Saturday, September 29, 2012

Deserted Streets and Hippie Skirts

It's hard to believe I was in San Francisco a year ago, having an amazing time (even whilst battling strep) in a city on my own.  It's funny, when I ride the train and kill time by playing solitaire on my phone, I get these vivid flashbacks of San Francisco - I think it started because I used to play solitaire constantly during my morning commute to WC, mostly out of incredible anxiety about the job (I would go through 50+ games during my hour long commute each morning, nonstop back-to-back games), and this job, with it's stress, came right after I arrived back home from my trip.

The flashbacks that I have aren't the ones you think you'll have - the view of the foggy Golden Gate , strolling languidly through SF MOMA, riding the trolleys, etc.  In fact, there's only one moment I come back to (rarely) that was visually stunning, and that's the moment I crawled up to the side of Buena Vista Park with a bag of thai food and a spectacular view of downtown and proceeded to feast, and I only remember that because there were mosquitos everywhere and some guys dog tried to climb into my lap.

The mosquito-laden view

The random moments that pop into my head repeatedly are the ones that struck me and brought me back to earth, the ones that made me feel like a citizen, as if I were living everyday life and not on some weird implanted journey destined to dump me down and then suddenly scoop me back up again:

The morning I walked by a senior citizen center in NoPa that looked like a city hall, wrought iron gates to my right and trees casting a dappled exposure on the white sidewalk (this one hits me the most).

Walking down the sidewalk during an early morning chai run (I was determined to start every morning with chai from a different independent cafe, and succeeded admirably) and watching a bus pull up towards me on my right to let people board, looking up and seeing a man running at steep angle down the sidewalk towards the bus, yelling, "no no no no no!!", his tie flying back behind him, glasses askew, the sparse hair left on his head streaming behind him.  I think he caught the bus in the end.

Watching the parrots of Telegraph Hill call out to each other and swoop through the air in flocks, after leaving busy Lombard Street and the crowds of people taking their picture in it's foreground.

And this one, which happened a year ago tonight: Walking along Page Street on a quest for a burrito.  I had made up my mind to go to a place called The Little Chihuahua, which was a little bit of a hike from where I was on Haight Street.  I left my room, but once I walked outside I felt uneasy - San Francisco closes down after dark mostly, and that stretch of the Haight wasn't the best (think angry panhandling hippies of all ages).  Still I was hellbent on getting my goddamn burrito.  So after walking down a block or two and being incredibly uncomfortable, I took a leap of faith and made a left turn, deciding to walk along the street one block north instead.  The fact that continuing down Haight would have led me past Buena Vista Park, where I felt uneasy even during the daytime, was enough of a decider for me.

Page Street was like a different neighborhood - instead of older teenagers in army surplus gear with guitars and pitbulls hanging around and fighting in doorways, there was absolute silence.  The kind of silence that only comes from cool air, safety, and security.  I reveled in that coolness, the absolute blackness of the street, the elegant and pale victorians lined up in three point perspective along the block.  I walked all the way down to Divisadero, and got my goddamn burrito.  It was midweek, but the place was packed with groups, so I opted not to be the killjoy hogging a table and instead took it to go.  Only then did I realize my walk to the restaurant had been so nice because I'd been walking downhill.  Steeply.

I opted to take the bus to go back.  I waited a very, very long time for this bus (late night and buses in SF don't play well together).  The kicker was, it was really only two stops on the bus.  So I waited for an eternity to take a 8-10 minute ride.  Welcome to my world.  In the end, the burrito was pretty tasty, but probably would have been better had it been piping hot and in the company of attractive hipsters.

Anyhow, that's how I was spending my time exactly a year ago tonight - walking in solitary bliss along a sleepy San Francisco street, my hippie skirt swinging at my heels and my mind in the clouds.


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