Flashback – My coop in Sunnyvale, CA 1989

My 3rd co-op job in Sunnyvale, CA. A three month long whirlwind tour of debt, friendship, emotions, deception and life lessons… oh and there was my coop job too.

Flashback to 1989, Sunnyvale, CA:


I fly out to SF and take a bus down near Sunnyvale and stay in a hotel for a few days until I find a wicked expensive ($800/month (remember, this is 1989!) ‘month to month’ unfurnished one bedroom apartment. It’s near a bus route and a major road (El Camino Real) and about 1/2 hour from my workplace via bus. I believe it was this place on 110 E. Remington Drive and it sounds like it hasn’t changed much in the past 14 years.

Furnishings: I borrowed lawn chairs from the alum from work and from my mother’s friend who lives in the area (at the end of the coop I return the wrong ones to each of them. oops). I bought a futon (no frame) and I got a couch from somewhere, I forget now exactly where it came from. I had a card table set up with my Amiga computer on it in the living room, this was the center of entertainment since we had no TV. I spent MANY MANY hours playing Dungeon Master, a game that I still have yet to see an equal to in some modern games as far as the real time play aspects of it go. One slick thing they did was to have each spell require patterns of symbols to be cast, so I had to memorize “fire fire air water fire” to cast a spell. While tedious, it did make those panic’d battles that much more real. Back to the real world, the kitchen is stocked with Ramen Noodles, Kraft Dinners and Dr. Pepper. The apartment is across the street from a 7/11 and 10 minutes walk to a supermarket. The bus stops in front of my house, but the one I need to catch to work is a few blocks away, no big deal.

The Town: They have paved everything in Sunnyvale and nothing is within walking distance. Without a car, or the patience for a bus, you’re hosed. Oh and I was 20 years old while I was there, so even though I didn’t care about drinking I couldn’t get into any clubs or bars where there was live music or comedy. The only thing I remember doing as an activity in Sunny was walking to a mall to see ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’.

San Francisco: Ok I admit it, I only went to San Francisco once when I met the Bus that Kate & Mesa came down on. Yes, that’s right, I lived in Silicon Valley for 3 months and only visited SF once. It’s a big scary city in my book, admittedly not as scary as some others but without a car, and not knowing anyone in SF, I wasn’t feeling that adventurous. Plus the bus up there cost a bit, and I didn’t know what to look for. In retrospect, duh, I should have spent weekends there looking around. Ah well.

Santa Cruz: I visited my friends Drumsong and Marshall down in Santa Cruz one weekend. I loved it, though that may be because of the company. I dont remember too much, but here is what I do remember. I followed Drumsong’s directions to find her dorm, get off the bus from Sunnyvale and go to this corner, get on campus bus # so & so, don’t worry it’s free. Ok so I’m on this bus, noticing that the students here look alot like Antioch students. Ahh.. I’m home. After riding outside of the downtown Santa Cruz area and through lush rolling green hills, I finally ask the person next to me “How far away is the campus?” “Dude… this IS the campus, we’ve been on campus for the last 5 stops!”. Holy crap. Coming from Antioch where you can almost see the whole campus from a second floor window, this blew my mind. Now THIS is a campus. Damn. and wait.. this is a state school.. this is cheaper than Antioch. Hmmm. Finally I get off at the appropriate stop and meet Drumsong. I don’t remember much else about the campus except that Drumsong and I took a walk in the woods near her dorm and she pointed out small cement castles with stained glass and other strange artifacts in the woods. Apparently for years students have been adding magical looking things to the woods for the ‘faeries’ and ‘little people’. What a cool idea, how come Antioch students have never done anything like this in the Glen Helen?

The only other thing I remember about Santa Cruz was going to a hottub place with Marshall, his girlfriend Susan, and Drumsong. I think, after reading Drumsong’s journal it must have been the place she mentions, Kiva. I don’t know why I didn’t visit down there more, would have kept me saner and I would have had a lot more fun. Oh well.

The Job:

I was cooping (aka interning for those of you non-Antioch College folks) at the now deceased ByVideo Inc.. An Antioch Alum whose name I now forget had contacted Antioch saying he would like to have an intern at his workplace, a business that makes interactive video touch screens for malls (Levi’s Jeanscreen and Florsheim Shoes) and was on the ‘cutting edge of the interactive media world’. Founded in part by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. Sounded great, paid barely enough to live on out there, but I take it anyways (after all I have to get coops in my major, and this place hits both communications & comp sci).

A little more about this job before I continue with the bulk of this story. This is a note to all Antioch students; dont ever take a coop job at a place that doesn’t have a job description for you, or at least have a vision of what you WANT to do if they dont. “Well you could work with the Software Engineers, or you can do quality assurance, or you can work with Fred in Tech Support or …” ugh. I had no office or desk or cubicle. I was just there, and no one was even expecting me. “You’re who?”

After a few days of wandering the halls and introductions I finally realized that the Software Engineer(SE)s have stuff I can do, and they are people I can learn from, and that Fred in Tech Support is overburdened with stuff to do and he can teach me some about hardware. Working with these people, while the work may be boring, is at least appreciated, so I end up spending 70% of my time in the SE programming & QA area doing whatever tasks the SE’s needed, ranging from editing large sets of data with Cricket, to doing QA scripts on the touch screens, the other 30% of my time helping Fred test components and laserdisc players that have returned from the field. I learned alot about pc troubleshooting there actually, though this was back in the DOS days, so none of it applies anymore.

What really blew my mind was the work atmosphere & culture here, or at least in the SE area. Here is a typical conversation at 11:30 AM ;

“Hey who’s hungry?”
“I am, lets go to that little italian place in the south bay”
“Dude that’s like an hour from here, and pricey!”
“Good point. I’m in, who else wants to go?”
“Aye!” “Me” “I’m In” “I’ll drive” “Yo!”
(me) “Um did someone say it’s expensive? I’m not salaried like you guys”
“Don’t worry about it Matt, we’ll cover you… and actually.. maybe we can do one better…Hey Paul!”
(Paul F. (supervisor)) “Whats up?”
“We’re all going out to lunch, you know, like all of us programmers. Weren’t we supposed to meet this week to talk about our projects?”
(Paul F) “Guys.. I dont…”
“Come on Paul, we’re ahead of schedule, we better go over our plans to keep in sync..”
(Paul F) “Where are we going?”
“That little italian restaurant you like”
(Paul F) “Damn… ok ok fine.. It’s a business lunch, i’ll get the company credit card”

This was a regular occurence, we’d toodle off to hell and back, getting back at like 2 or 3 PM. Did I mention this company went under a few years later?

So my work life was pretty mellow. In retrospect I wish I had hunkered down and learned C++ while I was with all those programmers I could learn from. I did learn a little, but not nearly as much as I could have. Heck with all the insanity going on in my ‘home’ life, I should have spent as many hours working there as I could. Ah well.

Social Life

So here I am in Sunnyvale, CA. I know NO ONE in the area, closest friends are Drumsong (now known asAnarquesoand Marshall Hawkins (roomate & friend from Antioch) who are both down in Santa Cruz (hours away on expensive bus).

So through some sneaky amount of influence and begging I convince Kate P. to move down to live with me since she was unemployed up in Oregon. How & why she actually agreed to move all the way down to Sunnyvale to move in with me for just 3 months is still quite confusing, I’m really not that influential, and it wasn’t like we were going out or even that close friends, and I don’t really remember why I even invited her (hey I was young) but I digress. So, for reasons still unknown to me to this day, she agrees to move down to stay with me in my 1 bedroom apartment. At the last minute, out of the blue she also brings her friend Mesa M to move down too.

How this all happened is still beyond me, but there I was, living with two women in a one bedroom apartment… ahhh.. California. While I had a crush on Kate at the time (oh.. right.. that’s why I invited her down) we remained just friends, or at least when we weren’t pissed at each other, which over time ended up being a majority of the time while we were living together (we’ve since patched things up and are friends again).

Mesa and I had an on again off again relationship, finally ending when she came out to visit me, or as it was planned initially, move in with me at Antioch. I had paid for a bus ticket for her after she (hah) cleaned out our apartment (apparently her definition of clean was to take her stuff and leave everything else for the landlords to have to deal with, thus destroying my deposit and any possible reference from them. Sorry 110 E. Remington Ave, Sunnyvale, CA landlords… you deserved better). So Mesa busses out to move in with me but fell in love with some stranger on the bus on the way there. In retrospect, THANK GOD FOR THIS, I was probably too wishy washy to tell Mesa to go away anyways, so having her prove she was a complete nut once and for all made life alot easier. I last saw her at the bus station in Springfield, OH, where she was getting on the bus to go see her new love in.. i dont recall.. Nebraska? anyways, she rode away, on a ticket I bought her (oh I promise to reimburse you! (hah!)) and then a few months later I found she was using my mothers calling card still. No idea where she is now, and frankly, I don’t care. Back to the story.

For the record, I’m the only one with a job. Throughout their stay there with me they got jobs at my workplace and got fired for showing up late, and Mesa got a job at the 7/11 across the street, and got fired and banned from the store for ostensibly giving out cigarrettes to her boyfriend and Kate. Aren’t my friends great? Oh wait.. it gets better. No lets add a few more characters to this sitcom, you know, to make it interesting;

So one day I’m walking (no car) with Kate to the supermarket that’s 10 minutes away or so, and this rickey rusty VW bus pulls up to the curb in front of us and, like the scene in ‘Fast times in Ridgemont High’ the driver pops open the passenger door in what I remember as a cloud of smoke, and sticks his hairy head out to ask, in a stereotypical California ‘dude!’ voice, if we want a ride in his bus. I don’t know about you but even though I dressed in ripped jeans, bleached jeans jacket and tie-dyes, I still don’t really trust smokey strangers in VW bus’s, plus we were 1/2 way there, I immediately say no thanks and wave him off.

Kate is another story. Suffice to say any woman willing to move to Sunnyvale for no logical reason is also likely to hop in a strange man’s VW bus and she says “great, thanks” and hops in, putting me in an awkward situation. Do I stand by my survival instinct principals and walk, abandoning her with a strange man, or do I hop in to escort her. I hop in, a) I’m a sucker, b) ok ok I have a crush on Kate and I’m not gonna let her go off with a strange guy, hell I just got her in my reach!… and ok, the guy seems mostly harmless, and nice enough). Kate sits up front, I’m in the back with a horribly out of tune guitar and a beatles chord book that has, no really, the wrong finger position for chords (when playing the C chord only strum the bottom 4 strings and put your fingers here). It turns out Matt has been learning from this book for years. Note – It doesn’t cover tuning, or he skipped that chapter. To him it sounded great, he was that enthusiastic about playing and learning that it didn’t matter to him that it sounded horrible. I’ve always envied that, and it’s why years later he was (and still is I’m sure) a much better guitar player than I am. Back to the story, so.. we’re in Matt’s VW bus. Much to my chagrin Kate immediately finds out that she can buy pot from him and invites him over to our apartment. Wait.. it gets even better. She also introduces him to Mesa and for his next few visits the two of them basically argue over who ‘gets’ him. He goes out with Kate first, that doesn’t work out, he and Mesa then start going out and that ends in flames. Much to my surprise and against my initial assumptions, I become friends with him too, he’s a bundle of energy and besides the low-key and pretty straight edge 30-something geeks I deal with at my work place, he’s the only other man I know besides Marshall who is down in Santa Cruz. It also helps that he has a van, so this makes actual trips possible though really most of his time was spent with either Kate or Mesa.. until..

Time goes by. Kate and Mesa both ‘hate’ him now but wont tell me why, or tell him that in so many words (probably since he’s their drug supplier), so they have me call & meet with him. I’m giving him basic guitar lessons too (“no really Matt, tuning is important, oh and chords take more than 3 fingers sometimes, I don’t care what your book says”), so we get to be friends. He’s a nice guy and even though the two women I live with, who are now becoming more and more clearly not the most stable, logical or sane duo, are telling me not hang out with him, I really can’t help it, the guy is addictive.

Now you’d think I would find a 1 bedroom apartment with two women who are going out with other men would crowded enough for me, but no, I was young, ignorant, and mostly bored. So I’m on the phone with a friend of both Kate and I, Rachel M. (full name withheld to protect the er, for lack of a better term, innocence) She’s working for her dad in PA for her coop and is also bored. For some strange reason I ‘dare’ her to move out to live with us.

Let me explain a little about Rachel, I met her at YRUU conferences in New Jersey (Ridgewood I believe). On our first meeting she kept telling me how much she liked my shirt (hitchhiker’s guide airbrush) until she convinced me to loan it to her until we met again. She is also an Antioch student at this point (hey I guess she’s another example! I don’t think she would have come to Antioch if she didn’t know me (and if I hadn’t worked in the admissions office and fed her name to the computer)), and we’re good friends (though I also (surprise) have a major crush on her at this time). She’s also impulsive and somewhat crazy and spontaneous at times. I never expected her to call my bluff when I dared her out to California, but she’s on a plane in a few days. She arrives and moves in. Ok so now there are 3 beautiful women who I have a crush on living with me. Kate and Mesa both immediately tell Rachel “Whatever you do, don’t go out with Matt G”. Duh. This is the woman that just moved 3000 miles on a dare, don’t tell her what (or who) not to do. I believe they also warn Matt to stay away from Rachel, she’s ‘off limits!’. Suffice to say she and Matt run into each other like magnets.. no not the best analogy lets see.. more like two storms uniting into a single front .. this is the kind of meeting that movies, songs and musicals are written about… BOOM… and within a few days she’s moved out and is living with him in his van while Kate and Mesa are frothing mad about this (oh and for the record, blaming me! !@^&#!). I’m the middle man, the courier, the peacekeeper, the punching bag, for all this.

Within a week Rachel and Matt fall madly “in love”. They have stars in their eyes and Matt is applying to study at Antioch. Suffice to say I’m not super happy about this, the only moderately sane woman in my whirlwind of insanity, and the one whom I’ve been pining over for .. um.. years.. just arrived and then was scooped out of reach by this crazy yet likeable guy. But despite any attempts at using logic on either of them to get ‘my Rachel’ back, they are swooning for each other. Doesn’t help that I’m living with 2 women who now think the two of them are evil incarnate! They are driving back across country in Matt’s van with all his belongings and his cat. They drive off in a cloud of happiness and love. I’m jealous, and also wondering ‘what have I just done’ (referring to my ‘magical power’, search this blog for other posts on this)

After some emotional and financial turmoil I don’t want to get into here, I return to Antioch for Spring term. Rachel and Matt are there, but somewhat shook up. Turns out his van broke down somewhere in (I think they said Arizona). While they were calling a mechanic his cat got loose and is forever lost. He’s crushed over this. The van repairs cost more money than Matt has so they sell it (ouch!) and Matt borrows money from Rachel to fly to Dayton. He can’t bring everything on the plane though so alot of his life posessions are left in Arizona (I forget if they sold them or trashed them but they are irretrievably gone). He is somewhat in shock over this, but they are still in love, and that’s all that matters, who cares about material posessions when you have love.

3 weeks into the term Matt shows up at my dorm room in tears. He and Rachel have broken up, he has no where to stay, he’s devastated, I’m his only other friend in all of Ohio. Can he move in with me? (I had a double single in Willet Hall) I forget if he was an official Antioch student or not at this point but he was in the process of applying and while I suggested perhaps staying at Antioch where Rachel’s presence was depressing him to no end, he might want to go back home. Nope, Antioch is where he belongs he’s staying (that and he’s still holding on to some faint glimmer of hope of getting back together with Rachel). He’s stubborn, but motivated. I think Rachel was both grateful to me for taking him in, but also upset with me that I enabled him to stay so that he just didn’t go away. Overtime Matt’s puppy dog whimpers and pining evolve into sarcastic bitter rage and he sputters a fountain of explicatives whenever Rachel’s name comes up. Suffice to say I didn’t see much of Rachel that term. Eventually he moves in with another woman on campus and I get my room back.

Matt stayed and attended Antioch for a few years. He continues to be a whirlwind of energy and becomes more of a campus personality than I ever was. His energy and enthusiasm in learning the guitar propels him to easily exceeding my modest ability and he’s prompty jamming with guitar heroes like Henry K and the like. He also humbles me in my supposed trek fandom by honestly cheering and yelling in joy at the opening of Star Trek V (the opening credits may have been the only part worth cheering about actually). I wouldn’t see him for months/years at a time. One time he called me from Springfield and wanted to visit / needed a place to stay for a day or so, turns out he was working odd jobs around the country at ‘super sale’ travelling shows and was nearby and wanted to visit YS. He eventually ends up living back in Yellow Springs working landscaping and in a variety of relationships, and I believe ended up in a long term relationship with a child. One of my last memories of him was his stopping by the Dean of Students office when i was there. I believe he had a guest e-mail account on campus and was checking his mail. I played him ‘Block Dog’ by David Wilcox, since I kinda felt that song fit our relationship at that time.. he was still wild and free, while I was now married and settling down. When I last saw him (i’d guess this was in Spring ’97) he seemed happy.

Thanks to a lead from Hope I found that on the Antioch92 MSN board an ex-girlfriend of his posted this “matt was briefly in jail out in CA but then came back to ys and has a child with someone now. last i heard he was working at the taco bell on the the springfield side o’ ys.” I’m had included his full name in here in case anyone else knew where he is, or if for some reason he ‘googles’ himself someday, he’ll know that I’m looking for him (and telling stories about him too!). I miss him.

Update May 27, 2009 – Matt G. appears on facebook and promptly mentions to me he heard there was non-flattering stuff about him on the web because of me. I re-read the above and realize he’s right, I need to be careful with name dropping even when I think I’m telling an innocent story from long ago that no one would care about. I just edited the above to remove his full name and made a few other edits clarifying some things and making sure that while we all have our flaws, Matt’s not a bad guy and I still consider him a friend. I never meant to post anything to hurt his feelings and I’m feeling pretty rotten now. This is the second time my ‘stories’ have caused others pain, (the first was Stacey, Mike G’s wife). I think it’s time for me to re-read and edit all my posts for possible non-google friendly content, full names and possible consequences. Now off to send him an apology note and hope he forgives me.

On the subject of this co-op there is more I have to say about this but it will have to wait for another time. It was, if nothing else, educational. I’d never want to repeat it again and should I ever get ahold of a time machine I’m gonna catch myself on the bus to byvideo some morning and make some life altering suggestions like ‘Spend more time visiting Drumsong and Marshall and San Fran. Don’t invite crazy women to live with you, you’re too nice, it won’t end well.’.. though if I tamper with the time space continuum I may never meet Matt G and then he’ll never come to Antioch and … surely a butterfly in Brazil will flap it’s wings a few more times because of this and the world may never be the same.

2 thoughts on “Flashback – My coop in Sunnyvale, CA 1989”

  1. Yes you did post a comment here, but I re-edited the whole thing. If you read above you’ll see I credited you with pointing out that Matt G had been mentioned on the Antioch 92 board. Thanks!

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