Archive for the 'san francisco' Category

an unexpectedly lovely weekend

Yesterday after my riding lesson, Jeremy, Claire and I went out to Devil’s Teeth Bakery for the special breakfast sandwich (scrambled egg, avocado and bacon on a fresh biscuit). On the way back we visited the new house for some daydreaming. Liz lured me out to the dyke march. I arrived to find her twirling in the intersection at Valencia and 18th. We danced and chanted all the way to the Castro. It was a perfect San Francisco summer evening.

Today after my riding lesson, all four of us went to El Metate for fish tacos, and then to Bay Natives to buy eggs and admire the chickens and goats. We walked to the end of Heron’s Head and saw a sea lion frolicking in the bay. We stopped on Cortland for iced coffee, rainbow macarons and groceries, and when we got home I found a parking spot right on the corner. Now my feet are up and my heart is full of peace.

california in the spring

Can a place be too pretty?

Our experts weigh in.

the green flash

Almost a year after I thought it might, my accidental sabbatical has come to a definitive end. This morning, Laura and I rode Gemini and Bentley around a Horse Park almost violently green from the winter rains. I went to therapy for my weekly ugly-cry, spent the afternoon folding laundry, then dragged J and J to the beach to watch the sunset.

The sea had carved the sand into a cliff three or four stories high. We stood at the brink, inadequately dressed against an Alaskan wind. Just as the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, its light turned a pale celadon. I’ve never seen the green flash before! Conditions have to be perfect. Julia was blinking and missed it. I told her she is young and will have lots more chances.

It’s hard to sum up this long career hiatus in any narratively pleasing way. I wrote less than I thought I would, and did a lot more political organizing than I’d ever imagined. One business venture has yet to bear fruit, but the other two are the most beautiful and gifted startups ever to occupy San Francisco office space. I made some amazing new friends and grew closer to some old ones. I think my kids are doing pretty okay? I continue to love my mister more than I love sunbeams, or meadows, or tea.

Tomorrow’s big adventure is to get up early and take BART to work!

watershed

Honestly though this was a devastatingly hard year, politically, professionally, and personally; and it was the fifth such year in a row. Breaking my leg was the least of it.

It was too blustery to ride today, but too sunny to stay inside, so Jeremy and I went for a walk in Heron’s Head Park.

It’s the site of a never-completed shipping terminal, next to the decommissioned Hunter’s Point Power Station, not far from where Islais Creek, our local watershed, meets the Bay. Back in the 90s, citizen activists spearheaded wetlands restoration and now it’s a sparkling salt marsh, a magnet for pelicans and sandpipers. There’s an eco center with a living roof.

We walked and talked for a long time, and then dropped by Bay Natives nursery and bought some eggs still warm from the nest. Reclaimed Industrial Landscape is one of my top three aesthetics, and my hope for the new year is that the same transformation can happen in my cold dead heart.

proposed staycation-jaunts

ETA: success!

long overdue catchup

Goodness, it has been a while, hasn’t it? We had a pretty good summer. We went to Los Angeles and saw the Bladerunner building and a spaceship.

We went to Portland and saw some waterfalls.

Oz, obvs.

Then Alain and Ross came to visit, and I dragged them over half of Northern California. Santa Cruz, Monterey, Muir Woods, Yosemite, Calistoga. They were thoroughly good sports about it.


All this and we saw Ray of Light’s Jesus Christ Superstar, the Berkeley Rep’s Angels in America, Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy in concert. I’m so lucky I did all those trips and went to all those shows, because the Monday after the boys went home, I had to do an emergency dismount from this gorgeous and wholly blameless fellow:

Suffice to say that for once I did not stick the landing. Now I have an ankle full of titanium and I’m on crutches till Thanksgiving. Still, though. Worth it.

from “a bloody business”

Every day I wake up and find myself on a planet of barely-sapient chimpanzees, so, you know. I’m already dealing with a lot. Sasquatch has been on my mind, probably because we took the girls camping in the redwoods over July 4th. There seem to be a couple of things going on with our friend the Bigfoot. One is America’s class dynamic: the hoaxers, those clever rural con men, trying to get one over on gullible city folk like me.

The other is bears. The Sasquatch sightings in the Pacific Northwest that aren’t obviously faked, coincide with the distribution of grizzlies. In this age of a video camera in every jacket pocket, we’ve learned that bears with sore front paws will walk on their hind legs.

Bigfoot, in other words, is a wounded bear. And this is not just a case of mistaken identity. It’s about how lonely we are. How much we long for the other animals to requite our terrible love. How frightened we are at all the death we’ve caused, and how many more extinctions lie in wait.

neuhaus

Last year I had three outstanding piles of paperwork I needed to address: my US citizenship, the buyback on my diesel Volkswagen, and (a stretch goal) qualifying for a mortgage. Yesterday I had to reschedule the VW buyback appointment because my Naturalization Oath Ceremony is scheduled at the same time; and, on March 26, Grant’s birthday, we got the keys for a house half a mile up the road from our beloved micro-apartment.

It’s painfully ugly and has asbestos, termites, foundation problems, and vinyl siding, but by the time we found out what it’s gonna cost and how long it’s gonna take to renovate it, I had already bonded with Neuhaus. Our meet could not have been cuter. Jeremy and I took a months-long break from serious house-hunting after various offers fell through. One Sunday afternoon in March we forced ourselves out to look at five impossible places, just to get back in the habit of looking. One of the impossible places was next door to a place with a deep garden. I said to Jeremy: “I know it’s unfeasible, but I kind of ache for a garden.”

We got home after the fifth impossible place and I said, “Dammit. I forgot one.” Jeremy said: “Do you want to go and look?” “No,” I said. “…Yes.” We got there just as it was closing. I walked through the basement into the garden and my heart lifted. Our offer came in second but the sellers gave us the opportunity to counter and when we did, they let us have the place. We got it on Richard’s birthday.

It was an estate sale. The couple who lived there were San Francisco natives, married for 48 years. She died at home last summer. The place is full of their love, the plywood shelves he built for her with utmost care in his basement wood-shop, the Mamie pink bathroom, achingly fashionable in its day, her roses and calla lilies in the garden. May we somehow deserve this inheritance.

what a weird day

Our mayor Ed Lee died very early this morning. He was shopping at the Safeway on Monterey last night when he had a heart attack. The doctors at SF General were unable to save him. He was a complicated, good man.

We rode out at the Horse Park, bright green after the winter rains. “Where’d all the geese come from?” asked Kristen. “Canada,” I said. A coyote swaggered across our path. The sun shone pinkly through its ears. It had a wise and pointed face.

I’d steeled myself for a loss in the Alabama special election. More fool me. The NAACP robo-called Black voters, and Black pastors set up voter registration booths at church events. America is so deeply in their debt, I even can’t speak of it.

and then a month passed

Alain went home. I was sad. Cait and her family visited! It was fun! We didn’t travel for the eclipse because the kids started school that day. So far school seems to be going okay. It turns out that being a full-time working-out-of-the-home mother of school age children? Is very difficult. Working a few hours a week is much more compatible with actually, you know. Showing up for your own kids.

Julia and I did a wheel class at Pinckney Clay. We’d already done hand building, which I liked fine, but the wheel is magical. It was like riding, or doing yoga. When the clay centered itself, I could feel the rightness of it. You lean into the vortex of the numinous.

I suppose for the sake of completeness I should add that a newish horse at McIntosh launched me into orbit and I landed on my head and neck hard enough to see stars. I went straight from the barn to the doctor: no concussion, no spinal injury. It did a number on my confidence, though. I’m doing lots of yoga and eating healthy and going for lots of calm, positive rides, all of which I should’ve been doing all along. I also had a glorious massage with a dude whose hands were so big he could hold my entire head in his palm. (The offending horse, by the way, turns out to be an utter sweetheart. I can only assume I jabbed him awkwardly with a spur. Just one of those things.)

I’ve been doing another 50 Books by POC challenge. Best discoveries: Deborah A. Miranda, Hilton Als, Sherman Alexie (I know, I know), Frederick Douglass, and Alice Walker (I KNOW.) Right now, I am listening to Walker read her own The Color Purple on audiobook and it’s so good, so funny and wise and wrenching, I look forward to traffic jams. Best rediscoveries: Samantha Irby, Aziz Ansari, Nnedi Okorafor.

The big world continues to burn. I donate, I yell at my representatives, I march in the streets. It’s been filthy hot and today got more and more humid until the sky went black and the light went strange and a thunderstorm broke over the city like the atmosphere bursting into tears.

perspective

Alain’s going home next week and this distresses me, so we climbed Mount Tam about it.

I love that mountain. It’s a magical island above a sea of Karl the Fog. From up there you can see San Francisco as it really is: a city made of dreams.

We also took in the usual suspects: the Japanese Tea Gardens, Cal Academy, De Young, Japantown Mall and SF MOMA. Al had seen most (all?) of these before but it’s always nice to look at things from a different point of view.

The city is a spaceship, and a time machine.

goings on about town

Hashtag best summer ever continues. We went to the Berkeley Kite Festival, where Alain and I flew a kite in memory of our Dad. Dad made this particular kite for me – it must be nearly forty years old – and it ran up into the wind like it was impatient to fly again. Then we ate spicy spicy food at Vik’s Chaat House and ran over to the Oakland Museum of California. “It’s inside out,” Jeremy explained to the kids. “Inside the building is where you buy tickets, and outside is all of California.”

It’s a jewel of a place and we’ll be back, but y’all should hurry up and see the Dorothea Lange exhibit that closes on August 27. Migrant Mother is there, of course, but so are a dozen less-well-known images with the same power to cut you to the bone. Especially painful is the series on the Japanese internments, so humanizing of its subjects that despite being commissioned by the government, it was suppressed for the duration of the war. An accompanying film remarks on the behavior of the internees: “They were trying to be good citizens.”

Yesterday we visited the Cable Car Museum which, like La Brea, is a great big overdone metaphor for its hometown. To start with, there are the vast wheels turning underground, drawing citizens inexorably uphill. San Francisco, clockwork city. But it’s even worse than that. As in LA, auto, oil and rubber interests tried to get rid of urban transit systems after the war, but in SF this sparked a citizen’s revolt. Furious activism saved the cable cars and now they are protected in perpetuity, to be an overpriced tourist attraction.

Ridiculous city, how I love you. This was a Pyrrhic victory maybe, but one that paved the way for the future citizen activists who tore down freeways and helped find treatments for AIDS. They say it’s science fiction that’s the fantasy of political agency but it’s also true of the other SF.

seascapes with humpback plumes

reclaimed local comedy

Me: “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

Jeremy: “Um.” Me (interrupting): “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

Jeremy: “Um.” Me (interrupting): “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

Jeremy: “Um.” Me (interrupting): “Do you wanna see Philip Glass in concert?”

(We high five.)

Later

Jeremy: “There’s some kind of shriveled, wizened, dead thing on the soap dish.”

Me: “It’s goat’s milk soap, from Wellstone.”

Jeremy: “It’s definitely dead.”

Me: “It’s artisanal.

Jeremy: “Maybe there’s some really great-looking soap out partying somewhere, and this is the soap of Dorian Gray?”

Me: “That joke never gets old.”

hashtag funemployed hashtag summer of love

In May, the tech industry and I parted ways under circumstances I am contractually obligated to describe as mutual. Ever since, I’ve been having the greatest summer of my life. The bestie and I drove out to the eastern Sierras to see the wild mustang herds that live up around the Montgomery Pass. The high desert was hock-deep in wildflowers, and we spent three hours one sunny afternoon sitting on a hillside watching the wild horses fight and fuck. Mono Lake looks like the surface of another, possibly better planet, and asks to be further explored.

Then I won a residency at a writer’s center down in Santa Cruz and spent a week alone in a cabin on the edge of the redwoods. There were hummingbirds and mule deer and quail. I’d wake at 6 or 7 as usual, then read for a couple of hours, then have coffee and maybe go for a hike. Then, with only short breaks for meals, I’d draft scenes or type them up until late in the evening. When I got stuck, I’d copy out poems by hand.

I realized that, for longer than I can remember, I have been in an antagonistic relationship with time: late for work, behind on deadlines, scrambling to make as many memories with my kids and parents as I possibly could. Suddenly the days roll out before me, not as ordeals to be endured, but as hours for creative work, hours to hang around with the girls and Jeremy (without whom none of this would be possible), hours to spend at the barn, hours to binge on books.

I always regretted not taking real bereavement leave after Mum and then Dad died. I guess I’m doing it now, just a couple of years late. A friend said: “Your voice sounds lighter.” Idleness becomes me.

dishes with surprise egg of san francisco, an appreciation

The Rebel Within, a savory muffin from Craftsman and Wolves

Bacon and soft boiled egg brioche from Tartine Manufactory

Rocket Man, an arugula, garlic, chili and egg pizza from PizzaHacker

Salmon Egg Bowl from Samovar Yerba Buena and bonus Egg Jar from Samovar Mission

my friends, man

“It’s the people being unexpectedly kind to me that make me cry.”

“They’re all just returning kindnesses you’ve shown them.”

“Shut up. I’m a surly nerd amnesiac super-soldier assassin. We’ve been OVER this.”

“Yes, and Bucky Barnes doesn’t get a wobbly chin looking at the pictures in the museum.”

“Listen, I didn’t come here to be SEEN and ACCEPTED UNCONDITIONALLY, what is this, SAN FRANCISCO?”

the ohlone way, by michael margolin

There is an Ohlone song, for example, from which only one evocative line survives: Dancing on the brink of the world. We know nothing more about this song, just that one haunting line.

three/third

five images/second fortnight

Marching in the cold rain, my END WHITE SUPREMACY sign sagging, my husband and children festooned with glowstick necklaces, my city jammed with peaceful protestors from Civic Center to the Ferry Building: Market Street one river of loving souls.

The next day, beyond exhausted, crashed out on the couch; shy Alice making her way up onto my chest, quietly as if I might not notice, then crashing out there with me for most of the afternoon. Her fur from which no light escapes. The soft floof that grows out between her toe beans.

Driving up Bernal Hill with Liz to enjoy the raggedy clouds and dramatic light and rainbows. Stopping in silence at Alex Nieto’s memorial, a landslide of flowers.

An emergency drill at NERT to teach us how to self-organize and keep records. Head down counting people in and out of Logistics as incident after incident came in to Planning and Operations; adrenaline and worry and focus and exhilaration. When we got through it, high-fives all round.

At the exquisitely restored Curran Theatre to see Fun Home with my wife and our kids (it’s great; you should go.) The audience filled with lesbians a generation older than us; the ones who cared for men dying of AIDS; my angels, the saints of our city. May I walk in their sacred footsteps.