Thursday, June 30, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day three, part two

this is the second part of my day three post...

today i did alot of walking: down 18th into potrero hill, then up potrero to 24th, then down 24th into the mission district, up mission back to 18th, and back to the castro. my goal was to check out the area my plane buddy erica had suggested to me--potrero hill. not sure if i found the right area though...there was not much of a main street area there. it was somewhat dreary, and there was a big hospital, the that is all i saw, at least until i hit 24th st. on 24th there were tons of shops, primarily latin themed, and i found the area to be very colorful--lots of murals.

i was told later that i was walking through noe hill, but i would have to verify that. it felt like the mission district. i stopped for coffee in a place called "sugarcube", and i wrote a bit while sipping a vietnamese iced coffee. most of the patrons at this coffee shop were on laptops (just like los angeles). i was a bit surprised by that.

once refreshed, i continued on 24th until i hit mission, then i turned onto that street and really got a sampling of the latin flavor of this area. it reminds me of the jewelry district in downtown los angeles--just shops and shops and shops. i decided to have papusas for lunch: three for three dollars! this would be a colorful area to live in for sure--but not inexpensive i'm afraid, at least not for a nice place. i can understand the culture clash between the mission district and the castro, as they bump right up against each other and are so completely different in populations. even with gentrification, the castro is still pretty dfamn gay.

when i turned on 18th and headed back into the castro, i stopped to shop for picnic items at bi-rite, a remarkable local market that, though much smaller, kinda outs whole foods to shame. the selection appears to be all natural, and ALL prepared foods are made in house. their prepack salads looked delicious, and i had a hard time deciding on just two of them. i went with the curry chickpea salad and the quinoa fennel heirloom salad to go with the mini turkey mearloaf i had for a main dish. appetizer was rosemary crackers with triple cream brie, and dessert was chocolate truffle pudding with dark chocolate shavings. ALL amazing and delicious. i liked the feel of this market: small and friendly and local, with knowledgeable and caring staff. it's a place i would want to shop.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day three, part one

on the last day of may, i flew into san francisco for a few days of r&r before my stint crewing on the aids lifecycle. i stayed at a b&b in the castro district from tuesday through sunday morning, and i took no netbook with me...instead, i took an old fashioned composition book and a pen. i found myself writing--a lot! this series of posts are my transcriptions of the writing i did in the foggy city. below is day three in the city.

sleep is wonderful. i think about how often, as biological creatures, we need something in order to thrive: sleep, water, oxygen, touch, food. i might add "vacation" to that list. oddly though, it is often when on vacation that i don't sleep. or sleep enough. but not last night--the melatonin did its work. this morning at breakfast i met a whole table full of fellow travelers: saulo and phillipe from brazil, marcus from germany, and my friends from wednesday's breakfast, ann and helen from england. saulo and phillipe are beautiful men--makes me want to book a flight to brazil immediately. but that's another story. the amazing thing about this breakfast is that we got to talking about our respective countries: cell phone etiquette, biking, vacations. and as it so often happens when discussing other countries, i found myself wistful for a place where people know how to relate, interact, eat, drink, and love. since i am not planning on moving outside of the country, i have to go where the best of these options may occur relative to how they are displayed in american terms. to that extent, it is my observation that san francisco trumps los angeles in all of those categories. in fact, i will go out on a limb here and state that i don't even think there is a competition. in los angeles, i think people are forgetting how to eat, or at least they soon will. that is because they are systematically removing everything from their food: dairy, gluten, wheat, carbs, calories, meat, oil, salt, flavor. i mean, seriously!! angelinos, IF they drink, are trying to remove the sulfites from their wine. IF they interact, they are removing, as much as possible, the face to face part of that. they have certainly succeeded in removing voice from interaction--in fact, i know some people in los angeles who boast of never answering their phones--they only respond to text or email!

and love? well. hmmm. that;s a tough one. i have been in los angeles for so many years that i don't know if i have enough of a comparative context to address that one. with food and drink, it is fairly easy to compare geographic experiences--all i need to do is go to a couple of restaurants in another city. but with love, not so easy. what i do know is that in los angeles, from what i have seen, people tend to love publicly, conditionally, conveniently, and temporarily. love is treated as something to "check off" a list, like going to the dentist or getting a job, but i don't know if it is on many people's regular maintenance schedules. it has not been on mine for a while, that's for sure. i think that in los angeles, people are trying to remove stuff from love like they are doing with their food and wine, except with love they are removing tension, commitment, time, empathy, and curiosity, and relying on sex to fill the cup to the brim. and it takes a lot of sex to fill that cup.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day two

on the last day of may, i flew into san francisco for a few days of r&r before my stint crewing on the aids lifecycle. i stayed at a b&b in the castro district from tuesday through sunday morning, and i took no netbook with me...instead, i took an old fashioned composition book and a pen. i found myself writing--a lot! this series of posts are my transcriptions of the writing i did in the foggy city. below is day two in the city.

woke late today because i got to sleep late...frustrating, and not how i preferred to spend my first night and morning in san francisco. but what was i to do now? the day, and the city, was waiting for me. i treated myself to breakfast at the b&b: poached eggs on sauteed kale with shaved parmesan--delicious. then i did what any angelino does first day off when abroad (at least the gay ones)--i went to find a gym. i walked to a 24 hour fitness and did the best i could, given the lack of sleep and the continuing recovery from my cold of last week (how long do those things last, anyway?) it felt good to work out, but i also, at times, felt like throwing up. an odd mix of sensations, to say the least. i felt off, an unusual and unpleasant feeling, especially when in another city on vacation. but then, as asked before, what was i to do? i am fully aware that my mood depended less on how i felt and more on how much time i spent wishing i felt otherwise. feeling otherwise, as it were, would happen in good time, i was sure, and i knew that while i could contribute to its arrival, i could not control its timing. so after my workout, i did the one thing i thought might help: i went back to the inn to take a nap. my b&b: inn on the castro

it helped. so did the pair of shoes i bought on the way back...


after my nap, i ended up meeting one of my clinical supervisors, richard, for tea at peet's coffee. he happened to be staying in the castro this same week,. and we both agreed that it would not be unethical to meet for a beverage. we had a wonderful conversation, and we both learned things about each other that we otherwise would never have known, in all probability. i very much enjoyed it. we each had dinner plans, but before we went to our respective plans there was still time to meet his hosts and take a look at their home.
joel and sam own and operate the castro suites, and richard has known them for many years. as a couple, they are approaching fifty years together. unbelievable!! joel is a painter, and sam makes ceramics, and their home is awash in art, color, and collectibles. both of these men, and richard as well, have long histories with san francisco, and the castro, and were able to both revel in, and survive, the time before and during the appearance of aids in the city. it was a different time, to be sure.

this year marks thirty years of aids, and to acknowledge this there is a huge red aids "ribbon" installed on twin peaks hill.
thirty years. that's a hell of a long time. i am old enough to remember what it was like back then, when i was barely an adult and living in san diego. i remember how terrified i was, like everyone else. that terror, and the effect it had on my behavior, is most likely the reason i am alive today. i am grateful for that. i like being alive, even when i feel off.


that evening i had dinner at a great restaurant called absinthe,
in the hayes valley area of the city. i was told that the restaurant had been there for years, and on a wednesday night, it was full. fortunately for us (me and my date), we got there early enough to get a table without reservations. dinner was fantastic, as was the company. we ended up getting four different "share plates", which is the most fun, because we each got some of everything we ordered. here are a couple of the dishes we ordered...

and, in homage to my friend dave's way of being in restaurants, we chatted a bit with our table neighbors. as a gay man, i love being able to share a dinner with another man openly amidst straight couples, and feeling as if it were perfectly natural. and it was. the young couple next to us were charming and personable, and responded to me and my date, and the affection we were displaying towards each other, with utter ease. for me, this is infinitely more interesting and satisfying than ensconcing myself in a "gay restaurant" in a "gay neighborhood". perhaps that is because i identify as a human being who is attracted to men, which is subtly yet distinctively different than identifying as a "gay man". discuss.

later that night, after my date, i fell under the spell of the melatonin i took--i wasn't going to screw around with sleeplessness another might, and i dozed off into a deep and refreshing sleep.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day one, part two

on the last day of may, i flew into san francisco for a few days of r&r before my stint crewing on the aids lifecycle. i stayed at a b&b in the castro district from tuesday through sunday morning, and i took no netbook with me...instead, i took an old fashioned composition book and a pen. i found myself writing--a lot! the next series of posts will be my transcriptions of the writing i did in the foggy city. below is part two of the first day in the city.

once i was settled in my b&b, i decided to take a walk down into the castro and look around before getting something to eat. i loved the idea that i had nowhere i had to be, nothing i had to do, and nobody i had to meet. i rarely get to indulge that type of freedom. the castro is still the castro, and i confess that i did my best to not look like a tourist. i believe i succeeded on some levels. i mean, i am told that i look like a san franciscan, especially with the beard. but i tend to "fit" into wherever i go--i make that effort. i notice what is going on and i adopt some of it into my manner. the reason for this is so that i can more easily become the observer and not the observed.

i ended up going into "harvey's", a popular bar and restaurant on 18th and castro. it is named after harvey milk. i almost left though, because the bartender seemed to be so busy (i sat at the bar) that i was starting to feel nervous myself. you know how it is so hard to relax in a restaurant if it appears that your server is about to drop dead? well, i stayed, and he provided good service, and i had a very good chicken sandwich. the place was really really crowded, and i found out from the woman next to me at the bar that is was "comedy night", and she knew this because she was going to be doing some comedy herself. naturally, we talked about my history with doing stand-up, and then she commented that she was surprised that i ate the huge sandwich they brought me. believe me, i was just as surprised. i did not stay for the comedy night though--it was late and crowded and i wanted to continue to walk around.

i ended up at a bar, 440, and i ordered a beer and sat at the bar to drink it. it was crowded as well (what is it about tuesday nights in the castro?) i wasn't really in the mood to "meet" anyone, but i enjoyed being out in a fun place. the dj was playing a big variety of music, and at one point he shocked everyone by playing leo sayer's "you make me feel like dancing". not what you usually hear in a gay bar in the castro! i could hear some comments around me from guys old enough to remember the song when i was a hit in the 70's. ended up speaking to one guy when he came up to the bar to get a beer. he told me that the dj was his friend. my "look" didn't fool him, he guessed that i was an out-of-towner, but primarily because he didn't recognize me. he was nice, and i was again surprised at finding myself talking to someone. while i didn't feel like jumping into the middle of things, i enjoyed this conversation. his name was marc.


as i lay in my bed later that night, strangely unable to get to sleep, i began to think about being here, in san francisco, and being out of los angeles, more specifically. i started thinking about my conversations with erica, and with justin, and with the female comic (did not get her name), and with marc. i began thinking about how, in all of these conversations, i was different than i am in los angeles, but also still very much the same. i can't expect my guardedness to disappear and melt away in one evening, but i think i did warm up a bit. i wondered if that was the limit--if i would ever not feel "odd" engaging in a conversation with a friendly stranger, and i wondered if i would move up here and find out that, in the worst sense, "wherever i go, there i am". i thought a lot about it, in these wee hours of the morning, and i finally drifted off to sleep around 3:30 am, having not reached any conclusion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

the san francisco chronicles, day one, part one

on the last day of may, i flew into san francisco for a few days of r&r before my stint crewing on the aids lifecycle. i stayed at a b&b in the castro district from tuesday through sunday morning, and i took no netbook with me...instead, i took an old fashioned composition book and a pen. i found myself writing--alot! the next series of posts will be my trascriptions of the writing i did in the foggy city.


day two of vacation. day one was uneventful, even though it was a holiday. to me, it was just the day i had to finish preparing for my trip. even so, i didn't have to work, and i did make a nice holiday dinner that i shared with my neighbor rolando: baked mango-jalapeno chicken and coleslaw with bacon-parmesan dressing. for dessert, we had chocolate chip brownies with vanilla ice cream. scrumptuous!

anyway, back to day two. i am sitting on a plane, about to depart for san francisco. we were delayed by an hour, so i bought a sandwich and a book in the airport. the sandwich was turkey with cheddar--good--but not worth $8.50! the book is a novel called "the solitude of prime numbers", and it cost $15.00. it is too soon to comment on the worth of the book, but after three chapters, i am already hooked. besides, to me, books are priceless, so i probably am not qualified to assess its worth.

i am sitting next to a nice young woman, and she is friendly and sweet. could be worse. she is with a male friend.

i hope that we do not crash and die. first off, that would be a shitty way to start (and end) a vacation; and secondly, i have not made any provisions for what would happen to all my stuff at home if i were to die suddenly. i would not want either the state or my brother to get my paintings and my books. at some point i will have to make some sort of a living trust so these things are taken care of, but until then, i just hope we do not crash and die.


we did not crash and die. we made it safely, albeit one hour late, to san francisco. and to my utter surprise (at myself!), i ended up having a whole conversation with the young woman seated next to me, who by the way is named erica. she was flying with her friend justin, and they had just come back from attending a wedding in mexico. erica owns a store in the oakland area, the rare bird, that sells clothing and art and jewelry, and justin plays guitar for a living, and he does not own a cell phone! (my new hero)

i started chatting with erica because i noticed that she was reading "catcher in the rye", and i was rather shocked. i don't see many people in their twenties reading this book on their own. what impressed my even more is that she told me this was her second time! now can you understand why i broke my own "no talking to people on planes" rule? she told me about her store, and she told me about san francisco, and she suggested that i check out the potrero hill area. i think i will to that--it is not too far from the castro district. before i left the airport, i took a chance and asked if i could snap a photo of my "new friends", and they agreed. i am glad i did, and i hope i get a chance to visit erica's store.

erica and justin, "vogueing" at the baggage claim