Tag Archives: San Francisco

Second story.

We paid the rent early this month to make a good impression on the new landlord. All the utilities are covered. No one is after me for anything that I can think of. I’m sitting on the second story of a temperature-controlled, luxury bus on its way to a campus full of friendly faces and free food. It all seems damn near perfect.

Then I spot the first desperate homeless person of the day. Using the sidewalk as a bed and the trashcan nearby as a pantry, I wonder where he came from and how it all came to this.

Right on cue, a parade of Uber commuters come into sight. Each cheap four-door sedan is the same—the passengers are elbow-to-elbow in the backseat staring at their phones while the driver silently dodges other Uber drivers’ angry maneuvers. It seems someone is always getting screwed in our “sharing” economy.

And the scene wouldn’t be complete without a swath of tourists aiming their sparkling new iPhones toward a row of palm trees planted along the Embarcadero. Each of them tries to capture the Instagram shot that will define their time away from home. Their time in a place where the homeless are part of the landscape, Ubers outnumber daily drivers, and a lucky guy sits on the second story of a fancy bus and watches it all unfold.  

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Two Midwesterners walk into a bar.

Our neighborhood is almost as dog friendly as it is people friendly. Which means we don’t have to stay home to spend an evening with Woody. This leads to all sorts of local adventures involving food, drink and light-hearted socialization. This is how we met Jeff.

An older, distinguished individual wearing a corduroy sport coat, Jeff first got acquainted with Woody. I shared the brief saga of the purebred black lab abandoned at the pound in Missouri and the conversation lead to various personal stories on both sides of the table. It wasn’t long until we discovered we were both Midwestern transplants who fell in love with San Francisco. Then we transitioned into what-do-you-do-for-a-living part of the talk and discovered that we’d both relocated to pursue copywriting gigs. At that point, we were both obviously delighted by the fact that even with over 30 years difference in age, we’d had such similar experiences.

There was a pause in the conversation as we checked in with our respective tables. Then Jeff leaned forward as if he had a secret to share. He lowered his voice slightly.

“But you know what really shocked me the most when I moved to San Francisco…,” he asked with a slight grin.

A million things ran through my head as I considered my own experience.

“…every single apartment I looked at, there were NO screens on the windows, I couldn’t believe I’d moved to a place where there were no mosquitos coming in! It was amazing.”

And that’s when I knew I’d crossed paths with a true Midwesterner with a genuine appreciation for how special this place really is.

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San Francisco Jr.

If a city is similar to a living thing, what do you do when they start to turn on you? When strange new outfits made of steel and glass are quietly unveiled? When their attitude shifts from come on in to get the fuck out of my way? When a warm embrace becomes a careful negotiation and a $25 credit check? SF, my love, you’ve always had problems, but when did you become so interested in entertaining all your rich friends?

I’ve got my eye on you, but you probably didn’t notice because you were scrolling through selfies on your phone and your ears were plugged with white buds. You’re so beautiful—just don’t forget those who were there for you during the awkward stages and still supported you after your .com phase.

It’ll be OK. When the others follow the empty promises of better lives in another city or suburb, I hope you know I’ll still be here engulfed in the smell of your eucalyptus perfume, exploring the neighborhoods of your soul and enjoying your panoramic points of view.

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A perfectly timed, beautifully executed, single frame that captures the exact feeling I have when our drunk neighbors wake us up at 3:37 AM on Wednesday morning and the party doesn’t stop until roughly around the same time our alarm goes off. Thanks itspeteski

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Lost and found.

These days, in the age of facial recognition, push-button fobs and coded numeric pads, keys are beginning to have some kind of old-fashioned appeal. A physical object, cut to loose specifications, that works together with a mechanical device to help make things happen.

Of course, the trouble with physical objects is that they can go physically missing.

This is the situation I found myself in early Saturday morning. We’d quickly packed the car and left the city the night before. There I sat, two hours from home in a small cabin surrounded by nature and all I could think about was a wad of silver and gold metal lost somewhere along the way. Access to front doors, back doors, basement doors, garage doors, padlocks, bike locks, seat locks—I considered all the places and things I could no longer get into or undo. We’d deliberately planned a weekend getaway, but suddenly I felt completely lost.

I checked my pocket a second time for my stray car key. The one that lives on its own. It was still there. Like a subtle suggestion that it’s the only one I really need. I looked out the window and listened to a bird sing a good morning tune next to a small waterfall. I considered the tiny apartment back in San Francisco, the rat-infested storage unit, the dingy parking garage where the ceilings ooze paint remover and considered a new perspective. Maybe the lost keys were a sign that I wasn’t supposed to go back? Maybe San Francisco is as done with me as I am done with it? Maybe I was on the verge of true mutual break-up?

Probably not.

The next day we returned to the city and the keys were on the floor of the parking garage right where I dropped them. I felt a little embarrassed. And relieved. I stuffed my custodial-grade collection into my pocket like nothing ever happened and went back to thinking about the quiet place with the bird and the waterfall.

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About last Saturday.

We’re all aware of the fact that life can be reduced to a series of what-if scenarios and dissatisfaction. Plenty of people spend their days that way. But those of us who are lucky enough to be influenced and charmed by others and their insatiable encouragement, have 40th birthday parties.

Booze is mandatory. Pizza is never a bad idea. And space to socialize is best advised for everyone’s comfort. While all the logistics were carefully considered and necessary purchases were made well in advance, space turned out to be the unexpected issue.

In the spirit of welcoming everyone—humans and canines—the park was our original destination. The green grass of Washington Square was perfectly suited for the festivities. But then the rain came.

We didn’t know what was in store until the last minute. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until we stepped out on the sidewalk—with bags and backpacks full of party-in-the-park  necessities—that we discovered our fate. Watching people rush by with umbrellas in their hands, I cursed each drop as they collected on the windows and hoods of the cars parked along the street.

It was the time to pivot, as folks in the tech industry like to say. So, pivot we did. Actually, to be fair, it was more like a U-turn as we went back into our apartment to prepare our 400-square foot, one bedroom abode for an undetermined number of guests.

As the buzzer began to send electrical signals from the gate to the third floor, a small crowd began to form. Slightly frustrated at first, I was suddenly struck by the realization that the small crowd was comprised of some of my favorite people on earth, the small space was filled with thought-provoking conversation and there was plenty of pizza to go around (there was even a glutton-free option).

Who needs space? Who needs sunshine? San Francisco is supposed to rainy and cold. City life is supposed to force people to overcome small spaces with dirty stairwells and pigeon problems. The whole event started to feel like a bit like a movie sequence. Wine, beer, dogs and adults all cross pollinating, socializing and making the most of a rainy Saturday afternoon in North Beach.

I leaned against the plaster wall and took it all in. As people churned among one another, all I could do was smile. Smile like a dork. Smile like the world is OK. Smile…and crack open the bourbon.


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