Resignation: A city dweller looks back on exploring weekends among San Francisco’s gritty downtown

February 22- February 28, March 4 – March 10

I couldn’t think of a better feeling than waking up on a late Saturday morning and realizing you’re living right in the center of a big city. Just about anything is at your feet, like a quiet cappuccino at Jane on Fillmore Street or a bus over to a deep, cold stroll along the Marina and maybe some shopping or dog watching at Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley. But I wouldn’t be caught dead heading downtown to Union Square.

Urbanites have their quirks for sure– you pick up a variety of oddities subconsciously from countless souls you come across in a melting pot as any landscape as this well as our quirks. For strangers to each other, all we can be sure of is a mass, mutual love for San Francisco/New York/Chicago/Seattle/etc. and that we are gracious to share. Our own little secret. And that’s how any big city’s downtown becomes the least favorite of all of us here.

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In all the sprawl of the uncharted concrete jungle, why would you stay downtown? It’s a tourist destination, a generalized spot watered down to prey on any unsuspecting passerby. Downtowns, we forget to remember, are no secret. The flagship stores and family-friendly food franchises that line the Market Streets and Sunset Boulevards and Broadways all over the globe leave nothing to the traveller’s imagination. And isn’t that why we travel, for something completely new and intriguing to all we’ve ever known? Leave it to the locals to show you a good time, not a legion of other lost visitors. They wouldn’t be able to tell you where the closest Philz is.

On that note, I wake up some Saturdays and head straight to the dead zone of urban sprawl. And why would I ever do that to myself? Prior work obligations, that’s why. For three years now I’ve been a local tour editor for Stray Boots— absolutely one of the best ways to get the most out of exploring a new city and on your own terms. Stray Boots is a New York-based app with hundreds of tours ready at your fingertips, most of these actual scavenger hunts that, either alone or with multiple players, you can get really interactive with the destination as the tours take you down alleys and into famous hat shops for the answers and even great photo ops. And here in San Francisco, you would have found me sometimes aimlessly wandering this little town to make sure all the Bay Area tours are up to date. It’s a given that Stray Boots would create tours around the most popular places on the map. And it’s my job– a job most certainly to be proud about. A job I’ll most certainly be sad to leave.

With the incredible progression in my career as a social media marketer for Wish and the little time I do have left to focus on my weekly musings here on AWBTB, I feel that the time for me with Stray Boots has strayed itself. I find myself wandering along a promising new path that will help me reach my destination, uncertain yet more clear than when I first got my hands dirty in downtown treks nearly three years ago. A chance to walk around a city you love and seem to know in and out was the only excitement a post-grad like myself could encounter– but for the places I go now, I wish they could excite me. Albeit some pretty Victorian-preserved storefronts I see nothing but outdoor strip block malls that make me realize how much more there is to explore not just here, but beyond the boundaries of this city.

I find myself talking down San Francisco a lot nowadays, too. I’ve been here for seven years, properly lived within its city limits for two– and for being a native in the greater Bay Area I do feel at times that I’m outgrowing it. In being a part of Stray Boots I was embarking on my own personal journey to see a new side of my home city, but now all has been seen and the wanderlust is only getting out of hand. I’ve worn these stray boots down and now I shall trade them in for something new– shiny new shoes are always hard to turn down.

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I came to the decision to part ways with Stray Boots, but not without an everlasting and most welcomed bittersweet taste. I’ll be glad to know what fun facts are to be found scattered across North Beach and Union Square, forever knowing those routes without batting lashes and able to spew out questions to fellow friends like “who is the Nike goddess modeled at on Union Square?” or “what city were the beat poets trying to get away from [Hint: look up to the entrance at their old hangout, Vesuvio].” For mingling among the crowds of tourists out in full force in North Face and scarves they just bought there made the start of the task before me seem like such a nuisance, but at the end of the day, at the end of this road I’ll be glad to carry this seemingly mundane knowledge about this city wherever I’ll go next. And in remembering them, I’ll always have that little bit of San Francisco, no matter how sick of it I may get at times, that will keep me in awe of its uniqueness.

One of of my most beloved quotes about the world comes from appropriately enough my favorite book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:

“Look at everything as if you were looking at them for the first time, and the last time.”

The field work completed for this small but ambitious app will wore this city out for me, just as it got to remind me that someone, somewhere, is always new to this place and will be indebted to the wonders I captured for them– even if I’ve forgotten how wonderful they are to myself.

 

Zine-terest 2: A Review of Local Zines Every Thursday

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Hey Girl Hi by Courtney Riddle and Sara Diamond

Found at: The Grand Newsstand

Pages: 16

Cost: $4

Subject: Relationships

I think the best way to explain “zines” to the general public was described somewhere as pretty much personal blogs compiled into a book. They’re not magazines in the mass-produced sense  filled with quippy and brief articles that are insightful on a set interest or hobby like fitness or fashion– though these smaller counterparts may have these same focuses. The insight from reading zines comes from the individual focus within the photocopied pages, to take what you will from whatever its publisher felt like they had to publish.

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With Hey Girl Hi, a mini 16-pager that came from the whimsy of Courtney Riddle and Sara Diamond, the focus is on the comical enduring friendship between two girls as shown through series of redrawn text messages. They could be true conversations, coming from the instances where one recipient calls the other “Riddle” when asking about a hat, and if they were true that would be marvelous to know that our best friends really are always there when we need to know the recipes to tempura fry anything, sharing emojis, and going over the woes of a “cray” night that left evidence of a hangover and dirty dishes. Sisterhood is real and strong, just as it is simple in the conversations that run throughout the zine.

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So take from this little guy (or more likely gal) the best example of the human condition, particularly half of humans, the female ones. A lighthearted, quick read of messages that hit quite close to home when it pinpoints the absurdity that makes our friends friends in the first place. If you can’t put your finger on what makes girlfriends special, don’t bother trying. Get a laugh and appreciate the girls that are in your life! These authors did. An easy reader’s digest of sorts narrowing on one friendship that feels like the thousands we harbor ourselves.

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I can’t wait to dive into my next great zine find, I Spend a Lot of Time Thinking About the Future I Wish I were Ready to Embrace, another beauty by Courtney Riddle! See what happens next Thursday 🙂

 

 

 

People in my Life Right Now

February 15 – February 21

There’s my sister of course. Milan. Yes, we really are Milan and Paris. There’s no other London, Berlin, Sao Paulo, or third sibling that everyone usually follows up asking about when they learn our names. Our parents just loved how they sounded, complimented, each other. She is also my roommate and I revel in the rare moment when she does stay at our apartment so we can have dinner or drinks together either at Harry’s Bar or Thai Stick. We used to go to Route 101 on Van Ness but we forget to have cash on us nowadays. When Milan asked what kind of wine they had, the bartender Trey (then dubbed “Diego” once learning our own names), simply said Red and White.

My old coworker and fellow indie writer and graphic novelist Aaron’s been messaging to hang out lately, and I’ve been so busy to remember that I’ve got a message from him. But huzzah! We’ve got a lunch date set up. Depends now on when– where.

I see Allie everyday. Same with Lauren, Celina, and Milli, Brandon, and Debra. Allie and Debra run the office, Debra more so when Allie’s tending to the personal itineraries of our company founders. They keep our kitchen well stocked with everything from avocados to Flaming Hot Funion Rings and Girl Scout Cookies and fresh juices. They also keep our Happy Hours alive and well oiled with never-ending Fireball shots and human-size bowling. Not only do we work together but when work isn’t in session we’re out grabbing drinks at Uno Dos or noshing on Mac N’ Cheese at Archive. We’ve also attended movies and spin classes together. I’ve found myself so lucky to be working and experiencing this city with the sweetest and most brilliant people I know.

Gaby is my go-to city girl. She has never failed to find out the free museum days or big sales and cool art exhibits going on across San Francisco. Like me, there was a time she couldn’t come back to this city and we were so far apart from each other, from our mutual friends, from an epicenter with so much going on yet both of us chained to hometowns that really were sucking us dry of everything but our ambitions to return.

Yvonne runs the creperie in the atrium of my office building. She knows when I need a coffee or Norwegian Crepe, without the greens. It’s consensus at work that Moolicious Crepes offers better coffee than the $2000 machine sitting in our kitchen. I like to ask how the location at the Metreon is doing or when she next plays tennis. She just came back from a match in Vegas.

The young cashier at Target forgets who I am and always elaborates on how he’s got to work early shifts on Saturday and still balance his homework fro City College.

The shadow of a large man who followed me down the street from the bus outside my office and proceeded to viciously touch himself.

There’s Kyle, whom I texted in a panic about the perv. He’d calm me down. He says he would so love to kick the man’s ass– not exactly comfort but strangely I do feel better. I message him a lot nowadays. Instagram writers turned Snapchat buddies turned late night conversationalists on subjects like the Loch Ness Monster, writing in coffeehouses (whether Rook lives up to the standards of Philz Coffee), and how he hates snacks, especially cookies. Late night despite it being almost 3 AM where he’s at– the East Coast.

I try not to overthink what our talking really is, but I can’t help dream about what it could turn into. It might seem far fetched or unrealistic or downright silly to be so interested in someone so far off. But when you feel connected, that’s enough to forget the gruesome mileage. Because it’s so easy to talk about stupid blunders at work or venting about the insecurity fits that overcome you and cause you to leave parties early and especially the people on the street who make you feel so disgusted since they have chosen you as their objects of their sexual harassment. Despite all the people in my life right now sometimes you can feel like there is no one there at all. Yet talking to my friend in Jersey just never feels that way. It’s a simple pleasure, the little things we discuss that get me through the week. It all keeps me positive, ready to see who else might just pop into my life for the weeks to come.

And maybe one week it just might be him. In the flesh.

Recoveries

February 8 – February 14

BAD JOKES OVERHEARD THIS WEEK:

(looking up to the new light installments on the Bay Bridge after dinner at Epic Steakhouse)

The bridge is lit!

(sitting next to two skeevy-looking gentleman at the bar while I wait to meet my sister at The Corner Store

Hey man, what is the difference between an old bus stop, and a lobster with breasts?

– One is a crusty bus station. The other is a busty crustacean!

I also listened to two songs this week with their titles focused on “Recovery,” the first being a single by the Scottish tech group Chvrches (or “Ceviches” as my uncle claims is easier to remember), and a playful tune by Frank Turner. Both sing of getting back on track, getting back to the way things were with someone beside their side or as their reward for recovering. The Oxford Dictionary tells us that “recovery” is ‘The return to a normal state of mind, health, or strength.’

So if it means to go back to normal, does it always mean better?

Because maybe it’s a recovery I don’t want. Maybe this whole time in San Francisco is just a phase and just like that, it could all be gone and I’ll be back in suburbia and that’s one terrible finish if that’s where I’m meant to be. Yes, that’s what I dread. I live month to month subleasing such a lovely little place from my aunt, a place I usually have to myself and barely gets stocked with food because I’m always eating at work. A job I enjoy. People who I hang out with when 9-5 is done. Doing things together like sing-alongs at the Castro or $40 16 oz steaks on the waterfront in the rain. Doesn’t it all sound like a dream? All of this dreaminess will shatter sometime. Like dreams, I might actually wake up from this. We all might. There’s been talk about how the tech industry is ready to burst within a few years and with that so shall all we’ve been accustomed to.

The line in Frank Turner’s song is probably what’s getting me to overthink all of this:

’cause broken people
Can get better if they really want to
Or at least that’s what I have to tell myself if I’m hoping to survive

The faded hope in there is actually delightful. If they really want to. So if recovering is for the better, then this dream is something else. We’re not going to be the same. We’re going to be different, we’re going to keep growing.

And we’re going to forget those terrible jokes in the process.

 

A Successful Night at Novela Celebrating my Book!

I couldn’t be more happy than I was on Thursday night celebrating the release of my first full length nonfiction book A Year by the Bay! The turnout was incredible and nothing felt more wonderful than being surrounded by so many close friends and family and all their love and support! Just celebrating alone– drinking it up on Princess Leias and Jay Gatsbys, passing around copies of my book, and just getting a chance to really talk about the process and inspiration that got me to here– everything was just a simple and fun reminder that all of this, all that I love doing, is worth it. I’ll keep writing just as I’ll keep making proud those who support this crazy, silly little love of mine that I passionately pursue.

 

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