I found myself wandering-with-purpose in the Financial District tonight. It was a perfect 65 degrees and the buildings quietly churned with swing-shift tidying. On a street I have walked hundreds of times, I found myself staring at the new location of an old employer. There was no rush of feeling, bad or good, just a slow smile. Well, there you are again. And I kept going.
For the photo a day meme: a photo of your town.
My town. My town. This subject is fraught for me because I have struggled with the concept of “my” in regards to San Francisco. Although I have lived in the Bay Area for 11 years, I still feel fairly detached from it. As a result, I haven’t taken any astounding photographs of this place.
That said, this photo captures a little part of my SF experience.
If you don’t live in San Francisco or care about city infrastructure, skip this post. I am compelled by my own impotent rage to document the abject absurdity of commuting in this city. This is anecdotal and subjective in nature; for statistics, please see Joe … Continue reading The City of Stolen Time
I had this idea during dinner that I would get out my laptop and write something about the Big News, but I don’t know exactly what to say. Forgive my befuddled rambling.
For those of you who haven’t yet heard, I was one of the 15,000 City and County of San Francisco employees to receive a pink slip on Friday. Only I was on vacation and, in an effort to unplug, had not checked work email or RSS feeds all week. We returned home late Friday night, and my pink slip arrived in the mail on Saturday.
To say that I was shocked in that moment … well, I was shocked, but I was also a mess of other emotions. I opened the envelope, expecting a direct deposit slip, and received something very different. (It wasn’t pink at all, if you’re curious.) Because I hadn’t read the news, I thought I was one of a small number of layoffs — you see, I still believed all the “no, there won’t be layoffs” so heartily bandied about before this whole thing. Silly, naïve me.
FunkyPlaid and I sat in my study for a while, awash in disbelief and anger and who knows what else. Then I thought to call the library, and I asked a colleague what was going on. She informed me that she, too, had been laid off, that we all had been, library-wide, and then she related the 15,000 number, which blew my mind. I thought it couldn’t possibly be legal, but of course there are loopholes for any behavior.
I know I am hardly unique in this experience, especially now while our country suffers such economic turmoil. Last year, the union had dealt with the budget shortfall by arranging furlough days in order to stave off layoffs, so I know what it means to make sacrifices so that everyone can keep their jobs. But here we are, and with such a vague promise of rehiring at a shorter work-week, combined with my lack of seniority in the system … well, it looks bleak for me, if not during this round of layoffs then during the inevitable next.
This is hardly personal, but its personal impact is massive. My job is a complex and troubling one, but one I have grown to love with a fierce heart. I had so hoped we — and here I use “we” despite feeling cast aside by this city — would find a way to work together to provide our services to the public without losing anyone. Sometimes that is impossible, I am now told.
I hate that word “impossible”.
My gratitude for your compassion and your patience cannot fully be expressed by a mere “thank you” but I will still say it. I fully realize how despised civil servants are — I regularly hear comments to this effect — and yet you have only shown me kindness. Thank you. No matter what the outcome, I am humbled by your friendship.
The dashboard widget said 8 minutes, so I power-walked. As I slid onto one of the last non-senior seats on the bus, I caught a whiff of rubber cement.
The last time I smelled rubber cement on the bus, I was sitting next to the same person.
The smell was not entirely unpleasant. It reminded me of when I used to decorate my Chandler’s assignment notebook in high school, cutting out strange pictures from magazines and pasting them on the pages.
And so I catalogued one more smell that will not make me give up my seat on the bus.
I stepped off the 19 Polk with a mad grin. The driver had been brilliant, announcing all the stops and transfer points, and even complimenting riders as they stepped onto the bus. “I love those boots, girl!” “C’mon up, beautiful!” She told me she loved my hat and called me cute as I thanked her and hopped off.
Trader Joe’s was aflutter with pre-dinner preparations. The cashier tried to make small-talk with the women in front of me, but they were dour and busy. He gave me a look and a shrug as if to say, I tried. He, too, complimented my hat, so I thanked him, and we exchanged those small pleasantries that make the line go faster.
As I was waiting for the 27 Bryant in an unfamiliar part of town, a young man, scruffy but cogent, was roaming a nearby parking lot. He picked up a downed piece of fence and tossed it at the side of the concrete building a few times, seemingly out of boredom. I looked away, gauged my other bus-waiting options, pondered the dangers of walking instead — those things you do when you live in a city. After a while, he emerged from the parking lot and saw me. Slowly, he approached.
I felt no threat as he walked up, hands at his sides, head slightly lowered. It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about what would happen if he attacked; there were plenty of cars passing by, and I had quite a set of lungs and boots. His demeanor was not that of an attacker. He looked like a little kid caught doing something.
“Hello. Do you work there?” he turned slightly to the building with a small shuffle of his feet.
“No, I don’t. I am just waiting for the bus.” I made eye contact, smiled politely, then looked away as if to accentuate the fact that I had not noticed him near the building.
“There are cool things by the parking lot. Flowers and sculptures and things.” I had noticed these, but barely, so I nodded but did not encourage.
He stepped to the side again. The side of his face I could see was turning red. “I went to the restroom in the parking lot. Did you see me?” His use of the word restroom instead of bathroom surprised me.
“I didn’t see you,” I reassured him.
“OK. I went to the restroom there.”
I shrugged, “I don’t think anyone could see.”
“All right. Thank you.” With a flat gesture of his palm out to me, almost as if he meant to shake my hand, he bowed slightly.
I did not move. “You’re welcome. Have a good night.”
He shoved his hands in his pockets and wandered up the street.
City workers, poor lose out in S.F. budget cuts: “Nearly 400 city employees will lose their jobs in February as part of $71 million in cuts announced Tuesday by Mayor Gavin Newsom.” No word yet on whether or not I am one of the 400.
I gave up and ordered a new camera battery charger. The old one must be somewhere, but I have no time before our upcoming trip to Scotland to sort through all of my boxes. Believe me, there will be some serious purging of useless belongings happening when I return.
My handy countdown widget tells me that only 23 days remain until our trip. It is so paltry to say that I am excited to see this beloved country, this heart-home of my beloved, and to meet and re-meet friends far away. I am beyond excited. Every time I read a page in a guidebook I start bouncing in my chair and have to put it down.
I know that no small part of my excitement stems from a frantic need to be Not-Here for a short time. Living in San Francisco has become exhausting, and because this is such an amazing city I know my fuse must be particularly short. I have not had a proper vacation, even a weekend getaway, in almost a year. I also admit some weariness around the subject of American politics.
So I avoided the topic as much as possible over the weekend. FunkyPlaid and I actually had an entire weekend to ourselves, and it was excellent, only marred by the news of David Foster Wallace’s death. Others have been much more eloquent than I could be, than I have tried to be multiple times tonight in eulogy.
This perfectionist phase of writing silence does not suit me. In part, I am paranoid because I know that not everyone reading this thinks well of me, and so instead of inciting critique for whichever turn of phrase I keep silent. We then encounter the usual “you can’t control what other people think of you” argument, which leads me quickly to the “yes but why NOT” denial, usually appended with “especially when I haven’t done anything to THEM” tantrum.
That doesn’t matter. None of it matters. What you think of me, what I think of you — in the grand and happy quilt of meaning, we’re not even stitches. I don’t write here to be loved; I write here because I am compelled to connect through words. If our connection involves your loathing or disdain, so be it. It is what it is, and nothing more.
And to think this all began with a lost piece of technology.
Nine years ago, I had no idea what to expect. I moved to San Francisco, sight unseen, with a tenuous job and a temporary apartment. Through perseverance and luck, I was able to parlay a series of complications into a stable life in one of the most idyllic places in this country, although that last opinion is firmly in the camp of liberal conjecture.
My relationship with San Francisco has not been without blemish. I certainly war with the notion of personal freedom winning out over common decency, and I hardly take advantage of some of the city’s more striking features. (Somehow, my presence at the multitudinous Web 2.0 happy hours, bondage dungeons, and Burning Man fundraisers has not been missed.) Regardless, I visit her beaches and parks, wander her curious little neighborhoods, and spend each workday in her beating, bleeding heart. I have come to know her somewhat well, and come to love her.
Yet I am not a native, and will never be. Those who were born here are rather clear on this fact. I stopped worrying about it a few years ago when I was gently told that no matter how long I’ve lived here, I am not a San Franciscan. Most people aren’t. In such a transient city, no one much cares. Except I do, because I want to belong to the place I call home. It might seem like such a silly little care to have, especially since I have been embraced for the time being by such loveliness.
San Francisco, to me, is the beautiful, enthralling, emotionally-distant lover I know I will one day leave, all the while never regretting one second spent in love.
(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)
Do you know of any experienced, inexpensive, and reliable movers for a cross-SF move? My usual movers are booked on 3 May, and I am morose, bereft, etc.
FunkyPlaid mentioned something that sounded like “renting a truck” and “doing it ourselves” but I think he fell down and hit his head because I cannot drive trucks and I have the lifting power of a piece of arugula.
All non-Yelp recommendations will be gratefully welcomed. Cheers!