We almost aborted the mission after 30 minutes of circling for a parking spot. Sam and I were on our way to a dinner party with writers and editors of the San Diego Free Press. The invite cited as topics of discussion Zinn, Chomsky and "the role of media vis a vis [sic] progressive / left politics." It was bound to be an intellectual jambalaya. Had I known I'd also get a tutorial on bioidenticals for women of a certain age—complete with an abdomen-patch fashion show—I'd have double-parked our car Chicago style

Instead, we circled, incredulous at the apparent epidemic of no spaces in which to store our vehicle for a few hours. I was so mad, I wanted to yank North Park's hipster beard. I wanted to grab it by its indifferent shoulders, shake it violently until it spilled its bitter craft beer on my shoes and scream in its gaunt, sun-starved face, Who do you think you are, anyway??? Los Feliz?!? 

I went for the low-hanging fruit, though, and lambasted my husband for whatever he'd done that he hadn't really done (big surprise to husbands everywhere) to make us so late. Then, since I'm the imminent Valedictorian of Fitbit, we speed-walked the five blocks to our destination as I muttered Charlie Manson-style about traffic and parking and the Aeriola™. That's the CityBeat-coined term for county Supervisor Ron Robert's gondola that, if realized, will transport tourists from Downtown to Balboa Park and back again. 

(Listen, no offense or anything, but screw the tourists. They'll come regardless of any sky scooter because—oh, hello there, summer in February! Dear Mr. Roberts: How about an Aeriola™ for residents? They do come in pairs, you know.)

Is it wrong that I want to just keep typing Aeriola™ over and over again just for the phonetic thrill? Is it a privilege that I get to do so? Yes, yes it is. Thank you, Dave Rolland.

Speaking of Dave, it was not lost on me during the Free Press salon that it's because of him and his eminent sidekick, Kelly Davis, that I'd been invited to solve All Of The Problems with this smart group of leftist commies who share my obsession for social justice. Dave and Kelly are both moving on from their many dedicated years here at CityBeat, and while I'm happy and excited for each of them, I'm selfishly very sad to see them go. For, without their total belief and support of me, this column would not exist.

Years ago, in the halcyon days of abundant mid-city parking, back when blogging and not Facebook ruled the day, Kelly became of fan of my writing. She approached me at a cocktail party and asked whether I'd be interested in becoming a columnist. I was dumbstruck but pulled myself together and responded in the most professional way possible. 

"Fuck you!" I said. "You cannot be serious." 

She laughed it off and convinced Dave that my no-filter voice was a good fit for CityBeat. So we entered negotiations. They were all, "Oh, we're serious." And I was all, "But I don't know how to put these many words into two neat columns." And they were all, "This chick is crazy. We'll take her!" 

I was on the worst (and most expensive) vacation of my life—an $8,000 trek to San José del Cabo, during which we had to leave our pre-paid VRBO condo without refund and pay to stay in an evil all-inclusive hotel where our baby got bronchitis, Sam and I talked divorce, and get this!: The valet wrecked our rental car while parking it (full circle)—when I got an email from Dave requesting a sample column. I wrote it, he ran it and the rest has been a sometimes vulgar, often cynical, frequently provocative history.

From the beginning, both D&K have been staunch and unapologetic supporters of my ideas and my writing, giving me full reign of the page. With the feedback from their close reads, I've taken big risks and been allowed to go right out to the very edge of what is deemed by certain masses (often pompous white men) to be inappropriate (I love pissing off pompous white men). I have pretty much been allowed to write whatever is on my mind, from the more serious and, hopefully, impactful, to the silly and sometimes mundane. I can't tell you how many times I've pictured poor Dave opening an attachment at filing time and wading through my numerous uses of the word "vagina." He has been a trooper.

Together, Dave and Kelly have expertly balanced my free expression with thoughtful guidance for where to draw boundaries. And though some extremely hilarious stories have been CMD+A+deleted against my wishes at the time of deadline, I've almost always been grateful in retrospect.

With their help, I have learned much about responsibility and the power of words; I've felt both amazingly empowered and profoundly terrible at various points over the years. I regret exactly none of it. Without question, having a public platform to explore various social issues—especially racial injustice and inequity—has been the most meaningful and best part of writing this column. 

Obviously, there are changes up ahead. I don't know what the future will look like around here, though I'm guessing I'll have to meet my new boss at some point soon; this will require finding a parking spot. I'll try 10 deep breaths so I can make a good first impression and hopefully remain on this page.

Whatever happens, I'm eternally thankful that two people took a chance on me in 2007. Kelly: Thank you for all of it. Dave, there are no words. Except: Vagina, vagina, vagina. 


Email Aaryn Belfer. Aaryn blogs at aarynbelfer.com and you can follow her on Twitter @aarynb.

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