Category Archives: San Francisco

The People Across the Street

imageSome days when I get back from running, I pour myself a big cup of water from the tap (it’s a blue plastic cup with fish on it that I’ve been drinking out of since college), and sit on the front stoop and watch the houses and street in front of me.

It’s not a very big stoop, just three steps, and there’s not much to look at outside, just some small-ish trees and some dwellings. I’ve lived in the same apartment now for about a year and a half and still don’t really know my neighbors. Maybe it’s because I’m often gone in the evenings or don’t fit in with the demographics of spouse+pet+childrent could also be because I’ve never really made an effort.

I’m not happy about the fact I don’t really know my neighbors though. I want to change it,  so my stoop-sitting is my one small way I get to know the neighborhood. The sitting has had mixed success. Almost four weeks into my experiment, I’ve met one neighbor and gotten to know some of the people that live across the street by sight. There’s a woman who goes surfing early in the morning and two roommates, one with blonde hair and the other with brown (I think) that hang out together sometimes. There’s an older couple with a dog in the house on the far right. And another woman with brown hair and a face that reminds me of Smeagol with a dog on in the same house. A 30-something Asian woman plays golf, or played golf at least once. Sometimes she also sits on her own stoop, which is considerably larger. The windows on the top floor of the middle house are often open.

These are my across the street neighbors, and they don’t know I exist, unless they’ve seen me with my blue cup out there watching their homes and doors for signs of life.  I wonder what it would be like to live on the west side of the road, with the sun coming in the front windows in the morning, to already be on the side of the street closer to the dry cleaner. It must be a different kind of life for those across-the-street neighbors, the across-the-street people.

Maybe one day somehow they’ll be walking on my side of the street and they’ll recognize my sweaty bangs and blue cup and we’ll say hi and I’ll ask them about how their hobbies are going. Or maybe I could switch sides and sit on a stoop over there for a little while and see what life is like from their perspective. I’ll look at my own three steps and window and see my life like they see it.

Until then, I’ll be on my stoop, slightly out of breath with a blue cup full of water.

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The Sea Monster at Ocean Beach

The Sunset

I went for a run this morning. The key to this is to not think about anything from the moment I wake up to the moment I put on my shoes and go out the door and start moving my feet. If I start thinking for even one second, then I think about how my knees will be stiff and my ankles will crack, and I’m going to be cold for the first five minutes and then start sweating and breathing heavily and the whole thing is rather uncivilized and awful. That’s why it’s imperative to avoid thinking of any kind.

Out the door I went and instantly uphill. Up and up the hill I went, into the heart of the area directly south of the Inner Sunset, an area I think is called Ashbury Heights but I’m not certain. While the rest of the Sunset is laid out in a neat grid with the streets named alphabetically and numerically (Judah, Kirkham, Lawton, Moraga and 11th, 12th, 13th, etc.) the area directly south of me is a mess of hills and tangled streets.


At some point 9th and 12th avenues intersect, something unfathomable to most people. It’s San Francisco’s equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle. Houses have yards and fountains, strange intersections occur and streets change into other streets as they curl around hills, and nothing really makes sense.

I was near the point where Pacheco turns into Funston Avenue. If you’re not familiar with the area, you probably don’t get how bizarre that is. I might as well say that I was in the part of New York City which is built like a giant picnic basket and governed by people-sized ants. At any rate, I was in that improbable area when I suddenly got a glimpse of the ocean. This was interesting because I thought I was facing the other direction, but it turns out my inner compass had been Bermuda’d and there it was, the Pacific Ocean with what looked like a giant winged sea monster perched on the beach.

That was strange, I thought, and continued to run because that’s what you do when you’re not really thinking. I turned around about thirty seconds later and there it was again, the view of the Pacific and the giant, solitary, motionless winged sea monster. It looked lonely almost, and actually very tiny against the ocean and the endless street blocks of the sunset and their pale pastel squares. It was probably debating on the best way to attack, which public utilities to hit first or maybe where it could cause the most damage and terror.

Or maybe it wasn’t trying to attack at all. Maybe it had come to San Francisco just like many others have come here, looking for fellow dreamers and creative types to do the impossible with. Maybe it wanted to learn how to code, or already knew how to code and had a cool new app idea but needed funding. Maybe it was frozen against the city, stuck thinking of all its passions and dreams and hopes with no idea of where to begin and feeling a little homesick in the fog. Maybe it was afraid of missing the best opportunity.

I don’t know what was going through its reptilian brain and its cold blood, but I hope it figures everything out, and that it doesn’t cause too much damage on the way to its destiny.

Also, I think it was a windmill.

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Come Meet My San Francisco. It’s Not Shiny, but It’s Good.

imageI moved to San Francisco just over two years ago and I know it’s normal but I still kind of hate it when I’m catching up with people and they ask me, “Do you love San Francisco?”

I think about how terrible it is when the MUNI doesn’t come, or the awkwardness of the homeless population that I still have no idea how to deal with, all the tech douches with their cookie cutter jeans, and then all the regular douches. I think of the rent I pay every month, the fact I still don’t know many of my neighbors and feel like the community I have is spread out like a spider’s web with me caught in the middle. I think of the inequality I see and the fact that so many people I love are far away from me forever. I think of how sad and dirty the streets look sometimes in the fog, and I think of the forever cold nights and the long lost dream of drinking an evening beer al fresco without shivering.

Then, I think about other stuff. I think of my first improv performance and the first time I was on stage in this city. I think about sitting in Golden Gate park with my friends and talking about men and how we clueless we were. I think of my plant Deb, dinners with friends, endless breakfasts and cups of coffee. I think of hills upon hills, views upon views, impossibly beautiful cityscapes in an impossibly beautiful landscape, non-stop creativity and casual conversations with strangers. I think of the Pacific Ocean and running into people I know on the street. I think of karoake and dancing and looking at Golden Gate Bridge from Land’s End and I think of all the wonderful people I’m lucky to have met here.

That’s the thing. I don’t know what San Francisco you’re talking about when you ask me about it. I know you know about the postcards, the painted ladies, the bridge, the trolleys and the Fisherman’s Wharf. You know about avocados and sourdough bread and gay people, but that’s not my San Francisco.

My San Francisco is doing Zumba on a soccer field near the Balboa park community center/pool. It’s walking home against a wind that’s colder than all hell from an old Episcopalian church in the Haight. It’s doing improv in the police station in the Mission because they have a community room there that anyone can use. It’s eating a mediocre but oh so satisfying $4.50 gigantic slices of meaty pizza for lunch from Portico with an old co-worker. It’s walking five blocks to the UCSF medical school and looking out at the bridge at night on a balcony without any benches. It’s drinking beer at The Little Shamrock, a local bar with more tiffany lamps than people. My San Francisco is not shiny beautiful all the time, but it’s good, and it certainly is one that I can get down with, maybe even love.

But let’s not get too crazy.

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Clay the Starbucks Guy Did Not Ruin My Life.

photo courtesy of wikipedia

photo courtesy of wikipedia

I was standing in line at Starbucks yesterday. My mental state was not good. In fact, it was poor. I hadn’t had time to put on deodorant because I was afraid of missing the train. Instead, I shoved it in my bag and then forgot about putting it on anyways. And I’d forgotten to use my ear eczema lotion. And I hadn’t had time to moisturize. So things were not good.

I was wearing uncomfortable shoes and after I caught the train I was afraid of missing, I’d ended up arriving twenty minutes early to my destination. Three miles away from me, on the floor in my room was the cup of coffee I hadn’t had time to drink. Everything was terrible so I decided to take the twenty minutes I had and walk to the Starbucks that I thought was five minutes away.

But it was not five minutes away, it was a ten minutes away. Seven minutes in to the journey, I was starting to sweat and my mental state – already fragile – nose dived (or nose doved – not sure what the correct phrase is here.) I remember speaking out loud, “Please. Please. Please,” willing the Starbucks to appear earlier to relieve my anguish. It was sad. What seemed like hours later, I arrived at the Starbucks, my neurons panting for caffeine.

There was a line. “That’s okay,” I tried to tell myself, “It’ll go fast.” Unfortunately this was not one of those uber-efficient financial district Starbucks, where employees have been choreographed to move through dozens of customers in five minutes with robot-like precision. This was a tourist Starbucks, and people had questions about the menu and time to debate over whether they wanted the pumpkin bread with cream cheese or the pumpkin scone.

There were only two people in front of me but it felt like an entire lifetime passed as they debated endlessly and pathetically over what kind of baked good they wanted to order, who they wanted to be when they grew up, how the family was doing.

Behind them a storm was gathering in my mind. I was summoning all the forces of darkness, all the black magic in the world to will them to finish their order and get their coffee, or perish. My hair grew long and wicked and floated up behind me as I grew fangs and my fingernails became yellow and razor sharp. I was ready to bring the reckoning and I knew who was at fault. It was Clay, the Starbucks employee. If he could just go a little faster then everything would be okay, but he was willfully and defiantly lethargic and the source of all terrible things in the universe and the gross black stuff that grows on my kitchen faucet.

Just as I was getting ready to be rude to him and/or cause him physical harm, I had a moment of clarity.

Wait a second, I thought. It’s not Clay’s fault that I was unprepared for today. It’s not his fault my armpits are stinking and my back is sweating. He didn’t choose the shoes I’m wearing or my career path. In fact, Clay has nothing to do with my anger or my life or my long, dark, wicked hair. He’s just here.

If I were in a better mood, nothing would be wrong. Even the colors would be brighter and the tourists’ inane conversation would be charming, possibly exciting. I am the problem.

Whoahhhhhh.

With that in mind, the voodoo winds died down, my fingernails and teeth changed back to normal, I took a deep breath and forced a smile to my face.

“Medium coffee please – could you put some hot water in the bottom of it and leave room at the top for cream?”

Everything was going to be okay.

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San Francisco Missed Connections: Tales of Two Muni’s Passing in the Night

imageI’d say I have about three to four missed connections on a daily basis, people who know that I know that they know that something special is going on between us but we’re too shy and across the street from each other to say anything about it. It can be heartbreaking, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s why craigslist missed connections exists. It is the number one way for you to mimic online the experience of shouting your love feelings into a well in the middle of the Idahoan prairie or putting a love letter into a glass bottle and then throwing it into the recycling bin on trash day.

Though I’ve never posted anything on the missed connections board before, I thought I’d go ahead and try it out here for tone and style. Also, I just want to get real here. Missed connections happen. If you think I missed you, please leave a note at the UCSF Flight Attendant Study Terrace. Then, let me find you. In the meantime, see if you’re one of the below:

Cuff links and cologne – w4m (Duboce Triangle)

You might not have seen me but I smelled you the second you got on the N Judah at the Noe stop. You sat next to me and I was enveloped in your cologne like a letter in an envelope. Your cuff links spoke to me like sprinkles. Your circle glasses reminded me of Mrs. Trelaway. Let’s go walk our dogs together.

Whole foods hottie – w4m (Portrero Hill)

Your hair has blonde highlights and your bulging biceps are tattooed. I saw you reach up to pull your hair back and it was like I was looking at Atlas reaching up to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders. You looked back and your jaw line smote me. I could listen to you talk about cheese all night.

You brushed my bangs away and stole my heart – w4m (Inner sunset)

You looked down at me and smiled and I thought I knew you so I smiled back. Then you brushed my bangs away and I realized I had no idea who you were. Whiskey on your breath and confidence in your gaze, you engaged me in conversation, refusing to give me your full name so I could look you up on LinkedIn. I don’t have a job anymore, so I don’t care about that stuff. Your name was Pablo, and my name is yours.

T-mobile support line flirt – w4m (Inner Sunset)

I called to change some info on my T-mobile account. You told me your name was Devan and that you were in Florida. We chatted for minutes on end. I was eating cherries and you said you wanted some, and I knew exactly what you were talking about. You have my number…give me a call.

Sketch artist at coffee shop – w4m (Mission)

I was sitting at a coffee shop and you were drawing faces on your sketch pad. I think we are in love. If you think you know who I am, tweet at me.

Balding data architect with twinkling eyes and a penchant for recreational marijuana – w4m (SOMA)

We met at a company holiday party. We ate the shrimp. We laughed, we danced, and then the carriage turned back into a pumpkin and I went home to the Inner Sunset. You taught me to say that people “write Hadoop.” Nerd. If you want to take this where it needs to go, send me an email from my own account.

Magician with chestnut eyes – w4m (Colorado, summer 2007)

You were in high school and I had just graduated. You had very nice eyes and showed me a magic trick near the pool. Then walked away into the night. I kept the torn card for a long time. What are your secrets?

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