Today I awoke to the sound of a pair of parrots. Their voices have become distinct to me, and I recognize them from the other birds who fly near here. Their squawks fill the air with a near demand to be heard. They are wild, so they say no words.
They have become a comfort. When the parrots are around I am reminded of all that is wonderful here. And different. Over time the differences have become little rafts to which I cling. Wild parrots, boys making out in the park, people openly smoking pot on the streets, the wind whipping through alleyways, skyscrapers that pierce through blue, the consistency of car horns, taxiing to and fro, sidewalks that turn into staircases, water on all three sides, walking everywhere I go, bike messengers, slides in the middle of hilly neighborhoods--these are all tiny salvations, reminders that I'm right where I want to be.
So, some shit went down. You probably gathered that from the cryptic post and change in tone around here. (However, if you are following me on Twitter you are probably catching on to plenty.) Things, to categorize the situation sloppily, are different around here. And they are continuing to change.
My job is the same (and I'm very happy there), but my personal life is in transition in many facets. I may be moving soon, away from Berkeley and into the city of San Francisco. If not soon, it will be as soon as the lease is up. I will live alone. The very, very short of it is I fucked up, made some hard decisions, hurt some people, got some courage and went out on all sorts of tiny, fragile limbs.
Despite all that, and in part because of it, I'm flying where I have always wanted to go, on to fulfilling lifelong imaginings. Oh, the things I would do differently, but I've never been more primed and ready to steer this singular life I've been given into one that is fully realized. Whatever that means. I'm going to fucking find out.
There are some people whom I love dearly who may never speak to me again. Meanwhile I'm meeting some of the most fascinating and generous people I've ever encountered, people who make me feel more alive than I have felt in recent memory. Everything is a blur. Almost all of it. Since moving I experience air, food, faces so intensely and fully that I can't make heads or tails of anything.
It's been four months since I left Tennessee for the Bay Area, and this crazy parrot-having place I landed in could not be more different than where I lived for the entirety of three decades. When I think of trying to put down into words how it makes me feel to be walking the dogs in the morning just as the sun is pulling itself over the crests of the Berkeley Hills, to see a palm tree in my peripheral vision, I go numb. Which is insane, it's just a palm tree. What could be so fabulous and compelling about it that I cannot manage to convey its impact in writing? The issue isn't the tree itself, it's the unexpectedness of it. It's purely foreign to me. A palm tree, to a girl who always lived in Tennessee, is an exotic thing. It is a large, looming figure of otherness; an iconic beast that exists in postcards and at the movies and on vacation. Never when you are walking the dog. So, when I see it out of the corner of one eye my chest brims with the thrill of not just something new, but a regular something new. Something different from what always was, and I can see it whenever I want. I just walk outside.
I am still experiencing culture shock a third of a year later. Today as I rounded the corner to take the stairs down at the Embarcadero BART I got stuck behind two older gentlemen, one of which walked with the aid of a cane. They slowly ambled forward at a pace just quick enough to prevent me from easily slipping around them. Side by side they walked down each step at an exceedingly slow pace making it impossible for me, or anyone, to pass.
Initially this annoyed me. I thought about walking too closely on the heels of the man not assisted by a cane to not-so-subtly imply I wanted to pass on the left, which is standard operating procedure. The thought quickly dissipated, and I decided instead to enjoy the leisurely trip down the stairs while I gave thanks for my youth and my healthy, able legs.
Moments later, over the roar of mp3s in my ears, I heard a hostile voice. "Move it. Move over! You can't take up the whole fucking staircase!"
My immediate thought was that the loud voice I heard was a friend or acquaintance of the older gentlemen, and that he was teasing the men somehow. It became quickly apparent this wasn't the case. Music was playing at a substantial volume in my ears - in part so I can avoid these situations, mind you - but I heard one or both of the older men say something in response to the guy yelling. And it wasn't friendly banter, I can tell you that much. It was then that a man with long hair shoved under a baseball cap pushed past my left shoulder, and the men blocking the stairwell while yelling, "I don't care how old you are!"
Stunned, I took the opportunity to follow the screaming man into the gap he so forcefully made for us and past the two bewildered men. I let the interaction wash over me as I scrambled down the left side of the escalator, which happened to be clear.
Had the yelling man not forced his way past the amblers I would have missed the Richmond train. My wait would have been another six minutes.
Once on the train car I found a place to hang on since all the seats were taken. I let the previous few minutes run over in my mind and I stood, mouth agape, at how I was in such a different place where the dynamics of daily interactions are played out in ways fully foreign to me. Frankly, I think if people rode mass transit in any significant numbers in Tennessee and that had happened, rude dude might have gotten a beat down, cowboy-boot-in-his-ass style. Or at least the serious threat of one. You just don't curse seniors like that in public without someone calling your ass on it. At least, I think I'm right about that. It's been a while since I've been home.
Anyway, I want to tell you, favorite reader, about my adventures in this fantastic place where every red cent I pay in rent is worth it because I love my life more than ever. I want to chronicle all the newfound fascinations I find in The Big City at every turn. I'm just too mired in the wonderfulness of it all to know how just yet.
I had a dream last night that I walked to the North Berkeley BART station, rode the train into the city, got off at the Embarcadero, then wandered around San Francisco lost as hell. I was nearly fired for missing my first day of work.