, and said we were up against it, as they had only 10 days to provide missing information to Spain.  Why they hadn’t mentioned this to us in person, I’m not sure, but I really started to stress out.  Thereafter, I was up all night for multiple nights in a row attempting to get stuff signed with Sanitas, who was a major company that the consulate was very familiar with.  I was working with an extremely friendly woman named Lola, and she was immediately responsive, but her home office was not. Eventually things worked out, but I was at my breaking point. Thankfully, to help expedite things, the consulate let us email the signed contracts from Sanitas when Lola sent them over.

On 13 November, totally stressed out, I submitted my resignation notice.  Firstly, I couldn’t focus on work with everything going on.  Secondly, I wasn’t getting any sleep.  Thirdly, I had no idea day to day whether I’d have plenty of time or no time at all, and I didn’t want to leave my boss or any of my co-workers in the lurch.  I was going to have to resign anyway, so the extra month or two of salary I was going to get by staying at work didn’t seem worth it.  My boss, and friend, Liz was understanding but also bummed out.  But more than anything, she was hopeful for me and our journey.  Finally, mercifully, I was able to send everything related to the new Sanitas plan to the consulate on 16 November, and proof of payment on 17 November.  On 18 November the consulate said everything was fine, and they’d let us know when they heard back from Spain.

24 November was my last day of work, but I wasn’t focused on that at all.  I also wasn’t focused on the pending visa application.  Instead I was focused on Lola - our pup, not the insurance agent.  That morning I’d taken her up to get surgery in North San Diego County.  While she’d be acting normal, her stool had been bloody for a while, and she’d been straining recently, so we took her into the vet and found out she likely had colon cancer.  Today was the day for her surgery, and so while I went through the motions at work, her well-being was at the forefront of my brain.

I didn’t pick her up until the following day, as she needed some additional time to recover.  The doctor said the operation was successful, but that it was pretty intense, as they removed 2/3 of her colon.  They were pretty sure it was cancerous, so they removed a little more than they otherwise would have, just to be safe.  They told us that she’d likely be crapping constantly, and uncontrollably, for a few days, and it turns out they were right.  I managed to get to one of the Petco’s just before it closed (it was the night before Thanksgiving) to get some diapers and also pee pads.  From all the stuff I’d been packing up, we had a ton of a cardboard in the house, so I made a cardboard room in one of the bathrooms, with cardboard on the floor and on the cabinets, and pee pads on the floor.  Even with the door closed, she kept us up all night, and we felt awful, but also unsure of what to do beyond what we’d done.  Thanksgiving itself was a muted affair, as we spent a good chunk of time taking care of Lola, but the food we made was pretty good.  It just wasn’t the normal joyous occasion.

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