just saying

I don't get phone service in my apartment, so last night I bundled up in all the winter clothes I own and left to talk to a friend. I went down Church until it ended, past the tea room and the Thai restaurant and long rows of lit trees. When I came back I turned the heat on in my room and climbed into bed in warm socks. There are few things more comforting. 


a question

While I was waiting for the J this afternoon, a man came up to me on the platform, grinning widely. It was such a big smile--jaw hung open, all teeth showing--that at first I thought he must have mistaken me for someone else. This was not the case. As a side note, the man was wearing his hair in two braids and shoes that had individual toes.* I turned away; he came around to face me.

Him: Hi. Bet you're going to Dolores Park.
Me: No.
Him: That's a shame. Bet you're going to a barbecue.
Me: No.
Him: That's a shame too. 

I said, "Ha," and took out my phone, then replayed a voicemail from a telemarketer until he started talking with the elderly woman standing next to me. (Her: "What a hoot you are! A real original. Look at those shoes." Him: "I think I'm one of the last originals there are. You like 'em?")

This got me thinking. We've been talking a lot about the city-vs.-country debate in one of my classes. (Are city dwellers alienated from each other and disconnected from the natural world? Is it possible to derive coherent meaning from a fragmentary urban landscape?) And while I've always felt most at home in urban areas, I couldn't help but recognize that my reaction to the grinner on the J fit in well with the detached-city-person archetype. 

True: he could have been a creeper. I'm pretty sure he was at least overfriendly. But as I watched him chat easily with the older woman while the J trundled down to 18th street, I wondered if I had been wrong--if he was really only an "original". In cities, we are conditioned to be cautious, self-contained, even aloof--but is it possible to be too independent? Too estranged from the all-around strangeness? "Alienated" is a strong word, but it brings up an interesting question: have we become aliens to each other? I'm all for quirkiness, for odd things, for San Francisco's peculiar eccentricities. But at what point do the things outside us become invasive? And at what point are we too quick to shut them out? 

* The toe shoes. So: friendly oddball or potential crazy? Maybe these are another piece of the puzzle. 


oh monday

Today is a NO-SCHOOL-UNTIL-SIX-P.M. day! My first class was cancelled. It was the best surprise--the West Coast equivalent of a Snow Day. Having an unexpectedly free afternoon makes me feel like: 

On Saturday, the Red Bull Soapbox race came to Dolores Park. An estimated 60,000 people showed up--!! I feared for the next day's clean-up crew, but the park looked surprisingly clean when I passed it yesterday on the J. More grass than beer bottles visible--a good sign.

The soapbox contenders included a Rubik's cube, a pink donut, and a baseball that promptly tipped over when it hit the runway. Uh oh. This made me think about what kind of a soapbox car I would make if I was mechanically-minded. Ideas include:

- A hammerhead shark (the head is the wheel).
- An SF Victorian--a double decker? Is that possible? 
- A marshmallow car: crash insulation, eat while you go. 

Too bad I am not very good at both construction and driving. 

That night Nora and I made risotto from scratch. Secret ingredients: olive tapenade and orange zest. I accidentally overturned an extra large box of raw oatmeal just as we were about to sit down and eat. Picture snowy mounds of oats on the floor, the chairs, the table. Nora said the kitchen looked like a barn. The whole thing was very surreal. 




Nora and I enjoy going out to a romantic meal from time to time. Our philosophies differ when it comes to restaurant selection: Nora prefers to Google, Yelp, Menupage and map potential spots while I am more into the let's-take-a-walk-and-see-what-we-find approach. When it is time to choose, though, we are almost always in agreement. Ideal locations usually have at least three of the following elements: good lighting, ethnic food, assorted object mishmash decor, an address that is within walking distance. Esperpento had all four, and we were really feeling it. 

The restaurant itself is a tapas bar on Valencia and 22nd. It is the kind of place that looks unassuming from the outside but seems to unfold when you step through the door. Who knew it had two levels? Or walls studded with beautifully odd things (old clocks, painted plates, Japanese fans)? Or a bar with the best Sangria in town? Well, we knew all of this, but only because we'd Yelped beforehand. Still, it is always nice to find something that lives up to expectations. 

We walked down 24th street to get there: Sanchez, Church, Guerrero, all the little alleyways in between. My poetry class last night focused on San Francisco. It made me fall in love all over again. We read an incredible article about the way that the gentrification of Victorian neighborhoods (areas of Pac Heights, the Castro) was brought about by the migration of gay men in the 60s and 70s. There is so much to learn about the history of this place. 

Met up with Nick and Will on 18th and hopped the 22 to Geary and Divis. Will's friend's band was playing. It was something like funk. Mm-good. I made Nora dance. 

By the time we got back, the city was all fog and night shapes. I took off my boots and climbed into bed, listening to the sound of the J train pass by. The hum of the MUNI: that is my favorite after-midnight noise. If I were to translate it, it would be saying, "Hey, you. I am still running, even when you're not." This is a comforting thought. 


what is in the air? is it a white balloon?

I am feeling this urge to create something. Do you know what I mean? It doesn't have to be very impressive--it could be a paper chain, or a pasta dish, or one line of a poem that will never be continued. I wrote letters to friends yesterday, and there is something therapeutic in physically writing--in forming the letters yourself on the page instead of pushing a computer key. It's as though there is a different kind of relationship to the thing you're making: it is more personal, more tactile, like painting the walls of a house yourself as opposed to having someone else do it. It feels more like a product of you than an alien thing. Is that horribly self-indulgent?

Nora was also in an artistic mood. 

There were lots of San Francisco things going on this weekend: a Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park, the Castro street fair. I meant to go to one or both of them but wound up having a sleepy, low-key weekend instead. My dad, however, made it to the park to see Asleep at the Wheel and Jerry Jeff Walker. He is much cooler than I am. 

Here are some things I can see from here:

Little Otsu's 2008 Endangered Species of California wall calendar; my birthday is next to the Sierra Nevada Red Fox. Can you find him? 

And, if I turn around--

Had dinner with family last night--that is always a good feeling. Going home after a long time away is kind of like taking a warm bath: comforting, cozy, over too soon. Seemed so strange and so normal. I am always amazed by how quickly we adjust.