Archives for posts with tag: north beach

SoloFriday

There’s something to be said for a solo Friday as a woman in San Francisco.

Alack and alas, I am inherently a social creature, and nothing is more calming than a Friday night in a French cafe, overlooking Washington Square Park. At the corner of startup and ’69, the sun lingers lazily (as it so cliched-ly does) over the pulsating limbs of Monterey Pines, and the sun sets behind chilly tourists and bustling locals as they move to their meal, their mistress, or their next martini. A golden glow fitted by the fog settles over North Beach, and the sea-birthed wind sweeps across the parked Teslas and Vespas that cross continents and generations of dreamers and schemers. An unexpectedly calm evening and chilly wind places me gingerly in a corner booth, a drink for one, a moment for me. Acoustic semi-francophone music brings a smile to my lips and a mischievous glance to my eye.

I’m flying solo and decently attractive – a near-30 blue-eyed firecracker with an expressive face and a ready laugh, but not turning any heads. I’m seated near the window, placed at the front of a half filled restaurant, in front of passing crowds. My glass of red sits lazily beside my iPad, as I struggle with the non-touch and sound, getting used to the fact that I am typing on glass and nothing else.

They seat another woman next to me – younger, more pulled together than I. Whereas I enjoy my bright blue Adidas (complimented by the waitress, I must add), pants normally relegated to lazy Sundays and sick days, with hair hastily twisted into something that resembles a style, she is perfect. On-trend chambray, delicate blush and perfectly tousled hair. She sits facing the window while I position myself sideways (I tell myself that facing out seems intimate, voyeuristic, confrontational, but really I just hadn’t thought of sitting forwards.)

The staff from the next-door haberdashery come outside for a smoke, styled and coiffed in just-so trousers and rascally grins. I think of my fine lines and an extra ten pounds. My also-solo companion’s makeup is perfect. I worry about ragged cuticles, and being the weird girl typing in the corner of the restaurant. An accordion comes over the stereo and I think of Amelie and Creme brûlée and studying in France and being 19. The waitress smiles at me across the room.

It could be 1920, or 1950, or 2030, depending on the technology and how often people look at their phones. San Francisco whirs around me, and I drink my wine. And write my story. And sink into stillness, and peace, and nostalgia. Creativity comes from melancholy, from thoughtfulness. And I sit alone on a Friday night, adoring the window pane laced twinkly lights and comrade-in-solo.

Unfortunately, she’s brisk with the waitress, to the point of rude and abrupt, and I look down at my virtual Vanity Fair and drown myself in Wolcott and Fanfair. After paying the bill and downing her glass of Shiraz, she leaves, perfectly belted trench coat flapping in the wind as she urgently strides north.

I order another glass. The sky is on fire.

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Walking around near our apartment the day after New Year’s Eve, I noticed more than just the occasional crusty upchuck on Stockton and bleary-eyed revelers catching cabs at 10 AM (sartorial note: the light of day does not forgive sequins). Most pressing, nay shocking to me was the shuttering of our go-to dim sum restaurant, Gold Mountain.

I’m no dim sum expert, but Gold Mountain had everything we looked for in a local place to eat in the morning. Often, Saturday or Sunday morning presented a challenge, namely that I crave food at that time and my better half does not. Despite my hankering for poached eggs and toast, the block and a half long line at Mama’s in North Beach seemed crazy to me (IT’S JUST BRUNCH I want to yell IT’S NOT WORTH WAITING  FOR THREE HOURS) and besides, he dislikes breakfast food anyways, so two and a half years ago we ventured forth to Chinatown for a solution.

Dim sum solved our breakfast/brunch problem: it’s not typical eggs-and-starch, it satisfies salt cravings, and it can be inexpensive (fun fact: my favorite dim sum dish growing up, according to my mother, was duck’s feet). This is how we happened upon Gold Mountain – although I love occasional trips to Yank Sing when family is in town, I’d much rather partake in cheap and cheerful bites off carts in Chinatown. Gold Mountain, on Broadway, was less busy than other large establishments but a  better environment than some of the hole-in-the-walls on Stockton. No matter what we ordered, we’d get out of there for $20ish for two, stuffed to the gills with Shiu Mai and Bao.

I guess you know you’ve lived in one area for long enough when you encounter a shuttered favorite with a sad sign in the window stating that their lease is up and you are genuinely surprised. There’s a twinge of sadness, an exclaimed expletive, and then a chuckle. It wasn’t because it was the best meal you’ve ever had, it wasn’t because they treated you well or recognized you when you came it: it’s because that’s where you went regularly, it was familiar and dependable and it’s where you went.

Walking around today, I see more papered storefronts and “closed effective immediately” signs. I guess this happens on the first of the month more often than I notice, but I’m seeing it more today. Out with the old…

Rabbit? Where?

I’m dead serious – I actually physically dodged tourists today on my run. Not just avoided one gently, or did my best to surf the wave of maps, I actually had to hurtle out of the way of a tourist. I’m not wading into the traveler versus tourist debate, I’m merely pointing out the fact that I was nearly clotheslined by a fanny-packed visitor while running on the embarcadero this afternoon.

Normally, I do my training runs during ‘local’ time, that is, on my way into work, or on my way home. During these dawn/dusk times, the majority of people I encounter are either runners or commuters, heads held high while striding forward confidently, or heads to the ground, mobile to the ear, bustling towards the towering concrete in front of them, or back towards the boats that ferry them back to their homes. These are my compatriots, my comrades; places to go, and not enough time to do it in (which is why I normally try and combine my running with my commute – efficiencies!). We understand each other: a fellow runner will nod my way (or not) and stay clear of my path, and a commuter will understand that I will run around them, and not the other way around. This delicate dance repeats every morning or night, and we get it.

Today (President’s Day), I did my short run at about 1 PM. I laced up, headed towards North Point, and made my way towards the Embarcadero. My pace was pretty fast, and I was determined to make this a short but sweet jaunt, the opportunity to run off a bit of antsyness I had coming out of the weekend. Around Alcatraz landing, the foot traffic congestion got bad – individuals wandering aimlessly, groups of four or five taking up the entire walkway, as entire gaggle of folks waiting for their tour bus. Nothing gets me more excited about where I live than overhearing someone exclaim “this is the coolest place on earth!”, but there’s just one habit of theirs that I can’t stand: erratic walking.

I developed my irrational hatred of erratic walking while living in New York, while I was struggling to do my very best to not be too wowed by the ultra-awesome city I was in.These habits are endemic: the shuffle, the absent minded gaze, the meandering across the invisible lanes that all good and decent people naturally aspire to operate within. When I first started traveling on my own, I learned pretty quickly that the first thing a “cool” traveler does before you get to a new place is to study up on your maps before getting of the plane/train/what have you, and then keep your eyes at eye level, ignoring the unfamiliar and potentially life-changing views. Who cares if you’ve never seen the sites before – no one wants you to think you’re a tourist or anything.

So back to today – I’m running on the Embarcadero at a nine mile a minute nine minute a mile (lol) clip, doing my best to gauge the migratory patterns of the clusters around me. I made a choice, and ventured towards the buildings, going slightly upstream into what I thought was a perfectly placed void. At that moment, a wide-eyed traveler who’d crossed 20 feet in front of me saw something super cool on the bay, something truly awesome, and turned around to reach out to her mother. Utilizing my best catlike reflexes, I dodged away from a potential flooring, and nearly tripped over my own feet.

I heard a giggle and an apology behind me,  and I smiled. There’s so much to see in San Francisco, and I’m glad that person took the time to turn back and share it.

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Had an awesome conversation over tapas and beer at Thirsty Bear with an in-from-out-of-town work associate who asked an interesting question – what is that one thing about San Francisco that makes it, well, San Francisco? Other cities have defining characteristics- Boston has red brick buildings, higher learning, and history. New York has multiculturalism, Times Square, and a pace that overwhelms outsiders (including this little Wayfarer who only made it a year in 2007). Calgary has cowboys and the Rockies. London has style, sexy accents, and cobbled streets. Berlin has grit and dichotomies. Toronto has New York envy (I kid, I kid). San Francisco, he argued, has too much of everything.

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