Just a Girl

August 31 – September 6

Let’s actually begin on the Saturday afternoon from the previous week. if I’m going to move forward with this particular piece of the latest week, allow myself to step back into the preceding one. Because what happened then influences what follows in these past seven days.


You ever talk to strangers? I do. Not willingly but the chance of doing so may occur if you pick an open table next to a kind, unfamiliar face reading the SF Chronicle, and proceed to scribble down thoughts and words into a huge notebook. Twice in less than two hours my works was approached by curious older, European men. It’s the easiest place to meet non-alarming strangers to converse with, only coffee on everyone’s mind and no other expectations than that. Being a coffee addict myself, we know all too well how good of a mood we get once we taste that perfect blend, and breathe in that smoky, deep scent of the raost. I go to coffeehouses to feel at peace, and I’m certain even if not the definitive reason for the rest of the patrons, each one of them will feel that way some time in this duration. Perhaps so at ease you’re in in the mood to strike up conversation– or won’t mind it when someone tries it with you.

From my talk from both gentleman– a German named Peter and a French-born Jean-Pierre– I learned of things like ancient Grecian ruins within the waterways of underground Istanbul, and the films of Geling Yan and the colorful life of Paul Bowles. Just a lot of art as influenced by a person’s simple existence. Real experiences. And talk of these experiences earned me a most beloved gift I’ve ever gotten from a stranger– beyond just great conversations. Only less than five minutes of my first acquaintance’s departure from the cafe did he return, with no words and a single present wrapped in red paper with polka dots. He gently laid it on my table. Opening it on the spot after he was gone I discovered that it was the one book that eluded me for quite some time: Patti Smith’s Just Kids. He had asked earlier if I’d read it and I regretfully told him I waited for the day I could get it at a really good bargain price, having missed my chance two years ago when I came across it on sale for $4 at the Half-Price in Concord.

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. Google Images.

Now it is mine for nothing. Actually, I make it a point to gain this gift not for nothing. The first payment to this generous, unspoken debt being to finish the book– and that will be easy. Patti Smith’s rich prose and attention to details that might seem vivid for having occurred 40 years ago grab me  into the story of budding artists relying on faith and love in a strange city during an era of starry promises. For knowing little about Patti Smith or her music, this is a very enticing memoir I read as a simple story with a new character and truly not knowing what will next happen to her. I forget for so rich a tory, that all of it is, as a nice surprise, real.

The second payment is to keep on going. Go where? Well, this whole encounter has also been a chance to really see that all I do now is nothing– nothing now that’s slowly building its way to somewhere better. Patti Smith agrees. There’s always going to be an audience needing your particular work. Every night I sit crookedly in my bed chiseling away chapters of this book, or walk around these hot September afternoons catching hints of fall in the smell of the air. I’m trying to live on the edge or make the most of every second I’m given in this city, but really, at this age and time in your life– you really can’t have it all. Not now, at least. Because you’re still just muddling through all sorts of emotions– especially those emotions of the self-diagnosed FOMO, Fear of Missing Out– and you just have them, without any real sense of direction. The thing that they keep telling you is that it’s OK. Keep having them, and don’t do anything if you can’t.

I read a lot this week. I read about a particular time and place where one of the most influential and kick ass women in rock and roll wasn’t that kick ass. She was a lost twenty-year old who found another twenty year old just as lost, and just as driven to find their direction in a city like New York. Timing was perfect. I hope to find mine too, I know I will. I have encouragement from the right people, even if only just a small brush in the café on Fillmore and Sacramento Street. You can’t expect much from me now, but you will soon enough. For now, as I’m reading, I’m not anything in particular. Still just a girl, but at least she’s got a pen to start her in the right direction.


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