Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

It's amazing to me how easily, once I leave New York, I am able to shamelessly shed my well-developed, inches-thick armor of cynicism and biliousness and remember how it feels to laugh easily and not be so damn pissed off all of the time.

I've just returned from San Francisco, where I spent one night at the Ritz Carlton for business and the rest of the time hanging out with my good friend Jonah, who moved there from New York three months ago and spent much of the trip trying to convince me that a cross-country move was in order. He didn't too bad of a job of that. If he ever tires of the sportswriter life the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce or Tourism Bureau should definitely consider hiring him for promotional purposes, because he had me convinced for three whole days that I'd like nothing better than to trade in the stink of New York's rotting garbage for the stink of San Francisco's patchouli-drenched hippies.

But back to the aforementioned shedding of the armour. Much of my time in New York is spent on the verge of a transit-obstruction or street-harassment induced homicidal rage. I guess there's something about the California sunshine that just automatically lulls my murderous impulses, because it was all ear-to-ear smiles all weekend.

Jonah came to pick me up at the airport on what was a postcard California day -- cool, sunny, breezy, and within half an hour I was LITERALLY wearing flowers in my hair. I was a walking hippie cliche and I didn't even care. We went for a hike and tree-climb at Mt. Tam, where gorgeous tiny wildflowers bloomed everywhere, perfect for tucking behind the ears, and the scent of juniper floated on the air. Jonah has photographic evidence of said flowers in the hair, which is pretty embarassing for this steely, flinty New Yorker. Luckily for me, the soupy marijuana haze that floats over the city has apparently rendered Jonah too lazy to download software that would allow him to send me the picture. So for now the secret that I'm not a cynical, nasty bitch 100% of the time is safe.

Jonah also has all the pictures of our hike, and my powers of description would surely fail the views of San Francisco Bay, the city, and coastline, the tiny little rocky islands and the foliage and greenery that's all available for your enjoyment and within a 20-minute drive of the city. If you want to write Jonah and bug him to send me the pictures, you can email him at Theresacloudofpotoverthiscitythatsrenderedmeuseless@aol.com.

Jonah lives in a house in the Castro district with three dogs named Pickle, Peanut and Tanner and two happy happy gays named Steven and Mitch, both of whom proved to be excellent chaps who I really enjoyed spending time with. Jonah told me that Castro was far gayer than even the gayest blocks of the West Village or Chelsea, but I assumed he was exaggerating. I realized this was in no way an overstatement the first night when we went out to dinner, and I was the only person in a 10-block radius with any estrogen (excluding, of course, a number of tall, hideous, trannie hookers).

We spent a lot of time hanging out in Jonah's backyard with the dogs, drinking beer or coffee, and enjoying the sun. Jonah's dog Tanner has adjusted very nicely to backyard life -- whenever I used to run across him in Brooklyn, he'd shy away behind Jonah's calves and not even give me an obligitory sniff before blowing me off. Now he's affectionate and watching him play with Pickle was awesome. Here they are, the pair of whirling dervishes:

I was in such a good mood that I even made friends with Peanut, the chihuahua, which is unusual, because usually I just want to step on chihuahuas. The proliferation of these things in NYC post-"Yo quiero Taco Bell" is just annoying, and also, half the time I think they're rats. But Peanut, pictured below, came up and sat down on my foot and made a friend for life. Dont' tell me she ain't cute here with her sparkly pendant (and her dad, Mitch):

Jonah took me on a good driving tour of the city so at least I got to see most of it. He made sure we hit up all the big touristy sites like the Golden Gate Bridge, and that I got a view of the bay and took a spin through the major neighborhoods that tourists are supposed to see; we did the requisite boozing in the Mission district and I fagged it up with the queens in the Castro -- I hold my rainbow flag aloft! I'm pleased to report that there are still dirty hippies in the Haight, but I must point out a little sadly that a Gap now sits at the corner of Haight and Ashbury.

But Jonah, knowing that any self-respecting New Yorker doesn't just want the equivalent of a Big Apple bus tour, took me to see some more obscure stuff as well.

I hadn't been to San Francisco since 1997 when I was participating in a writing contest and didn't have much free time to sightsee. I was relaying this to Jonah, and he was asking about the writing contest. When I was in college, I won an award for in-depth writing; my subject was the resurgence of buffalo on the Great Plains. National winners in each of the (eight?) categories get shipped out to San Francisco to try to out-write each other for what seemed, at the time, like a Massively Huge Cash Prize (for the record, and lest anyone think I'm tooting my own tinny bugle, I didn't win). So anyway, I was telling Jonah about this and he was like, "You like buffalo? We got buffalo!"

Within minutes, we were standing inside Golden Gate Park staring at a genuine herd of American Bison. I was telling Jonah all the fun facts I know about bison (and believe me, after like four months of reporting on them, I know many, many more facts about bison than is probably healthy), and noticed that a group of gangly, goofy boys next to us was kind of eavesdropping. One of them says to me, "Hey lady? I thought buffalos were EXTINCT." I didn't know what to say, except, "Um, no -- there's a whole herd of them standing right there."

ANYWAY, I figure a day where I can go hiking, commune with a herd of buffalo, and drink some excellent California wine is nothing to sneeze at.

The next day I went for an hour-long run, which was enough to burn my skin into a chip-like crisp, and after that I checked into the Ritz. The last time I stayed at a hotel, it cost $50, was two miles from the Atlanta airport, and my balcony overlooked a dumpster, a Waffle House and an Arby's. The Ritz wasn't like that. Here is a fruit tray they put out with me (along with a handwritten letter sealed in wax), with figs and fresh plums and berries and nectarines, the day I arrived:

After the work event I had Monday, Jonah took me out for massive burritos in the Mission. To say that I was dragging my feet on the way to the airport would be an extreme understatement. The streets in San Francisco LITERALLY smell like flowers, and I was loath to leave that behind and return to the land of stench. Sure enough, the first thing that happened to me when I got back to New York and hopped the A train was that a bum sleeping on the bench across from me pooped himself.

Maybe it's a sign, via the MTA, that it's time to move to the land of flowers and figs and fags.


Anonymous BklynJace said...

San Francisco is a great place -- to visit.

A couple of years ago I was in town and decided to take the BART. I got myself oriented, went downstairs, and confronted a MASSIVE crowd. Pretty soon it was obvious this was not normal: There was muttering and yelling and TV crews stirring up more of same.

This was the Crowd Beginning To Go Collectively Insane point at which in NYC you find the closest path out of the subway posthaste, but I had that stupid sense of traveler's immortality and was kind of curious. From the ranting I gathered that something had changed with the way they were operating the BART, people weren't being allowed to board outbound trains (or some damn thing), and folks stuck on the platform were pissed.

One woman was particularly pissed. She started screaming about the BART, city employees, taxpayers, the mayor, etc. She was literally frothing at the mouth. The TV crews zoomed in and other folks on the platform started screaming support and clapping as she got more and more agitated.


Uh-oh, I thought -- this is the point they start tearing transit workers into bloody hunks. I'm going to fricking die down here.


And that was it. Everybody clapped and waited patiently for the train. As for me, my relief turned immediately to disgust. I went upstairs and found a cab.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Guy said...

god-damned hippie.

5:51 PM  

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