bay area

Dolores Park, Sunday, July 7th, 2013, 1:39 p.m.

A man in tie-dyed pants has come to the park with amps and turntables and records and is spinning house music that can be heard over the chatter and barking dogs and the occassional clack of the train at the top of the hill. He appears to be alone and no one is dancing.

A girl twirls a parasol embroidered with gold with gold fringe on her shoulder, and it twinkles. She appears to have stepped out of a Delia's catalogue, her mini-dress and spiderweb tights and platform boots (complete with hippy headband across her brow, puffing up young hair) completely out of place on the perfect, cloudless Mission District day when you can see a bank of fog over Twin Peaks and wave at it from the distance.

The park is filling up now and young women are drinking rosé straight from the bottle. This park is a bit of a miracle as park-goers openly drink and smoke pot and even buy edible marijuana treats from a man with a Yelp listing and 63 reviews. Even as I write this the man directly in front of me is telling his out-of-town guest about the guy with the copper kettles and the potent truffles you should "eat only half" of. 

Two men on a too-small blanket to my right are sharing a glass pipe stuffed full of medical-grade marijuana. They are discussing the strain and whether it was worth the amount they paid. They agree it is.

People are starting to dance now.

Park

It's getting closer to 2, and the park is filling up. A guy wearing a red sweatband is rolling a blunt, licking the paper with his fat, flat tongue. His small dog is wearing a pink flower with streamers that trip it up when it tries to get away.

The house music is bad. A baby wearing noise-blocking headphones (always cute) is tossed gently into the air. A new group of three is smoking a hookah. 

A square-looking couple has brought along a table, a small wooden table, on which they have placed average beer and middle-of-the-road potato chips. They dance awkwardly from a seated position, both with heads down scrolling through their phones.

I suddenly find myself envious of a girl now dancing to the bad house music. She's the only one, really. She's wearing a long flowing dress and a devil-may-care grin, young limbs flailing effortlessly. Even as the DJ crashes and burns she makes it look easy and delightful, as though no one is watching. It's as if she has no neuroses at all.

Much like the girls, the 2 or 3 among hundreds, wearing bikinis. Even as beautiful, how do they?

A woman lowers sticks tied with string into a bucket and pulls out an enormous bubble, a giant floating orb refracting light. A toddler claps in delight even as the bubble disappears before her with a soundless snap.

A woman of likely meager means carries a bag on a heavy stick that rests on her shoulders. She approaches blankets and waits as people down the rest of their chardonnay so that she can take the bottle, which fetches 5 or 10 cents.

An earnest face in sensible glasses is collecting signatures, and I hope he does not come over here.

"Support AIDS walk? Buy a Jell-O shot?" is overheard coming from a man rolling a blue cooler.

A guy in Vibrams offers two girls in tank tops a palm reading. They wince at his offer, and I feel bad for everyone involved, but he is gone just as quickly as he arrived.

The air smells of grass. It is light, faint, barely touching any of us.

[photo: potential past; creative commons license]


Goodbye Apron, Hello (Again) HootSuite

You either make time to write or you don't. It's a priority or it's not. Having an excess of time one one's hands does not compel one to write. I still don't have it narrowed down exactly what compels people to write, but I'm highly suspect that an excess of free time is a motivator to sit down and put words down.

Several months ago I gave up my media job in San Jose and began waiting tables. The goal was to spend a couple of years carving out a career as a freelance writer. I was going to go back to my roots to put that magazine journalism degree to good use. I was taking a leap of faith in my own abilities, discipline and drive. I was prepared to be poor. I was asked what I wanted to do, decided, then threw myself into it whole-hog. I was going to write.

I've published nothing since. In 7 months I've earned not a single byline. It's not for lack of writing. There has been lots and lots of writing. But when I began to explore what I wanted out of this endeavor, what I was best at, where my strengths were, I discovered I didn't want to write articles for newspapers, websites and magazines. I didn't want to be a freelance journalist.

I want to tell my own stories.

Whether in raw essay form or barely hidden behind the veil of fabricated characters, the power of my voice exists within the stories I have accumulated. Telling you what happened, secrets and all, is what I'm best at. Telling my tales is where all the impetus lies, the real reason I sit down to write most days. Everything else distracts from this best goal.

Of course, coming to terms with what I am supposed to be writing meant coming to terms with the knowledge that people will be hurt. Telling one's stories means being brave and taking huge interpersonal risks. It means pushing down the voice inside you that demands, "This is off-limits. Stop your story." And that voice is very loud.

Deciding to tell my stories also means finding myself in tears on a regular basis. Or as angry as hot lava as writing a passage reveals more about that incident than I had previously recalled. Or dripping in self-doubt. Telling one's stories is a constant therapy session. It's exhausting.

Much like waiting tables is exhausting. I had forgotten how much it takes out of you.

Waitress

 

I just remembered that I waited tables and tended bar while going to college. Surely, I could do that again and write on the side. Waiting tables would free me up to carve out that freelancer writer life I thought I wanted. Waiting tables would pay the bills while I created a sustainable income for myself doing what I love.

But waiting tables is fucking hard! Even working part-time, the work leaves me both mentally and physically worn out. It's stressful, high-impact and it leaves this nearly 35-year-old beat and with a backache. And it's certainly not as lucrative as I had imagined. You don't get to come back to the restaurant industry after a decade away, now living in one of the most acclaimed dining cities in the world, and get primo shifts at Michelin-star rated restaurants. I have friends who pull 80 grand a year waiting tables, but they have been working their way into these choice positions all along, and they are absolutely phenomenal at their trade.

Truth be told, I'm just a mediocre server. I was told by my dear friend Leo, a friend I made at the restaurant where I work now, "you're not a restaurant person." At the time I was offended. He refused to go into detail; that's how Leos do. But I thought about it for days: "How am I not a restaurant person?"

One beer-soaked evening (for those in the industry there are many), Leo indulged me and expounded further: "You care too much. You let people get to you. I can see you standing at your tables with Pissed Off written all over your face. If you let your tables get under your skin, you are not a great server."

He was right. And putting it that way made me feel less like a failure at serving. I'm decent at it. But I'm never going to get a gig at The French Laundry. Not happening.

And so, because freelance articles were not where I was focusing my writing efforts and because it became apparent that, for me, waitressing was a dead-end enterprise, I began to panic. OH MY GOD, I thought, I'm going to be a 40-year-old waitress barely scraping rent money together. The idea kept me up at night. How was I going to retire someday? Ever take a vacation? Have adequate health insurance, for fuck's sake?

Lucky for me--I am often lucky for reasons beyond my comprehension--a career angel came knocking at my door. A position for CBS Local Digital Media became available: Social Media Coordinator. And the guy who recruited me to come out from Tennessee in 2007 asked if I wanted to come back to the world of Twittering and Facebooking for the media.

It was an offer too good to refuse. It includes a 401K, sick days (!), vacation time and the most precious thing of all: subsidized health insurance. Mr. Dentist, it's been too long, here I come.

I start next Monday. I'll be back at Broadway and Battery where my tenure in San Francisco began. I'm thrilled. It's the smart, responsible path to take, and I'm so much more secure in my well-being knowing something more financially stable is around the corner. At present I fear a bone break or sudden illness like children fear closet monsters. A hospital visit would put me back so far I'd never recover.

And I'll make time for writing. If I want to get it done, I will. I don't need a part-time job to tell my stories, just the wherewithal to get my ass in the chair and put the words down. John Grisham managed to pump out best-sellers while working 100 hours a week as a practicing attorney. I can tell my tale and also work 40. A media career path does not preclude literary accomplishment. I'm going to prove this theory.

October 1st I'm back to an office job. My desk is huge, my co-workers awesome and my bank account is breathing a sigh of relief. I'm excited. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity.

For now, that's all the life news that is fit to self-publish.


The Story of My Sexual Assault on Muni in San Francisco

Something happened to me yesterday that has happened to millions of women in cities all over the world. This is my story of sexual assault on public transportation, a bus in downtown San Francisco:


I was sitting in a seat by the window across from the rear doors with headphones on, listening to music, being careful to hide my loaner phone in my purse after I had my iPhone stolen out of my hand last week. A man sat down beside me in the empty seat.

I did what I usually do and quickly, discreetly sized up my seatmate. He was a disheveled middle-aged man with blonde hair that was either dusty or graying. He smelled strongly of alcohol on his breath, body and clothes. He didn't smell like piss and weeks upon weeks of not showering, like other unfortunate people who sometimes take the bus, but he looked like he was swiftly headed in that direction. This man was clearly intoxicated and behaving strangely. He swayed in his seat and repeatedly made the sign of the cross, which is highly disconcerting, let me assure you. When women would board and stand next to where he sat he would try to engage them. They would quickly move away. I should have followed them.

He tried to engage me as well. My defense was to aggressively ignore him on the very crowded bus by staring out the window and keeping my headphones on. I had just three stops to go. When he tried to talk to me (words I couldn't hear due to the music) I shook my head no and held my hand up, flattened, to signal that I wished to be left alone.

Muni Bus

The bus continued to lurch down busy Market Street. I pulled the cord to signal that I wanted off when the bus was due to stop again at 5th and Market.

I stood a few seconds before the bus came to a halt, a clear indiction that I was getting out and off the bus. When the bus stopped the man to my right swiveled his legs around rather than stand, so I took a wide step to get around him and as I did he grabbed me between my legs.

Without thinking I turned and swung my heavy purse containing a server's book, a hardback journal and loose, sharp pens at his head, but barely connected. I think the purse grazed his face. I screamed FUCK YOU, also without thinking, and fled off the bus.

I stepped down onto the concrete platform, my head swimming in a raucous tide. A young man beside me asked what happened. "He grabbed me between the legs," I told him. 

The young man shook his head. "And that man said, 'What?,' like he didn't do nothing."

My legs moved forward in spite of myself. I was floating down the sidewalk on Market Street trying to comprehend what had just happened. I was trying hard not to vomit. I felt ill; I was physically revolted. I shuddered and tears collected in the corners of my eyes. 

My lip quivered as I crossed the busy mall to the elevator that would take me to the restaurant where I work. Everything was foggy. My feelings were foggy and my vision was foggy and my mind was foggy. I couldn't believe what had just happened, and I couldn't believe how awful it made me feel. 

As I hit the button in the elevator for the 4th floor I realized for the first time I'd been sexually assaulted. I'd considered whether or not this was a big deal, checked the facts against my feelings and decided that yeah, it kind of was.

I walked into the restaurant in a daze. I walked over to put my bag away when my friend Leo put up his hand to give me a high five. I blurted out, "I was just sexually assaulted on the bus."

I told Leo and Marc more specifically what happened and the embarrassment rose in my face and the revulsion in my gut. I sat down at Table 100, put my forehead on my forearm, burying my face, and cried really hard.

Poor Leo and Marc stood there mostly silent. "This fucking city," was certainly uttered, as were several I'm sorries. They were both very comforting in their presence, but they seemed at a loss for words. And who can blame them?

"Do you want a glass of wine?," Leo offered. I looked down at my hands and they were shaking.

"YES," was my emphatic reply.

He went and poured a hefty glass of gruner veltliner, my favorite, and handed it to me. "Here. Slam this."

And I did. It helped immensely. My nerves were completely frayed and I was a mascara-y mess and I had a new two-top at Table 49. I freshened my make-up in the bathroom and by the time I took the couple's drink order the wine was kicking in and my nervous system began to unclench slightly. 

I made iced tea for the lady at 49 and waited for the bartender to pour a Trumer when I felt the first bubbles of boiling anger begin to rise within me. I was moving through the stages of grief very quickly. Suddenly I was fucking pissed.

I wanted to punch someone--specifically the asshole who grabbed me between my legs. Just typing that sends puke rising into my throat. I can recall with precise accuracy the sensation of his hand between my legs and I'm not sure I'll ever forget it. It felt like wrongness and violation and horror and evil. 

Marc, the sous chef, sensed my anger. He stood watching me fume.

"Is it too soon to make a joke?," he asked, knife in hand.

"It's been 15 minutes," I said. "I think it's probably overdue."

He grinned. "I'm going to say I was sexually assaulted, too, because I could really use a glass of wine right now."

I laughed and laughed and was grateful for the levity. And the wine.

As my shift continued I thought more about what had happened. "I was just wearing my work uniform," I thought. "It wasn't even anything..." I stopped myself before I could think it all the way. I was about to consider what I'd been wearing in trying to process what had happened to me. 

After urging from others I decided to go to the police precinct and report the crime today. I was reminded that there are cameras on Muni buses and that there might be viable video of him touching me. Even if not, these crimes are grossly underreported and even one more record of this kind of assault might mean more police presence in the future.

So, after my short lunch shift this afternoon I took a cab to 6th and Bryant to the Southern station to file a report. I took a cab because the next bus was reportedly 47 minutes away and I felt unsafe walking. That happens when you've had your crotch grabbed on public transit and the police precinct is in a sketchy-ish part of town. 

I entered and told the security guard I was there to report a crime. He told me to walk to a counter where officers were protected behind thick plastic or glass. I had to use a phone to talk to the policeman on the other side.

"I'm here to report a crime. I was groped on the bus."

"What happened?"

"I was groped on the bus. He grabbed me between my legs as I was exiting."

"Where did he grab you? Sorry, but you have to be more specific."

"He grabbed my vulva." I tried to tamp down my embarrassment.

"Okay. What do you want to do? File a report?" His tone made his words sound more like, "Are you serious? You came all the way down here for this?"

"Yes," I told him. Yes, I wanted to file a report.

He asked for more information. I gave it to him. He told me to wait. Then he came out and spoke with me face to face.

"We have two options here. We have a Muni task force. We can give them this info and they can be on the lookout for this guy. Or you can file a full report, but it won't do anything."

He made sure to tell me this guy wouldn't be caught even if I filed a report. For a moment I hedged. For a split second I considered not filing a report. He nearly convinced me. Then I remembered what I came there to do.

"I realize this guy probably won't be caught, but this crime is underreported and I want to do my due diligence and make sure this one is. And if it means more police presence later, then even better." He did not agree with me; he said nothing. The amount of sympathy he managed could fit into a thimble.

I waited more. While waiting with no where to sit for many minutes. I considered the infirm or pregnant or elderly women who would be very physically uncomfortable waiting to file a similar report. With nothing to be said of the emotional discomfort.

Finally I was given a slip of paper with my case number on it. I was told that usually sexual battery requires "skin on skin contact," but that that was how my case would be labeled. He told me I could follow the case online.

I initiated a hand shake. He finally, finally mustered that he was sorry this happened. He told me to be careful. It sounded a lot like, "don't let this happen to you again."

A less confident woman would not have filed this crime report for sexual assault. I know this, because I nearly didn't.

I have a lot more processing of emotions to do before I write more about what happened to me and how the situation was treated by SFPD. Plus, there is more to be revealed with how this case will be handled. But I wanted to write about this now for my own therapeutic reasons, but also to shine a light on a crime that happens regularly and that just might be downplayed by the people in charge of our safety. 

If this happens to you I urge you to report it to the police. Do not let them convince you to walk away without filing a report. Being groped against your will on the subway or bus or anywhere is sexual battery, and you deserve to stand up and have your assault counted.

More soon.


This Post is a Re-Run from a Different Channel

I wrote this one year ago today, when I lived in a far off magical kingdom known as New York City:

51st

How NYC Has Changed Me

I woke up late. I wake up late a lot, but when I woke up today I was already late for work by two minutes.

I scared the shit out of my cats by tornadoing around my apartment throwing on clothes and chucking food into their bowl and beating it out the door.

At 9 am cabs in NYC are scarce. I got to the corner and stuck my hand out and watched two people dressed better than me get cabs even though they’d gotten to the corner minutes after me. When it was about to happen again, with two girls in their early twenties, I spoke up: “Excuse me, but I was here first.”

Turns out, though, that someone was already in the back of the cab. When one of the young women saw me turn back around toward the corner she let out this bitchy, exaggerated laugh.

I didn’t even think, I just spoke. “Is that funny?”

She turned away from me and stared at her shoes. Her friend looked at me and said, “What?”

“I asked your friend there if she thinks it’s funny.”

She grabbed her bitchy friend’s hand and they ran across the crosswalk.

I finally got into a cab and told him 30th and Park and, of course, there was crazy construction traffic the whole way. Once at my destination, only 24 minutes after waking in a frenzy, I was mere feet from work.

Then his machine broke.

“You have cash?” No, I told him. I have a card.

He started cussing and randomly hitting buttons and they would beep but not show a total. I looked at my phone. I opened the car door.

“WHERE ARE YOU GOING?” I told him I was going to work, that I was already late, and that this issue sounded like his problem.

“I HAVE TO GET MY MONEY,” he screamed.

“ME, TOO,” I yelled back. “That’s why I took a fucking cab to work. I’m already late.”

“You need to relax,” he told me.

He finally got the machine to work and I swiped my card and overtipped, as usual, and walked in to work and got settled.

Minutes later I hightailed it over to Bread & Butter for a quick bagel and coffee so I could fuel up and start my day. I got in line behind a couple and their teenaged daughters.

When the guy behind the counter said “next,” the father of the quartet began to speak in an adorable British accent: “Can you recommend a traditional American breakfast? I dunno, maybe bacon. Maybe pancakes.”

NYC delis are not known for their recommendations. You tell them what you want and they make it. The guy behind the counter looked at them with an “are you serious” face.

“Bacon and eggs?,” he offered, when I am sure he wanted to say, “I’m from Venezuela, I don’t know shit about traditional American breakfasts.”

There were more questions about the validity of the maple syrup. The girls wanted only two pancakes each, even though the menu item came with three. Patience oozed out my ear.

I wanted to spin them around and say, “You know what Americans do for breakfast? They order fast, and they get the fuck out.”

But I didn’t say that, in part, because it’s not even true. That is what New Yorkers do.


Do Y'all Hear My Accent?

"Hi, and welcome. Have you dined with us before?"

They looked up at me from their menus with smiles, "Okay. Where are you from?"

These guests who grew up in the South heard it instantly, what is left of my Tennessee accent. 

It is not debatable that I have a Southern accent. I do. What is in question is whether or not it is detectable to most. 

My roommate would tell you that absolutely, yes, it is. She is a Bay Area native with no discernable regional accent besides the patented California uptalk. To her, my accent is noticeable and pronounced. She now calls it "Tinnissee" rather than "Tennessee," because that is how I say it. I can't help it. "Pen" will always sound closer to "tin" than to "hen," no matter how hard I try to shake my drawl.

Heyyall

Not that I try to shake it. I mean, I used to, when I lived there. In fact, when I waited tables in Tennessee people often asked me where I was from since I didn't have the thick, honeyed accent had by many Middle Tennesseans. But since moving away I have naturally lost the Southern twang I acquired when learning to talk, at least to some degree.

I mean, when I call my family I am often surprised at how Southern they sound. My sister's voicemail message for the longest time was this amazing example of how a Southerner can turn single syllable words into a symphony of sounds: "Heyyy, the-is is Amy. Ahm naught here ra-ight nay-ow, but leave a message aind ah'll ge-yet back to ya." It was a thing of beauty--unabashedly drawly and Southern-sounding.

I slip into this style of speaking when I call home or when I've had too much to drink. When I visit my family my Southern accent picks up where it left off like it never disappeared. It takes days for the drawl to wear off after a trip home.

Certain words for me will always come out drawl-y, like "Tinnissee." Or "oy vey," which I inexplicably adopted after just 14 months in New York. But I've also developed that unsure California uptalk where every sentence ends like you are asking a question? As though you don't want to commit, because you are an open-minded, up-for-anything Californian? Quite the nasty little trifecta of speaking styles.

Most people tell me my accent is endearing, but I have no doubt many who don't speak up dismiss me as simple or stupid. The Bay Area is a well-educated enclave that can be quick to judge not only your university, but its location. And sadly, the South still carries a stigma of ignorance that even incredible institutions like Vanderbilt and Emory can't erase. 

I don't really have a take-away or a conclusion to this post. But as a transplant, comments on my accent happen a lot. Of course, most of the time I hear no accent when I speak, and so I'm often suprised when somone brings it up. But the truth is, being Southern if very much part of my identity living in places like New York or San Francisco.

The other day I was introduced thusly: "This is Brittney. She's from the South, and she's awesome. She helped me fry okra the other day."

Sure as shit, I did. And I was proud to do so.


Hey, You Wanna Hear a Good Story?

Eve Batey and Justin Beck were very nice to ask me to talk to them about why I decided to leave social media as a career and go back to waiting tables and writing. The conversation was recorded for their media podcast Punching Down. 

Eve and Justin came all the way to me in the Mission, and Justin even brought beer. And not cheap Miller, neither. 

It only took one Day Beer to get my big mouth moving. 

You can listen to me talk Nashville is Talking, what happened after I flounced out of WKRN in a huff, how my work translated in San Francisco, how taking that job in New York was a mistake and why after a short stint in San Jose I said, "Fuck it. I'll just wait tables and write."

Hear all that stuff here.


What I Did on Wednesday: An Ode to the Comeliness of Northern California

One of the best things about living in San Francisco is that it exists in Northern California. It's an often-heard argument when someone is touting the benefits of Bay Area living: you can go from the city to surfing to skiing and back again in a single day, if you so choose.

On Wednesday I had the day off, so my friend Leo picked me up (friends with cars are the best friends) and we headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge to the magical wonderland known as Marin County, where public transit is scarce, people are crazy rich and the vistas are absolutely breathtaking. That one county alone is home to Muir Woods redwood forest, the Marin Headlands, Stinson Beach, Mount Tamalpais and Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes, specifically Tomales Point, is where Leo and I went.

It took a little bit of time, but the drive was gorgeous. The fact that one can drive to something so spectacular in approximately 90 minutes from the confines of the middle of the City remains a mind-blower for me. I mean, look at this business:

10 Tomales Point
[not my photo, click image for source]

That is some majestic shit, is it not?

I think I got on Leo's nerves with all the oohing and ahhing and being so appreciative of the splendor. I used the word lucky a lot and simply wouldn't shut up about how pretty the whole thing is. Then I realized the difference: Leo grew up by the beach in Southern California and I grew up in Tennessee, landlocked.

For me, up until age 30, going to the ocean was a big fucking deal. Tennessee has gorgeous lakes and rivers aplenty, but getting to see the vast, overwhelming sea involved a lot of money, lots of packing and planning, plus a ten hour car ride. Going to the ocean was a vacation, something I would look forward to for weeks. Now I can hop into a Honda and be there before two episodes of This American Life have lapsed, and I'm still not over it. The closeness of such wonder makes me positively giddy.

My friend Leo is a little more restrained in his enthusiasm for things, in general. To say the least.

"Why does everyone we pass have to say hi? I don't get it. And I refuse to participate."

"Because they want to acknowledge the other people's great choice on how to spend a day," I told him.

"I'm not going to do it."

"Man, you'd really hate living in the South where everyone says hi to everybody."

We only trekked about a mile before our day hike became a wildlife safari.

Leo saw them first, about 15 elk just chilling on a ridge overlooking the sea. Most were eating the vegetation at their feet. But some were looking dead at us.

"Don't look them in the eye! That's a signal for attack." Leo looked down at me dubiously, and I admitted I didn't know shit about elk or their attack habits.

We discussed the possibility of being charged by an angry elk:

"Do elk get angry?," he asked.

"Don't we all?"

We also discussed the possibility of being trampled in an elk stampede. 

What we didn't discuss is whether or not we should hike ahead since we were so close to the herd. We just plowed ahead with implicit human right-of-way.

"Oh, I'm so glad you two came along!" It was a female hiker with a French, I think, accent and a red face. She seemed scared. "I wasn't sure what the elk etiquette was."

"Oh, we don't know what it is either. We just went. We discussed the possiblity of being trampled to death, though."

She didn't seem comforted by this in any way.

We continued ahead and suddenly there were even more elk.

"What if they are intentionally herding us down this trail?," we joked. "We're going to turn around and be surrounded."

We also wondered where the hell they came from. I joked that perhaps they had risen from the sea like in The Last Unicorn, but Leo had never seen The Last Unicorn, so I described to him in detail the awful Red Bull his mean boss King Haggard. 

After taking in more of the amazing scenery ["This looks like some 'Lord of the Rings' shit."], we turned around and headed back. That's when we ran across a coyote so close to us I almost felt like calling for it like a dog. I'd never seen one before, much less one that near to me. It was incredible.

There were more elk sightings, a beetle the size of my fist, a near-miss snake incident and also couple of quail thrown in the mix. Cliffs shot up from the shore, and the sun shown in such a way that you couldn't tell where the sea ended and the sky began, and all of this is just right next door, just a short car ride away, and it's free. Wild and wonderful and free.

I'm so very glad I came back.


Getting Trashy (No More Dump and Run)

Recycle, Compost, GarbageHere's a little something different about waiting tables in California versus Tennessee (the only place I was ever a server), besides the health care and minimum wage: by law restaurants have to not only recycle, but compost.

That means three different bins in the dish area: a black one, a blue one and a green one. Food scraps, paper products like beverage napkins, coffee grounds and other "organic" items go in the green bins, plastics and glass from wine bottles go in the blue, while very little, actually, goes in the black.

I'm in full support of this mandate. I used to stand at the enormous trash barrels at Outback Steakhouse and frown at all the wasted food and landfill fodder. It really made me sad. This arrangement feels a little less gratuitously wasteful.*

So, it's awesome that there are three bins.

But hoo boy, do three bins take a lot of extra precious time. 

You're in the weeds, and your table are so fucking mad at you, and you come into the kitchen with a complicated arm load of dirty table items, and you can either dump everything with a quickness into a single, massive tub then gingerly sling flatware into its proper stack and be on your way. 

Orrrr, you can get to the kitchen with the same complicated arm load of dirty table items and stand there trying to determine whether the paper liner will decompose or if that plastic will degrade, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to just dump and run.

But this is better, even though it is more difficult. And it's just different. Sooner than I know, it won't be.

*And for heaven's sake, the portion sizes at Outback Steakhouse contribute to a tremendous amount of food waste. Another plus for smaller portions than that of a trough. 

[photo credit]


See You Soon, San Francisco

I'm going home.

I've been in New York for exactly one year. For me, one year is plenty. 

I'm going back to San Francisco. I'm moving to California on December 1.

New York is a lot. For this gal, it's too much. Did you know that I hate crowds? Oh, yes, I really dislike crowds.

As I write this I struggle to think over the stabbing sounds of horns outside my windows. I'm sitting as high as clouds, and I can see all the way to Brooklyn through the haze. The view here is spectacular, but the view I miss is that of San Francisco as it spills out at 360 degrees from atop Bernal Hill.

I've discussed this with another former San Franciscan, and together we agreed: there is something miraculous about being able to pull back and take in your city from high above. San Francisco allows this at every turn. Each next climb is a new look at the splendor that is San Francisco, so beautifully nestled between the stark sea to the west and the placid bay to the east. It's the most gorgeous city I've ever stepped foot in, and I want to go back. So, I am going back.

There is so much to do here. There is too much to do here. It overwhelms me. It makes me spend money I don't have. I can't climb a hill and pull back and take it all in. If I lived here all my life I'd never scratch the surface of all that this vibrant city has to offer.

I feel like I can handle San Francisco. It's my size.

I got lost in the vertical horizon of New York City. I couldn't find my way. I grew stronger as a result of the struggle, but it sucked me dry down to my bones.

It's hard to live here. If you can handle the hard, it has to be worth it. My God, the place is crawling with world class everything. If you can stand the snow and the summers and the crowds and the expense and the grind of commuting and the non-stop jostle that is living in New York, then the payoff is tremendous. But I don't need world class everything. I don't need the best ballet in the word. Just having a ballet to go to suits me just fine. 

I miss the nature that San Francisco provided. It's a big city in the midst of some of the world's grandest scenery. When people talk about being in San Francisco and being able to be at the ocean one day and skiing the mountains the next, you've heard it a hundred times before. But until you've lived in that kind of paradise, it's hard to comprehend. San Francisco is splendid. New York is splendid, too, but in a grittier, harder, more concrete way.

I'm going back to San Francisco a different woman. New York City is a spanking, and I've learned many a lesson. So many that I know I won't know the breadth of them for a long, long time.

I miss San Francisco so much that I am going back without a job. I've secured housing, but I have yet to find work in the city by the bay. I've been looking, but it's difficult to get hired from 2,500 miles away. I don't care. I can temp, I can wait tables, I can stock shelves, I can work three jobs if need be. I will make it work.

My job at Modest Needs Foundation was incredibly fulfilling and the skills and experience I gained there will carry me far. I am grateful for my time there, but that job requires that I be in New York. And as great is New York is, it isn't great for me.

I'm selling everything I own to afford to move back. I'm bringing my cats, my clothes and a few other valuables, and heading west. What lies next, I have no clue, but I'm up for what ever adventure may await.

San Francisco makes me happy. I did an important thing in coming to New York, but it's time to go home.

Thirty days and counting.