- Number of years of my life I wanted to live in California: 0
- Number of years I lived in California: 24
One of my brothers went to Stanford and worked at Genentech, so I had a chance to visit the San Francisco quite a few times. Loved it. Nice climate. Foggy. Clean city. Clean transportation although inadequate. It was a place that seemed a lot nicer than Chicago at the time
In 1996, I lived in North Carolina. Racist. Homophobic. A mix of educated and highly ignorant people.
I always loved technology but was too poor to buy any of it. I remember seeing a NeXT machine at the university bookstore and the education price was $10,000—at that time I made $18,000 a year!
I didn’t want to be rich, but being poor felt like I was unable to do things that were very important to me.
I had been to Oregon several times (though never Portland) and always loved it there. It felt like home to me. I’d driven the whole Oregon coast, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen (although California isn’t too shabby!).
This was essentially pre-Internet as you could get access, but there really wasn’t a lot of information I needed. I settled on Portland for reasons I no longer remember, but surely had to do with being in Oregon and seeming to be reasonably affordable compared to California.
I didn’t have any objections to going to California. It was merely a cost-of-living decision. Just like today, eh?
I decided I needed $5,000 to drive cross country, put a deposit on an apartment, pay for food and incidentals, and survive long enough to find a job, presumably something tech related.
It took me a year of buying nothing and eating ramen, but I saved up the money.
The car I had was a 1986 Chevy Cavalier with 180,000+ miles on it. It was a terrible and unreliable car. It was a huge wildcard in my plan.
I visited a few friends on the way but was able to make it to Portland without my car dying. Until it sort of died. It was so bad they told me not to drive it anymore, but I really had little choice so I just drove very carefully.
The city was amazing and I fell in love with it. I rented a decent apartment after my search for a roommate situation bizarrely failed. I rented this place and looked for a roommate. I found someone great and then they VANISHED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH.
So that ate into my budget as I had to start over. Then, I just could NOT find a job. In retrospect, I should of just gotten something low paying, just barely enough to survive but I persisted in my dream.
I was down to $500 or so and it was clear I had failed. I took a last few chances with The Oregonian, the main newspaper and interestingly, there were a few job postings for the SF Bay Area mixed in.
I thought what the hell, I’ll call or send my resume (which had no tech experience on it) and see what happens.
Within a week, all three companies I sent a résumé to called me and wanted to interview me. One offered to fly me down. What the hell was going on down there in California.
California, part one
Turns out my timing was a few years before the dot-com bust, so the area was in the thick of massive hiring and it honestly took very little tech experience to land a technical job.
After moving from Portland, I was down well below $500 and rented a room in a trailer for about $200 per month. Then, my car died. The pistons had cracks in them and they said I probably shouldn’t drive it because I had no choice.
It got to the point where I was counting my ramen noodles several times a day and skipping meals. At work one day, the president of the company overheard me telling someone this. He opened his wallet and handed me ten $100 bills.
I shit you not. I told him I would pay him back when I got my first paycheck. He said don’t worry about it. His name was Ron McCandlis (forgot the spelling) and he completely saved my life.
California, part two
It didn’t really do it for me. I hated the dry weather, the lack of rain and fog and interesting weather of any kind. It was crowded and the smog was terrible. People are in denial about it but when you can’t see the mountains on the way to work, that’s smog.
After 3 years there, I was ready to go. I was doing a particularly awful job at the time writing documentation for a Windows project. At the bleakest moment, I got a call from an Apple recruiter who had found my résumé.
I never wanted to work for Apple. Which was sort of surprising, given I was an Apple aficionado going back to the early 1990s. But Apple was a big company and I felt I would get lost. They were also a very stupid company at that time, even though Steve Jobs was just sinking his teeth into it.
But I was in a shitty job and I was curious what it would be like to interview for a giant company. Well, at the time it felt giant.
To make a long story short, my plan was to stay at Apple 2 years and see if they survived.
20 years later, I was still there and never regretted it.
And that’s how I ended up in California and stayed.