Tea, and by the Sea

June 19 – June 25

Old friends and new fancies, what more could you ask for a weekend staying in the City?

The breeze isn’t too bad when the sun is out, and the J-car that cuts through the steep side of Dolores Park and on tracks behind mossy Victorian houses is perhaps the prettiest rail line of Muni. I made these plans on a whim earlier in the week more so because of an irrational longing for tea. It’s been a frustrating complex, coming back from London obsessed with the lighter, aromatic luxury that tea feels like, versus the creamy, stiff but heartwarming sweetness of coffee– American style. I am a woman in peril, unsure of which beverage to which I pledge my allegiance. No matter the reason for tea, reason is treason– perhaps this was the British’s secret weapon all along to win back Americans: not Bond, not Harry Potter, not actors from Game of Thrones– but the simple opulence of tea time, and the various flavors that entice you to your liking.

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Lovejoy’s Tea Room, Noe Valley.

Tea is best enjoyed alone, I think. When you finally have a book or book of stories to read and a delicate mug or teacup to really take in the taste, to repose against a lumpy couch or at the kitchen table, it doesn’t matter. But there are exceptions, when there is no book to be had but a favorite familiar face, a face of a friend from the old stationery store you two worked together at and saw the worst of people losing their shit over paper goods. She gets there at the tea room, Lovejoy’s, in Noe Valley just off of the J line, and she’s with her roommate you’re meeting for the first time and that she’s been living with in Martinez for a year. Martinez! When we last met up she was living in Potrero Hill, and I feel instantly bad about making them both drive all the way from the far East Bay to here. But queue the piping hot pots of black vanilla-lavender tea and trays serving fresh fruit and perfectly-sliced sandwiches and all is forgiven. We talk about Europe, how I adored London and missed Belgium and was taken aback by the dirtiness, sadness of Paris. Everything feels sincere too, my friend is a dear. She’s the sweetest person I’ve ever worked with and she’s always in good company. This time, her roommate and I discover we’re both INFPs and I’m doing my best to help her prep for her first visit to Paris, even if my view of the City of Light was rather dim.

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The magical array of teacups for sale at Lovejoy’s Attic, across the street from the tea room.

Summer tea is a real thing. The warmth, the calming feeling and always best enjoyed in the evening when the days are longer. Best enjoyed with friends. Best enjoyed no matter where you are during the summer months. Ralph Waldo Emerson figured it out–

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.”

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Ocean Beach, San Francisco.

The following day when the sea called and the sun was out, the only thing left to do was drink in the air. Best served up salty, cool, and spraying against your feet in the dark sand. Summer tea has no real formula, but just for this weekend, that’s the kind of taste that leaves you wanting more– and to share it with favorite faces, always.

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Happy Now

January 30 – February 5

In the two years since arriving in San Francisco the world has changed. It’s a loaded sentiment I give you there but then again, it really is true. The obvious, surface change: my bangs are grown out, there’s new books in my apartment that I’ll never get around to reading, I’m fifteen pounds heavier than my California ID says I am (100 lbs exact). And then there’s a new man in my life, and a new president in the lives of millions of those who call the United States home. Good and bad, respectively.

Not so obvious, I’ve come to a realization. I am happier now. Or at least, I will be. The last few months were when I came to realize mistakes in love I made, bad calls in purchases of shirts and drinks and reliance in unlasting friendships, and finally my admitting of anxiety. But that shall all change again. Even as this new year is off to one of the darkest dawns of new days to come. All the opinions, the shouting, the marches, the headlines of stories that you wish were anything but the truth keep me going. The bad? It is all bad, but even worse would be if there were silence on the whole.

I am a generally quiet, if not timid person. I get in no one’s way; I won’t even go back to a counter at a restaurant to say that my order is completely wrong. It’s easier to not cause controversy, as far as my life goes, and everything really is pleasant. So long as no one treads on this casual, innate submission. But in this time, I see now that that doesn’t do much for a defining life, defining in your principles, your thoughts, your heart on your sleeve.

Maybe Hamilton has helped me understand this: “What’ll you fight for [Aaron Burr] if you stand for nothing?”  You couldn’t have asked for a better musical soundtrack than now to really hit those sentiments I feel.

And I feel that I want to show my support, to those who need it now and to speak up alongside those braver than me. Maybe it’s a mob-mentality thing, but it’s comforting to contribute to the conversation— even though a lengthy Facebook status is not going to change anything. But it’s spreading the awareness.

I know who I am, and I know that a miracle isn’t going to save this country overnight, at least, not with my contributions. Not with anyone’s actually. But it’s a positive statement, to know that with all the bad that goes on now, there’s going to be good. People are going to try to be good, to be better, to stand up for what’s right. On the macro-level, that’s comforting. But on a micro-level? The right thing to do for me is to have hope. To have a positive attitude just for my own life—the world seems to have it figured out, so why shouldn’t I (well, if the world really had it figured out, there’d have to be no outcry whatsoever)? Who would I be kidding with my daily postings and angry rants and call to arms for immediate uprising? I’m not a cynic, but I am an idealist based on what realities I have faced, and I like to think that my faith in the future guarantees happiness, as far as my little life is concerned. I say that now, I am happy: my job is taking off to new directions with little limitations and more room for the creativity that I’ve been seeking. I’ll soon be reaching my six-months marker in a relationship that for the first time in awhile, feels secure, feels like it will be forever—and maybe if it’s not, that’s something for the future, not now. And in this little drafty studio, still decked out in gold and mint streamers from birthday parties of yester-months and vases of white roses fake and real alike, that’s where I remain; I’m still here. Still getting by in this city of mine by the Bay where it seems like I will never leave. And why would you, when everything seems to be perfect?

So I’m a year older and I won’t change the world. I’m not looking to, because as far as I am concerned my world is right here in this city, with these people, and if I can’t keep those things together, God help me for when I do try and keep the rest of the world from slipping into catastrophe. I just have to keep living life, but this time more defined, with a clearer sense of direction— and so long as that direction is seen through rose-colored shades. Because in this day and age, heading down that blazing road with your bare eyes will drive you mad thinking that you can do what Icarus couldn’t— head straight into disaster thinking all will be well.

I think everyone else in this world is well prepared with those same shades, the ones who continue on that march in resistance to the new order. Beauty and love only changed things for the better.

Mark on the Jackson

January 23- January 29

This is a confessional about modern love hang-ups. It starts with a guy named Mark.

I saw Mark again. He’s got short, wavy hair and I usually see him in a gingham button-up under a dark jacket. It doesn’t matter what bus I usually see him on but today it’s the 3 Jackson line. He tries to sit towards the back in one of the four seats that face each other; I’m lucky enough to sit towards the front. I’m sure he’s seen me. There’s no animosity or past between us. We just happen to get off at the same stop, there on Gough and Sutter. We only talked once.

The only reason I’d want to avoid talking to Mark is just because I think he thinks there could have been something. Maybe at one point, maybe in that one evening ride when we first made small talk about some debacle that just happened on the bus around Polk Street, something that got us laughing at the absurd happenstance of any Muni ride. He was new to the city, getting a Master’s at USF and gleefully I spoke up on how proud of an alma mater I was. He made a great choice. He could have been a choice for me. But there were decisions I was already making– already committed to a second date to someone else, somewhere else. Someone who now isn’t anyone other than the love of my life.

But there are times where I still think, if Mark was the way things should have been. Here you have a young woman whose whole life revolved around the stories of fate and chance encounters that turned into greater stories, and after many of not-so-great encounters, resigned herself to the new world of modern dating. And it worked for her, the way that her chances faired better than her colleagues and friends who’d been on apps for months, a year– six months later, here she was, head over heels with the second man she matched with. And then out of the blue, Mark was on the bus again.

It’s been about three times since our first meeting, and the second time he came up to me and asked how I was. Thank God I remembered his name to save me from just an awkward reunion. He seemed really glad to see me again, and I won’t lie that it felt good to have a stranger’s face seem so satisfied to say “hey.” But the guilt came over me as I talked as politely as I could trying to brush him off, to get off the bus and head in the direction that I needed (it didn’t help we got off at the same stop, but at least turned into different directions). There was a brief moment of rejoice in seeing each other, and nothing more. I didn’t want him to think there was more. And by the time I saw him the third time, he got the hint.

I still can’t help but think, as in love and happy a relationship that I am in now, the way that my love life happened still gets me. I hate saying it, but it was inauthentic. The hopeless romantic in me still thinks about the ways I might have met boys or in the case of my boyfriend, if we would have ever met on the street by chance, no swipes involved. Would it ever have happened? What bars might we have nudged shoulders at? Whose car would we possibly have shared in an Uber Pool together? Could there ever have been some fluke accident that would take my boyfriend onto the very bus I ride, far away from his own work and route? Would this city have given us a chance on our own? Still sitting and thinking about the ways I could have met my lover in countless scenarios I’ll never have, I wonder if this is still all how it should be.

But Fate is Fate, no matter how you plug it into your life– it doesn’t just stop once you’ve signed up for the League or Bumble. From there, it’s still up to Fate on who you meet. And count my lucky starts, but friends who’ve been on the scene longer than I have are still there, looking, waiting, waiting for Fate to finally work itself out. My fate was decidedly more unique. It was easy. It was easy the moment I gave in to dating apps and let go of my ideals of an organic romantic encounter. And that’s the way it was supposed to be. If Mark was meant to be given any chance, then I would have met him a week before I’d signed up for CMB, weeks before I started feeling those butterflies for someone I had still yet to meet up with for a date but couldn’t wait to get a message from. Mark would have happened sooner if it was meant to be anything. If I was meant to meet my One and Only on the street, I wouldn’t have hit so many dead ends walking around this goddamn city.

I start thinking about everything that’s happened in those six months since I started dating someone. Think about those things, and replace his face with another and perhaps everything else about him. Put Mark in his place. In the place of the movie dates at the Castro or meeting my friends at the office on a Friday night for cheap drinks or by his side as I plan his hypothetical birthday out to John’s Grill. Would he have given even a shit about coming to hear my live reading revivals? I’d be looking up from the mic in the dimly-lit basement tearoom of the community center there in the Haight, right next to the Church of 8 Wheels roller disco, there in the small crowd and I’d look in his face, forget my own words in my mind for a second to reassure myself that he is there for me and wishing for my success up on the tiny stage. I think about these moments in my life where someone else might have been, and it kills me. Because when I start thinking about “what if,” there is no more what if, there is only now the sobering thought of can you imagine? I cannot– I will not, I will not forget any of the happiness that’s been brought to me on my own terms and fate designed for me. I am happy now, meant to be happy in this way with these memories with someone who everyday I thank God for not passing up that second day of matching in that first week on the dating app. Whose face I look into every day and comfortably associate with all those memories and moments I don’t have to hypothetically think about because they were real– and know that this was how it’s all supposed to go.

As an overthinking, anxiety-ridden person, I don’t feel ashamed wondering this as I see a familiar stranger’s face again. I think about everything, and then I remember that everything is good as it is. So simply put, I saw a guy on the bus again. A guy whose name is Mark and is a student at USF and who could have potentially been the love of my life. But he is not. That is life, and that is the life I love right now.

 

 

 

Storm Days

January 9 – January 15

All of a sudden the rain came.

What seemed like Karl the Fog just hovering over this city slowly turned into a well-planned coup of nature, the dark skies thickening as the mist lifted and the streets and deco houses of the Outer Sunset became visible again, only to be glossed over by torrents of rain that went from heavy to light. The feathery kind felt the deadliest— you underestimated how wet you’d really get until you’d been walking for at least four blocks.

So in the wake of these next few weeks you take extra water and Coca Cola from your work, maybe some Cheetos and chewy chocolate granola bars. You put these in your big bag, an old worn-down Eddie Bauer leather tote that used to belong to your parents and now can fit all these resources alongside the toothbrush and pair of pajamas and socks— because you’re shacking up, but shacking up elsewhere.

A movie night is much needed after weeks of cold and getting back into the groove of the work week, the new year— the last days of Obama and the America as you know it. It’s also been too long since seeing your boyfriend. You have only met up twice since reuniting since the dragging Winter Break. So bring on the storm— let our love keep us warm, as the song goes. But really, we’re gonna have to snuggle lots— it’s actually the best way we can beat the icy apartment he lives in that’s dropped to 41 degrees before. But no heater will be touched, as it’s a sacrifice worth making to save money for other pleasures of this godforsaken city.

I like rain. The petrichor is fine and the slick of cars going downhill on the roads winding through Pacific Heights can be heard so crisply against the wet pavement. It’s a metallic sheen that is as deadly as it looks without the right shoe traction. Sounds like a travesty. To me, it’s a pause in time. The usual protocol of sunshine and roses is easy for everyone— when you’re out in the rain beneath that gray sky, all is quiet, few people are about and only are walking somewhere out of necessity (unless they’re like me), and it’s like the everyday tune of a bustling life is taken a step back for the quiet. The peace. The reminder that it’s something you should do once awhile: pause and remember those beautiful moments when they’re absent. Even though the present state of weather in the city is just as breathtaking.

We wake up and though I heard the heavy fall of the raindrops from overhead on the sky roof that shadows this tiny room, there’s nothing now. It looks rather bright up top, like the sun broke through. We’re shacked up in layers of blankets and socks falling off our feet in a room that’s small but long just like the man whose love I’m entrusting in to keep warm during this storm. And it’s sunny out. But we’re still together, rain or shine, and though disappointed, we’re not going to let this weekend go to waste.

We start by never getting up until maybe, 2 hours after we first woke. It will then be 1 and my sweetheart’s already left to go fetch us some fresh hot coffee and those maple donuts sprinkled with bacon bits on top that I love. There’s never enough glaze though, and so I tell him to make it two for me. Me? I won’t get up until I hear he’s back and setting up the dining room table and the TV. I walk out and smile at the small gesture he’s done towards starting our late day. I’m just delaying time to use his bathroom— there’s still only one bathroom I’m comfortable using and that’s just mine.

I’ve seen my city in the rain many times before— its lightness as it descends gracefully through the air forty stories up from downtown, its illumination against the old yellow streetlights of Sutter Street all the way through to Fillmore where the trees get too heavily drenched and let off the water like little waterfalls from each leaf. But the Sunset feels exactly like a blank canvas, stretched out and devoid of trees and plenty of spaces to be painted over in the evening dew. As the sunlight dims out we can slowly hear the sticky pavement on the cars and crystalized beads latching onto the glass of the front windows of my boyfriend’s place. We’d been awaiting this only with extra shows, ordering in bland Thai food, and a refreshing shower in the evening that I very much enjoyed despite being not my own bathroom. The best part of all of this was warming up, getting through another season of my favorite show, and jumping onto the couch, acting like the worst was over. It was only the beginning.

This isn’t going to be a long recollection but just one of a moment in this week, a few moments about rain in this fogged up city. When the fog is too much, it gives gracefully out and then fiercely into nearly two months of dreary, pounding storms. We did finally get the rain. Terrific it was, as a second movie night was moved to my place amidst strung up twinkle lights that I’ve kept all through the months from my birthday party and the scattered blankets and pillows on the floor where we are joined by my sister dining on Village Pizza from Van Ness.

Now this is the movie night I had in mind, one enjoyed against the storm days of San Francisco outside and away, away from the company I now enjoy. We set ourselves up for this moment, with the late afternoon awakenings and disappointing sunlight and tasteless takeout, all that’s a part of what makes two people really enjoy each other’s company for this cold, wet day.

Hygge, or the Love that Keeps you Warm

December 5 – December 11

December is here. It’s an intimate time that puts things in perspective if other moments throughout the year hadn’t. Winter has that effect, naturally. The cold and dark mood of the world, especially as rain drenches all and you can see your breath cut through the air at 9 in the morning in the lowest part of San Francisco, is only fitting for the human spirit to start radiating what warmth it can to fight against them. And in Denmark, it’s all praise for such a phenomenon: ’tis the season of Hygge.

I first heard about Hygge in some radio commercial of Christmas Past for Cost Plus World Market, when the celebration was marked by candle light and lots of pillows and blankets around cups of hot coffee. “Hooga” is the celebration of coziness, as the word roughly translates to. Visit Denmark elaborates on the notion of Hygge as “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people… Danish winters are long and dark, and so the Danes fight the darkness with their best weapon: Hygge.” And I had my eyes set on Denmark this year for traveling. What I would have given to seen the country in the time of all this warmth; the candles, the thick wool, the cheerful winter markets and colorful harbors lively and busy against the cold of Copenhagen as boats bob in the canals. How marvelous it would have been to see, especially for a fairy tale city I grew up admiring from the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and summer visits to California-based Solvang. As life goes, Fate had it that my time would be spent elsewhere, with my oldest friend whom I met up with amidst the holiday sprawl of a snowless New York City. But, timing is everything. In the time that I would have seen myself gone away from home just made me remember that for this time of the year, home is where you really should be. Hygge isn’t just a holiday or in one place– it’s coziness all around, a feeling one must create so that the darkness of winter does not consume them. As far away as I remain from the hub of Hygge, there’s no telling that what I have experienced here in San Francisco during December isn’t Hygge at all.

Start with coming back from New York. Although the heart of the Silver Bells myth, it felt as Christmas in New York as it would in a palm tree laden paradise. Maybe it was the lack of snow, maybe it was how 5th Avenue and SoHo felt so identical to Union Square back home, but coming back to San Francisco is when I truly felt the Christmas spirit. There really is no place like home for the holidays, as the song goes, so I like to think it was that. Nothing beats the familiarity of

  • The wreaths in all the windows of the gleaming Macy’s across from the tree and skating rink flooded with amateur couples on the square
  • A strong cup of Irish Coffee sipped at the counter of the Buena Vista before a holly and bell-decked Cable Car ride back downtown in the brisk late night, through the rolling hills of Hyde Street and Chinatown
  • Lights strung around grand old Victorian ladies of Pacific Heights and their curbside bare trees, holly berry wreaths hung on white glass doors
  • The Embarcadero on a Friday night, the lights of cars and bridges and towering skyscrapers alike flickering against the rain, and carrying a single yellow umbrella in heels walking with a case of PBR under your other arm
  • Watching classics like Elf with baked Brie and Pecan Pie beer and friends in PJs, and moving on to not so classics like Krampus
  • Fur collared coats, cracked hands, old lace up boots, deep red lips like blood that lighten all the black you wear
  • How light glistens through the dozen delicate mason jar snowglobes you proudly make yourself for gifts
  • The many alley ways where these lights continue, as well as artificial garlands that are stuffed into the cracks of Japantown store windows and along the mirrors of Kearny Bars
  • A studio apartment kept cozy by a space heater and Home Alone 2 on repeat, where most evenings end in melted Junior Mints and whiskey-cokes, and the carolers visit in the constant sound of Ambulance sirens headed to the hospital up the street
  • Santas, Santas aplenty has Santacon rolls around once more– many of their hats ending up in gutters along Polk Street where the heavy rain of that Saturday float them along in floods of dirty water. But they’re too busy to notice, drunk on peppermint-chocolate schnapps and feeling alive in their cheap red suits and felt hats with white pom poms dangling by a lazy string. Some might be familiar acquaintances hosting a cramped party beneath cheap decor bought from your company, others being new faces with motherly intentions giving over their half of a turkey sandwich at Lefty O’Doul’s.

These strange, familiar occurrences really put forth that feeling of love and joy needed most in your city just weeks away from Christmas– and best feelings when they’re the gifts you find giving back yourself.Having been broken up with by boys from afar and by friends who grow busy with their new lives in new homes in different cities or with other friends who are less weird than yourself– you start slipping into a self-despair of insignificance. But that’s the beauty of Hygge, and how I’ve found that this is the year where that feeling only comes best from when you find yourself becoming the warmth that another lost soul had been searching for, too.

Being there for someone is better than the other way around– it’s you in all your imcompletion that someone else begins to feel complete, a miracle and reminder that you alone are desirable, worthy of the love that keeps the human spirit alive and well in the winter. Reminders like serving as the date for a holiday party that isn’t your own, a date who was so proud of your elegance in a blue dress in the private room of the Waterfront Restaurant where wide windows embraced the glow of the Bay Bridge lights across the dark waters. It’s them that you keep falling more in love with and less in love with the band right before your eyes, the band that was the first love of your modern life. They say money can’t buy happiness, but it sure does when your purchases create the best memories, and the night of chaos and familiar tunes at Not So Silent Night was most memorable. I would have never had the pleasure of Bastille, Head and the Heart, and Green Day all at once in so beautiful and vibrant a memory without the utmost love and appreciation from someone new. The music plays loudly the songs you know by heart and classics you think only you as a true fan knows– and by some Christmas magic, you find you’re not singing alone.

In the past, the love and joy were things I received from many–and those many faces are gone. Little would I know that a year later, this was to be the Christmas for me, a lifelong dream finally fulfilled at the expense of a stranger who’s been the blessing I hadn’t seen coming, a face with soft eyes that make me feel alive and less alone as they sing softly to Rivers and roads when the Head and the Heart close their set on one of their most heartfelt songs that pierce the arena– rivers ’til I reach you.  As Christmas miracles prove,you suddenly feel like there’s nothing else needed in return for marking this most perfect moment in the cold of the world.

In creating that perfect intimacy most needed now, Hygge is best found by old, familiar experiences. Except for now, when you can relive them with new others, when you can feel that these moments need not be bound by one cold winter, but for eternity. Timing is everything, and if you’ve found Hygge, then time is aplenty to keep cozy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October City

October 10 – October 16

You wouldn’t think of October as others think of it outside of San Francisco. It’s hot, for starters, and when it does rain and grow gray, humid. But that, I like– it reminds me always of New York in that July when I was stranded at a park bench in Verdi Square beneath a sheltering canopy of a tree. Someday I will return to New York and see it at, in my opinion, its most visually stunning, fall. But for now, I only know the season for what it is in San Francisco. That in itself is a lovely, unrivaled thing.

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You have the Victorians really come alive without any effort, haunting beauties stepping out onto the scene like straight from the childhood tales that frightened me to the bone. My mom lived in Noe Valley as a little girl in the 60s, where off of Noe and 24th was an iron-gated mansion grand and gray with flowers wildly take it all hostage. The witch’s house, her and other neighborhood kids mused. I now see that in October, the city is lost to many of these homes, and it is a city of witches. It’s not too bad, not at least when ginkos and other trees fade into bronze and butter yellow.

The pumpkins are out, small and round or on the scrawny side, sometimes of a golden orange or a sickly pale cream. You can purchase them overpriced at the Target down on Mission or Mollie Stone’s where while your at it might be able to splurge on the Starbucks just outside of it with your leftover change. That’s the easy way, what I would have done had I never found out about Clancy’s Patch. It’s out past UCSF in the hills overlooking the Sunset where a disheveled grove in the fog transforms into a buzzing marketplace to pick up pristine pumpkins and have yourself a few pictures with loved ones. Yes, you can go alone, but if you wanted to buy a pumpkin on your own you might as well just haul your ass quickly over to Target.

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Sometimes the nights are humid, the best time of year to host evening events for the annual Lit Quake festival and down an assortment of wine paired with only the most riveting and political poets of these past few years. That way you can run to the bus stop with your friend and drink in the warm night and the lit windows in skyscrapers seeming like stars, something moving you, whether it be wine or words. You’ll look back and realize that seeing Natalie Diaz read “Catching Copper” live never had you feeling so vulnerable, even in a way wine could never cast on you. Poets come alive in October, it is a bewitching month where ghosts and their words latch onto you even after you’ve left their haunts in hotel hallways, Vesuvio.

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October has a tendency to break your heart here. As much as you feel moved and enamored with words of passion you’re just as easily fooled into a false hope, disappointed and bitter that your heroes have fallen. 2016, another even year, and not another championship for your favorite baseball team. Maybe I’m getting overly sentimental, a bad sport, but it’s so easy to get sentimental over America’s pastime. You won’t be missing the thrill and stabbing pressure of each game they battle through while you’re downing another Stella at Harry’s or Murphy’s, nor the defining catch or double that might win them into the next game or end them all– you won’t miss the chaotic parade that floods into the streets of Market where you might be able to watch it rain orange and white and gold confetti atop from the 40th floor. You’ll miss the memories that you could have made like you did in the past three championships where all those moments did come true. The cheap pennant you bought on the street for not-so-cheap, being on the shoulders of a friend to see Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum giving standing ovations as they’re driven through in convertibles, the golden and brilliantly orange sky that pierces the day and McCovey Cove as dawn breaks the night after Pablo Sandoval had caught the pop up from the Royals. You’ll miss having those kind of moments to look back on, and you wish it were that way rather than remembering the last game that knocked them out and knocked you to your seat in the living room.

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October is not an easy month to love, but the best thing about it is that whatever happens, you can always do nothing. Sit back, cold night or hot, get under a Mexican throw blanket and pop on some scary movies or catch up on the first season of Narcos. You might get to do it with someone you love. He could live in the outer Sunset close to the ocean and always chilly out in the art deco-designed row houses that trudge along the flat streets between 48th and 9th Avenue. Occasionally as you watch movies his roommates will pop in, a Brazilian student at USF and an East Coast transplant working odd hours to make this new dream out west work to forget old ones and old loves back home. They’re wonderful people, always smiling and hugging you on first making their acquaintance– and you might get a bit jealous that you mostly live alone. The friendly new faces aren’t just the best part of a night in at San Francisco. It’s waking up beneath a skylight on warm sheets and getting up in this unfamiliar apartment to coffee perfectly concocted with too much cream and sugar, and maple bacon donut from Uncle Benny’s that truly warms your heart upon first bite.

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I’ve always felt strongly that fall is a likable sort of season for its drastic and explicit flair for change. In the weather, the trees, the clothes. San Francisco is an October city in its own, stiff yet consistent way. Always the same in habits, but just taking each year to make something new emerge from each passing. That is how October should feel.

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New Romances, Part III

August 15 – August 21st

A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh…

And then sometimes, they really aren’t those things. Not when at least, you meet the right person.

I’m writing this now, nearly two months from the day that I really knew I came upon something wildly special.

I can recall specifics of his profile now, and even our subsequent chats; I’m feeling those same, warming feelings of comfort and intrigue as I did when we first matched. I have disabled (and now deleted) the CMB app with no urgency to yet again renew my profile– probably never. Because as luck might have granted, I met someone through the battlefield of modern dating.

He was in Law School, 6’5″ (good lord), and had an interest in bar hopping and cooking meals at 3 A.M. His first photo was taken besides whom I assumed were his parents and that struck me in a good way, someone who didn’t get weird or have some complex about photos on a dating site featuring their parents. On his religious preference he listed Christian, and it did worry me a little at a chance of him being more conservative than I was looking for. For a second, I thought he might not have been a fit. But everything he said stuck to me, all different than the other profiles. Sure, no guy on CMB is the same, but that’s how I felt with each match. Until I saw the 3 A.M. cooking, professional In N Out stalking, being a bit of a smart-ass confessing, and getting lost exploring San Francisco.

Sometime later in that afternoon, I got an alert from my phone:

– Hi Paris! Would you like to hear the story about how I thought I could fly when I was a little kid and split my head trying to jump from the kitchen counter?

No pickup I’d ever seen before. But different, different is what count.

-Well you pretty much just told me the whole story [laughing emoji]

– But damn, it does sound intriguing.

This was the beginning of a beautiful, odd friendship between two weird souls discussing fatal incidents of childhood, who had worse scars, and then onto our families, his excitement at becoming an uncle again any day now, then more about each other, the city we both lived in and loved. It all seemed effortless, honestly. With the dentist, we had passionate discussions about literature and careers. But with Him, we were passionate about everything. And it felt like we’d nearly been talking about everything longer than those first three days.

I remember that weekend leading up to our first meeting. Getting to know each other’s schedules we rescheduled meeting up three different times, but still the same place. Talking about books he brought up the brilliant suggestion we grab drinks together down at Vesuvio, the fabulous old haunt for Beat writers. Soon it wasn’t about where or when, but the occasional “can’t wait” with each phone message. I’d been going out twice on the town with friends from work, and he to hang and see Suicide Squad with close buddies, and throughout the long evenings dancing and sobering up on 4 glasses of water and watching men pick up girls from the mezzanine of Harper and Rye we were still messaging, apart but unified in the same isolation we were feeling out on the town. We still hadn’t met– and we couldn’t wait until the next afternoon.

We met an hour earlier than we were supposed to. I was done with all my Sunday chores and I was bored. We both weren’t about playing games, the sooner the better. And hey, if we weren’t a fit, at least we’d end the date early and I’d be back home before dark. He was very receptive to the idea, more so now since I mentioned the parrots of Telegraph Hill, and how I was hearing them now outside my own apartment in Pac Heights. Already catching the 1 and getting off at Chinatown to walk, I felt like I wore the wrong dress, the wrong shoes, not enough curls in my hair, no preparation to get the high squeak out of my first impressions voice. Uncertain of what to expect, and vastly unprepared. Not trying to get ahead of myself, all I needed to focus on was at least getting through the doors of Vesuvio and scope him out, lest I awkward miss his lanky figure in that low-ceiling place. I was turning the corner from Grant onto Broadway when I double checked his text to see if he had beaten me:

– So bummed. It’s $6 to go to the top and they’re going to close soon 😦

I called him straight away. Besides finding out that he had misinterpret our last chat as meeting up at the top of Coit Tower, there was also this: a voice, deep but smooth and filled with notes of jolliness, the kind only people who laugh a lot would possess. I heard his voice for the first time and somehow I wasn’t nervous anymore.

Sometimes you get those feelings that only make sense in stories, the instant rush, the flush in your face–even a faint tingling . You hear them in songs, you think it’s just fiction. But all stories come from somewhere, some real feeling. It’s been three months since, but those feelings are still here. I can’t explain all of our weird inside jokes, or our first date from meeting each other halfway at Washington Square. I won’t share much about how we wandered among the starry streets of North Beach and our first kiss at the bus stop he waited with me at, or the subsequent dates where each one seemed just as unique and effortless as the last. How he and I both love Arctic Monkeys and can slip in Godfather quotes during our conversations, or talk about obscure historical architectural achievements in stupid little things like Corinthian columns. I can’t break down the date that did it, the one where I was so excited to dress up like Ingrid Bergman in the wake of our movie date to see Casablanca at the Castro Theater and he surprised me with dinner and dressed in his very best slacks and button up– not quite Humphrey Bogart with his build, but rather Jimmy Stewart. Both of us seeing the movie that only months ago, I had already watched alone at the Castro Theater, alone on Valentine’s Day.

I can’t explain any of those things to my readers, but these feelings from those memories, that he, gave me– the feelings are enough. The smile is enough. The smile, three months still grinning, is strong and words don’t need to be dragged on to really make those feelings known, or shine through. Just meet him, some day you will. Some day is where I hope we’re heading to.

…As time goes by.

At the end of this series, I begin with an adventure, and end with a love letter.

 

 

 

New Romances, Part II

August 8 – August 14

So I was dating again. Or at least looking for dates.

After getting over the complexes that plague my ideals of love and my ideal love interest, I was ready to dive into the never-before charted realm of online dating. Eager to just see what came up. I was good enough and interesting enough of a catch, and the app I decided roaming on, Coffee Meets Bagel, guaranteed its users at least one match a day. So after the first day, I wasn’t discouraged by these doubts or insecurities. I had to mentally shine and polish myself if I was going to end up with anyone, if I thought I was worth it to anyone. Because with the wrong attitude, you could end up with the wrong person. Wrong was not was anyone was looking for. So bring on another two weeks, fourteen days, of these guaranteed matches.

I averaged 6 matches per day.

I’ll give CMB that much credit– if you are specific, they will listen. My matches from the second day onward were by far an improvement compared to how discouraging the first day was. And still, in that Discover tab, was the never failing hoards of interested profiles that sadly I could not reciprocate. So this was the scene, THIS was what Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg were talking about when it came to Modern Romance. First hand, here it was: I was getting a plethora of choices. And did that feel good!

LEARN YOUR LESSON, WOMAN

I won’t go into the specifics of all that I matched with, just a few highlights. And in the beginning it was, surprisingly, more of the same. The first guy I ever talked with had a great smile, more on the scrawny side, and proudly displayed a photo of himself uncontrollably smiling as he sat next to a famous talk show host on the set of her phenomenal daytime TV show. That was eye-catching, but not as much as where this lad was from– not the Bay Area.

With the paradox of choice that Ansari and sociologist Eric Klinenberg explore, I do see a benefit to this search for The One while trying to obtain as many “choices” to choose from for being the One, and yet being ultimately unsatisfied at settling from having so many choices. For me at least, the notion of dating outside of your geographical range is the most exciting. I’m no stranger to this, having two exes living in different time zones above 3 hours from mine, one met via social media. But as proven from my experiences, it’s not a likely way to find love; still, it’s a visibly unique way to globalize, on an intimate level that really connects the world. Silly as it sounds, but I’m grateful for at least that aspect of modern dating– dating outside your norm, when your norm is just whatever’s within a 30 mile radius. So a man from Australia would just be another fun prospect.

Naturally, when all else fails, the weather is here to save the chat. It was a rather nice week that day, much to his chagrin– he was just coming from Dolores Park, and a pretty bad sunburn was imminent. I suggested some Aloe Vera, made some corny joke, and then nothing from him for two days. Then he came back– still picking up the convo. where we left off. How I wish we could have left his sunburn behind on Day One. If you can’t even find a way to get out of a mundane conversation to something more interesting and natural, then I guess it’s just not a fit. When our day of reckoning came up, I told the app I would pass. All the charms of globalization failed to redeem themselves. With this Australian, I too would pass on any future matches that would mean long-distance, ever again.

He never even told me why the fuck he was on TV.

FISHERMAN (LITERALLY) AMONG FISH

This match was too good not to discuss. And yet too terrible to ever think about how I THOUGHT about giving him a chance.

A subtle closed-mouth smile that echoed Mona Lisa mystique and a decent haircut, dark brown blazer over what I vaguely remember as a striped sweater. Worked at Google, played guitar. What he was looking for in a girl wasn’t that impressive with his one-word answers:

My ideal date is someone who: INTERESTING.

I gave him a shot because yes, he was cute. But he looked familiar. That name looked like I had read it before somewhere. And it was not just any common name for a guy, at least nowadays. Mr. T we’ll call him, moving forward. It was only an after hour I first accepted him did it all become clear.

He had applied to my work. For an opening on my team.

Just a month before Mr. T was the talk of my work team’s Gchat group. How could he not….he was the first guy ever to make it to an onsite interview for my team, an all girl task force endearingly dubbed the Content Convent. Could Mr. T break through the barrier? He seemed promising– definitely something else. I would not say overqualified, but if you were an English major from Portland and had previous experience as a park ranger and saved a man from drowning in a commercial crab fishing accident, you undeniably have something going on for you. Really, this was all on his resume.

But where he lacked in personality– and perhaps a soul– he made up in these adventures. His onsite was terrible, and no more was heard of with Mr. T again.

Until…

MR. T: It’s fate!

I applied to your job a while back. I saw your photo on the blog and thought “She’s hot.”

I should have known/regretted this whole decision immediately at just those first words. But maybe he was just awkward. If we found each other on fucking CMB, it didn’t hurt to entertain the situation. I responded something a bit indifferent yet comical–it only got worse. And I was forgetting whether or not I had signed up with CMB or Tinder. Because it was all feeling like the latter.

Just because I have since deleted the app, I won’t recite most of these conversations verbatim– but they were cringe-worthy enough just to remember without referencing the original messages.

Mr. T:

  • If we were working together, we would have gotten each other fired.
  • I was an English Major too! Are you trying to become a teacher? (only later did I realize he was being sarcastic)
  • What are you doing tonight?
  • There’s a party going on, think we should meet up. It’s in my pants (WHO USES THIS LINE ANYMORE)
  • You busy tonight (the next day)

Good riddance, Mr. T.

NONDRINKERS AND NO-RESPONDERS

He had dark brown curly hair, piercing big blue eyes and his main profile photo was winning as he smiled innocently and candidly. He was also a recent USF grad, and we rejoiced in fondly recalling days of Dons past. But he didn’t drink.

He seemed really sweet and very interested in my time as a Don. But he didn’t seem interested in where I was now, the city at least. He worked and lived out of San Mateo and he seemed very content there. He was, as he said, “over the city.” Maybe I’m thinking small, but with the frustrations and hate that I may find myself having for San Francsico– never have I been over it. And the fondest memories made here, still to be made, have admittedly involve good company– and alcohol.

At the end of our road, it would have been because of me, not you.

And then the ghost. You would have thought that the blonde from my second day seemed interested that I had just come back from the Stanley Kubrick exhibition over at the CJM that afternoon with all his exclamation marks used. But nothing. It’s OK. I had barely any sleep from an anxiety attack the night before and I was dead at 4PM in a heavy sleep. Waking up to nothing except a better peace of mind was all that was needed at the moment, not a response.

AND THEN, PROGRESS

I really enjoyed his company, truly. Yes, with this one, he was my first CMB date.

His initial photo had him looking perplexed at the camera, the Pacific Ocean looming vastly behind him. He had a beard, which I never was really into, but damn it did look good on him. A few scrolls over into his other photos revealed a lovely smile and some humor by the way he mockingly looked at an art exhibit with such pretension. He was studying dentistry here in the city, but upon matching I was very excited to learn that he was not just an English major– but asked about my favorite books. One dream had come true when John Steinbeck could become my perfect wing man.

After much discussion of our influences, his passion for really helping others in an exciting hands-on field as being a dentist, and how he was looking forward to the upcoming Outside Lands that weekend, we knew we wanted to meet. At least, that’s what he asked me about after nearly three days of conversations that just seemed to flow naturally. Even if it took hours in between responses, we always got back to each other. He seemed very receptive to my own pursuits and read my blog, and even gave great feedback. I was swooning before that Thursday afternoon we would meet.

The original plan was to meet at the cafe across from the Duboce dog park, but friends and my sister thought something closer to a bus and less out of the way for me would be an easier escape route should things go south. Fair enough. So the bar and restaurant for some drinks at the top of the Yerba Buena Gardens– my favorite lookout– would have to suffice. Plus, he said, it was definitely more convenient as his campus was just a few blocks away.

It was cold that Thursday, and in the crowd that poured out from the restaurant I spotted him from the window reflection bundled up in a windbreaker and wide-eyed. He had a pleasant voice that I thought would be deeper– maybe the beard made me imagine a more burly tone– and I can’t recall whether or not we shared a hug. It was obvious that our restaurant of choice was not ideal for being that packed. Back to Duboce Park it was.

I got to hear about his family and early days of transplanting from UC Santa Cruz to SF and his family, all while we waited for a delayed N car underground. I think in that time there was no better way to really get to know each other than rush hour– when your true colors would be tested to come out. Though I think he handled it well– as did I, despite holding on for dear life to the railing in that sea of disgruntled, fatigued humans. I was just all smiles.

That was the thing. With this young man, it was so natural to smile lots and just carry on the conversation from one topic to another– about each other’s quirks and political views (me laughing as I declared being ‘woke), to his outlook on life helping others, and feeding into my quirks (“DON’T FORGET THESE” he said referring to the napkins as to move tables away from the hoards of fruit flies drowning in our glasses of red wine. I am a shameless napkin hoarder). Down to earth, quick on my humor, and most wonderfully, fascinated at my ideas and pursuits.

Mostly, it was the dogs. He was quick to note by liking “anywhere near dogs” from my CMB profile which led us that moment there at the top of the grassy knoll, a bench damp from the looming fog and looking down onto the dogs and their owners passing through, playing, taking poops. Oh, yes, he could get why I loved being around these silly, happy-go-lucky creatures we’re glad to call Man’s Best Friend. It’s all you could want. Someone to watch dogs with and convince to participate in next year’s Sexy Jesus Contest down at Dolores Park. I mean, with that beard, I assured him, he had as good as a chance as being crowned as the other contestants.

The N car was approaching again, this time to take us back into the city with its headlights flooding the dark streets around us in Duboce Triangle. The dogs were gone, the cafe was closed, but there we both were. Still talking, still laughing, and me still smiling. At the end of the night as we both parted ways to our respective bus stops– him to the Richmond and I to Pacific Heights– we were both off the dating app which had first connected us, his number with a Central Valley area code lighting up my screen with the hopeful yet simple suggestion to meet up once more.

But he never got another date, sadly. Because I was soon to be taken over in a series of dates that lead to the moment I had been waiting for. With someone else.

Meet Him in NEW ROMANCES, PART III.

Germophobe and the City

September 19 – September 25

No lie, I am a complete germophobe. And living in San Francisco could most definitely be one of the worst places for a girl like me to end up at. It’s actually never bothered me that much, thriving among the filth and (literal) shit that comes up at every bus stop or on Market Street and in between cars and alleys. No, it’s all just a general, dismissive part of sharing this 7X7 with a million other human beings. With human beings comes human bodies– human bodies that secrete deliciously disgusting bodily fluids. I’ve been exposed to pretty much each and every one of them, and in the exposure you just simply become numb.

I am not a stranger to shared spaces. The first home I ever really knew was my dad’s sports memorabilia store, spending my time behind the back in the old rooms of what was once a clothing store. But when I wasn’t at his store, there was our house in Concord, home to my family of four and my aunt, uncle, and grandpa. That’s where my aversions began. Aversion to dirty tubs and giant Daddy Long Legs making their home in my bathrooms. As I was sitting on the toilet once I was checking to see if there were any spiders (or unidentified stains) running along the bowl, I immediately regretted the stupid decision. I knew there was going to be something gross, so why bother looking? Why augment my fears for the worst, for days like every time I am in my apartment bathroom now and check for spiders. The uncertainty is just what would have killed me rather than me being a paranoid survivor. Some people care less than others– I am the other, the one who still is amazed that one man’s trash is also his failed ideal of what is considered clean enough. Put these varying ideals in one household, you get a girl turned young woman who literally does cringe at the sight of the littlest mold or clogs of hair. But nothing ever beats that ferocious Long Legs in attack mode that really was on the side of the toilet that one time.

So as I examine the little incidents that seemed like catastrophes in my life now, you do wonder at how I could have lasted this long, how I have managed to keep my germ-loathing tendencies fairly under wraps. Some things, actually, I can’t hide. Just take a look at my hands– my boyfriend did, and when your boyfriend sees on a delicate little woman scarred and drying hands that feel like leather and bleeds at the knuckles, you’ve got some explaining to do. My excessive hand-washing forever reminds me of the ongoing struggles of grappling with filth, how it will never really be gone even as I run my hands in hot water for 20 seconds (Happy Birthday sung twice). Or when I drink bottled water– I am a master champion at water-falling all and any bottle, even if it’s my own. The idea of even me back-washing makes me want to throw up.

The only way I know how to really overcome these vile things is just simply taking matters into my own hands. It’s very exhausting, but cleaning helps me cope; no one’s hands I trust better at scrubbing away grime than my own, that of someone deathly repulsed by it. My cleaning is the closest to nuking any room tainted, like my desk or the bathroom after the toilet clogged and overflowed last Monday. Goodness, that Monday. When the clog caused the overflow, it was a humbling and bitter reminder that I have an issue, a silent vendetta that will never end. Can I eradicate all germs in this city? Of course not. But it doesn’t hurt to try to avoid any incidents like mopping up the bathroom floor at all costs.

Nothing beats my bathroom after that incident. If my dad had it his way, he wouldn’t let his daughters clean their own homes. He once told my sister that “if you don’t know how to do something… it’s probably because you’re not SUPPOSED to do it.” Dirty housework was his main reference. Anything dirty he would throw himself in harm’s way for us, especially the hardships of scrubbing down bathrooms and unclogging toilets. If we didn’t grow up, this would be ideal. But the thing is I am 24 now and little things like cleaning my own house thrill me, because as an adult, it’s a nice feeling to know you have your own house to keep and clean. And as for bathrooms, he winces at the thought of me 60 miles out of his reach having to do this dirty deed on my own, but he knows about my aversion. He understands very well that nothing beats my idea of clean. It’s the same as, if not better, his.

For that little victory after what I thought was the worst battle of this week, it would only get a little worse. Just when you think you can enjoy the rest of your weekend in the City, stay over at your boyfriend’s for the first time, you let loose– your monthly card is punched in red ink. Fucking period. I can’t feel grosser than when it’s that time of the month, and any girl who said otherwise is just lying. But my ideal weekend ahead was just in reach, and I was not going to let the forces of nature yet again make me a hermit. I kept smiling, packed on the tampons, and headed out that Friday night, wide eyed and ready to drink wine and enjoy the company of my boyfriend who would cook us dinner at his in the Sunset. Everything was in my control. Everything felt clean. The evening was off to a great start, some music, a whole bottle of wine, me dancing around in a dizzy and drunk stupor as he cooked. Stupid fun after a stressful week for the both of us. It was sure a night to just be weird and ourselves around just the two of us. At a pause in the evening I came to a halt as he stepped away from the stove and pulled me close to him for a comforting embrace. And then,

“What’s that?”

The stool behind me was where I was just sitting moments before, the faint streaks of blooded across the wood.

I darted to the bathroom door to access the damage. I had leaked pretty badly. Perhaps it was a good thing I was already drinking or else I would have been more of a spazz. But I raced to get a new pad and my Tide To-Go pen to start the recovery. My boyfriend’s bathroom didn’t help either, shared with his roommates and crowded with an overflowing trash bin and a broken toilet seat. I was being cornered in possibly the worst place at the moment. I could hear something outside the door. Opening it a crack, I could hear him laughing. He wasn’t overthinking this situation, yet he wasn’t the one on his period. Still, there really was a lot to laugh about. In minutes of stepping out all cleaned up he just hugged me as before and kissed the top of my head. “I’ve seen worse,” he told me. Even if it was worse, the matter of fact was that dirty things weren’t going to destroy this relationship, this night. In my own personal hell I overthink everything, especially gross incidents as right then. But here right now it’s just part of the night’s adventures, nothing appalling. It soon will just fade into a funny memory that he and I will look back on with just the same sentiments of how we could just really be ourselves around each other, and accepting of all that comes, and leaks, out of us.

And still I emerge, a victor every week that I live in this city. As said before, I can’t escape filth forever. There’s always worse when it comes to living out in the city, just as there are better, and it’s these better things that keep me anchored to the urban landscape despite disgusting setbacks. Keeping clean is the least I can do, and that itself is rewarding when you’re a germophobe. Anything you touch turns to sterilized gold. Co-exist and just remember all the fun nights and beautiful places and loving people that a place like this has given you. And suddenly, you find yourself smiling, even when where you find yourself is right on a crowded N-line car headed for downtown in stale, 90-degree weather– ground zero and at your most vulnerable sitting next to a man who smells. Just smells.

If there’s something I don’t know how to do or deal with, I am supposedly not meant to deal with it at all. But as I get on and move through this messy youth, I guess that this complete mess is just mine to make clean, with only myself to teach me.