City Desk

As I write this, I’m trying to decide what to have for dinner. Will it be Cool Ranch Doritos again, or should I splurge on a number one with cheese from Carl’s Jr.? Yeah, you read that right, I used “splurge” and “Carl’s Jr.” in the same sentence. After years of working on behalf of underserved communities throughout the Bay Area, I am now broke.

My parents are hippie-turned-born-agains who raised me to not only recite but to actually practice that scripture in Luke, “to much is given, much is required.” So for more than a decade, as a result of Jesus guilt, my professional career was dedicated to supporting nonprofit organizations that developed after-school programs for kids, organized community resource fairs, and lead voter registration drives. When the economy went to pooh a few years ago, so did my career, checking account, and dinner options.

It’s mostly because of my dad that I’m living in the capital of Face-Twitt-App-ville with job skills that read, “adequate packer of groceries for community giveaways” instead of “computer engineering developer genius.” His commitment to social justice has been life-long and began when he was a kid growing up in the segregated South. After college, he and my mom moved to the Bay Area, found Jesus, and popped out a bunch of kids. My three siblings and I were raised to fear God, vote Democrat, and pay it forward.

In addition to convincing me that a life of service is better than a life at Saks, my dad instilled in me a passion for politics. I can remember feeling deeply invested in the presidential election of 1988 and running for office (and winning handedly!) in elementary school. While growing up I always knew that my political nerdiness was a bit rare. Kids at school never wanted to discuss NAFTA or the Three Strikes Law with me, but luckily I had my dad to argue the same side of an issue with.

These discussions continue today, and, considering that we agree about pretty much everything (except the effectiveness of dropping the f-word in an argument every now and then), they can get rather rowdy. Our weekly breakdown of what’s happening politically in the Bay Area, California, and across the country act as a welcome distraction from my poor state of being. And they keep me feeling like my old, gainfully employed, maybe-I-can-save-the-world-one-day self.

*Originally written in January of 2013.

Six years after graduating college with a theater degree, I realized that I wanted to get a science job. You know science jobs, right? They’re the interesting, secret jobs that people who have studied science can get.

The lucky few who get these jobs are sworn to secrecy about how they found such sweet gigs. But you can find them doing said jobs in museums, zoos, aquariums, college campuses, on public television and the radio, and in classrooms.

I’ve tried other jobs. I dipped the tiniest corner of my pinky toe in the sea of acting before realizing it just wasn’t for me. I moved to Europe for a year and a half and taught bankers business English in Poland and Germany. I worked in customer service for four years. I make a mean smoothie and a great latte. If you want, I can even rig you a latte-smoothie and come up with a dirty Polish name for it, and then smile while I lie through my teeth and tell you that it is the most delicious thing you will ever consume. But in the words of the world’s most famous little mermaid: I want more.

Specifically, I want to learn everything there is to know about animals. I don’t mean just the ones you want to pet. I mean the walking sticks and the Cuban rodents with venomous saliva and the five-foot flightless bird making a deep boom in New Guinea RIGHT NOW (I can just hear it). I have to study biology for real! I have to get past just being everyone’s friend who rules at the science part of Trivial Pursuit!

So, I’m back in the classroom earning a biology certificate from City College in the hopes that it will make me an attractive candidate for the Evolutionary Biology and Ecology masters program at UC Santa Cruz. I still have to take five chemistry classes, three math classes, two physics classes, and approximately four biology classes.

But I can’t wait two whole years to be mingling with the animal kingdom, so in the meantime I’m training to be a docent at the San Francisco Zoo. I’ve gone out in the zoo with other docents before, but my first time going alone is this Friday. With my background, I’m kind of perfect for it. I wish it were a full-time job instead of something I volunteer for ten hours a month. Maybe if I just show up more they’ll pay me. And put me in charge of the five-foot flightless bird from New Guinea. It’s called a Double-Wattled Cassowary, and I’m enamored.

*First published November, 2012

The lion, the witch, and the used car salesman.