"The Bay Area is so beautiful, I hesitate to preach about heaven while I'm here. " ~Billy GrahamTonight I saw the sun set in a spectacular purple haze over the twinkling lights of the Bay Bridge. Earlier I'd stepped over a man who slept, sprawled, beside everything he owned. The stink of his urine-soaked clothes invaded my throat.
I have been in the Bay Area one year today. In that time I cut my hair, started seeing a shrink, fell in love, slept beside the crash of the Pacific Ocean, saw A's and Giants games, met amazing new people, made two super close friends and lost approximately 20 pounds.
I no longer smile at strangers when I pass them on the sidewalk and my never-heavy Southern accent has all but stolen away.
Tourists now ask me for directions. Five times out of ten I can help them. That they ask at all tickles me silly. This weekend I was called a "BART expert." I anticipated that the lady hogging the escalator with her drag-behind suitcase would make a left turn toward the ticket machine, so I took a hard right, swooped through the gates and got us on to a Dublin/Pleasanton train just before the doors closed. We'd have had to wait another eight minutes. Obviously, this was unacceptable. When the words expert were attached to me regarding my BARTing abilities my mind shot back to those first rides to work under the bay after I moved. I marveled at how anyone could nap and still make their stop. I craned to hear the station announcements, fearful I would end up who knows where. I would imagine my body inside the 10-car train, a speck amongst hundreds of sleeping or reading or ipod listening specks, shooting forward like a rocket under the waters of the bay that is this region's namesake. I would imagine the deterioration of the tube if an earthquake occurred. I would wonder whether I would drown or suffocate. Now I don't think about that at all.
I have skills now I never would have gotten had I not moved. I don't have as much street smarts as I'd like, but I've learned how to walk through sketchy neighborhoods at night without too much fear of harassment. I can almost always hail a cab, provided they are available, and after some time I'm finally able to tell the driver which route I prefer. "Mission or the freeway?" Now I know, depending on what time it is, whether or not it's Critical Mass and if there are any protests planned, which way to tell the cabbie. (A surpisingly large number of SF taxi drivers do not know where shit is.) After some time, I know when riding in the back of a speeding cab when to brace myself. Sitting in back, the taxi taking jutting hills at break-neck speeds, I find my breath trapped in my lungs. Sailing over the crest of the hilltop, all my air is tight in my chest. Sometimes I swear the tires leave the pavement. But sometimes after topping one of San Francisco's notorious summits the bay waters will spill into sight. Then I exhale.
Sunday I went to Golden Gate park to enjoy the 75+ degree November weather with some friends. As I rode along in the back seat I watched row after row of attached houses fly by, wondering the last time I saw a red brick home with even a slice of a yard. Just then the tips of the tops of the iconic Golden Gate bridge pop into my view. The sight took my breath away, quite literally, if only for a second. In this place I am constantly holding my breath.
When I lived in Tennessee I worked at an Outback Steakhouse for a long time. Too long. An embarrassingly exceeding amount of time. The large, industrial, melt-your-face-off dishwasher in that kitchen was made by Hobart. It said it really big on the side: HOBART. For whatever reason, the dish washing area of that kitchen was called Hobart Land. But no one ever called it "the dishwasher (area)." Always Hobart.
There are some stairs that sit above one entrance to the Montgomery BART station. The don't go up to anything--they are sitting steps. They are the steps where Ian and I very often meet after work. Sometimes one of us has to wait five minutes or more on the other, but I never mind because there is, in the form of a building, a giant piece of art for me to gaze upon. I don't know a damn thing about architecture besides what kind of Roman columns are which, but I love this building so much. Just before dusk it is in optimum light. It sits, a stunning beacon between shadowed skyscrapers. I like the dichotomy of the structure. The top half (if you segment it horizontally) is ornate, shaped very much like one of the famous bay windows seen in Victorian homes in the area. It is rounded and the embellishments are intricate. Especially when contrasted with the smooth, flat, angular slab that it sits upon. It's such a handsome building. It is distinguished and classy. It is the Hobart building, and a far cry from the stinky, dank dish washing area of the chain restaurant where I spent year after year after year.
I don't really know how to write about the change that my life has taken. I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss the comforts of home, always knowing which way to go and how to get there. I flip out every day as this fish out of water who is slowly, surely, becoming a part of this beautiful landscape. I feel like an adventurer in this place, studying its history, learning its lines, consuming its exquisite good looks. And with every new door crossed I am grateful to be where I am right now.
In January I'm moving to San Francisco like I always wanted. I can't wait to call The City, finally, my home.