Jocelyn B Sandberg
We met in 1985. I had left LA (finally) with a friend who knew her from Ventura. We drove up and crashed in her Oakland house. I was still asleep on the floor in a sleeping bag when she came home from her job at a bakery that morning – “hey, want some breakfast?” I moved back in a few months later and we lived together for the next 3 years.
We aspired to travel and paying the rent. I had been studying to be an engineer in a recording studio in LA, still flying down there every so often to record tracks for uninspired 80s pop wannabees. Got a certificate in the field, then we put everything into storage and went for a hitchhiking trip that was supposed to last months to get us to the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. We stayed on the road all of a month, up to Oregon, then bussed it down to Santa Barbara, where we stayed with a friend of mine from high school instead for months. Bought a 60s VW bus (6 volt, split screen windshield), fixed her up, lived in her (and got hassled often by the sheriff) then eventually drove her back to Oakland. Finally settled in San Francisco, where I stayed for the next decade or so.
In SF, we got a dog and worked in produce. I trucked, she bought. We threw massive Thanksgiving parties (though she was vegetarian, we still made a mean bird) and invited all our leather wearing friends over for music and food. There were frequent travels up the coast to Arcata and out to various farms. The dog caught one of the farmer’s chickens once, but he gave it back when the chicken made a fuss. There were too many nights in too many bars that no longer exist in The City. I went back to school. There was butternut squash and purple lilies and lots and lots of music. I became jealous of Joan Armatrading. It went south at some point – young 20 years old, we were, and I called home one morning from the road, picking up pallets of lettuce and oranges, to find that she was moving out and moving in with a friend of ours.
We still hung out, though. We shared a dog. She was up in Marin and I stayed in the City for a spell, until I moved up there to be closer to her. Then they made the big move to Colorado. I was in a bad relationship and she offered for me to come out to Colorado. That first visit, I recall not at all getting why anyone would live in such a conservative mall-strewn place. Now I won’t call anywhere else home. I visited often, meeting her circle, visiting her at the old KRCC studio, hiking. Having hippy dinners with her friends in the mountains. Going up the Incline when there were actually cars to take you to the top. A Sky Sox game. Pizza and a movie at a locally owned business in a very deserted downtown. I still didn’t get the Springs – still had too many more days of the City left for me to live through. At some point in the 90s, we lost connection. Things got bad for me, then they got much, much better and I finally found stability and a career track in IT.
At some point, life in the City got to me. The traffic, the people, the expense. It was all so amazing and bright when I first met her there. I had my first latte with her (well before Starbucks was ubiquitous) , saw my first movie in an old theatre with a balcony with her, went to my first hot tub with her, ate at my first diner with her (hey, I grew up in the ‘burbs). There was color and light and lots and lots of music when we were together there, and there are very few streets in Oakland or SF that don’t remind me of her. She taught me how to ride a motorcycle when we lived on upper Market Street, and I dropped that damn heavy bike of hers a few times trying to keep it up at the top of hilly streets. Candlestick Park was where she finally taught me how to get it under control… and years later I actually rode my bike the 1300 miles across the western states to visit her. She helped me fix up the chain on a dirt street she lived on in Manitou. But by 2001, the City got to me – it was gray and cold and money went out faster than it came in. I had a chance to move out to Massachusetts and jumped on it.
Which was weird, because even though years had passed, as I was at the I80-I25 interchange in Cheyenne, Wy, a city we named our dog after, I almost took that right turn to drive the 22′ truck and the load and the new dog and the car in tow down to KRCC’s new studio to see if anyone knew where she was. Little did I know that she was now the station manager for them and living just a few blocks away, near the local college campus. I stayed on I80 and got a job doing IT security for an insurance company in the Berkshires.
A few months later, she called after finding me online. Wow. A rush of gold, I thought, a rush of gold. She was looking for a place to crash for the SF Lavender film festival, to preview films she wanted to bring to the Springs for the festival here. I laughed and said I was in MA. She laughed and said a friend of hers was going to check out schools there, and we should meet up. We spent hours on the phone, and then more calls and then we agreed I should come out for a visit that summer. I felt happy – happier talking to her than I’d been in a long time.
Then came the night my car was munched by a farmer backing up without looking in his mirror. And so many calls from 719 that night that I ignored because I was too pissed about the car to want to deal with anything. The full moon that night was large and orange and refused to leave the window. The next morning, over eggs and toast, the phone – persistent – rang again. OK, what? What is so fucking important?
There is a a disbelief that turns into a shock that turns into a catalyst for uprooting everything you thought you knew about your life that comes when you’ve just been informed that someone you shared a depth and intimacy with has been senselessly slaughtered by an unknown assailant under a ridiculous set of circumstances on a cold April morning, left to bleed out alone, on the sidewalk near a small tree on a college campus. Numb barely describes it, but manically depressed does. I caught a flight in time to attend the memorial service and police conference, meet all her friends, and spent hours and days going through stacks of her stuff – photos I hadn’t seen in years, music, non-stop music, journals. Memories. Now, everything I had with or of her was only a memory. I was pissed at myself for the absent years, pissed at whoever did this to her – to all of us – and so entirely grateful for a life she shared with me, even to the end of hers, magically, and for the friends of hers that welcomed me into their fold. So, I moved here.
9 years to the day, now, since she’s gone and little of what happened that morning makes any sense, still, and peace rises and subsides to depression when I spent the time to ponder it. And peace returns a little bit when I think back to lattes and purple lilies and motorcycle rides. When I returned to SF a couple of years ago for a fabulous job, one of our friends asked if it was weird to be back there, where all my memories of her were. It was. I visited all the places we once hung out… and that sort of numb shock was all I could find because the shattered ruminations still can push me over a cliff, all these years later. Although, there was also a fond sort of calm there, and definitely most of those memories come with a heap of laughter when I remember some crazy stunt we pulled at this corner or that place. This now my first spring back in the Springs after the woohoo job laid me off.. and I can’t quite piece together what this day means or doesn’t mean. So, I’ll go take some lilies to CC and the radio station. It’s all I can think to do, because there is no map for what to do or how to be in these circumstances. And I want to talk all day about it and I don’t want to talk at all about it, too.
But I do miss her smiling face. I bring it with me into my yard every morning when I wear her boots or her plaid shirt (now almost too tattered to wear). I have her hand-me-downs – friends, place, music, politics, clothes – and some sense of her in my life. Still staying strong and living as large as I possibly can.
Cheers, JBS, for these are the days.