My body is so tired from ‘bed hopping’ I am suffering from ‘comfy seat’ narcolepsy! In the last six weeks (is it that long?) I have moved no less than eight times. Each new place has played out like a scene from Goldilocks…..too noisy, too grubby, too short-a-stay, too expensive…and of course…JUST RIGHT! All of the studios (they call them ‘in-laws) or rooms I have stayed at of course had their ‘good’ side…for a start..they are all in America (ping), they are all in ‘happening’ San Francisco (ping), they have all been very close to, or in the ..cool, artsy and multicultural….Mission District (ping, ping, ping).
But, all the tooing and froing is challenging, and unsettling. My thoughts are scattered (more than usual). What I have come to realise is if I want to write, I need a base. ONE base. Not EIGHT. Whilst I may feel as fit as a fit thing, travelling and up-rooting takes energy and brain power. Masses of planning (though I do like planning) and decision-making (hmm, well, this is not my forte..well, it is, but I don’t enjoy the process – it’s like jumping out of a plane, the free fall and the twirly bit that slows you down a bit before the parachute opens, that’s gross….but after that, ah, it is a visual feast and a doddle!) Re-orienting, middle of the night, sleep heavy trips to locate the route to the bathroom without fully pulling me from my slumber is a valuable skill.
So, whilst I am not going to stop all my running around and gathering up experiences, I may have to put on hold reflecting back and writing about them. This pains me, as the process of writing somehow rubber stamps it as ‘EXPERIENCE GAINED’ or ‘FUN HAD’. Once blog posted, I feel freer to launch all of myself into the next great thing. AND I am keen to share it with you. Not everyone has time to make Google their most oft visited friend and advisory, for little-known events, and hop-scotching past the ‘touristy’ things. I try to do that for you..albeit in a very haphazard and irregular manor. Even though I am delusional in my idea that I’m ‘down’ with the locals, someone actually called me a tourist the other day. It made me feel cheap and vacuous. Though, of course…call a spade a spade. But, whoa! be nice…don’t peel off my film of delusion and force me see I am not a permanent San Franciscan resident (yet). Ooh, no…it smarts. Someone, find me some sand so I can happily bury my head.
A week ago, I was in knots, in bits, in..decisive. I had a 4:15pm Bart train to catch to San Francisco airport. LA bound. My route was beginning to reverse. I was on my way ‘home’. I put the ” around home because San Fransisco feels home to me, more than the UK. How can I leave when my curiosty is not saited?…when every day is has PROMISE rubber-stamped all over it. But my bricks and mortar are there….back in England, house shaped, so there I must return (crap!). As I woke, my brain was literally tense, tight, from days of ‘thinking’ about whether I should or shouldn’t return. Should and Want were putting all their energy into a brutal tug of war. Desperate to calm my mind and figure a way to unfurl me, I called everyone I knew, who would not recoil at my skittishness and may tolerate my angst. Over and over again my brain just kept on playing out scenarios…’going home looks like this….’ ‘staying in the US looks like this’..kind of thing, but all along the feeling was – I needed to stay. However, duty bound, I found myself packing my suitcase, checking out, walking down to a friend’s house to drop off my bag, and then traversing the familiar streets, down to La Boehme, the 24th street cafe, to say my farewells to the Mission, boot up the Southwest Airlines website, plan, and begin my journey back.
There was a flight at 6:20pm. With seconds left ticking for me to hurry back up the lofty hill to collect my bag, and get a cab to the Bart train…I sat at an empty table with a cup of hot Mate in my hand. I watched the steam rise and inhaled the bitter trail of scent. Two guys pulled out the chairs beside me and sat down. They unfolded a well-worn chess board. Rodney, whose name I later learned, an Englishman who had lived in San Fransisco for fifty years, smiled rather shyly and then subtly drew me into conversation. His friend, a dark and handsome man from Uruguay, who had come on walk-about to San Francisco fifteen years ago, and stayed, spoke with such a warmth, like I was someone he’d known for years . It was their Saturday tournament day, they told me. I felt I should free up my chair for another but they encouraged me to sit with them whilst they moved black and white pieces across the dog-eared board. Their fisted hands slamming a digital timer, after each swift move. I noticed then, my shoulders were no longer pulled up around my ears, my back had sunk into the chair, and I was smiling. I asked the guys to excuse for a moment. I went outside, stood beside the relegated smokers, to call a friend. My chest was barely rising to take in air. This friend had come to my rescue a couple of times. Given up his bed for me, and gone to sleep in his little boat, moored up a few miles south when my jumping from place to place had not been so smooth. ‘Hey…It’s me….I can’t leave’, I told him. My heart had taken over. I needed somewhere to crash that night. ‘sure, sweetie, you can stay’, he said in his easy way. ‘It’s so nice having you around’. I was beaming now. My face looked like it was displaying the first bloom of love. I was staying!
I returned to the table. The chess game was gathering others. They all asked me to stay…each in turn, entering into conversation with me. One was a musician, with boyhood fluff on his chin, making a trickery of his actual near middle-age. Another, a Cuban with a great knowledge of history, another….worldly wise and philosophical. One tall, wiry guy, with volumes of pepper-grey hair, and pink fleshy cheeks, once worked for NASA. I could not have been happier. I settled into another weeks reprieve.
With no sense of permanency and firm plans, it has been difficult to write. So, I decided to write when I can. Share a few photo’s when I have time to upload them. Have some faith that, in time, I will be reminded of the experiences, as I reflect upon my time in SF. For now, I’m embracing as much of San Francisco as I possibly can. Lapping it up like a well walked dog over a filled water bowl. When I have time, and a room of my own again, I’ll make busy with the clicking of my laptop keys. Probably in some atmospheric cafe, heavy with roasting coffee beans and music to tango by. Moving and planning takes up so much time. I will write about it all soon….I’ll get to relive it all.
What’s or where is your ‘room’? Is it a special chair by a window, or a lamp lit seat in a vast library? Perhaps a busy cafe is your muse, where you feel comfortable, and the words flow. George Bernard Shaw had a painted wooden shed at the foot of his vast, verdant country garden, cast on a moving pivot, to follow the sun. Of course Woolf had her room too. Where is yours?….