Monday, January 30, 2006

Where we live today

Parents: please do not purchase (or allow others to purchase) rock tumblers for your children. Ours has been running continuously for the past 3 weeks, rendering our downstairs completely useless. No watching TV, no using the computer, no hanging out, unless you can do so unbothered by the constant rrr-RRR-rrr-RRR-(scrape!)-rrr-RRR of the rock tumbler.

In the end, we will have smooth, shiny rocks. At least eight of them.

I've often told people that, in order to live happily in San Francisco, you have to possess an irrational love of The City. Otherwise, you will wake up one day to find that you've spent a million dollars for a 2-bedroom bungalow three blocks from the projects, that you spend $18,000 a year (per child) for grade school, and that it really is foggy all summer. As long as you still get a kick out of the Golden Gate Bridge, though, or remain convinced that we truly are the most progressive, "tolerant" people on the planet, you're fine.

In addition, I feel that once you have an irrational love for a place, you are then allowed to complain bitterly about its shortcomings. This second point is one I exercise every chance I get.

It's pretty easy to complain about San Francisco, honestly. Nothing here seems to work. And it's easy to get caught up (especially when you spend a weekend night doing your taxes early so you can get them into the Financial Aid office of your kid's grade school in time) in the daily stresses of living in a very expensive place, where the benefits of residence are usually abstract and qualitative, not concrete and quantitative.

So this is the attitude I brought to my Sunday afternoon as I drove to an open house in the Richmond. I was covering the open for the Benders, a husband-wife team at work, getting myself psyched to schmooze with potential buyers. And there I was, comically overdressed for a Sunday, creeping down Stanyan Street in my Acura, my clothes wrinkling around me, stressed out and angry. I was stressed out because I thought I was going to be late, angry because I knew I had no money to put gas into my gas tank, worried about next year's school tuition and the cost of a new bathroom, and yet still trying to get into the correct frame of mind to sell myself to the people who would come to the open house.

Driving by the Haight doesn't help, of course. When the traffic is dense enough, you get a nice, long look at all of the runaways, drug dealers and huge, unkempt dogs, milling around the park like one big, foggy hangover from San Francisco's beloved 1960s. Maybe I tore off a few choice words at them, at the cars around me, at the guy who insisted on waiting until the light changed to flip on his left blinker, thus stopping a traffic behind him without warning.

And then I saw them: an obviously rented Chrysler convertible, top down, with two twenty-something girls in the front and one similarly-aged guy in the back. He wore a Red Sox baseball cap and had a hoop earring. They had their hair in ponytails and were smoking cigarettes. Young tourists from the East Coast, finally arrived in magical San Francisco.

That's when I realized that it was sunny (unlike today) and 60 degrees, on January 29th. To the kids in the Chrysler, it must have seemed like their Froemmer's travel guide had come to life.

They were in the same traffic as me, but they weren't angry or stressed out. They just sat there, looking around, talking exitedly, smoking, listening to music. The boy in the back was looking up at the sky, at the hippies, and the buildings. My difficult Sunday was their dream vacation.

I followed them for as long as I could. They turned onto Fulton, and I guessed that they were either going to the park or all the way out to the beach. After that, they'd maybe grab some lunch, maybe walk around Haight Street, go back to the hotel and take a nap, then get dinner and hit a few bars, all the while wearing shorts, light jackets and sunglasses.

When you live in San Francisco, you never know when something or someone is going to smack you in the forehead and remind you that you live in San Francisco. Put it this way: I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. How many times in your life have you thought about Scranton, Pennsylvania?

Good thing I made it to the gym today. I had coffee afterwards with Chris, a nice mortgage broker whose wife works with mine, so we could discuss some biz. The giant lemon poppyseed muffin I had completely negated my workout.


Anonymous jk said...

I just read your entire Blog to date. Quite amusing and so you. Being a native San Franciscan, married to a native San Franciscan who is the son of a native San Franciscan, mother of a native San Franciscan (one of Jawa's closest school pals), resident of a neighborhood quite close to the Haight, I could only smile at your latest entry. While living in The City can be a trial, it's also quite amazing. Even my son marvels at the beauty of the city as we drive through the Presidio. Just close your eyes and go along for the ride. At least you're surrounded by good friends.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Marky said...

This was my favorite entry - and I like all of them. Right now in Boston it's a "mild" day with temps in the mid-30s and an inch or two of snow due tonight. No tourists in sight. I'd give anything to be back there, walking down Page Street, making a right onto Baker Street, heading down Haight, stopping of for a pint and...

I ran into an old girl friend, then living in LA, who reminisced about the times spent with each other - we went our separate ways from SF many years ago. So tempted to say, "We'll always have San Francisco." Corny but true.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Ken Dunque said...

our city is overrated, but I still like it. and Lawrence - please stop being angry at the hippies, they just want us all to get along.

10:22 PM  

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