Thursday, November 08, 2007

Old Gold Mountain

As I type this out, I’m on a flight from Denver to Austin, for a training thing at our Austin office. I love traveling, and I like Austin, but right now? I do NOT have time for this.

I’m of course falling behind in my two classes. My Intro to Networking class is well-organized and easy-to follow, but the subject matter is dry, and the text is absolutely terrible. I do the work and the reading, but don’t have the time and drive to really do the background studying and extra effort to really *learn* this stuff. But just having a basic knowledge and vocabulary will be a good start, so I’m glad I’m taking this class.

The Macroeconomics class, on the other had, is a complete mess. The instructor can’t keep anything straight. Now I’m just trying to get through it with a relatively respectable finish.


As of Tuesday, I have an offer letter in hand for my continued employment. This is a huge weight off of my mind, as of course, mergers and acquisitions often mean lost jobs. And, I really need, and really, really like, this job. I’m hoping to stick around for at least a few years, for several reasons, some of which are obvious (vesting things) but more importantly, I have a lot to learn, and this is the first step into a whole new career. Getting to this point was a big challenge, and involved a stroke of amazing luck, and I did not want to try to hit that combination again. And of course, there’s the team, which I adore. So, in short. I love my job, and I get to keep it at least a little while longer.


After 13 wonderful years, I will be moving away from my beloved adopted hometown. It’s not something I expect anyone who lives in the suburbs to understand at all, but a city like San Francisco is more than a place to live and park my stuff, or have my crash-pad. San Francisco is a lead character in my life. Cities, real cities, function in people’s lives in a way that suburbs cannot. We live in them, our memories, attitudes, habits, and needs become interconnected. We compromise for each other. We create and complete each other. Sometimes we are mad at each other, but we work it out, knowing that we belong. Wandering around on Saturday afternoons, the City offers up secrets to its inhabitants, twisted alleys blanketed in trees, tiny parks overlooking the bridge views, neighborhood bars, a beautiful fountain, or a peek into the living room of its other lovers. These are intimate moments with the city you love. And out in the open, in the crowds, the city holds even more. A walk one morning found a Maori dance in Yerba Buena, and a Chinese Dragon dance a few blocks over in Union Square. The traditions! Just now the city is starting to move toward the frenetic Christmas traditions. All the things I know will come to signal my favorite time of the year: the SPCA’s kittens and puppies in the Macy’s window, the amazing animated displays at Saks, a giant tree in the Square will preside over all manner of craft fairs, from the ugly dental office art to the local crafty types fairs. The streets surrounding Union Square will become a throbbing retail mass, while the in the heart, families from all over the world will stop in the square to quietly admire the tree amidst the chaos.

Two weeks ago, I walked through and found there were free swing dancing lessons there. A few weeks before, free movie screenings.

It’s a dichotomy of living amongst the masses, that we are crammed in to each other and yet this mass feels so private. As I push through the hordes, I feel so calm, so private, so anonymous. Never *alone* but definitely with my own emotional space. Watching the sun come up over the Broadway Tunnel on a morning walk through my neighborhood, I see the cars zipping by below, streams of headlights, each with a private story inside. Here we all are together, crammed in, enjoying our solitude.

And now to think of leaving, the history of memories, smells, sights, tastes…

The cable car home from work, up through the fog on Nob Hill as we approached Grace Cathedral.

Sitting with my sketchbook out on the rocks past the cave at the Sutro Baths

The Ferry Building on a sunny weekend morning, feeding the seagulls buttery pastries, then retiring to the park across the street to visit the parakeets

Yakety-Yak coffee house, now gone, where I produced a fashion show, including the night before of getting a stinky Irish art student to completely decorate the walls in a cave-like collage.

The walk home from King Street Garage after stopping off at 2am and breaking up with a boyfriend.

The old Trocadero… the riot police… the shooting… the shows… riding home with a few coworkers afterward to stop in a greasy spoon in the Tenderloin at 4am

The giant rats that used to be at the Powell Street Turnaround area at night

Going cruising through the Tenderloin to check out the hookers, before they swept all the cool ones

Hiking out to the Presidio, drinks in hand

Parades, street fairs, cultural events. All the time, everywhere you look.

The Easter Morning Ride to Mount Tam, well before sunrise, mobs of motorcyclists waiting at their start points to join the fray as we proceed to Marin (the only time I’ll go)

The walk through Alamo Square at night, among the ornate Victorians

Being attacked by a squirrel in the park in the rain, and the quails inching slowly away from us

Following James up the road through the fog to emerge to the Sutro Tower and Twin Peaks lookout

Everything. All the time. And almost all of my memories of the last 13 years.

Sadly, the city couldn’t keep us. Paul’s career is in the South Bay, and mine appears to be there as well, at least for now. The commute was killing him.

Given our different tastes and needs, downtown city life is not going to work for us as a couple, so we’ve found a decent compromise in an area that is at least connected by transit to what I need. The new place is two blocks from a Caltrain station, so I can come back when I want, but also situated very close to our jobs so we’ll be able to enjoy our time and stop wasting so much time and mental energy lanesplitting our combined 150 miles each day. Being near each other will be not only lovely, but convenient, and free us to pursue things we’ve been shoving aside for a long time. I can’t believe I stopped sewing some years ago. But maybe I needed to stop for a while. Somehow the idea of sewing while Paul is nearby seems fantastical to me, like a weird domestic dream I never could have imagined.

The new place is in probably the most walkable city-esque part of the South Bay, next to Caltrain, and with plenty of restaurants and stores nearby, which is an ideal compromise of what we each need.

And I can’t wait, though part of me wishes to prolong my time in my hometown. Now I look forward to many days sitting at home pursuing my hobbies and studies while knowing that Paul is in the room next to me, that we can be nearby and create a new home and new favorites and new memories together. I don’t expect Mountain View to ever be the leading love-interest character that San Francisco was, that’s not what the suburbs are for. But now I’ll have space to be with my real leading love, and time and space to do the things I haven’t been able to do in the past couple of years.

Don’t ever expect me to love the South Bay though. I was raised there, and I know what it’s about. It’s a place to hang your hat, park your cars, and keep your stuff. It’s a place to landscape, shop, and plan your kitchen remodel. None of this interests me. I don’t need to park my car, and I don’t need to have space for a third bedroom, and I don’t need a yard to make my own personal park. I don’t want an Applebee’s; I prefer the worn in seat at Orphan Andy’s where we retired after many a night closing nightclubs. The food was crap, but we always knew we’d get the same cranky but genuine service. I don’t want the options, parking, and service of Home Depot, I just want the hardware store that is too small to carry much, but where I remember putting in my special order for 36 locks keyed alike for my senior collection. They never asked, because it probably wasn’t the weirdest thing they’d been asked that day. I could give a shit about your McMansion with a three-car garage. You wouldn’t need a three-car garage if you didn’t live in a wasteland, and you wouldn’t need all those extra rooms if you didn’t have to fill your life with crap to make up for the lack of substance and culture.

It’s the quiet moments I’ll miss the most. Most people respond to my hometown with “there’s so much going on there” or “I hate it; there’s no place to park.” “Too many people, not enough space” They don’t know that every Tuesday night returning from Mandarin class, raccoons would scurry across my path on Church Street, and they don’t know the glory of Delores Park on a summer weekend. That I can walk 30 minutes and see starfish, an overlook of the bay from a remote bench in a national park, wild parrots (not where you think). Every so often, you let something show, a little flash of ankle: a sunken ship off Ocean Beach, an earthquake shack, a grave hiccupped from your depths (weren’t they all moved?), Lotta’s Fountain, some twisted metal unearthed at Land’s End... Memories of all the great people that loved you. All the memories of my life forming in random places. (will anyone discover them a hundred years from now?) That just there, I broke a boy’s heart, four hundred feet away, mine was broken too. In that grocery aisle, in that intersection. That’s where I decided I would never put up with that shit, ever again. There, I forgave someone smaller than myself. There, I got good news, and behind that corner, I cried…

All this time, I saw our future together, but it isn’t meant to be. Besides, I remember when Willie Brown sold you like a cheap whore. I felt bad for you then, but now it just gets worse. It’s not your fault. Your spirit is still there, but hidden in quiet places the tourists never see. They criticize you because they don’t know you for who you are. You’re right to hide it, keep some for yourself and those who are willing to make the effort. They love you for all the wrong reasons, but you coyly keep something for yourself. Hopefully you’ll keep a little something for me when I come to be with you again. And I hope I will, but we never know where our lives will lead. I couldn’t have guessed this path, and I don’t know yours, but I’ll always carry the Old Gold Mountain with me, and the part of you that is shared by all your many lovers, over the years, over the centuries.


megan said...

ok, I'll admit I'm excited about the possible resurgence of sewing, but after reading this lovely post I think maybe you should spend some of your new-found suburban time-on-your-hands writing. oh - and maggie says, "kwah!"

Jennifer said...

Beautiful, you should be a writer!