25 Ways to Find Love in San Francisco

lalalovela1. Go to a taqueria and buy a burrito for the person behind you in line.

2. Go to The Mint karaoke bar and sing anything by Neil Diamond. Use the musical break in the middle to tell a story. Someone in the back will notice.

3. Take the N Juda and smile at the first person you see who looks interesting. If he smiles back, follow him home. If he doesn’t get scared when you confront him at his front door, ask him if you can come inside.

4. Pay close attention to the sidewalks. If you pass a house that has a handprint pressed into the concrete outside, check under the blue flowerpot.

5. Give the next ten Uber cabs you order five stars and unlock the special weekend chariot. When it shows up sit in the front seat instead of the back and drink the free water.

6. Go to the De Young and stand in front of a painting you just don’t get. After two hours, look harder. After three, blink three times and scratch your head. After four, begin to feel faint. After five, look around to see if anyone else is seeing this. After six, you’ll begin to understand.

7. Go to any local bookstore and write your name and phone number on page 37 of Tales from the City.

8. Next time you pass a discarded pile of clothes on the street, check the pockets.

9. Memorize a poem, any poem. Get drunk at Vesuvio and and stand up on your stool as you recite it to the whole room. Even if you’re too wasted to get the words right, someone will buy you a shot and ask you where you’re from before the night is over.

10. Go to Bourban and Branch and tell them you have a reservation under Neroda. When you get to the back room find Ricardo and ask him to make you a drink that’s bittersweet. Drink it all, wait for the ice to melt, then finish that too.

11. Bring a red bottle to Blue Bottle Coffee and ask them for a drip. If they can figure out a way to make it work, offer them the first sip.

12. Get a red Sharpie pen and draw a heart on the sleeve of your favorite denim shirt. Keep your eye on the first person who notices. She might be the one.

13. Write your three favorite adjectives on the palm of your hand. Share lunch with the first person who fits two out of three. The third will come with time.

14. Don’t bring your lunch to work. You’ll never find it that way.

15. Go out into the fog and remember that it is only a cloud that has touched the ground. If you happen to bump into someone while wandering through the mist, ask them if they’d like to get lost with you.

16. Wear a scarf. Everyone in San Francisco loves a great scarf.

17. Tell a stranger thank you. When they ask what for, tell them everything.

18. Next time you’re in a crowd, close your eyes and listen. There will be a lot going on but if you wait you’ll hear it. Don’t worry, it’s there.

19. Next time you’re at your local bar draw a picture on a coaster and give it to the bartender as a gift. If he puts it on the wall next to the cash register, keep coming back.

20. Walk home and look in every window you pass. Knock on the door of the house with the best art on the wall or, if you’re shy, just stand outside and enjoy.

21. Give up your seat on the train to someone who is young and healthy and standing. It’s nice to be asked and they are more tired than you know.

22. Go to the ocean. As often as you can. Put your feet in the water, no matter how cold. Never, ever wear shoes on the beach. Whatever you do. That’s just wrong.

23. Find someone who doesn’t speak your language and tell them a secret.

24. Stick your tongue out at a small child with her mother. If she sticks her tongue out back, cross your eyes at her. If she crosses her eyes at you back, let her win. Most young children don’t know how to cross their eyes yet.

25. Smile. Sometimes that’s really all it takes.


Sad, Confused, and Oddly Grateful

Sometimes horrible things happen and I’m not sure how to respond. Yesterday I was at work getting frustrated about an email and office politics, wondering what I was going to eat for lunch, laughing over some stupid cat picture, and planning for the night ahead. Then I saw the news and read about children dying, I watched the president’s address, and saw the picture of little kids crying while holding hands in a line. It was hard to fit this new piece of reality into my day. To know what to think about it and what to say when there was still the business of living to attend to.

When I was in high school we used to have these lock-down drills. I think we only did it once or twice but I remember them well. They’d call the drill over the loud speaker–the same one we used for morning announcements about football games, soccer practice, and spirit week–and the teacher would turn out all the lights, lock the door of the classroom, and tell us to get in the far corner of the room because it was the least visible spot if you were standing at the door. We’d sit there in the corner huddled together in the dark–thirty plus teenagers and our teacher. We’d talk about our weekends, the upcoming test, what we were doing that night. A few of us would giggle nervously over our close proximity. Some girls were sitting on boys’ laps. Others were crouched on the floor holding our knees. I remember one time we talked about the Oscars and what movies were coming out. Another time we tried to remember old songs from outdoor school and even sang a few. While we were sitting there someone would come by the door with a flashlight and shine it through the little window. We’d all get quiet, scrunch ourselves up tighter and closer, get as small as we could, and shrink together into one silent mass in the corner of an otherwise empty classroom. The light would shine on a couple frozen faces but none of us really thought about what that meant or would mean. We were 15 and 16. I had holes in my jeans, was obsessed with Dawson’s Creek, and used to write long bad poems on my dad’s yellow legal pads. We voted for homecoming, wrote stories for the school paper, and skipped class to take all three lunches. This was just one more thing we did. This was just how we prepared ourselves for extreme acts of violence–a bunch of children sitting together in the dark.

Sometimes, when I get out of the MUNI station downtown I’ll be taking the escalator up to the street level and I’ll begin to hear music from some street player’s violin or guitar. The closer I get to the top the louder the music gets so it feels like I’m getting closer to something important or like something great is going to happen to me when I finally get outside into the day. It’s a lovely way to start the morning but last week when I got to the top the music suddenly stopped. An old man with a grey tattered beanie put down his violin and coughed into his hand twice. It was a deep cough, a little gross, and too close to my face for comfort but when he was done he picked right back up and the music started again. It wasn’t the greeting I expected but something about it seemed right.

I don’t like guns. I have always thought they were useless and unnecessary for my life. I don’t understand why anyone would want one. I grew up in Oregon so I understand hunting. I have friends who hunt and they are people I care about and respect and I think it’s great that they hunt and fish and eat what they catch. I can understand that. They treat their guns with respect and it’s not a big deal. I still don’t want to be there. I don’t want to fire a gun or hear it. That’s not a big deal either.

I had a boyfriend who went to a gun range with a friend after we had been dating for a while. He came home after a fun day and wanted to get a gun. I made fun of him. I probably wasn’t very nice or fair about it, but he knew me well enough to know that was how I’d react. He went out and bought a dart gun. It was a fancy dart gun that looked like a real gun–long and grey with a black handle–and it shot little darts with yellow and red feathers on the end of them. I don’t remember him shooting it or practicing with it. I think he used to shoot at the wood paneling in his apartment. I think I may have shot it too. I know he used it as a prop for his Halloween costume. There are pictures of him holding it while wearing a fedora and a grey suit. I was a pirate and had a fake knife. He was a great guy and a good man, I’m sure he still is, but whenever he played with that gun he looked like a little boy to me.

I signed onto Facebook for a moment this morning and next to pictures of my friends’ sleeping children, holiday sweater parties, and cooked dinners there were long paragraphs about gun control, rants about how inappropriate it is to talk about politics while people are hurting, angry outbursts about how cruel people are and how senseless everything is, prayers for those who were lost or those who are missing those who are lost, and messages about hugging  our kids just a little bit tighter. I just felt glad and oddly grateful to know all these people, that we all care so much about something that didn’t just happen to a small town in Connecticut but that happened to all of us. I don’t really have anything else to add to this conversation. I don’t know what to say. I have nothing to offer except my own confusion. I’m just writing this because it’s what I do when I don’t know what to do.

When you live in a big city you see people more, you’re forced into the same spaces with them, and it gets uncomfortable and weird. Sometimes people make mistakes. They don’t give up seats on trains or they order wrong from the coffee counter. You hear peoples’ conversations and some of them make you sick. Other times you listen in and find yourself wanting to tear up at the sweet things we sometimes say and do to each other. There is a woman with a cane who gets on my train about four stops after me. She gets around really well and is obviously very spry but every single time she gets on the train she yells, really yells, “Can you give me a seat!” to the people sitting closest to the door.  She is terrifying but I love her. Once I was in the seat closest to the door and saw her get on and stood up before she had a chance to say anything and gave her my seat. She looked at me in surprise. We’ve been on the same train for months and months, almost a year, and I don’t think she recognized me. I don’t think she ever really looked at me before. But she did then and she said thank you. She seemed dazed and confused as she sat down. It felt like I had just gotten an A on a paper or a good job email from my boss. It was the smallest of gold stars but it was nice. Really nice. Especially because it came from her.

A few close friends of mine have lost their parents recently. We’re getting to the age where this happens sometimes. I’m not ready for it. None of us are.

I’ve been memorizing Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats and I’ve almost got it all down. I don’t know what made me start doing this but I was reading a lot of Ray Bradbury and started thinking about the oral tradition, about the last scene of Fahrenheit 451 where there are a bunch of people standing around fires collecting their thoughts and telling beautiful stories that had all been burned. I wanted something I could do to exercise my mind while also slowing it down. When my train goes into the tunnel, my music stops streaming, and the world grows quiet. This is when I recite it in my head. My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains… It calms me somehow. It reminds me of things. Of who I want to be. Of deaths and life. Of both the power and meaninglessness of words.

I’m not sure what any of this means. I don’t think it does mean anything. It’s just me talking about things I don’t understand. About things I couldn’t possibly.

Jeans with Holes, Illustrated Men, and Fairy Tales of the Strangest Sort

I don’t have a story to tell tonight or anything particular I want to talk about but for some reason I feel like talking about something, so hmmm… I’ll guess I’ll just be unparticular and talk about whatever random, non-specific thing comes to mind.

My Favorite Pair of Jeans
After my lament about growing up and trading my old torn jeans for my new colored pants, my friend Stephanie dug up an old photo of me wearing the pants that I loved so.

I don’t know what I like most about this photo–the awesomeness of the jeans, the fact that my face is full of braces, the subtle rainbow hair-ribbon you can just make out in the corner of the photo, Steph’s U.S. Navy poster that she got during our Closeup trip to Washington D.C., or the fact that we’re lounging on her bed most-definitely listening to CDs from the huge CD case at my feet. Ha, what good times. But thank god they’re over.

From This Outer Edge of Life, Looking Back
I finished The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury a couple of weeks back and it was (and is) a wonderful collection. There is one story, Kaleidoscope, about a group of men whose ship is lost and they all end up flying different directions in space, knowing they’re about to die, and even though each man is alone they can still hear each others’ voices over their headsets. The entire story is haunting for obvious reasons but I found this passage especially so…

‘That isn’t important,’ said Hollis. And it was not. It was gone. When life is over it is like a flicker of bright film, an instant on the screen, all of its prejudices and passions condensed and illuminated for an instant on space, and before you could cry out, ‘There was a happy day, there a bad one, there an evil face, there a good one,’ the film burned to a cinder, the screen went dark.

From this outer edge of life, looking back, there was only one remorse, and that was only that he wished to go on living. Did all dying people feel this way, as if they had never lived? Did life seem that short, indeed, over and done before you took a breath? Did it seem this abrupt and impossible to everyone, or only to himself, here, now, with a few hours left to him for thought and deliberation?

Makes me wonder how Bradbury felt when his time really did come. I wonder if he was ready for it, since he’d written about the end so many times. Of course, if this passage is any indication of course he wasn’t ready for it. It’s sad. But also lovely that he knew what life meant, that he felt its value and its loss. Not everyone has that.

I Would Rather  Have Something Living Than All The Treasures In the World
I’ve started taking a MOOC (Massive, Online, Open, Course which means a free online course from Corsera and the University of Michigan) called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World.

I’m taking it, in part for work, because I work in higher education and I’m curious about these MOOCs and whether or not they’re really worth anyone’s time. (There’s been so much hype about them, it’s hard not to be skeptical.) But I’m also taking it for myself, because as an English major who has long been wandering the world, lost and separated from my classes and discussions, I thought I’d check it out and see if I can get a bit of that academia back that I’ve been missing.

Right now, we’re reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales and they’ve been fun. Ever since I discovered Kelly Link’s short stories, Aimee Bender, and the collection My Mother She Killed Me, Father He Ate Me, I’ve been a tad obsessed with fairy tales.  However, I’ve been a bit backwards in my reading and have been reading all the modern adaptations of the classics rather than the classics themselves. So now, here’s my chance to read the originals.

A lot of the writing in Grimm’s tales is in that very matter-of-fact tone that most fairy tales are known for–like one of my favorite endings, “And so they were all dead together.” I like this tone. I like that the simplicity of the tales’ delivery is part of what makes them both fun and disturbing. But some of the passages and the stories I’ve taken the most notice of are the ones where a little bit of poetry and that more “fancy” language comes out. It’s like the emotion is there, just under the surface of all that matter-of-factness–and it can’t help but sneak out from time to time.

Like in the beginning of The Frog Prince

In the old times, when it was still of some use to wish for the thing one wanted

Or in Faithful John when the prince sets eyes upon a picture of a beautiful princess…

“My love for her is so great that if all the leaves of the forest were tongues they could not utter it!”

Or when Rumpelstilskin explains why he wants the poor girl’s first child and not her riches…

“No, I would rather have something living than all the treasures in the world.”

It’s so sad. I almost feel bad for Rumpelstilskin. He does seem a rather lonely fellow, even if he does want to steal away some poor girl’s first born child. Especially because he wants to steal away her child. And the princes’ odd tongue metaphor is rather sweet. And the beginning of the Frog Prince is so perfectly bittersweet. It hints that now, these times, it’s not worth wishing for things. Wishes don’t come true now, so it’s not even worth trying. But oh, once, though the stories were often harsh and cruel and bitter (just like our real world today is), once wishes were worth making. There’s a sad kind of beauty there.

Needless to say, I’m enjoying the stories. The course itself, I’ll wait to pass judgement on. But, hey, if it gets me to read more and be disciplined, then it’s worth my time I suppose.

It’s-Its are a San Francisco tradition you know?

This is a story, a very short story, about San Francisco and ice cream.

Tonight while I was walking home, I ran into an older man about five buildings down from me, waiting outside with a large box of It’s-Its. Naturally, my eye was caught by this large box and the oh-so-familar simple green writing and picturesque cookie sandwich on the outside, and I smiled because, well, I love It’s-Its. They’re wonderful. And there’s also something silly about them and their name and their oatmeal, ice cream, chocolate simplicity.

So then I’m smiling my soft, happy, sentimental smile and the man obviously catches me. I know this because when I could finally tear my eyes away from the ice cream I looked up and my eyes met his and it was just like when I’m on the train and I’m so obviously checking out someone’s book–trying to read the title or glance over  a shoulder–and the person somehow knows–even though he or she is deep into the reading, the person always knows–and the person looks up, which makes me look up, and then we meet eyes and then, well, I’m caught. It was just like that… only with ice cream. And when this man caught me, he didn’t look back down at his book feeling smug and satisfied. Instead he asked me…

“Would you like an It’s-It?”

Just like that. And then he took an It’s-It out of his box and held it out to me as I walked by. So I said, “Really?” And, he said, “Sure.” And I said, “Thank you, they’re my favorite.” (Even though I’m not sure they really are my favorite, but at that moment, right then they were.) So then he said, “Me too. It’s-Its are a San Francisco tradition you know? I used to always get them at Playland.”

And I didn’t know this. I didn’t know It’s-Its came from San Francisco, even though it’s right there on the wrapper. And I didn’t know what Playland was. And I didn’t know it was a tradition.

So naturally, I asked him about it and he told me there used to be a collection of amusement rides called Playland near Ocean Beach and that this was the only place that sold Its-It’s for the longest time because they were made there. And then his friends buzzed him in and my ice cream was melting (and so was his for that matter) so we both had to go.

But I thanked him again of course and told him to have a good night. Then he told me, “Enjoy the tradition!” and went up the stairs to meet his friends.

It was nice. It was more than nice actually. It was perfect.

It’s been a full couple of weeks. My friend Leslie came to visit and we drove all over the Bay Area to celebrate the 4th and visit old friends. I stopped by my old work and found myself tearing up in the hallways, not really knowing if it was the loss of a certain time of my life or the loss of a wonderful woman who seemed like she’d always be there and suddenly wasn’t. It was probably a bit of both. Some people get so tied to the places they inhabit that they become a part of them. Memory can do that. Either way it was good to visit. After that it was a full work week and back to the city life. Watching people finish books and leave them on trains, eating on rooftops with the girls from work, getting a copy of Gone With the Wind from my neighbor, or listening to people comment on the fog and bring up that same old Mark Twain quote about the coldest winter he ever knew over and over and over again. Then my daddy came and I had him all to myself for a couple of days. We went to The Saloon with my aunt and uncle, which is fast becoming my favorite dive bar and blues club in the city. Toured the neighborhood. Talked about books and work and politics and family over dinners. Saw a ball game with my brother and Jen. And phew, pretty much just had a great time.

I feel odd lately though. Do you ever have this feeling? Just like I should be doing more. Or like there’s something I’m supposed to be doing that I’m not, some potential that I’m not living up to, or some obligation that I’m not fulfilling. It’s an odd nagging feeling, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is somewhat disconcerting. But then, I’ve always felt this way really. Maybe it’s just that feeling of knowing there’s more ahead, other things to look forward to or look towards.

Ha, or maybe I’m just feeling guilty because I had an ice cream sandwich for dinner.

Either way, the It’s-Its was delightful. And it’s amazing to be in this place where I actually know my neighbors and they give me books, waves, and ice cream on my way home. I mean, wow, that is pretty amazing. I guess sometimes I just feel spoiled. Like I couldn’t possibly deserve all these gifts I’ve been given.

I’ll just have to come up with something to give back I suppose.

Hey, remember when I moved to San Francisco and had my power turned off in the second week?

I moved to San Francisco in June of last year and last week, during what was my sort-of anniversary of moving to the city, I dug out the journal I started when I first moved here. And, oh man, I had forgotten what a hard couple of months I had there at the beginning. I didn’t tell anyone this at the time, because I was much too embarrassed, but I had my power turned off because I waited too long to call PG&E to set  things up. As a result, I spent a couple of nights in the dark feeling sorry for myself.

What follows is a short selection from my journal during that time. They are incredibly embarrassing entries but they’re also pretty hilarious and I’m proud of them in a way. They are the best and worst parts of me, and serve as a good reminder that shit happens, people mess up, things do get better, and as long as I can keep laughing at myself and using excessive amounts of profanity, then I’ll be just fine. Well, better than fine actually. I’ll be great.

June 25, 2011

A while back, in another journal, I told myself I wasn’t going to start a new journal until I finished the one I was writing in. Obviouisly, I didn’t stick to that. At the time I felt like I was trying to start a journal every other week–I always start a journal when I need/want to make a break with the past or start a new chapter so to speak. It’s such obvious symbolism but it helps. I just feel bad because it’s a waste of paper. Also, the fact that I have about ten journals with only one or two entries in them could be somewhat symbolic as well. Symbolic of what, I’m not so sure. But it probably has something to do with me wanting to start over too much, failing a lot, and being unhappy and not wanting to admit it.

But bla, who wants to talk about that? Certainly not me. Certainly not now.

So yes, this journal is a break from the past but it’s also the start of something new. I mean, like duh. Aren’t all new beginnings at the end of something? Isn’t that what that old pop song says? “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” This journal will be like that. It will also be like everything else I write (and do and think and feel) these days: Confused.

June 27, 2011

So yes, I got a new job, quit my old one, packed up my stuff, left Santa Cruz, and moved to San Francisco. I don’t know why I thought this would be a smooth transition—probably because I’m an idiot–but it hasn’t been.

Changing your life can be like, really hard.

So ya, I’ve kind of fucked up. A lot. The shit I do sometimes, is so ridiculous, it amazes even me. Lately I feel like I’m one minor screw-up away from completely ruining my entire life. But you know, that’s kind of what makes it fun. And I need to remind myself that this is what I wanted. I wanted a challenge. I wanted something hard. “The hard is what makes it great.” I wanted to be scared and uncomfortable. I wanted this.

God, what a dumb bitch I was.

I should probably mention that I’m writing this while sitting on the floor of my new apartment in the dark. I forgot to call PG&E and they’ve turned off my power. Ooops.

I would also like to add that so far I have received three parking tickets and two angry notes from my neighbors about my inability to correctly park my car. Also, I took the wrong train home tonight and ended up riding around the city for a good hour and a half–okay, two hours–before I figured out where I was and how to get home. Nice eh?

But it’s  all okay because I have candles, I have red wine, I have an awesome sleeping bag, I have books (I always have books), and I’m actually feeling rather romantic sitting here on the floor of my empty apartment with Rupert on my lap, purring in that soft soothing way of his. And the bottle next to me is looking all tall and dark and beautiful and  half-finished here in the dim light. (No, I won’t say half-empty or half-full, because it doesn’t matter if I’m drinking it all tonight. Hahaha…)

There is great hope and promise in an open bottle of wine.

And yes, I’m getting cheesy and weird but so what? I’m sitting on the fucking floor in the dark, I can do what I want.

So I need to be able to bitch about life stuff in here because, frankly, I’m stressed the fuck out and I always try to be profound and talk about life and I dunno, my lame fucking feelings in here when I should just stop being an ass and start using my journal for what it’s supposed to be used for–bitching and laughing at how incredibly stupid I can be.

Years from now when I read this I’m hoping this will be an especially entertaining entry. “Hey, remember when I moved to San Francisco and had my power turned off in the second week? That was fucking hilarious.”

Oh well, it’s not that bad. Now I just deal. Fuck it you know? I’m just going to jump in and fail a lot. And make mistakes. Hopefully that will work out for me.

It’s dark. I’m writing by candlelight. Rupert has left my lap and now I can hear his claws click as he explores the next room, and the cough of the man walking by outside my window. There are car doors being opened and closed. The dog in the apartment above me scampering overhead. Buses stopping and starting again. Everything is moving. Everything makes this great noise–a communal hum of life and living. And yet here, in this room, I can hear the soft pat of my pen as it moves across this page, joining it all, and it feels so quiet.

I guess not having electricity will do that to you.

June 29, 2012

Ah yes, there’s nothing so romantic as cleaning a cat box by candlelight. Day two of no power and I’m surviving pretty well. I looked like absolute shit at work today but it rained so I might have looked that way regardless. I got another parking ticket. This time for parking too far from the curb. Or I think that’s why. I’m never sure since I obviously don’t know how to park here. So yes, fuck me.

I can’t wait until I have my power back on tomorrow and I can do my hair! Ha, it’s the little (shallow) things that make a difference.

I’m oddly happy though. It definitely feels like I’m squatting and that I don’t really live here, that this is all some sick joke, but that will pass. I’m excited to get paid, and finish and start a new book. And I have this weekend all to myself. I plan on doing absolutely nothing. I can’t wait.

June 30, 2012

The power is back on! Woooo hooo! I got home, played with the cat, then spent the rest of the night on the internet. Did I mention that I really love the internet? Because I do. I really do.

Oh man… but yes, now I have light and coffee in the morning, I mailed my rent, I need to pay my parking ticket. But life is good. Work is good. I have so much learning to do.

It’s good. It’s that time again. The time for me to kick some fucking ass. To let people tell me what I can’t do and do it anyway. To let my own mind tell me what I can’t do and do it anyway.  It’s fun. I forgot this feeling. I forgot I was even like this.

I don’t want to be one of those scared broken people. I don’t want to be afraid. I want to be stupid and crazy and in love with the world, just like I was when I was 14… and 16… and then again at 18, and 21, and 24, and now 27. I want to cry because it’s all so beautiful and I’m such a hopeless mess. I want to laugh long and hard and without control. I want to smile while I walk down the street alone and also at strangers on the train, at the bar, at the supermarket, or outside my window. I want to love everything without shame. I want to feel horrible and wonderful and confused all at the same time. To get home from work and run until I can barely breathe, to stop in the midst of it all and gasp, bent over with my hands on my knees. I want to fail and fail and fail time and time again. And learn everything there is to know from failing. I want to hurt too. I want to yell and scream. To shake and sob. To run on beaches. Trip down stairs. I want to embarrass myself. I want to be stupid and careless and also thoughtful and perceptive. I want it all. I want everything. I want so much. I don’t care anymore. Fine, I’m going to fuck up. Great. Watch me everyone. Watch me fuck up! Me–Megan Fucking Murray–I’ll fuck up more gloriously and  passionately than anyone has ever fucked up before! And I’ll fucking love it too. Every fucking second of it. It’s going to be great. I’M going to be great.

Turn the page and see.

What I wouldn’t give for a hoodie, sneakers, and a six-pack of PBR tallboys right about now

I had this weird moment walking home last Friday. It was one of those Fridays where I found myself without plans so I decided to treat myself with a good bottle of wine and a new book. I got off my train at 24th street and bought my nice bottle, but it was getting later, around 7:30ish, and the skies were grey and drizzly. For some reason I felt like wearing heals that morning, so I had my black wedges on (shown above) with my new bright pants. This was all well and good for most of the day, but it really was not the best outfit for walking six city blocks in.

So I have my wine and I start walking home, and I have my music, and I’m in this great mood because it’s Friday in the city. And ya, my feet hurt, but I knew that would happen so I’m just laughing it off and going with it. And then it starts raining, like really raining, not just a drizzle. But I have a coat on and it kind of feels nice and refreshing because it’s not a cold evening, just a wet one, so I go with that too.

And I tend to be a bit of a romantic, so walking home in the rain while listening to Billie Holiday (which was on my iPod) makes me feel kind of great. Like, of course, I should be walking home in the rain right now. Of course, Billie Holiday is on and I’m 28 and it’s summer, and I’m in San Francisco and there are people kissing up against that building over there (there really was) and there are drops of rain running down the side of my face and into my eyes, and people eating in that restaurant, watching me as I walk by shakily yet steadily… And isn’t life so beautiful and real? And aren’t these are the moments that make me feel alive? The little, stupid, silly moments of nothing… and everything… that make me feel sublimely happy for no real reason at all?!

(Yes, I took it there. You might as well know, I always take it there.)

But then the rain kept on coming, harder, and the bag I was carrying got wet on the bottom, so I had to cradle it, which isn’t easy, and I was balancing on my shoes that by now (I was only at 26th street and heading to 30th) I was really slipping on because they are opened toed and wet and ridiculous and completely wrong for this city yet alone this weather. And ya, my feet really fucking hurt. I could feel the blisters forming and I seriously considered taking off my shoes and walking home barefoot in the rain. (That would have been romantic wouldn’t it?) But then I smelled that smell that sometimes comes with a city rain… the smell of stale urine made fresh again….and I decided that no, no walking barefoot on urine-coated streets in the rain would not be romantic. So I walked on.

And you can imagine what I looked like at this point. I was wobbling, I was wet, I was wearing my trendy teal pants that were completely wet and stuck to my legs, I was cradling this bag of wine and cheese that was literally falling apart in my hands, I had my work bag over one arm with my books and laptop in it so I was kind of leaning to one side while I walked, my coat was soaked, my hair was too, and I probably looked like the biggest idiot in this city.

And then this guy walked by…

He was wearing brown chucks, a navy-blue sweatshirt with the hood up, baggy jeans with holes in the knees, and carrying a six-pack of PBR tallboys. Suddenly, I was reminded of everything I used to be.

I use to love my hoodies, my baggy jeans with holes in the knees, I lived in my brown chucks–all worn and dirty and absolutely wonderful. And as for the PBR tallboys… Oh man, that was my go-to good time on Fridays nights. I remember being in college and having no money and no credit, looking in my car for quarters, going to the store and buying my six-pack of PBR tallboys for $1.80. $1.80!!! And I paid in change. Ha, and that’s all I needed for a fun night with my friends. And I’d show up at whatever party was going on in my hoodie, sneakers, and my PBR tallboys and have some of the best times of my life laughing, and drinking, and pretty  much acting like a great big bum while hanging out in someone’s basement sipping on cheap beer and discussing things like books or rap music or the stupid things we all did last weekend and the stupid things we wanted to do next weekend and when we grew up, and when we graduated and got jobs and lives.

Sigh… life was so much simpler back then.

And for a moment it all came back to me, watching this guy happily swing his beers in the rain, sauntering down the street to whatever night he had ahead of him. And I really wanted to trade places, for just a moment, or at least trade shoes, because by then my feet were absolutely killing me and I had slowed down considerably, and if anyone had wanted to attack me, well now would have been the time, while I was wet and vulnerable, and wishing I had a hoodie, sneakers, and a six pack of PBR tallboys.

But I didn’t have those things. I had my black wedges, teal pants from The Gap, my work laptop , a bottle of Three Valley’s Ridge, some fancy cheese from Whole Foods, and my iPod.

Who had I become? I mean, wow, what a dumb bitch. Haha, and I know it’s bad to say such a thing about yourself, but ya, I thought it, and I maybe even deserved it.

But then the next song came on my iPod and it was Stormy Blues. It was the perfect song to limp home in the rain while feeling sorry for yourself to. And I thought of the particular pleasure, the small magic, of having the exactly right perfect song come on your shuffle. How the fact that you’re listening to it on this corporate, branded, iThing doesn’t really matter when the song is just so fucking great.

And I thought, you know, that guy is really missing out on this. Whatever this is.

Whatever that was.

It’s odd the realizations you can come to in one odd walk home. Life changes and so do we. We wear different pants, we walk in different shoes. We drink different drinks. There’s comfort and beauty to be found in torn jeans and tennis shoes and there’s a certain comfort in wedges in the rain too. Even if that comfort is just the familiar feeling of being a total and complete mess.

So no, I didn’t want to trade places. But I’m not going to lie, if he would have asked me, I gladly would have traded shoes.

The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.

I stumbled across a series of etchings Henri Matisse did for a printing of Ulysses in 1935 while going through my news feeds tonight. They are wonderful and the book looks amazing. Read the post and check out the rest of the etchings on Brain Pickings. There is a $30,000 book signed by both Joyce and Matisse. I don’t know why but it seems crazy to me that such a thing even exists. I might have to make a trip to the museum this weekend.