days of naze
|be sure to wear a flower in your hair
A little audio gift (85 kb .wav)
for my Faithful readers on
the first anniversary (7/14/99) of
the site. Hand cranked to help
you on the long march.
An obnoxiously large
(101k .wav) audio greeting
from the Author.
|September 23, 1999
No Rice-a-Roni, but a good time nonetheless
part 1 of ? in Drop Zone SF
Good plane karma.
"You're cutting it a little close aren't you?", admonished the ticket agent.
"Yes", I said, grinning.
I walked briskly to my gate. Had I been delayed 10 minutes, I'd be watching the 737 lifting off without me. Instead I waited 3 minutes at the gate and then boarded. Perfect.
I was up till 1:30 a.m. the night before paying bills, sending e-mail, getting distracted by an intriguing show on ABC (!) on String Theory, and finally packing. My responsibility for getting the kids to school and the flight departure dictated an ungodly 6 a.m. wakeup. We rushed but all went smoothly. Reassurances to Jack that I would miss him as I dropped him off at his aunt's house. A hug for David before he raced off to play with Mr. Potato Head in his pre-school room. The sun shone warmly and traffic separated before me like the Red Sea.
The omens were good.
I packed light. A bit of a gamble. With a buoyant step and an eye for adventure, I hefted my carry-on, de-planed and sought out transport to the City by the Bay. It was still morning and the whole day lay before me. I scanned my options, dismissed the taxi and the shuttle as too safe and comfortable, and went for the bus.
The windows vibrated, the engine roared and a Lithuanian gentleman whose English was difficult for me to understand asked me if the bus stopped at 5th & Grant downtown. I really wanted to help this guy, but didn't know where the hell we would stop with greater precision than downtown.
We were on the scenic route to be sure. The thing I like about San Francisco is that there is no confusing it with the Pacific Northwest. The outer edges of the city swept past my window. Rounded hills bald but for dry grass and bits of exposed red rock. Vistas of the great gray water pop up unexpectedly around bends in the road. The trees, few and toughened, hang on tenaciously. The sprinkling of palm trees never fail to trigger an inner smile and the "aha! you're on an adventure". The Spanish look and feel permeates.
Brisbane, population 1300. Hmm. An enormous workyard, acres and acres of it fenced in with barbed wire on top, torn up rails. A small mountain of dark wood, chopped and split, with two Latino men at the base filling burlap bags. A friendly woman (a regular rider) advises the Lithuanian man in the plaid pants. He's set and happy. Slowly the bus begins to fill.
Daly City. Small stucco houses, pressed together, tan, lime green, pink. The Schlage (I love that name and the way the man on the commercial says it) Lock Company office building six stories high. A thirty-ish gent who looks exactly like a bearded Dennis Miller leaning on a cane as he walks. Six are standing in the aisleway as the beast rolls on.
Daly City melds into SF proper. The red brick buildings of San Francisco General Hospital. Folsom Street. A twentyish jock pulls up his t-shirt absent-mindedly to scratch his stomach.
The buildings rise precipitously on both sides. The bus is jammed with a kaleidoscope of people. Cars roll by and the sidewalks are jammed. It buzzes, it's beautiful and it's where Tony Bennett left his heart.
I know where the hotel is but I'm not sure how to get there. The uncertainty and sliver of fear that come with the challenge are real but energizing. It takes a few moments to get my bearings, so I fill up that time buying a copy of the Examiner and scanning the headlines as I find a seat in the bus kiosk across the street. Haight Street (a.k.a. The Haight) is my reference point for SF geography owing to previous visits to my lifelong friend, Stephen, who lived there for a number of years. Five minutes later I'm on the 66, feeling pretty good about myself.
I step off the bus just shy of Haight & Divisadero. San Franciscans tell me with regret in their voice how the Haight has been gentrified, sold out, but to me it looks exactly the way it did 8 years ago. Picturesque, densely packed, and worn.
I give 2 monster thumbs up for the Metro Hotel. It's just about everything I like in a temporary home: an older, funky building; smart, knowledgable staff with a bit of an attitude, a lovely little courtyard/garden in back, and situated close to lots of stuff. The extremely reasonable price doesn't hurt any either.
"Where can I get a really good burrito?"
"You want a good burrito or a really good burrito? Because you can't get a really good burrito around here."
I had just flown 700 miles. I wasn't going to settle for o.k. "I want a really good burrito."
"You need to go to The Mission. A place called Bocha Villa." He grabbed a map and showed me the way. A good 15 block walk. Kinda cheesy to get in a cab for that. I set off on foot.
The afternoon sky was hazy and bright. The temperature in the low 70's. A trifle warm for a good hike in a turtleneck and loafers but not bad at all. I read a statistic recently that said SF was the most densely populated city in the U.S. after NYC. That probably explains the sprinkling of small, friendly produce shops throughout the neighborhoods. I don't know why, but it lifted my spirits to think of people walking down the street to pick up a bag of peaches or a handful of apricots and snacking on one as they made their way home.
My journey took me past the old San Francisco Mint which never fails to puzzle me. It's surrounded by a fence and rests on a rocky rise, separate from everything. I always wonder what's going on in there but never feel that I have the time to get the answer.
It has been a fine amble but I am now famished, tired, and unable to find any "Bocha Villa" at the address given. I poke my head into a little corner store and ask the Vietnamese man behind the counter. "Two doors down."
The first door leads into a darkened bar. The second into a large, well lit cafeteria-like space with a long line of customers inside waiting to order. Dang. That guy must have meant "Pancho Villa". Slightly annoyed, I took my place in line. Ten minutes later I was seated at the crummy table next to the door where the line runs by. But I had my big prawn burrito, a large watermelon juice (yeah!), and a copy of the Bay Guardian opened to an expose on the latest Mayor Willie Brown scandal.
A couple of bites of the celantro spiced creation, a few good swallows of my fruit nectar, and 3 paragraphs into the article, I was one happy camper. At no time during my hour lunch was the line fewer than 10 people long. Behold the power of the Very Good Burrito. Maybe the best I've ever had.
The journey back to the hotel was somehow shorter and more pleasant.
Freedom. From work demands. Duties. Obligations. Worries. Everyone else's schedule.
Freedom to sleep when one was tired. Like right now. And as I drifted off to sleep I thought, "It is very good to be here in San Francisco".
p.s. Part 2 within a week. Real pictures too. I don't make idle threats.
p.p.s. The benefits of irregularity: "This is the only email notification I have requested in years. I'll admit this is in part due to your infrequent updates." Everyone has a reason, although no reasons are necessary: new days notification.
|previously on days of naze :
threading the needle
what have you done for me lately? hustling up new material, the hard way.
|May you never be more active
when you are doing nothing.
They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
-Carl W. Buehner
|in the feedbag:
film: Iron Giant (A) - about the 10th very good film of 1999; Stigmata (B-) - an interesting story idea not quite pulled off, but it did make me want to read the Gospels of Thomas; Amadeus (A) - again, delightful.
favorite spontaneous phrases of the week: "uninitialized variable", "we'll use an existing connectoid as a template for a new one"
CD: Sorrel Quartet - Shostakovich / Complete String Quartets Volume 1 (because Rob said so and because he is right again).
book: The Autobiography of Henry VIII with Notes by His Fool, Will Somers - A Novel by Margaret George, Will Sommers - another good recommend from Cathy; Harry Potter & The Secret Chamber by J.K. Rowling - I feel like I'm part of another fab children's trend wave (first Pokemon, now this), but I must tell you, these stories are quite good and worthy of reading to yourself if not to a 6 year old.
|lashes with a wet noodle|