Monday Night Nonfiction: Warm

Sad man in the streets of San Francisco

On a Friday afternoon in San Francisco, I decided to take a walk. Nimby was working late, and I wanted to pass the time till we could go to dinner together. I walked from his office on Folsom St. to The Embarcadero and proceeded along the water all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. The sun was going down, the end of our stay in SF was near, and I really missed my cat. Nothing was wrong, but I felt lonely and homesick.

“What would make this better?” I kept asking myself. I had a little cash in my pocket. I could go shopping or stop for a drink. I could find a place to sit and watch people or stare out at the water. “What do I want right now? What would make me happy?”

Eventually, I came up with an answer: “It would be really nice to have a friend, not to be alone, to be warm.”

As the sun set, the cool wind off the water was gaining strength, driving home both the chill and the loneliness. Sure, I’d be having dinner with my husband soon, but at that moment, I felt totally isolated. Even as I had these thoughts, I was walking into the most blatant tourist trap in town. Dressed in the baggiest jeans I own and several layers of clothing, walking alone and sporting ratty pink hair (my hair had a rough week), I became aware of the suspicious glances I was getting from tourists.

As I entered a section of tightly packed souvenir shops — the kind that look the same in every sea-side town — I heard a man complaining about the tourists who couldn’t spare enough change to get a burger. It’s true that I have a history of giving my pocket change to the first person who asks when I leave my hotel, but I had no intention of giving this man anything. I checked my phone for a status update from the husband and was just reaching to put it back in my pocket when the man saw me, assumed I was reaching for cash, and began to thank me. It was too late. We’d made eye contact. I finished putting my phone away and moved to another pocket to fish out a dollar. Caught up in my own awkwardness, I may have smirked by accident.

“Please don’t laugh at me,” the man said.

I took a second to look at him. He looked in his 50s, tired, weathered. He wore a thin wind breaker.

“I wouldn’t laugh at you,” I said. “You’re a human being.” I gave him a dollar, and he hugged me. He even kissed me on the cheek and exclaimed about how cold my skin was. His face was rough and bristly.

“Your skin is cold, but you have a warm heart,” he said.

Our exchange lasted all of 10 seconds, then I kept walking. A few minutes later, I got a phone call from Nimby and went off to meet him and a friend for dinner in the poshest apartment building I’ve ever seen. We had a nice night. We were warm, and we ate well.

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Monday Night Nonfiction: Post Card from San Francisco

Baycityreds_castrostfair_1975

I love San Francisco, but I always feel a little bit sad here. At first, I was sad because I wanted to live here and it wasn’t going to happen. Then, I was sad because I also love my home, and being away from it for a long time is hard for me. I come out here for a week or two at a time while my husband is working in town, and that’s two weeks away from my Mao, my yoga classes, my favorite baristas … my home. Wherever I am, though, it’s easier if I’m with Nimby because “home is wherever I’m with you.” So, as long as we’re together, I know we’ve got family taking care of our house and the cat, and everyone will be there when we get back.

Still, I find things to be sad about. It is an understatement to say there’s a homelessness problem in SF. Many of the city’s homeless are visibly ill, suffering from delusions, depression, mania, and addictions. I always wind up giving all my pocket change to one person and then walking around the city wishing I had a lot more pocket change. I know no one expects me to save the entire homeless population of SF. I feel compassion for them, and sometimes that feels a lot like sadness.

That’s not to say I’ve been depressed the whole trip — far from it. It’s been sunny with blue skies since I got here, and we’ve had a beautiful time. That little bit of sadness is ever-present, and it reminds me that I’m not sad about where I live or because I’m home sick. Sometimes I’m a little bit sad because stuff is so beautiful and it can’t last forever.

When I came out here for my 30th birthday, I had the most amazing week. On one of our last days, we went to this burrito place in the Mission for lunch, and it was a perfectly sunny day, and I took a bite of this burrito and got misty eyed (one tear!) about how fucking good it was. No, I wasn’t stoned. I just felt really thrilled and lucky to be alive, and a little sad because it was such a fleeting moment.

 

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The Madness Comes and Goes

vatican sculptures

So it’s been a few more days of minimal social media time. It hasn’t been half bad. True, I catch myself attempting to check Twitter several times a day, but I’ve been helpfully yet irritatingly thwarted by Tweakdeck crashing repeatedly. In the time I’ve been away from social media, I’ve done a lot of actual socializing. I don’t want to brag about it or rattle off all the people I have hung out with because that defeats the purpose of this experiment.

I’ve gradually peeked a little more at my social media sites but have kept my commenting and posting to an absolute minimum. From a quiet distance, I am watching other people live their lives online and share their ups and downs. I have a pretty low tolerance for most of the noise online, yet I still have a lot of room for caring about people’s tragedies. Someone I haven’t actually talked to in several years recently lost her child and has been talking about it a little bit on Facebook. She’s getting support from her friends and family there. I’ve pondered whether I should send her a note of condolence or just remain quiet. Nothing I can say will bring back her son, but maybe it would help her feel less alone. If there’s any great reason to use social media and networking sites, I think that’s one.

I’m also in the midst of researching more places and ways to teach yoga. My husband and I have been pondering whether/when/how to move to San Francisco, and if we do move, I will need to find work there. The idea is a little daunting, but I do think I have a lot to offer as a yoga teacher, and I’m determined to find a way to keep doing what I do best no matter where we live. That requires finding a way to make my teaching pay a lot more than it does right now, but I’ve got a few ideas as to where to start.

Oh, and mercury retrograde has finally ended. I never put much stock in stuff like that before, and I still don’t know what the heck to think of it, but I do know the past month has been totally discombobulated. So whether it’s a real thing or psychosomatic doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it’s ended, and I now feel prepared to lay the groundwork for moving forward.

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The Poetry Room

image

Hiking up Chinatown, a stranger
is hunting and beseeching for
an open door and something small
and shiny to bring home.

She tiptoes up the stairs
to the silent temple of Howl
where Cummings, Rilke, and Dickinson wait
in their sanctuary of verse.

Their lust packed tightly on the shelves,
it’s all that she can bear
to slip one volume out, then two,
and sniff their wicked pages.

Stepping on the noisy street,
in the sun, a tourist converted.
The careless masses shuffle past.
The pilgrim clutches her Book.

 

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