10 February 2014

A San Francisco Story

I wish I could say that I've been actively looking for Joe these past few weeks but I can't. That's not to say he hasn't been on my mind.

My husband and I attended a party two weeks ago in which I blurted out mid-drink to a group of other 30-somethings, "Anyone here know someone named Joe Wellington?". I was met with blank stares and shakes of the head. The group went on as though it was perfectly acceptable for someone to ask such a random question. Finally, a gentleman asked about it.

I told the story of San Francisco and of this little blog. They laughed and I heard rumbles of, "This could be a movie!" and "Don't give up; Wellington is small, aye?" Encouraged, I decided to read through (yet again) my journals from that time.

Not only is the search for Joe Wellington entertaining, but I've come to really enjoy reading about that adventure. It's brought back some great memories.

When I arrived in San Fran in 1998, I met up with a friend of a family friend (not as complicated as it sounds) who I didn't really know too well but we could hang out together. His name is Killian and he's just a bit older than me, maybe 21 or 22 at that time. We've since lost touch and I've no clue where he is these days. I didn't really know him that well but he provided a sense of security for me at the time.

He was staying in this motel on O'Farrell Street in the Tenderloin District of San Fran (the district name says it all). I met up with him and stayed a few nights in the motel, too. This motel was the most disgusting place I'd ever seen. We're talking rat infested, vomit stains on the carpet that hadn't been vacuumed in years, no sheets on the bed (you receive upon check in), no pillows, and no shower curtain. I remember that first night feeling like Tom Hanks from the movie "Big", the scene where he stays in a dumpy motel and curls up crying on his bed from being so scared from the big city sounds and general homesickness.

Luckily, Killian warned me of this and I brought a sleeping bag and a tarp (!) to lay on the floor so we could actually walk on it without our shoes (I still kept my shoes on). I also went to a pharmacy across the street and bought a shower curtain and incense to get rid of the, uh, smell. I used my towel from home as a pillow.

This place was pretty bad-ass. Especially for a sheltered 19-year-old Midwestern girl who'd never ventured so far from home and this was where my adventure began.

I couldn't stay another night in that place (I spent five!) after a pest exterminator came to spray the room. I checked into the Union Square hostel the next day, and here is my first entry:

I'm at the hostel now. It is so much better than the dumpy motel. The floor is vacuumed and the walls you don't have to worry about touching them or not; they're clean! The beds are comfortable and clean as well and I actually have a pillow! God, I took so much for granted before. 

I enjoy the people here. I've met an Australian couple from Sydney- Felipe and Janelle. They're in their early 20s and lovely. They're traveling the States and in March heading to Europe. They're taking the year to travel- I think that is so fun. At least they have each other. I guess Janelle said they have been saving up for this for a year and they never went out or spent money on extra things... that is so cool! I'm glad I'm one of the first Americans they've met. I took them around to some of the places I knew about and it was so funny watching them react to little things that we as Americans think nothing of (big cars!). Oh and they were so paranoid about getting robbed. 

Later, in my room, my new roommate came in. I was scared at first, not knowing if she'd be nice or a snob and wouldn't speak to me but she's totally cool. Her name is Rachel from New Zealand. She's 27. I don't think she'll take anything from me, although she's been here one night and her side of the room is a pigsty. 

I went down to the television room and met some more... what do you know? Australians! They were watching "Step By Step" with Suzanne Summers. I laughed at them but found comfort in watching this terrible American sitcom. More people showed up and we began to do the usual, "Where are you from?" chit chat. One woman couldn't believe I was only 19 and traveling alone. It made me feel homesick and yearn for the comfort of my parent's home. 

The news eventually came on and we were mesmerized by the Lewinsky/Clinton scandal. It was neat to watch it with foreigners, "those people (Congress) are going to impeach him anyway. How come they don't listen to the public? How come they don't see that the public doesn't care?". I liked that. Internationally, people don't give a rats-ass about it.

At this time, Joe Wellington was someone I was hanging out with. In fact, I met him the same day as I met Felipe and Janelle. The five of us (Killian, too) went out to dinner together that night, I remember. And I believe he was there, or did eventually show up in the TV room of the hostel for the news cast.  But for some reason, I don't make any mention of him in this entry. I don't know why and it's driving me mental.

Maybe it would be easier for me to find Felipe and Janelle from Sydney than Joe Wellington? Or maybe Rachel from New Zealand who was 27 at that time?

It seems like anyone will be easier to find than this mysterious Mr. Joe. Stay tuned for more.

and... P.S. Be prepared: if you're at a party and some woman is asking around for a Joe Wellington, it's me.