Stuff that has happened and stuff I have seen

My cat killed a bird last week. He has never done this before and yet he dragged a headless sparrow into my apartment.  (I am calling it a sparrow because it looks like what I imagine a sparrow looks like but really I have no idea what it was, or if sparrows even live in San Francisco–perhaps it was the only sparrow here, perhaps it was the last sparrow of San Francisco and now my cat has killed it.) It was early in the morning (around 2:00) so I just let him in and he played with his sparrow in the dark–tossing it up, throwing it down, ripping it up–for a good ten minutes before I finally realized that he was romping with his catnip mouse with just a tad more enthusiasm than was usual. I had to scoop the poor bird up and throw it away.

And then, two days later I went to the Picasso exhibit at the De Young and there was a painting of a cat with a bird. This painting:


And it looked so much like my cat, and it seemed so odd and fated and connected somehow that there should be this painting of my cat at this exhibit (and all in the same week) that I had to buy the ridiculous print. It’s hanging above my head now. I kind of love it.

“Maybe he was Picasso’s cat in a past life,” my friend Stephanie, who was with me at the time said.

I always have called Rupert the Hemingway of cats (from an old conversation Victoria and I had about him) so it would not surprise me at all if he had hung out with Picasso. A cat’s life is A Moveable Feast afterall. And everyone hung out in those days. I know because I saw them all together in the movie A Midnight in Paris, that was playing at the Kubuki Theater last weekend. And then they were also all in The Stein’s Collect exhibit that’s at the SFMOMA. (That’s not to be confused with the Picasso exhibit I saw at the De Young or the Five Stories exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.)

I like when all the museums in San Francisco get together. It’s like the whole city is having one big conversation about art.

(I say this like it has happened to me before, like I know all about this connection between museums, but really this is the first time I’ve noticed this supposed connection since it’s only the second month I’ve lived here.)

The man who works at the corner store across the street from me (the corner store across the street, I think I like that) asked me what I do for a living tonight. I told him and then he asked me, “What is marketing?”

I didn’t know how to answer so I laughed instead. The man had just sold me a sandwich I didn’t want or need. (I’m eating it now and it’s delightful.) When I couldn’t explain my position he asked me where I worked.  After I told him in the financial district he said, “Did you know that I have two sons?”

I didn’t know the answer to that either so I laughed again.

This is a common pattern with me–unknowingness and laughter.

There is another, completely different man on my way to work. He works in the hotel that’s connected to the building I work in, but on the other side of it. I noticed him waving at me when I walked by the glass door he works behind. I’m usually kind of out of it in the morning, lost in my own thoughts and walking and daydreaming, listening to music. But I looked up and caught his eye once and he waved at me. At first I didn’t really think he meant to but then the next day I checked and he did it again so I waved back. I started checking every day and he waved at me every day and so I waved back every day. Then I started looking forward to waving back. At first I thought I was special, like I was the only one he waved at, but then I noticed… Other people were waving at him too!

There are a lot of us. I knew for sure what was going on when there was this old woman who stopped in front of his door and waited for a good oh, minute or so (he must have been talking to someone) for him to look over and wave. The sidewalks are busy in the mornings, especially at this spot, but she stopped and she waved and she got her wave back. After that, I started noticing all the others. You can tell who knows about the man because they pause a little bit before approaching his door. And, I have to admit, he’s a great waver. He doesn’t just wave. He smiles. He smiles big and he waves like a little kid–full of enthusiasm. Like a little kid in the back of his parents’ car on a really long boring roadtrip. Huh, and maybe it is in a way.

But it’s just about the best, most beautiful thing ever, his wave. Anyone who knows me at all knows that it’s things like this that get to me. It’s like being in on a secret. It’s such a small silly thing but it makes me smile. And when I think of how many people he must wave at, how many people that must be in on the secret too, it’s like joining some kind of amazing waving club. It makes me giggle to myself every time. It makes me smile like a little kid too.

There is an old woman I met on the J the other night. She wanted to know where I had gotten my New Yorker. “I’ve looked all over the city for one,” she said, “and I can’t find one anywhere.”

I found this hard to believe but couldn’t be sure if she was exaggerating or not since I have a subscription. Still, she told me about how she had just moved here from Florida to be close to her daughter–she had been living with this daughter and her husband but it was “time for her to get her own place.” I told her I had been living with my brother and part of the reason I moved here was that it was time for me to get my own place too.

“Family shouldn’t live together for too long,” she said.

Which I thought was hilarious because isn’t that part of what a family is? People who live together? Not for long apparently.

I met a cab driver who hates traffic. “Funny thing, a cab driver who hates traffic, ” he said, “but I HATE it.”  Seemed kind of expected to me.

I got this print at the SFMOMA exhibit:

It’s by Marie Laurencin and shows her, Picasso, his mistress, and a poet named Apollinaire who was Marie’s lover. How scandalous it all seems and yet how dignified they all look. (Except maybe the girl in the bottom right corner, who is Laurencin the artist.) Something about it makes me happy. Maybe it’s just the story. Or maybe it’s the dog. I like thinking of artists all hanging out and loving and making mistakes with each other. I know it’s me romanticizing again but ha, isn’t what I’ve been doing this entire post? Isn’t that what I always do?

I’ve been reading a beautiful book. Here is a quote:

Because Momik has this gift, a gift for all kinds of languages no one understands, he can even understand the silent kind that people who say maybe three words in their whole life talk, like Ginzburg who says, Who am I who am I, and Momik understands that he’s lost his memory and that now he’s looking for who he is everywhere even in the garbage cans, and Momik has decided to suggest (they’ve been spending a lot of time together on the bench lately) that he should send a letter to the radio program Greetings from New Immigrants, and maybe someone would recognize him and remind him who he is and where he got lost, oh yes, Momik can translate just about anything. He is the translator of the royal realm. He can even translate nothing into something.

All of the kids in Noe Valley dress like princesses and superheros. If you go out on a Sunday, or even a weekday or a Saturday (but always on Sundays), you will see them skipping around the streets or tugging on their parent’s hands–Little princesses in Disney costumes somewhat at odds with their bicycle helmets. Boys wearing spiderman pajamas and crocks. It’s like stepping into another world where everyone is magic and has lots of money.

I’ve been listening to new songs recommended by an old friend. They make me happy and sad at the same time. But then, most everything worth loving usually does. Except for maybe dogs, potatoes, and ice cream. They’re always perfect.

I found a dive bar by my house where the bartender dances, they play Johnny Cash and Bonnie Rait, and the other night when I was walking by on the way back from the grocery store everyone was singing take me out to the ball game during the 7th inning stretch of the Giants game.

That. Is. So. Cool.

I was talking on the phone today, and I wanted to finish my conversation so I sat down on some steps before getting on the MUNI on Montgomery. A man saw me sitting there in my dress on the phone, I might have looked worried though I’m not sure why, and he came up and asked if I was okay.

I told him I was great but it was nice of him to stop and check.

I like it here.

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Tales of the City

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

After a long year of searching for the right opportunity, I finally found it and moved to San Francisco. A few things I’ve noticed so far:

  • It’s a city of storytellers.
    People here are so open, maybe because there’s so many of us in such a close compact space so we have to be, but everywhere I go people just start talking. It’s wonderful. On the bus, at the store on the corner, the coffeshop, the street corner, the elevator up to my office, in line for a sandwich at lunch, or just outside waiting for a light to turn. I’ve had a lot of complete strangers tell me the most random things.
  • It’s a city of readers.
    One of the best things about public transportation is that it makes you realize that reading isn’t dead nor will it ever be. Everybody reads! Little kids read, snuggled up to their moms in the morning. Punkish-looking teenagers read. I saw a teenager wearing five different colors of neon and reading Dumas the other day. It was simply glorious. Men in fancy suits read. People who carry their lives in bags read. Almost all of the women read. (I didn’t find this at all surprising.) Other books I noticed on the J this week included The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Bell Jar, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Next. Also, there’s a healthy mix of print and e-readers. I’d say there are even more print books. But maybe  that’s just because all the e-readers tend to take the BART and not the MUNI.
  • Parking is hard.
    Ugh, the way I used to feel about traffic on highway 1 is the way I currently feel about parking in Noe Valley. It’s feels like some kind of minor catastrophe  (and by minor catastrophe I, of  course, mean a $50 ticket) is inevitable. My first week here I got three parking tickets and two not-so-passive-aggressive notes on my car. Ooops. So I’m trying to learn the rules. Don’t park too far away from the curb, don’t park too close to a garage or red curb, don’t park too far from a garage or red curb, don’t park too close to other cars, and don’t park too far from other cars. Parking by bums and nefarious looking characters is actually you’re best bet–they’ll watch your car for you and the rich neighbor’s don’t mind if you take those spots. Oh man, lame.
  • Food is amazing.
    I’m sorry Santa Cruz but the food just tastes better in San Francisco. There’s more of it, everything is always fresh, the service is always good, and it’s yummy. (I still haven’t found a good Mexican place though, so Santa Cruz still wins on that one.)

So yes, I’m loving it so far. Changing your entire life can be overwhelming at times but it’s incredibly exciting and well, invigorating. It’s like getting a healthy slap on the face or jumping into a freezing cold ocean–a shock to the system but a waking up as well.

But enough of all that (there’ll be plenty more later I’m sure) lets talk about what I’m reading.

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

I picked this up at Red Hill Books while exploring Bernal Heights with my friends Victoria and Laurie. Victoria was the one that spotted it on a table and told me that it’s all about San Francisco and there’s currently a production in the works. So I grabbed it. The writing is kind of simple but it fits the tone of the book. The dialogue is great and each paragraph/chapter has a tendency to end on a little witticism or one-liner that sometimes annoys me but somehow it works in this context. The stories are fun and dishy. It’s like having a friend tell you all the good gossip of the city. And it actually helped me learn the neighborhoods and street names since San Francisco is both the protagonist and antagonist of every story. The other characters are enjoyable as well. And there are some great lines and good advice peppered throughout…

“When a woman triumphs in this town, she really triumphs.You’ll do alright dear. Give it time.”

She would not call him. The love he offered was deceitful, destructive and dead-end. He would have to call her.

“Mona… lots of things are more binding than sex. They last longer too.”

There were moments when Vincent felt like the last hippie in the world. The last hippie. The phrase assumed a kind of tragic grandeur as he stood in the bathroom of his Oak Street flat, fluffing his amber mane to conceal his missing ear. If you couldn’t be the first, there was something bittersweet and noble about being the last. The Last of the Mohicans. The Last Supper. The Last Hippie!

He had stopped truckin’ a long time ago.

I finished it my first week here and I’ll probably pick up some of the other books in the series. It’s fun and I care about the characters now and need to know what happens to them all.

The Double Life Is Twice as Good by Johnathan Ames

The Double Life Is Twice as Good by Johnathan Ames

This book was delightful and the perfect thing to read on the MUNI–lots of short stories and essays that you can start and finish in the length of a ride home. The only problem was some of it gets really racy and I always blush and feel self-conscious when reading “dirty” books or listening to “dirty” songs in public. I feel like everyone around me must know what I’m reading or listening to, but of course nobody does and it’s just me being silly.

So yes, Johnathan Ames is kind of depraved, reckless, and self-destructive but he’s also hilarious and full of heart. Ha, or he writes that way anyways. If anything he seems honest and that’s always fun to come across in writing. His stories have a sweetness to them that’s horribly attractive. He reminds me of a modern-day Kerouac and his group of friends are like all the crazy beat poets and characters only they are much more upfront about their gender-bending. (None of that subtle guessing stuff.)

I think my favorite piece in this collection was his article  about attending a goth festival. He was able to talk to so many people and get a lot of genuine stories and comments out of them that, oddly enough, everyone ended up seeming kind of sweet and innocent at the end of the piece. It wasn’t what I expected and I like it when writing does that–surprises you.

Some fun passages…

Being competitive never goes away. It’s instinctual, like lust. No matter how much you’ve made love you’re still, more of less, interested in sex. I, for example, never play competitive sports anymore, but I do play Internet backgammon against anonymous strangers and I find myself wanting to win. But why? Who cares? It must be Darwinian. To prove you are the best, then you get to have a mate and you get to pass on your genes. Why we want to pass on our genes, I don’t know, but seemingly we do. So this desire to pass on one’s genes fools one into striving, even at Internet backgammon or professional tennis. Something like that. Well, we’ve all been hearing about intelligent design and I’ve just now given an example of ignorant Darwinism.

The air temperature is pleasant. It’s the kind of night that makes you forget about global warming for half and hour.

It’s their eerie still blankness that makes me think they’re capable of murder–and the fact that I’m in the Midwest. The Midwest seems to cultivate serial killing. Must be the boxed-in geography.

They are the freakiest, most dysfunctional band of incredible lunatics, shining and exploding luminescently like human Northern Lights.

It was a good week. A good two weeks. The city is full of people and sunshine, the occasional unexpected rain, beautiful shoes and scarfs, dogs everywhere, spray-painted fish swimming on concrete, free energy drinks, protesters and joggers… More than anything it’s new. It’s a change.

I think this place will be good for me.