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.

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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.

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.

A Potato Reading Virginia Woolf

Your eyes do not deceive you, that is indeed a potato reading Virginia Woolf. You see potatoes love post-modernism and the stream-of-consciousness style of writing. I do as well. That’s why I bought this custom print from Marc Johns, who will forever hold a special place in my heart.

It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song
I’ve been digging on Pete Seeger today. He’s like  Mr. Rodgers with a guitar. Or maybe like that guy who tells everyone to paint happy little clouds. Anyways, he’s pretty amazing. Here he is on the Johnny Cash show:

“You know these old songs, they never really die out. This song is the whole human race!”

This is the song I remember my parents playing as a kid:

Funny how at the time I just thought it was a fun, silly song with boxes and colors. I thought ticky-tacky was a good thing. It was such a silly word and it was so fun to say. As it turns out ticky-tacky is just the man trying to get me down! Once again, I have been disenchanted. But, you know, in a good way.

Strangers’ (Books) on a Train
Tonight on my way home, the passengers of the J train were reading the following:

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman 

The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

The Imperfectionists really wasn’t too great in my opinion, but only because I really wanted it to be great and it let me down. Sometimes I think the idea of a book is better than the actual book. (You can read my whole Goodreads review here.) The Devil in the White City sounded cool–murders and the World’s Fair. Okay, sounds cool, I’ll bite. And I’ve never read Journey to the Center of the Earth but I absolutely loved the cheesy movie they made us watch in grade school.

And okay, since I’m YouTube happy today, I have to embed the old trailer:

Oh man, that takes me back. How glorious. There’s something completely wonderful about old movie trailers.

Time Does Not Exist. I Ate It.
I’m still reading The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace and it’s still wonderful. Below is a selection that had me laughing out loud the other night. I should have shortened it up for you but I had a hard time stopping myself. (I guess I’m not the only one.)

“Didn’t I say to look at me? Can’t you tell what I am? Listen to me very carefully. I am an obese, grotesque, prodigal, greedy, gourmandizing, gluttonous pig. Is this not clear? I am more hog than human. There is room, physical room, for you in my stomach. Do you hear? You see before you a swine. An eating fiend of unlimited capacity. Bring me meat.”

“Have you not eaten in a very long time? Is that it?”

“Look, you’re beginning to bother me. I could bludgeon you with my belly. I am also, allow me to tell you, more than a little well-to-do. Do  you see that Building over there, the one with the lit windows, in the shadow? I own that Building. I could buy this restaurant and have you terminated. I could and perhaps will buy this entire block, including that symbolically tiny Weight Watchers establishment across the street. See it? With the door and windows so positioned as to form a grinning, leering, hollow-cheeked face? It is within my financial power to busy that place, and to fill it with steaks, fill it with red steak, all of which I would and will eat. The door would under this scenario be jammed with gnawed bone; not a single little smug psalm-singing bagging-skinned apostate from the cause of adiposity would be able to enter. They would pound on the door, pound. But the door would hold. They’d lack the build to burst through. Their mouths and eyes would be wide as they pressed against the glass. I would demolish, physically crush the huge scale at the end of the brightly lit nave at the back of the place under a weight of food. The springs would jut out. Jut. What a delicious series of thoughts. May I see a wine list?”

“‘Weight Watchers?”

“Garcon, what you have before you is a dangerous thing, I warn you. Human beings act in their own interest. Huge, crazed swine, do not. My wife informed me a certain time-interval ago that if I did not lose weight, she would leave me. I have not lost weight, as a matter of fact I have gained weight, and thus she is leaving. Q.E.D. And A-1, don’t forget the A-1.”

“But sir, surely with more time…” 

“There is no more time. Time does not exist. I ate it. It’s in here, see? See the jiggle? That’s time, jiggling. Run, run away, fetch me my platter of fat, my nine cattle, or I’ll envelop you in a chin and fling you at the wall!”

“Shall I fetch the maitre d’, sir? To confer?

“By all means, fetch him. But warn him against getting too close. He will be encompassed instantly, before he has time to squeak. Tonight I will eat. Hugely, and alone. For I am now hugely alone. I will eat, and juice might very well spurt into the air around me, and if anyone comes too near, I will snarl and jab at them with my fork–like this, see?”

“Sir, really!”

“Run for your very life. Fetch something to placate me. I’m going to grow and grow, and fill the absence that surrounds me with my own gelantinous presence. Yin and Yang. Ever growing, waiter. Run!”

“Right away, sir!”

“Some breadsticks might have been nice, too, do you hear? What kind of place is this, anyway?”

Oh, Lord Byron, you’re my favorite of all the heroes

Today’s poem is a selection from an old favorite…

I have not loved the world, nor the world me,–
But let us part fair foes: I do believe,
though I have found them not, that there may be
Words which are things,–hopes which will not deceive,
And virtues which are merciful, nor weave
Snares for the failing; I would also deem
O’er others’ griefs that some sincerely grieve;
That two, or one, are almost what they seem,–
That goodness is no name,
and happiness no dream.

From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Bryon

(Please note: This blog post was originally much longer and more interesting but I accidentally deleted it and I’m sorry, but I can’t write all that all over again at the current moment. The poem, however, is still very nice.)


And also that I love you and that I want to die

I went to a Litquake/Writer’s Grotto event tonight called Regreturature and it was so funny I ended up laughing so hard I was crying a bit. Maybe I was just in the right mood but it really was a great event and the authors all did a good job reading the embarrassing journals and poetry and letters they wrote as children. There was a letter to Nixon, an English presentation, journals of course, but one even had teacher’s comments… So yes, it was great.

Quite naturally, I ended up coming home and pulling out my old journals. And, yes, I was so inspired by Regreturature and the fact that it’s National Poetry Month that I decided to share some of my most embarrassing and horrible writing here with you.

So here it is, from the long lost journals of Megan Murray (or as I liked to call myself at the time, Megan Fucking Murray), a small selection of tortured love poetry…

 

I’ve got stars in my eyes when I look at you
Their spiky points stab with pain
They make me cry
As hard as I try
I can’t get these damn stars out of my eyes
I don’t know what to do
But I can’t stop looking at you
And I can’t stop the pain

 

I love you
Okay, I admit it
Maybe it’s puppy love
But it feels so real
I love you
I love you
I love you
And as much as I hate it
It’s there
I hate you
I really hate you
Why did you do this to me
Look at me
I’m writing poetry
What’s wrong with me
I love you
That’s what
And I hate you for it

 

Fuck you
Fuck me
Fuck me for loving you
And fuck you for not loving me
Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck
Fuck me
Fuck you
And fuck love

 

You’re on my mind
You’re in my mind
You’re all over my mind
You’re inside my mind
Get the hell away
Just kidding you can stay

 

I’m gonna grow up
I’m gonna be tall
I’m gonna be hot
I’m gonna be fucking hot
You’re gonna want me bad
I’m gonna work on my English
You’re going to want me bad

 

Right when I figure things out
I figure out I don’t have anything figured out
That’s okay though
It means I’m not dead
And also that I love you and that I want to die