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.