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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The Non-Guitar

At the corner of Duboce and Church, where the train pauses but does not stop, sits a man with a guitar that’s held together with torn bits of rope. It’s almost wrong to call it a guitar, because really it’s not a guitar anymore. It’s a broken guitar, or a poorly-mended guitar, but it’s definitely not a guitar. And yet this non-guitar makes a sound like nothing Derek has ever heard.

The man who plays it wraps his hands with torn strips of old cotton shirts. Because of this they too seem broken and poorly-mended, bandaged somehow. But really it’s just the man’s way of keeping warm. Derek knows this because he once asked the man if his hands were alright.

“Oh they’re just fine,” the man said. He strummed the strings three times and an odd sound came out, like a violent pounding from the end of a very long empty hallway.

“Can’t you hear?”

Derek could hear. It was hard to hear anything else.

“But why are they bandaged?”

“Oh that,” the man laughed. “Son, those are just my gloves. Haven’t you ever seen a pair of poor-man’s gloves?”

“I guess not.”

“Well, you should get yourself some. They keep the fingers free to play.”

The man stopped his playing to wiggle his fingers in Derek’s direction. It wasn’t supposed to be, but it felt like a wave goodbye, so Derek dropped the man a dollar and walked home. The next day he went to Urban Outfitters and bought a pair of knitted gloves with the fingers cut off. They had brown and black stripes and cost $18.99. They looked old and worn and that night when Derek lifted his beer to take a sip of foam from the top his hands were warm and dry.

These types of things happen to Derek all the time and don’t mean anything.

Traditions in Eydenbard

A selection from The Story of Shaw…

The story-tellers of the island of Eydenbard were known the world over. For as long as anyone could remember there had always been ten and they had always lived in the opulent house at the far end of the north valley. Why this was so, was anyone’s guess. (That story had been told and forgotten long ago.) But then, nobody could remember a lot of things about Eydenbard. Like why they held the winter festival every spring, why the girls all wore juniper blossoms in their hair on the first day of school, or why the boys always tried to steal those same blossoms just so they could take them home and feed them to the family fires at night. (Lance Byrd once claimed they burned them for the smell, while his brother Ethan often argued that anything stolen from a woman, even a young woman, must be destroyed before she found a way to get it back.)

Eydenbard’s culture was dense, complicated, and founded on a collection of manners and common practices that had slowly evolved and taken on new meanings over the years. Traditions were formed and adhered to it”s true, but they were not so rigid as one might think. They were also built upon, added to, and at times, even transformed.

For example, the men of Eydenbard had always worn hats when walking into town on Sundays while the woman wore scarfs, wrapped tight and close against their heads. Then, four or five winters ago when it was especially cold and Gillian Felton was shivering in her translucent blue scarf (that was beautiful yes, but like so many beautiful things completely useless) Eric Sheffield removed his hat, a hat that had been in his family for centuries, and without thinking about the places his hat had been (the Permidian Mountains, the Sea of Lustria, the dark caverns of his Aunt Hester’s ancient basement) or the heads it had covered (his father’s, his grandfather’s, his grandfather’s father’s) he placed its soft woolen fur carefully over Gillian’s head and warmed both her ears and her heart forever.

Naturally, the people of Eydenbard instantly adored the gesture and it was just two Sundays later that Henry Ossian gave his hat to Meridith Brooks, five Sundays before Victor Holland had timidly offered his to Julian Welton, and seven Sundays when Fiona Berrington had screamed with glee as she felt the worn, weathered touch of the Stewart family’s ancient brown duster descend slowly and reverently over her head. (Poor Daniel Stewart had been trying to tell her his feelings for years, but could never quite manage until then.)

It wasn’t long after that when the Martin’s store received an usually large number of requests for translucent scarfs of all different colors and sizes. (Apparently beautiful things had their uses after all.) Shimmering and shivering young heads, barely bathed in hints of greens and purples, oranges as faint as the dawn, pinks as light as the merest suggestion of a blush, and saffrons barely discernible on a sea of dark brown curls could be seen flooding into town every Sunday and covering the square in a swath of trembling loveliness. As a result, certain young men of a somewhat independent nature were spotted rushing into the local stores, clutching their hats with tight scared fists. A few unfortunate girls had suffered terrible frostbite while others, who couldn’t quite bring themselves to suffer the unbearable chill of an Eydenbard winter, even if the promise of eternal love and warmth was not far behind, found themselves protected from the cold but sheltered from just about everything else. (The fathers of such daughters did not mind so much, but more than a few mothers had something to say about it.) And then there were the rebellious ones—like Keri Morgan, who had taken to wearing scarfs of the thickest fur, dark and deep and impenetrable. Jason Elwin, who showed up with a new old hat just about every week. And Wallace Ayers who had asked a lovely yet confused Quin Jacobsen if she would please be so kind as to give him her scarf. (She had denied him at the time, but had wondered for years after how things might have been different for them both had she handed it over.)

Over the course of a mere year and a half, the custom had morphed into a series of actions and reactions more complex and varied than the first simple offer could ever have dreamed of suggesting. Aided by new ideas, manipulations, creative impulses, and the subtle machinations of time itself, the wearing of a cold beautiful scarf and the giving of a warm old hat had become such a part of the Eydenbard culture that if it wasn’t for Eric’s constant reminders it would be hard to remember a time when people told each other of their love in any other way.

Every spring at the winter festival eligible men would wear their hats far back on their foreheads to signify their availability. Girls below the age of sixteen were discouraged from wearing any scarf that was not completely solid. And Briana Sutherland was looked upon with both horror and awe when she had walked into town one frigid Sunday with no scarf at all—her bare head held high, her ears growing red and swollen with each determined step—as she refused every offered hat until she stood in front of a bewildered Zane Fredrick and smiled her invitation.

Oddly enough, it was their wedding that had been the first to feature the now-favorite translucent-scarf dance. And it was Zane’s brother Jacob that had written the song, The Dark Girl with the Light Scarf, in an effort to coax Paige Ansel into something more substantial than friendship. (Unfortunately, the next Sunday she showed up wearing Ranolf Eldin’s hat and poor Jacob hadn’t written of anything but dark-haired girls ever since.)

Creative Writing Assignment Gone Horribly Wrong

A friend of mine was cleaning out her inbox today and found an old piece of my writing. I had fun laughing at myself and thought I’d share what can happen when it’s 4:17 on a Tuesday afternoon and you’ve run out of real work to do.

Creative Writing Assignment
What animal are you like?  Compare yourself to an animal. Tell how you are like that animal and in what ways you are different.

Escape. It’s a common enough desire. Throughout the ages human-beings have yearned for it.  Have looked, searched, strived and worked for it. Some even have found it—with the animals. Keats once longed to be a nightingale, Kafka imagined himself transformed into a monstrous venomous bug, Blake found himself dreaming of tigers and lambs, while countless Grecian gods and goddesses turned themselves into beasts in order to walk among men unseen. And so it is today. And so it is with me. For if I were any animal I wouldn’t be a bird or bug, I would be a unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin. That’s right, a unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin. Many have doubted the existence of the unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin but recently, in the far reaches of the Lebanese rainforest, they have found this allusive creature. And they have also found that it kicks ass.

The unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin is a unique cross-breed of the animal kingdom. Scientists have tracked its formation and have been astonished at what they’ve found. Back in 208 BC, in an unprecedented act of copulation a unicornpegasus mated with a velociraptor. Their offspring, by benefit of their magical powers and superior strongly-curved claws on each forelimb, flourished. Around 20 AD the creature came into contact with a platypus and, quite naturally, felt an instant connection to the mysterious creature that was half bird thingy and half mammal. The two mated and their offspring, which took after the mother, met up with a monkey around 1238 creating the infamous and much-debated unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkey. How that thing got it on with a dolphin is anyone’s guess but scientists suspect that a 50 foot crane and the smooth sweet tunes of Al Green were somehow involved. Needless to say, the result was and is miraculous. The unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin is the unparalleled and undisputed champion of the animal kingdom, which is why it’s the animal I would be. Like, duh.

With the superior intellect and physical strength of the velociraptor it’s able to capture its prey, terrorize preteen girls hiding in kitchens, eat stupid lawyers sitting on outhouse toilets, and sneak onto cargo ships so that they can eventually take over the world in the fifth movie. I don’t like to eat people or anything but I do think I can kick some major butt sometimes. And if some weirdo guy with white hair and a walking stick made out of amber brought me back from extinction I’d totally tear it up. Plus, I’m like, super tough. Rrrrrrraw!

And yet I’m playful too. And so is the unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin. Because of its monkey parts it enjoys games, laughing, and the inevitable throwing of its feces. I don’t throw my poop anymore but I love games and laughing. I also like to swing from trees and scratch myself—two traits the unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin has become well known for.

But I like the water, especially the ocean, so good thing the unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin also has a dolphin side. Dolphins are pretty much a water monkey anyways. And I think I giggle kind of like the unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin—similar to a dolphin but with a touch of whimsy and magic from its unicorn parts.

Because like the unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin I have a somewhat mystical side. Sometimes I like to think about deep stuff and like contemplate the universe and junk. Plus I totally want to fly and have magic powers just like the unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin. I’d like it if a piece of my horn could heal people too because I’ve always wanted to save the world. Oh ya, and like the unicorn side of the uniconrpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin I’m attracted to virgins, which is why people always try to lure me into traps using them.

And I’m always confused. I don’t know what I want to be or who I am—just like the platypus side of the unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin. So ya, that totally applies to me too.

I mean wow, I am such a unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphin and I never even realized it until now.

And I’ve totally lost steam and don’t want to write this anymore. So, I’ll just say unicornpegasusvelociraptorplatypusmonkeydolphins rock! And so do I! Booyah!

The end.


Well, that and the monsters…

The first time Bethany escaped through a piece of art she didn’t know what she was doing, let alone where she was going. Everyone knows that art has the ability to take you to another place, but very few people know that this is literal. The truth is that art is one of the world’s earliest forms of transportation. In some cultures you even have to buy passes like you do for the bus. Sometimes there is a fare like the one you pay for a taxi. Other times you have to barter. (I know of at least three people who’ve traded the shoes on their feet to walk through a Van Gogh.) We’re lucky because in our world art-transportation is free. That’s why they keep it a secret.

Well, that and the monsters.

The Tallest Man on Earth

The tallest man on earth could see everything. He sat on mountains to get his rest and watched the oceans for a good time. Sometimes when he was feeling down (which was hard for a man as tall as he) he would lay himself out in the desert and let the sand flow over his skin until he grew warm and soft, and then he’d drift off to sleep. When he woke up he brushed the sand from his lashes, picked the grains out of his ears, and stood to stretch. Every time the tallest man on earth stretched the sky grew higher to get out of his way and the world got just a little bit bigger.

Other times, when he was feeling well, the tallest man on earth would pick the smallest people around (who were usually children) and take them wherever they wanted to go. The children usually picked high places like mountains, the tops of trees, or the middle of a cloud. But some would pick far away places like the middle of the ocean, the deepest parts of the rainforest, or the silent white of the Arctic tundra. The tallest man on earth had legs so long they could take you wherever you wanted to go. He could walk around the world in 15 minutes. Sometimes, if he wanted the company, he would take you with him.

Once, I met a girl who went around the world with the tallest man on earth. She told me it was like flying only safe. And later, when it was over, and the tallest man on earth put her back down on the ground where he had found her, it was like falling only safe. The girl, who was a woman when I met her, couldn’t say which part she had loved best–the flying or the falling–but she did say that she loved being completely fearless for 15 minutes and that she would always love the tallest man on earth.

A few years after I talked to the woman who was once a girl, the tallest man on earth disappeared. People wondered where he could have gone. Afterall, where would a man of his height have to go? Most think he’s dead or in a really deep sleep. Others think he found a place to hide even though they’ve already checked the bottoms of all the oceans. Some even think he may have shrunk. But I know better. I’ve seen the world getting bigger so I know he’s still around.

Like most, I wish I could see him again. I’d like to ask him why he’s so sad and I’d like to introduce him to the woman who was once a girl. I think he’d like that. He wouldn’t love her or anything, and they wouldn’t go around the world again, but they could watch the oceans together and have a good time.

Wannabe, continued…

Part 1

“Why do you wanna be a fish anyway,” I asked her on the way home.

We both lived on Greenwood Avenue which was only half a mile from school if you cut through the west soccer field. Fiona’s house was at the top of the street near the dead end and mine was at the bottom corner, right where the bus-stop that nobody used was.

Even though no one was waiting, the bus still stopped there every day. Maybe the bus driver felt like someone might show up, but I always thought it was kind of stupid the way he stopped for a bunch of kids that weren’t there and were never gonna be. Fiona used to say he was stopping for ghosts. She told this big story about a girl named Katie who had died on our block because somebody came into her room and slit her throat. Fiona said the bus-driver and Katie were friends so he still stopped out of respect. And I guess that kind of made sense. Or it would have if it wasn’t a total lie.

“I want to be a fish because they’re different,” she said.

She wasn’t making the face anymore but she was still walking all weird–swaying and moving her arms like she was pushing the imaginary water out of her way.

“They even breathe different. It’s all backwards.”

She craned her neck out and pointed at the black lines she had drawn there.

“See?”

They didn’t look like gills because they were straight, not curved. They didn’t look like anything really, just lines. And they were still really bright. They didn’t smear or fade at all even though she had been pouring water over them all day. The pens must have been really good.

“And these are my fins,” she went on, holding out her hands. “When I swim they cut through the water like knives.”

“I have a knife.”

I took it out of my pocket to show her even though she’d seen it before.

“Your knife can’t do what my fins can do.”

“Your fins can’t do what my knife can do.”

I could do a lot with my knife. I was really good at making pointed sticks, and once I even cut an extra notch in a leather belt my mom gave me that was too big.

“My fins help me glide and turn.”

“My knife helps me carve and stab.”

“And file your nails.”

Fiona knew I had never used that knife to stab at anything other than maybe my own thumb. Mostly I liked to take it out and play with the different blades and tools. Other than the knife it had a toothpick, tweezers, a corkscrew, a pair of scissors, and the nail file. When my dad gave it to me all he said was that it was time. It was time. Like I was going to go out into the non-existent wilderness at the top of our street and skin a bear with the nail file.

“Bet your fins can’t file like my knife.”

“They can’t,” she said.

She leaned in close to my face so she could whisper in my ear.

“But I don’t have fingers so it doesn’t matter.”

Before Fiona was a wannabe fish she was a lot of other wannabe things. She was a wannabe private detective, a wannabe bird, a wannabe ghost, a wannabe secret, and a wannabe cloud. One time she was wannabe sun. Another time a wannabe monster. She spent a day as a wannabe spider and almost whole month as a wannabe salesman. You never knew what Fiona was going to wannabe next. It was always different.

When she was a wannabe secret she went around saying nobody could see her, and she didn’t let me say her name out loud. She said I had to think it. And she wouldn’t eat lunch with me for almost three weeks. She said she had to keep to herself. We still walked home together but the only thing she would talk about was what it meant to be a secret.

“Nobody knows me now,” she said. “Not even you.”

She hid in the bushes and walked in the trees next to the sidewalk. When I looked up to find her she yelled at me.

“You can’t see me, so don’t look at me anymore!”

I didn’t like it when Fiona was a wannabe secret but some of the other things weren’t so bad. When she was wannabe sun all she did was smile all the time. She didn’t say anything, she just smiled. Really big and exaggerated. I was the only one that knew that she was supposed to be sun. Everyone else just thought she was nuts. If someone said something about it, Fiona just smiled wider and you couldn’t help but laugh because she looked so weird. Even Jessica Butler thought it was funny–real funny not mean funny. And Jessica Butler was like the girl-version of Jay and Eric so that meant something.

My favorite wannabe was probably when Fiona was a wannabe private detective. She didn’t solve any mysteries but the two of us did sneak into almost every classroom at school. We’d skip lunch and hide behind the lockers by the art room where Mrs. Simon, who was always on lunch duty, almost never checked. Then we’d go find out who wasn’t in their room and have a look around.

Most of what we found was boring. By the end of the week, we knew just about everyone’s grades and about all the junk teachers kept in their desks. I remember Mr. Raleigh’s desk had an old moldy lunch in it that made Fiona gag so loud that I swore we were going to get caught. There were other things too though. We found lots of notes—notes teachers had confiscated from students, notes teachers had written other teachers, notes teachers had written themselves about students, or sometimes notes we couldn’t tell anything about.

We found out that Mr. Matthews was looking for other jobs, that Ms. Thomas was writing a book about people falling in love, and that Derek Meyers really wasn’t an idiot like everyone thought he was.

We found a lot of things we probably weren’t supposed to find, that were probably pretty big secrets, but it didn’t matter. When secrets aren’t about you, it’s pretty hard to figure out what they mean. Most of the time we’d find something and we really wouldn’t know what it was we were looking at. It’s not like if we told someone it’d even make sense.

Like this one time, we found a box in Mrs. Goldman’s desk that was filled with old pictures, all of the same person. And we knew it was something important but we didn’t know why. Sometimes we would open a drawer or pick something up and we could just feel it.

When Fiona took out the first picture, it was of a young girl about our age, smiling next to a bike.

“I think we found something,” Fiona had said real quiet, so I almost couldn’t hear.

I grabbed the picture while she started pulling out the others. They were all of the same girl. The girl at the beach. The girl at a desk. The girl smiling with a dog. The girl bent over a book, sitting under a tree.

“She’s always alone,” said Fiona. “Why is she always alone?”

Another time we found a bunch of pills in Mr. Andrews desk. Then we found a shriveled up rose in the cupboard in back of Mrs. Ford’s room. And then there was the piece of paper, pushed way to the back of Mrs. McKensie’s desk, that had the name Alison written all over it. Alison, Alison, Alison, Alison, Alison it said. All over the paper. Over and over again. Alison, Alison, Alison, Alison.

We didn’t know what that meant. We never did figure it out. Same with the pictures of the lonely girl and the pills. We never solved any mysteries, but we never really tried. We were only wannabe private detectives, not the real thing.