Tag Archives: travel

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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It’s Not a Cafe, It’s Tart to Tart

imageThere’s a place near me in the Inner Sunset called Tart to Tart. It’s a bakery/coffee place/Mexican food distributor (kind of.)

Nothing cool has happened here in years. Maybe nothing cool has ever happened here. I don’t know how long this place has been open, but I do remember seeing it the first time I came to San Francisco. I was walking along Irving street in January 2012 and I saw this place and I thought to myself, “That looks so cute.” But I didn’t know anything then, even about the things I thought I knew something. About those things I was especially ignorant.

Tart to Tart is not cute. It’s not adorable, or whimsical. All cuteness about it stops at the name. Keep in mind that I’m speaking only of the Inner Sunset location, and not about any other one. Nowadays I don’t talk so much about things I don’t know, or at least I try to avoid it.

Tart to Tart is a place of supreme function. It stretches out behind its windows into a dark, cave-like interior where all the furniture wobbles and has either been here a long time or was purchased second-hand. Students can camp out here safely. Old friends meet and talk and see other people they know. They say hello and describe the road trip they just took through Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and some other places.

There are no pretensions here. If you have pretensions, they will be ignored. Maybe that makes it a place where you’re safe from the person you pretend to be sometimes, and that’s kind of nice.

This is a place to come if you love coffee so much you don’t care what it tastes like, where you like looking at pastries almost as much as eating a pastry that actually tastes good, where you don’t mind a bathroom that reminds you of gas stations in middle America. Even the word cafe doesn’t really fit – it’s just Tart to Tart, a place you go when you need to go somewhere. That’s all.

Bring cash if you’re buying something that costs less than $3. Or maybe it’s $5. Just bring some cash. It’s the right thing to do.

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San Francisco: Where the Bison Roam

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I’m back in San Francisco for good (for now), and from hereon out, I will continue to do what I do most often/best, which is write about daily experiences in a way that is humorous and hopefully touching. Since I’m San Francisco based, I will most often write about the things I see and do in this city.

Speaking of which, there’s something you should know about. Some of you might already know about it. Others have heard but think it’s a false rumor. Still others of you will have no idea what I’m talking about. Most will have stopped reding altogether and are looking for new gifs to send their co-workers.

I’m talking about the bison that right now, at this very moment in time, no matter when you’re reading this even if it’s far into the future or even just tomorrow, that there are bison right now quietly grazing in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Some of them are lying down. One might be pooping or thinking about it. Another is standing looking out at the trees that are probably clouded in fog. I don’t know what they’re doing, but they’re there.

The rumors and park signage about bison in Golden Gate Park are true. They’re there and I have now seen them for myself, with my own eyes.

I was out for one of my now-regular morning jogs and it was almost time to turn around and go back to the house but I’d seen something recently about the bison and they were on my mind. Perhaps I would make my way to the famed Bison Paddock.

Besides, I thought to myself, I don’t really have anything to get back to, so I might as well explore the northwestern side of Golden Gate park which I believed was mostly a myth.

But it is myth no longer. I ventured farther and farther into the unknown regions of the park. I saw a sign for the Bison Paddock, so I knew I was close. I wondered what other scenarios would be appropriate to use the word paddock in. I got tired of running.

Then the road forked and went on a slight incline and all of the sudden I was above a field that spread out to my right and there they were, the giant shaggy beasts that used to roam the plains and make thunder with their hooves. There were about eight of them, gently grazing in the paddock like Twitter had never even been invented.

It was the essence of serenity, just watching these animals graze, totally absorbed in the ground right at their feet and unconcerned with anything else. It was beauty.

I reluctantly jogged on and at the next intersection, a man on a bike started yelling at a car just ahead of him, “Why the f***k are you sitting there?! Why the f***k are you just sitting there!?” The car was turning right and had a red light and a chance to turn but didn’t take it. I guess the biker was just in a hurry.

Maybe he could have learned a lesson from the bison on how to not be an asshole.

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50 Days by Bus, Plane, Train and Automobile: What They Took Out of Me, and What I Took Out of Them

whew that was a trip

whew that was a trip

On June 29th, I left sunny San Francisco for a 7 week, 50 day journey that took me to the Atlantic and back again. I returned on August 18th to a city in a drought and covered in fog, and since then I’ve been doing some arriving and making sure my soul has caught up with my body.

Part of that has been reflecting on the journey. I took an entire day last week to read through all the gobbledegook that I’d written while I was traveling and come to some conclusions about what I’d learned and left along the way. It was exhausting, but I think I finally have some answers. This includes, quite possibly, the answer to the very meaning of life.

I present to you my findings in the easy-to-digest, easy-to-skim listicle form. Please enjoy these radical truths that I discovered about me, my country and the world around me while I was chasing after the wind.

1. You should bring an umbrella while you’re traveling. Or at least, if you don’t bring an umbrella, don’t buy one at Walgreens under the threat of impending thunderstorm. You’ll pay too much.

2. Giving yourself ample time to reflect on past experiences and current life situations can be incredibly useful. It can also be dangerous and make you dissatisfied with the status quo.

3. When hiking in the woods alone, you should know when bear hunting season is and dress appropriately.

4. Doing something is not necessarily better than doing nothing, and being busy just to be busy is a waste of time.

5. The world and our society is not fair, but we can make it more fair. We can do something.

6. I am not quite as outgoing as I thought.

7. Relationships make everything worthwhile.

8. College was an incredible experience that will not come again. Instead of lamenting the fact it’s gone forever, I should be thankful for it.

9. The decisions I made in the past that seem stupid now did not seem stupid back then. Most of the time, I made the best decisions I could based on the information that I had about who I was and what the world was like.

10. Never miss the chance to use a public restroom.

11. Bring a pillow for the night bus.

12. Seeing that I do not know the future and have imperfect information on the present, it’s quite possible that the decisions I make now will lead to outcomes I cannot even begin to imagine. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

13. Just because a person is in a position of authority, has written a book, or spoken on a stage does not mean they are to be trusted. In fact, they should be scrutinized even more carefully. The ability to perform is entirely separate from actually having good advice or good things to say.

14. If I had been born looking different than I do, it is very likely my life would be completely different and that is messed up.

15. The virtual world melts away when you stop giving it your attention.

16. Routines serve the incredibly important role of keeping you from making too many decisions in one day. The need to choose a different coffee shop, different attraction, new park, etc. while I was traveling eventually became a burden that I kind of resented.

17. There are some things I can change about myself, and some that I cannot. I should not beat myself up over the ones that I cannot change.

18. Things in New York are expensive, and then even a little bit more expensive than that.

19. The madmen, the tinkerers, the outcasts, the diehards, the weirdos, the misfits – most often these are the ones that make it into the museums.

20. Rules are everywhere. The more people that exist in a city, the more rules there are to govern their interactions. Some you need to listen to, and some absolutely need to be broken.

21. Libraries are incredible havens of A/C and bathrooms.

22. Quiet moments of sudden beauty are the best, like when I stumbled on a garden next to an Episcopalian church or when I watched smoke drift into the evening in North Carolina or when I saw a bear or watched a curtain blow in the breeze next to the harbor in Boston and every time I was like “dang that’s beautiful.”

23. YOLO

24. FOMO (fear of missing out) is for people who have no imagination.

25. Humans are incredibly creative and will surprise you always (like when I saw a dude playing a banjo in a tree in North Carolina.)

26. It’s good to spend time with people who aren’t like you (like when I spent a week scooping ice cream with Baptist retirees in North Carolina – a lot happened in North Carolina apparently.)

27. There is nothing quite as pleasant as sitting outside on a summer evening and drinking a cold beer.

28. Returning to one’s hometown can actually be a good experience. Growing up, it wasn’t cool to think that Edmond or Oklahoma City were interesting or worthwhile. I found that that’s not the case and there is much to see and do there.

29. It’s hard to keep what you saw at the mountaintop with you on the plains. In other words, I’m already forgetting a lot of what I learned and thought while traveling.

30. No baggage. No regrets. No BS. Amen.

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Why I Need to Be More Like My Plant Deb

imageI’ve been back in San Francisco for just shy of a week now – 6 days to be exact – and things are different. It’s not just because of the drought and the fact the trees look darker and slightly depressed, and it’s not just because Burning Man is this week so everyone with enough money for a ticket, pyschedelics in their pocket and carpentry skills is out of town. I also don’t think it had anything to do with the earthquake this morning, though I might be wrong about that. Speaking of which – not only am I completely fine, but I didn’t even wake up for it AND this gigantic stack of magazines in my room didn’t fall down. How is that even possible?

Yes, San Francisco feels different. It’s not as beautiful or perfect as I remembered it to be. It’s foggier than I remember, and smaller, more neighborhood-like. I have two new roommates who are pretty much strangers. They replaced two of my best friends and now they’re in my house, so that’s a big change. There’s a new bookstore in my neighborhood, and I’ve already cooked three different meals to eat. That’s unrelated to the bookstore but just thought I should mention it.

Yes, this is a different San Francisco. I don’t wake up at 6 in the morning to commute to a job where people are overpaid to do things that don’t matter that much. I don’t have to pretend to care about jargon or posturing. I see daytime people, the people who have flexible schedules and are not extensions of a brand. I go running, which is really insane. I mean honestly, me, running? Can you imagine it? Shouldn’t I be doing improv? But yes, there’s improv too and it’s delicious and challenging.

Perhaps you’re familiar with botany or gardening, and you’ve at some time or another pruned a plant. That is, you cut off the branches of the plant so that its energy could be devoted to writing, or maybe ceramics.

imageI’m see this time in my life as the post-prune-period, or Phase 3. I’ve cut away some things from my life. Some things in my life have been cut away from me. And now it’s time to grow towards the sun. What could be simpler or more terrifying?

If I were as noble as a plant, as steadfast and forthright as my plant Deb for instance, there would be no question as to what to do next. There would be no baggage, none of this stupid and useless fear of failure that dogs human lives- that dogs my life.

No, if I were a plant like Deb, with my dead leaves gone, I would throw everything I was into growing new leaves to replace them and getting into a sketch troupe that created really compelling material.

At this time when old routines are broken and new ones are being formed, I hope that I can be like Deb and throw myself into the work that I need to be doing, into the work that no one else can do. That’s her lesson for me, and for us all.

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