I’m here. Back at home in the City. No pressure, because I want to come back here on a permanent basis, like a pitcher wants to stay with a team, hoping he doesn’t get traded to someplace like Houston (no offense, Houston), hoping he can stay in a City where he can ride a scooter to the ballpark without melting or getting run over, hoping fate doesn’t thread him in a slingshot and launch him into an unrecognizable abyss.
Kinda like that.
Extended metaphor aside, I landed here at 1:33 pm this afternoon and have been on my feet ever since, in a place where I am so at home that I forget that I’m here and how easy it is here compared to fighting every…damn…little…thing back in Southern California. It’s so easy here to hop a bus or light rail or train and nearly teleport oneself. Back in the desert I’m walking everywhere, long distances. Thinking of that now makes me nearly suicidal, that and the predisposition to chain businesses like Buffalo Wild Wings or Olive Garden or Starbucks. There was no way I was going into a Starbucks on this trip, even in the San Diego airport.
Why is it so hard there? Why is it so different? Why do people LIKE IT TO BE so different there? But I’m the only one who doesn’t like it there, and I’m the only one still trying to understand why people prefer it.
I guess if I sit still long enough, I’ll get it.
The hotel I selected would be a disappointment to nearly anyone else. Imagine a hotel that is clean but is so completely worn down that Allen Ginsberg probably stayed there. I think all of the furniture is from his heyday. There are two chairs, two ironing boards, one wastebasket the size of a loaf of bread, one microwave, one mini-fridge, and no alarm clock. For an establishment with a check-out time, it seems strange to have no way of telling time in the room. The room phone doesn’t even have a clock on it. Since I don’t wear a watch much these days I’m actually okay with no alarm clock, but it’s probably the first hotel room I’ve occupied without one. Two ironing boards…no alarm clock…seems like an odd choice of selected amenities.
The hotel is in a neighborhood that I’m not really familiar with, either, but I’m good with that; it suggests that I’m rediscovering my City. Rediscovering home wakes me up, knocks me out of that funky dream that is me relaxing so much that I miss a lot of what is going on around me. Example: I had forgotten how all of the downtown workers would dress up in black and orange dress clothes if the Giants make it to post-season. I had forgotten the Muni marquees, the height of the buildings and how SO MANY of them are that high, all knit together. (In the residence next to Legoland, there aren’t any tall buildings; just a tall windmill and a tall water treatment tower.) The conversations are still lacking (“like,” “you know,” “like” TELL US ALREADY), but there is a heartbeat here.
It’s getting more and more materialistic, though.
Just since I was here in the spring, this place has gone glittery. I’m seeing businesses wear away into realty signs and more demolition than I would care to. San Francisco is supposed to be funky, broken down, (did I mention my hotel room, and just not lovingly enough?) and full of near condemnation to the point where people who go to these dumps are the coolest people. Now the coolest people own wrecking balls. I don’t mind that Zuckerberg and Twitter and Uber showed up…but are they trying to create a world that doesn’t create anything organic or weird ever again? I know: for that I should move to Austin or Portland, but why should my home change? Why should I have to change where home is?
I’m writing from a clean but care-worn cafe this evening called Borderlands. The cafe is bright and old wood trim and spare and shouldered right up against a bookstore of the same ownership and the same name. It holds no world of wild ideas, like dripping its coffee from antique globe or serving only nitrogen ice cream, but it seems weird in the fact that all of its furniture matches. Still, I love to write here. Given a choice between writing here and writing at Philz in the Mission, which looks like a furniture flea market, I would probably take Philz, but I’m still happier here than at most places in the City because I know this place, I remember this place from tutoring on Sundays at 826 Valencia and visiting the Mission library and all of the writing groups. Be it ever so bland, it comes nowhere near a chain, and for four days I will come nowhere near a chain, either.