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I was sick of Santa Monica.  When the calendar turned in 2022, I had had enough.  I lived in a tiny studio apartment at the corner of Montana Avenue and Ocean.  It was blissful.  But it wasn’t without its problems.  My top floor unit faced the alley, and I was sick of the shenanigans that had gone down in that alley over the years; the homelessness, the people sleeping, sh*tting, urinating beneath my windows, (Luckily I was on the top floor, the “penthouse,” I used to like to think), and the garbage bins going up in flames.  It was an awful way to live and the apartments were so poorly made; you could hear every sound, every sneeze from every neighbor, and the mold and the other crap that lay there before me was simply painted over – over and over again. 


But I was a writer, and at times, mostly during the day, it was quiet.  And I loved it.  I published two books during Covid and after years of classes at UCLA and NYU prior to moving to Los Angeles fifteen years ago, I had finally written the story(s) I wanted to tell.  They were beautiful and perfect, and I was proud.


Every day, I would jog down that California incline and I was so happy; never ever taking for granted that beautiful landscape or that my life, which was a hybrid of Executive Assistant office jobs until I made it big with the writing, was affordable due to the rent controlled dump I was living in.  Still, I was living the dream.  And it was only a matter of time…


But by February of 2022, I had had enough.  Being alone and writing so much of the time, when I went outdoors or in public, say for something as simple as the groceries, I’d feel the angst.  Angst was in the air and I found people rude, rushed, hurried, annoyed.  It grated on my nerves.


At the same time, the love of my life, the man who was the main character in all of my books, Noel Sheffield, (fake name) left Aspen and was living in Tampa, Florida!  I couldn’t believe it.  In our twenties, we both worked on Wall Street in Institutional sales and lived a glorified life.  An unforgettable life.  And I had spent the last twenty years of my life, living it out in the books and movies I wrote about him. 


I went to Aspen once to see him.  But our lines were crossed; he never answered my calls.  “Traveling,” I think he once said in the few times I have spoken to him over the years, but my rare Google search on him pointed him in Tampa!  I was ecstatic!  I wanted to see him.  I wanted him to read my book that other traders were reading and loving, and it was hitting high ranks on Amazon!  I did all the writing, editing, marketing, and even designed the book cover myself, and I was a real writer, with a real website and social media followers! 


It was time for me to bask in my dreams of being with him once and for all! 


I planned a trip for the following month.  I checked the map; I had to be close to a beach, so instead of staying in Tampa, I would stay in Clearwater, Florida – a place I had never been before and then I’d call him.  Maybe he’d come to see me. 


When I arrived at 5am in Tampa from a red eye flight out of LAX in February of 2022, I ordered an Uber and the driver was …. get this… friendly!  There was no TRAFFIC, but dumb me, I was too out of it to realize it was still only 5am.  The bridges we went over were BEAUTIFUL!  The sky was blue and the water was green.  It was perfect and beautiful and I loved it from the get go.  I stayed at the Marriott on the ocean and it was spectacular.  My room overlooked the water and the breeze coming in from the open balcony doors felt like heaven on earth.  I ordered room service and dove into a thick, juicy grilled chicken sandwich that they specially made for me since it was only 10am and I was starving.  I hadn’t eaten restaurant food at ALL during Covid, and not being any kind of Chef whatsoever, this was heaven.  It came with French fries, and I hadn’t eaten those in the least two years either.  I was in hog heaven.  Oh, the simple pleasures! 


I would move here, I decided, and two months later, on April 9th, 2022, after convincing my rent controlled landlord that these living conditions were substandard and I’d require money to move out, he took the bait and cut me a check for $4,400,and I was gone.  At the time, I thought it was all the money in the world, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  Funny thing is, he would be the one to have the last laugh here, but more about that later.


Before I left, I had searched high and low for apartments online, and though I was only paying $1500 for my studio in Santa Monica and I lived there for nine glorious years (before Covid hit of course, then it turned narly, as we all know), I was hard pressed to find anything under $2200 for a studio or 1 bedroom even in Florida.


What happened to the days that Florida was cheap, I wondered?  Prices were sky high, but I found one 1 bedroom for $1900 and I had all my eggs in this one basket.  The landlord was holding it for me, but when I arrived and saw it in person, it was a dump.  Smelled like asbestos and mold mixed together and it was tiny and it overlooked a parking lot, and it was FAR away from any office buildings where I needed to obtain either an Executive Assistant job or Sales job stat.


When that didn’t work out, I quickly realized I was going to have a hard time making ends meet in Florida.  I landed in a 1 bedroom apartment in St. Petersburg, Florida, about seven miles from the beach, and the air conditioner of the tenant beneath me woke me up out of a sound sleep every time it cranked on and off (about 80 times per night.)  I complained to the landlord.  Not good. 


I also landed a lame Sales job selling Cyber security to hedge funds.  (the title of my next book THE SINS OF CYBER) coming out in 2024.  When they told me I needed to do “videos,” with my face and personality reading a “script,” that would get sent out on hundreds, if not thousands of emails I had to send out on a weekly basis, I said, “No, thanks.” 


“Hire someone to do that, use AI,” I explicitly told them, “But you are not using my face.”  Hell, I just came from LA.  People got paid and rightfully so, big money to ACT.  MODEL.  I was NOT one of those people.  Yes, I am a pretty girl, but I never wanted to be an actor.  I’m a W R I T E R. 


They fired me.  And then things got really bad.  I blew through the rest of my money and when I got hired at an Investment Bank six months later, the landlord sent me an 3 day EVICTION notice for complaining about the AC unit one too many times, and it was game over.


Tried as I might to find new housing, prices were exorbitant.  Even with my new $55,000 a year Executive Assistant job, nothing was in my price range.  You’re looking at $2500 for dumps.  No thanks.  And while going to court and not having absolutely any tenant rights in the state of Florida, he did not win in evicting me, but he paid a tenant to lie under oath and the judge ordered me to move out within two weeks! 


I couldn’t believe it.  Then, having no place to live, I lost the Investment banking job, as the little money I had in the market being short, (I was also a day trader) was evaporating before my eyes.


Not good times, not at all.  I got in my car and drove to Vero Beach after throwing (literally due to time constraints from the damn judge) my belongings into storage and my father said he was buying me a condo.  Then he changed his mind because he said I had no job.  What kind of job could I get in Vero Beach anyhow?


By this time, I’m getting too old to work, yet I’m too young to retire.  Oh, and on top of all this – NOEL SHEFFIELD AND I WERE SPEAKING OVER TEXT.  Almost daily.  He had a girlfriend and during the time we were speaking, they broke up and he bought the book and he read it.  He loved it!   He was texting me all the time about it.  He even moved to Clearwater beach from Tampa!  At the same time, my parents barreled in from Connecticut to visit me in Florida and my mother, being a loose canon on the best of days, flew off the handle and caused a huge scene at the hotel because it was not up to her “Martha’s Vineyard standards,” and as I was too busy dealing with her, I took it out on Noel Sheffield, he got upset and GHOSTED ME, never to speak to me again!


I was shattered!   I never even got to see him after he lived in my head for twenty years!  He was the love of my life.  I was engaged once but never married because all I wanted was him.  I always thought, stupidly, that once he saw the movie I wrote about him (still waiting for THAT to get made) or read my book – he would finally understand how deep my love for him was, and he would take me back.  Be mine forever.


Not to be.  And I was shattered.


In a million and one pieces. 


I liked Vero, but there was nothing for me there, not even a home, and more expensive rents with no jobs, so I headed north and landed in Isle of Palms, SC where my parents always had real estate on the ocean, but sold prior to Covid.


So, out of money, I rented an overpriced “luxury,” apartment in nearby Mt. Pleasant, SC, which was always a small, quiet town, but like Florida was now overrun by Northerners, and all of its “small town,” vibe evaporated like my money in the bank and all my hopes and dreams to be with Noel Sheffield.


My unit, if you can even BELIEVE THIS, is right over the main door of the building where there are about thirty apartments.  They replaced this door after two months of me moving in, and the SLAMMING SOUND is so loud that every time someone comes in and out of this building (and they do MANY times throughout the night) I am jolted awake out of a sound sleep and sleep is impossible. 


My complaints don’t matter.


They’re like:  “Move.  We will cancel our $13,700 fees in early lease termination fees.”


What a joke.  Gone are the days of my legal rights as a renter which I had in glorious Santa Monica, California. 


Things were bad. 


I didn’t know what the hell to do.


I humbled myself and applied to minimum wage jobs at Home Depot (I wanted to water the plants outside), Loew’s, and Target – and even went to Chick Filet, and after hours of “online assessments,” and in person interviews that were demeaning and demoralizing – no one would hire me!  It was maddening!  How could I even stand on my feet for eight plus hours a day!  I was not a spring chicken anymore!  And how could I pay my $1900 rent with that salary?


Office jobs didn’t exist here.  And the “remote,” jobs seem illusive.  I was dying on the vine!  I never used my “free,” California healthcare because I was in Grade A health, but now, after all my years of writing and office jobs, I was developing arthritis in my fingers!  I was going downhill fast!  I am laughing as I am writing this because it astounds me how bad my life has gotten since leaving Santa Monica!


Why didn’t I just stay put in my rent controlled “penthouse?”  Why didn’t I just spend time trying to get another office job and use any leftover money to market the books I just wrote?  I missed my friends!  I missed jogging along the ocean everyday!  I missed that beautiful ride on PCH when driving up to the Palisades to go to Gelson’s!  I missed that food!  That pre-made Wolfgang Puck food I always bought in that deli.

Oh, and let’s not even bring up the weather!  It’s now November and colder than hell!  It gets dark early and it’s grey and gloomy outside! 


It’s been one year and ten months since I left sunny LA, and I am a worse person for it.  My hopes of being closer to my family have been dashed (they are too busy with their own lives) and not to mention the heartbreak of being stonewalled by Noel Sheffield. 


I sit here and type this and have no idea what’s coming next.  I just hope that 2024 is better.  Because my financial situation is so dire, I have applied for subsidized housing.  Everywhere and anywhere.  I’ve given up on my father buying me that condo in Florida – but I’m wondering if I should take him up on it.  He is getting too old to travel.  I’ve offered to go to Connecticut to be closer to him, but it’s so expensive and cold, and my mother doesn’t want me around.  Tough pill to swallow, but I see very clearly the similarities between her and Noel Sheffield.


I just want to go somewhere to get away from all this, where it’s peaceful and warm, and I can afford an apartment, but where? 


Is going back to Santa Monica an option?  A quick look at rent prices show that my studio that I gave up now goes for $2200!  There’s nothing even available, and even if there was, would I want to endure all the robberies, the homelessness, and the constant angst that is in the air there? 


Maybe it has cleared by now.  I don’t know.  I call friends, and many want to leave, but they have no place to go.  One friend (my old landlord actually) who is 70 years old is living in a homeless shelter down in Long Beach!  It’s astounding what this housing crisis is doing and has done, and nobody knows how long it will continue to last nor how bad it will really get.  Those locked in rent controlled aren’t leaving.  They can’t.  But they don’t leave their apartments either.


I don’t know if I can live like that anymore.  Anyhow, I’m getting tired of writing and the arthritis is kicking in, so I’ll end with this.  I will try to always remember to be happy where I am.  That the old cliché holds true – the grass is not always greener. 


I am happy I did this journey now rather than when I’m seventy years old, because I have enough energy left in me, to land somewhere on my feet.


Somewhere where it’s warm and sunny, and I can afford a simple lifestyle and continue to write more books.  Does that place even exist? 


I hope so.  Because the next move, needs to be the right move. 


And I pray that it is.


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