just another san francisco day

Woke up, lay in bed arguing with self about whether to go race. Lost argument, put on running gear and drove lickety-split to where I thought the starting line would be. Got lost. Decided to go for a run anyway. About half a mile in, found the runners under a huge tree, all ready to go.

“Am I too late?”

“No! But I have to let everyone else go, first.” So the race began, and then I registered and got my number, and off I went in pursuit. I picked off the competition one at a time; the eighty-year-old, the four-year-old, the hot blonde in the Genentech shirt. I figured she’d come after me, and sure enough, we paced each other along Chain of Lakes and up JFK.

My lateness blew what shred of a race plan I had out of the water, so I trotted, wheezing, and walked, fretting. I told myself that even if I made my worst time ever, at least I had shown up. I did notice that the race seemed much shorter than usual, the mile marks much closer together, and at one point I surprised the bejesus out of myself by thinking that running along a long slightly downhill stretch felt like resting.

God, Golden Gate Park is never more beautiful than in the morning, in the fog, its grass implausibly green, its trees implausibly imposing. I turned the corner into the Polo Fields and kept to the last shred of my race plan, which was to sprint into the finish. At first I couldn’t understand what the timer said when I crossed the line. I had to go back and check that I had, in fact, run a personal best. Despite taking a two-minute, quarter-mile handicap.

I have nothing but praise for this business of my metabolism working as advertised. Australia’s sporting culture, so brilliantly described in George Perec’s novel W, gave me an antagonistic relationship with my short-legged, short-sighted body. The first crack in the ice was having two glowing pregnancies and efficient, awesome births; Julia helping to demonstrate that Claire was not a fluke.

And now I have been running for six months, very slowly, but very consistently; and a little faster and a little further every time. I’ve lost weight but gained muscle; I still have a pot belly, but no one asks if I’m pregnant any more. I have far more energy and can walk a mile, uphill, without even noticing it, making 24th Street BART a lot more useful than it used to be. What really amazes me is that the dedicated sadists in the PE department at my high school have failed, in the end, to divorce me from my own flesh.

Got home, rounded up kids at some expense of spirit, walked over to Salome’s house for coffee (grownups) and playing (kids). Shannon called and I went downstairs to heartily approve the tiles she bought for our front step at the creative reuse warehouse down in the industrial district; a whole box for less than the cost of a single new tile retail.

When I got back upstairs Jamey and Rowan had arrived, and we all decided to catch the bus to Mission Playground. We took up two lengthways seats on the 49 Van Ness. Milo was squished between Salome in her Jackie O glasses and Jack in his green checked fedora. His solemn freckled two-year-old expression was the exact midpoint between their two faces.

We stopped in at Borderlands to admire Ripley and her half-brother Sly. When we got to the playground, tucked around the back of Valencia, far from the traffic, the trademark Mission sunshine was pouring out of a cloudless sky. Milo drove the playground train for an hour while the grownups sat in the shade and talked politics. And then we had lunch at Burger Joint, and then we caught the bus home, and now the girls are playing in a moderately friendly way with the toy trains, while Jeremy and I read the Internets.

Have I mentioned that I love it here? I love it here.

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