WE GO TOGETHER
The next day, my dad drove me to The Donald to replace the alternator belt and drive it home. (My dad is my best friend, and I hope to be half the dad to my kids that he has always been to me.) At least we had a mostly regularly working car again.
All of a sudden, we’d now made a life with each other. I worked a lot over the next couple of weeks at Best Buy during the lead up to Christmas. Angela mostly stayed around home during those weeks, walking and training Cletus, getting to know the lay of the land. We started going to to shows together – our first show was The Aquabats at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles. Sadly, we don’t get out to many shows these days.
WE WERE SUPER RAD!
Angela could sense my growing frustration with my job. Here I was, with a college degree, hoping to one day be a manager at Best Buy. I’m not knocking the job, but it really wasn’t for me. I’m not much for dealing with people in retail. She suggested I look for a “real” job, but I went about it haphazardly.
My grandparents were in AA and ran men’s and women’s groups out of their home. I grew up around many people from these groups, my grandparents inviting members over for holidays when they didn’t have families to go to. They were like a second family for me. I saw most on the major holidays, but occasionally at other events too.
At my grandparents’ 2004 Christmas party, I was introduced to two newer members of the of the groups, Kelly and Chris. Kelly was a headhunter for a recruiting agency and she’d recently found Chris a job at a firm was called DTA. They specialized in public finance for many kinds of agencies all over the state. I spoke with her about my background to see if she had any leads on jobs. She said she’d call me in a few days. True to her word, a week later she got me an interview at DTA. Angela helped me prep for the next week and even taught me how to use excel. I interviewed for the job January 14, 2005. They called me back that afternoon – I’d gotten the job. I started at DTA January 31, 2005 and have been with the same core company since (I was in the schools division of DTA until we broke off and formed a separate entity).
My first grandparent died six days after starting at DTA – February 6, 2005. I was almost 24 when Grandpa Dick No. 1 (both my grandfathers were Richards but preferred their nicknames) died. He lived up in Alaska and I got to see him waaaaaaaay less than my mother would have liked. It was not an easy task for my family to get up to Alaska in the 80’s and 90’s. Angela was very supportive during the process. My work let me off for the funeral although it’d only been one week since I started. They’ve been supportive of me and my family ever since.
Life a got a little normal after that. Angela got a temp job at a local car insurance company. She didn’t love it, but didn’t hate it either. (It was at this job that a coworker of hers uttered what has since become a favorite quote in our relationship, “Motor City Chicago!”) The Donald’s registration came due in April, so I decided to finally be responsible and do all the proper steps normal car owners do. I went down to the DMV one Saturday morning (I never though I’d yearn for the days when we had Saturday morning DMV hours) to get everything taken care of. I didn’t have the title, so I was going to have to do some extra steps. But as it turned out, there was still a lien on the car from some used car place up near Mount Shasta. I loved the Donald, but there was no way I was paying what was still owed on it.
I took The Donald home and immediately searched craigslist for a local used car. By chance, we found a car for sale on the other side of our neighborhood. It was a white 1986 Cadillac DeVille with 320K miles on it. I paid $800 cash that day. I had no idea what to do with the Donald – I didn’t have the title so I couldn’t sell it, couldn’t register it, and would most likely get towed if I got pulled over in it. Since it lacked a window, I purposely left the keys in the ignition once or twice, but nobody stole it. (In retrospect, I understand how completely terrible of an idea this was.)
The last time we saw The Donald, Angela had driven me home, me being drunk for another party. The Donald had been parked in our Condo complex’s lot. I gave The Donald some drunken speech, told it I was thankful, and that it was a good car. The next morning, it was gone. I’m sure the car was towed because I had left it parked in the same spot for too long, against community rules. I had nothing tying my name to The Donald, so I never went looking and no one ever contacted me. We had said our goodbyes the night before, and that was enough.
Soon it was May. We both had jobs, life was going well, and we were making us work. We started having squabbles, as many couples do. Nothing major, but compared to those first two months, it was something. The Cadillac was killing me in gas money – over $400 in that first month alone. Angela did the finances and she thought I should buy a new car. So after six weeks of the Cadillac, we went car shopping. Like a lot of first time car buyers, I got into a car that was more than what I needed. We bought a black 2006 Prius and the car payment ended up being slightly more than what I was paying for gas on the Cadillac. Life just kept changing for the better with Angela by my side.
But we weren’t quite prepared for how much it would change before the month’s end.
Read the next chapter in this story: Crossroads.