Yep, a day late and a dollar short. Story of my life.
It’s amazing how stubborn I am. Upon my arrival and all the way up to this morning I was insisting it is colder here than San Diego. I insisted on wearing my boots. I insisted on layers. I insisted on fog. Fog jilted me, probably angry that I’m only home twice a year and withholding, the bitch, and the boots were hot and melted the skin on my feet like wax. I won’t post a picture; let’s just say my pinky toes LOOK angry. And I mean furious. As I write this they are hosed in Neosporin and weeping like cranky toddlers.
But yesterday I was still in boots and determined to comb the City for cheap, which meant very little mass transit and a lot of footwork. I breakfasted at a neighboring cafe and then walked to Grace Cathedral. To the disappointment of many in my life, I’m not religious, but I’m a sucker for churches, synagogues, and other places of worship. I walk into these places with the ready knowledge that I probably won’t encounter a band of raucous hoodlums. (Hang tight; that becomes relevant again later.) My favorite sacred places have usually been missions, but there’s a Greek church in San Diego County that can take my breath away. Grace and I go way back; I saw it for the first time back when I lived in Sunnyvale and trying to bounce back from a broken heart that I thought would level me (and maybe it did just a little). It was Christmas. Cathedrals are extra intoxicating at Christmas when you’re alone.
Grace currently has some kind of ribbon installation hanging from its rafters, and because I like the romance I didn’t Google or research the whys or wherefores. It’s stunning to look up into it, a blatant reference to the glory of an Almighty somewhere, and He and I had a bit of a conversation while I lowered myself into a pew. Part of it was me accusing Him of hiding out in this space and him calmly (of course calmly, does God shout, or need to?) stating I wasn’t looking hard enough for Him out there. I explained that the burning bushes in the desert weren’t revealing Him. He admitted that He had been there, done that, but I could try other places. Love the vague look, God, and my apologies for rolling my eyes.
From the ribbons I headed down to North Beach to sit with the Italians for a bit–a different kind of sacred. There some longhand pages happened, a visit to City Lights happened, and then back to Market to hop an N line to my previous home. Hot, still. The Inner Sunset, hot. I could have wept, but I had promised in my own vague way to look for God in some sort of detail, so I got off the N and went in search of another bookstore, Green Apple on the Park. That was a straight-line sell to live there again if there ever was one; I hadn’t had a bookstore in the Sunset for nearly six years. More books procured (my luggage is going to be so heavy), and then Paxti’s, and then back to the hotel to peel off the boots and watch cartoons until a Litquake event down by my old workplace.
The bonus to finally venturing out to a new neighborhood for my hotel stay, as I’ve written before, is that I get used to a whole new set of rules and a somewhat different City. Okay, “get used to” is a strong phrase–maybe “am exposed to” would be more apt. For instance, I’ve never ridden the 19 Polk bus, a route that runs from Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf to the Navy Yard. I couldn’t have dreamt up a more diverse collection of words and their hidden meanings than that route. And the passengers on that route didn’t disappoint in the definition of “character.” A woman who had to be 60 if she was a day, wearing a nun’s habit and cursing in a sermon-level volume insisted that she was pregnant. I tend to grant these folks two things: wide berth and benefit of the doubt (didn’t I just ask God to show himself earlier in the day? Maybe this was His inclination). When she got off the bus, however, two friends who rode that line on a regular basis shook their heads and chuckled at each other. “Wonder if she plans on delivering soon,” one of them said. “She’s been saying she’s going to have that baby for two years now.”
Okay, welp, God maybe having fun instead.
Later, after the Litquake reading I attended, I felt like I fit into Mother Swear’s Seminary. I don’t do groupie well, which I learned at my first Litquake in 2011. I tend to be too quiet, but I don’t know what to say in the presence of really stellar wordsmiths. Still, I got a book signed by the most excellent Andrew Sean Greer, best known for perfecting a Fitzgerald premise in his Max Tivoli, and a writer willing to read something he was working on instead of reading something he had already perfected (although the work-in-progress was more perfect than all of my drivel). He noted that he was working on it in Italy, where it poured out of him, and then he came back here and he was back to writing in slog mode. “But that’s writing, too,” he insisted, looking deep into the crowd, and I knew he was right; I KNOW IT TOO DAMN WELL.
God showed up anyway, then, even if I got all awkward in the realization.