Travel Stories

San Francisco

     First, however, San Francisco.  Sort of a practice run at living out of my backpack again.  Far from home, very safe, yet "on the road" enough to test out my traveling skills, my memory and organizational skills, my back, my heart, my laptop.  More than one person who has observed the planning and deliberation that go into preparing for any of my low budget comings and goings has said, "I thought you were such a free spirit."  To which I always reply, "You can't imagine how much work it takes to be a free spirit." 

          San Francisco remains a most amazing city.  The weather can be change very quickly and frequently over the course of a day.  Bright sunshine in cloudless skies often followed by rain, sun, rain, fog, and a special Pacific drizzle that leaves me cold to the marrow.   In the summer the plants here want for water.  In the winter the earth is lush and Mediterranean flowers bloom everywhere.  San Francisco is also, of course, the home of my beloved 43 year old daughter, her husband, and their two delicious children.  And before I start any of these major voyages - which are always also possibly where my tale will end - I want to see them.  Parts of San Francisco are even in strange ways how I imagine parts of Africa will be, walking on Mission between 17th and 18th after midnight, the taquerias open, the 24 hour stores, the smoke shops, the homeless people, the haggard prostitutes, the derelict junkies and the smooth talking junkies ready to exploit me and any other opportunity that presents itself.  


          I am currently holed up in an old SRO (right) for 70$/night with my laptop and my writing.  But the outside world calls me to set this down and otherwise engage.  Grandchildren.  Daughters.  Pumpkins.  School plays. Halloween.  World Series championship celebrations.  Ex-wives.  I imagine that the two photos below - of the dwelling taken from the west side of Bernal Heights, and of my shadow photographed facing east in late afternoon - could have been taken in Africa … or maybe not.  It's part of what we're going to find out, this 72 year old, with arthritis, atrial fibrillation, the residue of a law practice, macular pucker, and a fabulous life partner very into her work.

          I live on Cape Cod which I must tell you is a horrible place, that I advise all visitors avoid and stay away from (unless they are good personal friends) what with ticks, lyme disease, poison ivy, street crime, and sharks – besides the traffic is terrible, the weather unpredictable, and the crowds unmanageable.  Go to Long Island.  Or Deer Island.  Or the Thimble Islands.  Remember, Cape Cod is a shifting sand bar that will be washed away in another 15,000 years.  Property values are sure to fall.  Don’t visit.  Don’t buy.  There are thousands of absolutely amazing, charming, comfortable, easy, beautiful places to live on our planet, thousands.  Visit them.  Turn back before you get Cape sand in your shoes.  The spirit of the people who lived and hunted here 500 years ago is abounding.  So too the whale, the dolphin, the crab and their kin.  Turn back before it is too late.

          I finally get out of my SRO room having spent the morning corresponding, writing, exploring the world available thru my computer and the internet, news, poetry, photo exhibits, blogs.  Hard to put aside, and after a few blocks walk, and a couple of buses, and I’m back on the computer in a Peet’s Coffee waiting for my outrageously expensive outpatient medical appointment, because insurers don’t cover optional things, like travel immunizations.  Oh well.  Obsessing about the question of what might make these writings interesting when I’m not in Africa, or elsewhere on the road less familiar.  I saw a new blog site today entitled, “The Adventures of Amanda in trying to organize her life.”  Not what I want to be writing.  But sitting in a Peet’s drinking coffee goes only so far in holding a reader’s attention. 

          I think of myself as an ethnographer, trying to describe what I see of the culture and environment I am encountering without judgment or presupposition.  I also think of myself as being on a "spiritual" quest, that experiencing spirit wisdom and sacred wisdom, whatever they turn out to be, if noting more than a greater attuning of my sensory instruments to the vibration of the others' sensory instruments, the other hearts beating, the other molecules spinning in ritual dance.  I am also no longer sure "the mind" is contained inside the skull.  But let us move on.