Tag Archives: West Coast

20 Pieces of Advice for My Sister’s Trip to San Francisco

We're going to paint the town.

We’re going to paint the town.

Dear Sister,

I’m so excited that you’re coming to visit me in San Francisco for Christmas, that you’re leaving parents and home far behind in Oklahoma and venturing out to the West Coast, a journey our ancestors and great-uncle made and one that it is now your turn to make. Welcome to this state. There are some things you should know to make the most out of your time here.

1. You will always feel like you’re doing something wrong as you ride public transportation. It’s as unavoidable as congealed gravy after a holiday meal.

2. Bring every kind of clothing you have. Because of witchcraft or something similar, the temperature varies wildly from day to night and from shade to sun. I use the handy phrase “sun-hot; shade-cool” to remember which one is which.

3. Bring cash; some places will not accept your plastic. These places will often have tasty pastries.

4. Most born and raised Californians know nothing about Oklahoma aside from either the bombing or the musical. Because of their ignorance, they will lash out and make fun of your native state. Don’t let it get to you.

5. Half shirts are a thing, as are sheer wispy shirts, all manner of hats and anything with a mustache on it.

6. Strangers might talk to you, and it’s not always a bad thing. Feel it out, and respond if it seems appropriate. If someone says “Good morning” to you, they’re probably being friendly. If they say, “Damn girl, you healthy. Them organic goods?” while you’re carrying groceries, you’re probably in Oakland.*

7. Green bins are for compost, black are for trash, and blue are for recycling. Don’t let anyone see you throw away something that can be recycled.

8. Leave your Styrofoam at home and bring a bag to the grocery store.

9. That weird smell is either dog urine or marijuana. It could also be people urine, if we’re downtown.

10. That delicious meaty smell is either coming from Hahn’s Hibachi or Yellow Sub. I’m never sure which one.

11. This city is full of stores selling things no one should ever purchase, like $40 bowls and many whimsical variations on the salt and pepper shaker. That being said, it’s all beautiful and you will want to purchase something. Don’t spend all your money at the first place.

12. No one knows what to do about the homeless people, so mostly we just ignore them. I’d like to find a better way to handle this but I’m not sure what it is.

13. This place is mind-numbingly beautiful and everyone who gets to live here is lucky. Don’t forget that where you come from is also lovely.

14. Avoid the Tenderloin and Upper Market area – no reason for you to dabble in those neighborhoods yet. You can tell you’re in the T-Loin from the missing teeth to broken glass to face tattoo ratio.

15. Don’t waste your time on bad food.

16. Climb every hill you see. You won’t regret it.

17. Buy me a present while I’m working. I’ve earned it.

18. Don’t be ashamed of being a tourist. It’s what you are and you don’t have to hide from any one.

19. Everyone does and doesn’t look the same. You’ll see what I mean. Most people are attractive in a “I’m going places” or “I’m unique” or “I took time to dress myself this morning” or “my clothes are expensive” kind of way.

20. Have fun! (and buy me a present)

*This was said to me once in Oakland.

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An Oklahoman Laments the Loss of Fall

Redwoods don’t drop their leaves.

So it’s fall now, I think. I’m not really sure anymore if the seasons exist. Here in San Francisco nothing changes. Quinoa’s on its way out, boar’s on its way in. Gourmet sausage is somewhere in the middle, the roasted pork chop probably isn’t going anywhere, but fall isn’t coming. That’s for darn sure. Even though sometimes the wind blows and it’s got that crisp feeling and maybe there’s a leaf somewhere in there too, but it’s all an illusion. Fall isn’t going to come here at all.

Sure we get the Halloween Candy, and the pumpkins, and fall-themed lattes from Starbucks, but they won’t bring me a proper autumn. And the kids are back in school, and preschool-high school teachers are wearing themed sweaters over wildly patterned turtlenecks, but it makes no difference whatsoever.

The fog rolls out and in.

We’ve already been wearing sweaters for the past three months and one hundred years. We’ve already lit our fireplaces to stave off the cold of a chilly summer night, and warmed our hands at a bonfire on the beach to keep our fingers from turning blue in late May. We never put our scarves away in the first place, but we’ll never have to turn on our heaters because we don’t have them. Time doesn’t progress here so much as ebb in and out. Other places go in circles, but we move back and forth along the same straight line.

Still, the children get older. The facial hair on the hipsters gets slightly more ironic. Banana Republic models get more smug as they laugh in their business casual clothes.

Somewhere, college students are planning apple picking trips and updating their facebook statuses about how excited they are about wearing fall clothes. Somewhere, the leaves are beginning to turn slightly less green as they prepare to all fall down. But not here. Not ever.

I’ve only been on the West Coat for 2.5 months. Thank God it’s never too early for nostalgia. I’ll go out and drink $8 cups of coffee until the pain goes away.

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California Prairie Dress Wearin’

It’s all come to this. The progression of time has brought me to the point where the plane ticket I bought to go to San Francisco is ready to be redeemed and I will sit next to someone hopefully not smelly for a few hours to LA and then someone equally pleasant smelling on the way to San Francisco, the land where dreams come true. Specifically, my dreams. This will be the land where  my dreams come true.

I’m going there for a week to visit some friends and do some future hunting, possibly accosting people on the street, grabbing their collars and saying “GIVE ME A JOB!” And then following them as they try to run away. I’ll be wearing a dress and boots so it’ll be difficult. But I digress.

I’ve never been to the West Coast, and most of my thoughts about it are informed by Hollywood and my conservative grandparents who are worried about the moral decay of America. I imagine it’s somewhere in between heathens roaming the street looking for souls to sway and a land of infinite possibility.  Perhaps the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Oh and I forgot about Full House. Most of what I know about San Francisco in particular comes from watching Full House.

There’s gold in them hills, or so they say, and now it’s my turn to go and get me some. If I don’t come back, it’s because I found my fortune out there. If I do, it’s because my fortune is not yet ripe for the plucking and I need money from my parents.

I even got a new dress for the journey. It was 5 dollars at goodwill. The brand is “California Girls.” It’s floor length and has shoulder pads and a high collar and a fetching print. I can’t wait to blend in on the sidewalks, just a regular prairie girl minglin’ with them city folk.

The next week or so of posts will likely describe a steep descent into culture shock and loss of moral bearings, followed by unlikely growths of hope and self awareness, ending with a reconfirmation of personal identity with added perspective on the entirety of reality. I hope I can deliver.

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