Saturday, July 23, 2011

The SF Redemption, Part 1

Fair notice: This post is the first of two about my recent summer vacation to San Francisco, but I cannot bear to just give a straight recap. I mean, who really gives a shit, am I right? I know some people care, and I appreciate that you do, but for me to be motivated to write about the trip, I gotta come up with a way to fit it into the greater scheme of things. Don't get me wrong, I had a GREAT time and I'll definitely share some highlights, but I'm also gonna do a little of that introspective contextualization of the trip in the system of my mind thing. It has to be done. Well, no, it doesn't have to be done, but that is how I'm gonna do it.

Prologue - Nothing so Loyal as Love!

Last night, after falling asleep, hard at 2am, I awoke an hour later in a panic, knowing I had been having an intensely real, intensely emotional dream, but, still only semi-waking, not able to process any real thoughts. Until, from out of the fog, from seemingly nowhere, came memories of Anna. Anna, the girl in my 7th grade TV production class with the really big... dimples. OK... boobs. She had tremendous boobs and she was really nice and I was really in love with her. And if I hadn't been such a dork, I think I could have had a chance. In my recollection, she actually liked me for a brief, shimmering moment, and I have always regretted not seizing the opportunity. In any case, whether I had been dreaming about her or not, Anna popped into my head as I awoke, and in the next instant came the sudden, startling realization that that 13-year-old girl in my memories is now approaching, or is already, 30. Fuuuuuuck. Somehow this is even more shocking to me than me being nearly 30. Sure, I'm getting older, that's natural, but the people and places in my memories have remained unchanged. To think of her as a real person, existing in the real world, aging like the rest of us, sent a cold shiver down my spine and sobered me right up. Now, at 3am, the fog had cleared and I was totally awake.

I guessed it was time to start writing. Anna and her big, luscious, bouncy memory (What did you think I was going to say? Luscious and bouncy are totally appropriate adjectives to describe a memory. Ya perverts.) had shook me from my sleep, and from my post-vacation stupor.

Day 1 - Good Friends and Graveyards

It has been nearly two years since I packed my crap in the back of my Hyundai and drove from New Jersey (how had I ended up there, anyway?), across the fruited plains, and on into San Francisco, CA. It has also been nearly a year and a half since I repacked my crap and left San Francisco with my tail tucked between my legs. You can't win 'em all. At least I tried... a half-assed, community-college-at-best try, perhaps, but still. I don't regret the attempt. In the intervening months I have progressed pretty well on the career front, less well on the living-independently-like-a-near-30-year-old-should front, and pretty much not at all on the finding-love-or-even-just-a-date-with-someone-I'd-care-to-see-again front. It's a three front war and sometimes I feel I'm losing. But, I take comfort in knowing I'm not the only combatant out there, and if I take one battle at a time, I still believe I - nay, we all - can overcome the odds.

On the career front, though I am not a full-time teacher, yet, I feel it best to prepare for the life of a teacher by doing what they do. Namely, taking summer trips as far away from the school, and other peoples' children, as possible. If not for summer vacation, I think the mental institutes would be entirely full of teachers, just muttering to themselves about how they get no respect. So, when I caught a decent price on JetBlue to San Francisco (via Boston, naturally), I decided to act like a teacher and get the hell out of Dodge.

I wanted to go back to SF as much to see my friends again as to revisit my feelings and exorcise any remaining demons of doubt about the path my life has taken. I love the city, but the fact is, I didn't make it there and ran away in shame. The decision to move there, and my inability to make it work, has sent my life in the direction it is going now. What would it have been like had I been able to stay? I'll never know, and probably shouldn't ask. What would it be like to go back there, now, strictly as a visitor? That, I could find out for myself. Also, not for nothing, getting out of Florida and my parents' house for a little while couldn't hurt.

Danie! Good to see your smile, again, friend.
After some "Wait, what color is the parking garage you're in?" confusion, this is the face that greeted me at the airport. I was pleased, she looked great! And she had a ZipCar! Actually, it was the generic version of a ZipCar, that I am now too lazy to find the name of! Either way, I much appreciated the late night airport pickup, and the drive in from SFO to the city gave us a chance to pick up our old conversational rhythms, which we did in no time. Danie has always been one of the easiest and most fun persons for me to talk with, ever since the first time we met, at work in my editing bay in Las Vegas. She laughs a lot and makes me laugh even more. Aww, Danie, you know I love ya.

In fact, my favorite moments of the whole trip were the many really good late night conversations I had with both my friends. With Danie on her couch (the selfsame couch I slept on for 6 months) and with Jesse on our way to and from the casino or a movie. Just like old times. We are all approaching 30 and it is affecting us in similar, and different, ways and, well, shit, we just had a lot of catching up and hashing it out to do. It was fucking great.

"I've been pretending to know things
about classical music since the '50s, man."
But back to the first day back in the city; it was a busy one. It began at a hipster breakfast with Danie, Lucy, and Lucy's friends, and ended at a casino with Jesse. Along the way there was a stop at the symphony and a long walk through a Jewish cemetery looking for a decidedly gentile cowboy... more on that later. First, the symphony. You couldn't see it, but when I typed "symphony" I made a face like an old rich white person. You know the face. Symphony face. Not that there's anything wrong with the symphony, per se, I'm just not much for pretension and classical music seems to come with a lot of pretension. People were dressed the fuck up! At 2 in the afternoon on a Thursday! But, I do appreciate the skill and the beauty, and blah, blah, blah, of the music, and a free second row-center ticket to the all-strings matinee (courtesy Jesse's girlfriend, and new blog character, Kenzie) could not be refused. I love going to new buildings, hearing live music, and not spending any money! Everyone else was working, so I went by myself and tried to stay awake as long as possible. It was difficult. The building was beautiful, the crowd was entertaining in their ridiculousness (see picture), the conductor was playing a nearly 300-year-old violin, but the music was just a little too... soothing. Gorgeous, but - what with pancakes slowly digesting in my belly and jet-lag doing a number on my brain - nap inducing. I stayed for an hour but left at intermission, not wanting to be rude and start snoring in the second row.

After getting all cultured and shit, I took off to meet up with Jesse. He was looking well, too! We drank a beer on the roof of his building and began ruminating on life, the passage of time, and what constitutes a really good deli sandwich, amongst other topics dudes talk about. I think we both knew where the evening was heading, though. There was really only one place it could lead. Whenever the two of us get together, it's inevitable. We look into each others' eyes, read each others' body language, we know. We try to resist, leaving it unspoken for as long as we can stand... until one of us just can't take it any longer and finally says the words we've both been thinking since we first saw each other... "Fuck it, let's go to the casino." And so it was, and off we went to take the train to Colma and the Lucky Chances, our old California card room stomping grounds. Less than 24 hours in San Francisco and we had already devolved into our old degenerate ways. I guess you can take us out of Vegas, but you can't take Vegas out of us.

"...That nothing's so sacred as honor,
and nothing so loyal as love!"
However, before we got down to the business of poker, there was some sightseeing to be done. The casino is situated among acres and acres of lush rolling hills. Rolling hills that are taken up almost exclusively by graveyards. Not the best omen for gambling, perhaps, but it so happens that the cemetery closest to the casino is home to one of the most famous figures from the old west. Wyatt Earp, the old O.K. Corral shootouter himself. Well, Jesse and I had to see this. Seems ol' Wyatt married hisself a Jew-broad and the two of them are buried together in the Jewish cemetery. So, as we walked through the graveyard for some 20 minutes searching for him, we passed countless dead generations of California
-bergs, -steins, and Schwartzs. Frankly, it was a little weird for me... I'd never met any of these people or their families, yet, somehow, I felt a connection and I got a little sad. So many dead people, people of my particular minority group, and they all ended up here, underground, with elaborate tombstones and mausoleums above them that they will never see. The grounds were beautiful, there wasn't a cloud in the brilliant blue sky, but my mood was turning dark. We're all just on this earth for a short time, then we all die and what did it all mean, anyway? Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, walking through here to gawk at a dead cowboy's grave. I was thinking we better find the fucker soon or I'd be in no mood to gamble at all. But then Jesse spotted him and, hell, it was cool to see that big "Earp" banner on the headstone. This is a man whose life has inspired at least a dozen movies and even more TV shows. A true American legend, from the time legends were made, outlaw and sheriff alike. And Wyatt was a little of both... and, if the quote on his headstone and his depiction in movies like Wyatt Earp and Tombstone are any indication, he was also a romantic who fell in love with a Jew at first sight. I liked thinking of the romantic in him. I liked thinking of him sharing a long life with the woman he loved. I'd like to think that's what gave his life meaning.

When we made it back to the casino, we were both tired, but we'd come to get in the action and weren't about to leave without doing just that. Alas, after two hours of play, with nothing terribly exciting going on, we were both out of gas, if not money. I took my $7 profit and got some BBQ pork chow mein at the killer Filipino/Chinese restaurant in the casino. I inhaled the shit out of it and off we went, leaving all the other gamblers behind, just where I had left them nearly two years ago, and just where they'll be for as long as California is still attached to the mainland. Just like all the dead Jews out in their graves, the people at the poker tables never seem to change.

And that was the end of my first full day back in the city I had fled those many months ago. It was good to be back. A lot had changed, more had stayed the same. I had changed; but, I had also stayed the same. I still had ten more days to go. On the agenda: movies; a trip to Morty's homeland; a free concert in the park; a ballgame; lots more hipster food; Irish bars; the Pacific Ocean; Sausalito; more movies; and more long walks and talks with the people that matter most, the people who live both in my memories and in real life.

Damn, it was good to be in the city!
More on this beauty in part 2.

1 comment:

  1. don't give me shit about turning 30. I turned 35 in June!!!! THAT is weird. just remember, you'll always have your older cousins....