My friend (see to the right, apple pie proud) recently posted a great pathetic fallacy that has inspired me as well, to tell the time when I was seduced by the city. The city being a lover, that is. That’s the pathetic fallacy part. A new literary phrase that I learned listening to a review of a country western song on NPR.
I’m doing a lot of journal writing to procrastinate writing, let it be known, and in a way you could say “oh it’s a warmup for writing” but let’s be honest, it’s a big fat procrastination technique. Blogging, that is.
The seductive moments of SF:
Living with my parents in the South Bay, right out of college, I knew I wanted to move here. It was just “away”, as well as being close enough to run home to home-baked meals. I found a college friend who was living with her boyfriend on Page and Lyon. I would bike across Sunnyvale to the CalTrain stop after work or on weekends, and take the hour long ride up to the city in my biking outfit, with maybe a nice shirt and shoes rolled up in the backpack with a toothbrush. This is the 90s version of the “airline stewardess overnight bag” that Tales of the City Armistead Maupin writes about (single women going to town with a negligee and a toothbrush, if I remember it right).
OK let me start earlier. A few years before, I was taking a break from super expensive posh college and working at an animation software company in Shallow Alto, er, Palo Alto, my friend from high school was trying to drag me into CD creation (visual basic scripting).
“Anna, it’s the new thing. You have to learn it.”
During that semester at home I partied with her a lot in the city, mostly because her Canadian boyfriend took her to all of the industry parties (at that time) and I was the official “friend of.” We were under age, I think, and that is just so sick when you think of how old he was. Anyways, it was my first taste of what would later become scrounging.org, the industry party review site. Since defunct since there are no more industry parties (or kids who want to hang out at them and eat rich food and free hors d’oeuvres?)
The highlight of that era was the industry party, the “Be-In”, where we saw some people playing at a setup network game. Yawn, sure, now, but at that time it was intense. Play games? On a network? And it’s not Doom?
Christine and her boyfriend got a flat painted landlord white, and put a huge TV screen in it (that I later broke when I was putting the futon back together). I remember Christine pointing to the long railroad hallway and saying “I’m going to print a swoop in Adobe Illustrator and print it out and frame it. Isn’t that cool?” To understand how we could even think that was cool, this was the age of hanging Nagel prints.
Christine’s version of San Francisco was amazing because up until that time, it was the dingy city where we would day trip to, just to walk around an urban city so unlike our suburban area. Just talking with a south bay friend last night. We had seen a movie (bullitt, see below) where the Embarcadero Freeway features largely. For us, that was San Francisco: grimy, dirty, urban. Coming to South Park with Christine I realized it was cute, pretty, and kind of hip as well. You can dress her up and take her out!
Before SF laid on its big seductive effort, though, I was a little raw from a previous relationship– Paris. After that breakup I was homesick for the U.S., and even more specificly, homesick for California. I find some college friends who are nearby, and I start what becomes a weird commute: biking across Sunnyvale, to Caltrain, up to the city, biking to Upper Haight, where I crash and live for the weekend. I do this for months before realizing, I just need to move to SF. She had her hooks in me. I think that “weekend warrior” version of San Francisco is still in me. There’s nothing more freeing than knowing that you won’t see anyone during the week at work or at the gym!
The commitment moment with SF, was two different super early morning moments. My Dad has always said that the best way to see a city is to walk around it early in the morning before daybreak, and I think he’s right. I remember running a race in Chinatown at 7am in the morning, and later househunting with the couple. It was a pivotal moment for me, because I realized the town was not just what I had seen with the couple, but a friendly, outgoing, colorful, diverse, beautiful, place of pure potential. I woke up at 5am, drove up to San Francisco, parked in the Financial District, jogged over to the CHinatown YMCA (beautiful Julia Morgan building), then ran with a set of strangers who had been up from the night before. We were running through festive colorful streets, streamers and posters everywhre. The shop merchants were just setting up their stalls, and the fish and produce didn’t have that day-old reek they have when tourists go by, but an early morning fresh smell. The route snaked through Chinatown, down through North Beach, to Aquatic Park and Chrissy Field. I got on a bus to return to the start, and chatted with a 60 year old woman who had “just started running”. “You can do whatever you want, never use excuses. Look at me, I just started running and I just ran a 7 K.” How can I remember a conversation I had 10 years ago?
Another time, also an early morning, I was very disappointed in love, and couldn’t sleep all night. I climbed to the top of Roswell Peak, and witnessed the city coming to life on a weekday morning. A fire engine snaked its way through Duboce Triangle and Castro street, avoiding one ways and no left turns, to put out a fire in the Mission. You could hear the sounds in a remote way, almost like you were watching a miniature town. Cabs start running, people line up for the streetcar, parents watch kids in a park, dogs run around the do park, and businesses start to open, all like Richard Scary’s BusyTown. The din rose up before me as I sat on that craggy red rock. You could see across the bay to Oakland and Berkeley. I’ve had good moments like this in Paris and Seattle, but for some reason this felt more like something that was me.
The couple introduced me to a tour of Yale, Oberlin, and Reed college parties, a spout of pretentious abusive drinking spots that I bet are reenacted every weekend in every major city, but which helped me create amazing friendships. I just was at the wedding of one of those friends, who I met in this way: the couple & I are having a party, so in the world of SF we just stop by people’s flats and leave cute little created flyers. I was somewhat involved with this “James the Lawyer” and when we stopped by his place, two little heads peaked down the staircase, and they were remotely familiar faces. Turns out never saw James the Laywer again, but made two amazing friends who later became housemates, coworkers, buddies, and on and on. The closeness of the city- how we’re all near each other- ’tis great. Suburbs separate people. I walked home the other day from errands and ran into an old lunch friend. Sure, I could have emailed him or talked to someone who knew him, but walking with him back to work, which is near where I live, has a kind of casual friendliness that caught us both off guard, I think.
San Francisco has kept me to it even while I commuted abroad for work for years. I tried to explain to a Seattle friend how nice the winters are here by taking photos one weekend and showing her them online. “See that guy? That’s Mike. He lives a block from me. He’s just gone to a really good local gourmet store (Bi-Rite). It’s last weekend. Yeah. He’s wearing a short-sleeved shirt. Yep.” They were stunned. T-shirt in winter? Sunshine? Same crowd of Chinese Nationalists were also amazed at Yank Sing, the dim sum restaurant that white people go to, and you sit with only one or two people, not in a big round, and the price tag is frequently over 80 dollars.
Just when I get trite about how cutesy it is, or how expensive, how twee everything is, I come across new things just around the corner. A new restaurant, the baseball game, or last night….
On Valencia at about 23rd Street, El Valencian is a small place that expands into a huge dance area with orchestra stage. Last night, there was an amazing Cuban jazz ensemble, where, note, the women to men ratio was about 8 to 1. Got some really good Cuban food and a nice margarita, and listened to great jazz at little tables with white tableclothes (sucker for the tableclothes). No cover because we came in around 11:30pm.
Film in the Park
I saw Bullitt last night in Dolores Park. Hundreds of people on the lawn, all reverently quiet for the man who knows how to wear a turtleneck. Pizzas from Delfina’s new pizzaria, good wine, and being able to site local spots are all ingredients for a good time. And I learned from the Giants game and brought many scarves.