How would you react if you found an electric kettle plugged into the outlet in the hallway of your apartment building, and it was boiling, unattended?
I thought I woke up at 3:18am because I’d had a glass of red wine before bed; always a harbinger of patchy sleep. But as my eyes fully opened, so did my ears. The downstairs neighbors were definitely watching Speed (trust me, if you heard it, you’d think so too), and they definitely got a new subwoofer, and I felt like I was as good as on the couch right next to the encroaching, night-owl viewers. Would have been fun if I’d actually been invited.
Yesterday, the man standing next to me at the crosswalk turned and said, “Have you ever thought about how many people you’ve stood next to waiting for the light to change at crosswalks? Thousands, probably. Thousands!”
I think about it all the time, actually. How in cities, we’re mere ants, passing unbearably close to brilliant or bruised lives, never stopping to figure out why the woman with the scarf is smiling SO WIDELY, or why the important looking man is walking so quickly, or what the bum repeatedly shouting “Mother Nature wants you dead!” went through to get, well, there. We learn to bare the fleeting nearness of it all; there’s something beautiful in the almost-touched. It’s the way you feel right before the first bite of meal after an exhaustive day, or your last blink before a first kiss— the long, beautiful, anticipatory seconds you never get back. But here in the streets of San Francisco, the feeling goes on forever, if we let it.
1.) The subtle comfort of a morning in which coffee in bed is possible
2.) The way the spring warmth inspires scrubbed floors, open windows and green things (now, to finish scrubbing my floors)
3.) A podcast episode that covered a topic that’s already been too much on my mind. Now, I try to let it go
4.) The way the sun feels on my bare shoulders for the first time this year
5.) The quick smirk from the lady who knows exactly how my day is going without having to ask; she’s been there
I'm not on a quest for money this early in the morning (though maybe I should be). I'm out for a run through the 3/4 mile long "red carpet" of a park that leads up to Golden Gate Park, called the Panhandle. It's out the back door from my apartment, and I like to come here in the mornings. So do many others, it turns out.
a middle-aged Asian man stands poised on a square of pavement near the public restroom, arms raised to the sky. I wonder, if I knew how to practice Tai Chi as well as it seems he does, would I be brave enough even then to move my body so artfully in this public space?
A homeless man with a full salt and pepper beard ambles across the pedestrian walkway near the basketball court, large gray blanket rolled and slung expertly over his shoulder. He is walking SO SLOWLY as I approach the white stripes over which he inches across. I think of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road and wonder if anyone has ever asked if they made it all the way across the road or simply posed in the middle for their album cover shot. I wonder where this man is trying to go and hope it's nearby, because it's going to take him A LONG TIME to get there.
Two middle-aged white women stand on a patch of grass nearby talking and watching their dogs play. It feels Hollywood somehow. I'm sure these ladies are talking about their husbands, or ex-husbands, or their close-minded bosses at work. Life has worn them down to a place in which they've been forced to realize their own full worth and also the value of canine companions, and they've never been happier.
I make eye contact with the east-bound runners as I head west, and try to imagine their glances back at me are saying "wow, I'm so impressed with your running style, and I want to know what song you're listening to because you're absolutely killing it!" even though in reality I know I'm THAT RUNNER, the one with holes in both sneakers, holding a full set of keys and a credit card in one hand (just in case) and a wired phone in the other, who is sprint/walking, never running. How many inner eye rolls or silent cajoles have I actually caused?
The eucalyptus tree looms over me as I circle back towards home. They say it's the oldest tree in all of Golden Gate Park. It's weird to stand in awe of this natural monument with the Stone Temple Pilots blasting through my headset too loudly, but it's also exactly right.
The stoplight at Stanyan Street changes and the armada of cyclists sprints forward. It's spandex rush hour for the helmet-clad here in the Panhandle. Biking to work is considered not only the coolest form of transportation in San Francisco (you have to be pretty legit to bike in such an inclined city), but also the fastest. These people are all tech gurus. They've done the math. They know.
I jog past a man sprawled out in a sunny patch of grass (he's been there for God knows how long, and I'm not sure weather to feel sorry for him or jealous) toward Masonic Avenue, back home. Another day of Panhandling and not a penny wealthier, but all the richer for it.
If I had a magic carpet escorting me through this new year of life, this is what the carpet would look like in writing:
This year, I vow to show up in each moment as fully as possible; I'll pinch myself if that's what it takes to stay WOKE. I shall allow life to flow through me as it will so long as I ensure my best guides remain at my center, flames aglow like my favorite candle (which, now that I think of it, needs to be replaced soon): love, growth, creativity, connection, humor, passion, pride, adventure. I promise to dress myself in strength each morning and to keep my heart tucked close in my breast pocket on the days I don't feel like wearing it on my sleeve. I will forgive the branches that have fallen from my tree and allow their rot to nourish my roots, and lean into the days when it's clear that too much ice cream needs to be my spirit animal and not a sin. It's just a day, after all. I will give, and it will be raw, and honest, sometimes crooked and sometimes beautiful, and I it's okay if you don't like it but I hope you do.
Catch you on the other side on my slick carpeted ride, 30.
I never pass anyone walking through the halls of my apartment building. I rarely hear noises from my neighbors, except for the occasional THUNK or SHRRIIIIK from apartment 21 during hours that are traditionally reserved for dinner-making; I assume it's cabinets and pots. I like to imagine it's someone who makes excellent ramen from scratch for themselves each night. You know--the quiet, sagely type, but someone who really knows how to cook. I like to image we become fast friends, and share our lives over hot bowls of ramen. I like to imagine someone would make a movie about our unexpected friendship one day.
But at night, when things are quietest, I reliably and clearly hear snoring while lying in my own bed. Not rude snoring, or intrusive. It's not coming from someone with sleep apnea or sinus issues. Nothing weird or jolting or grotesque. No, this is picture book snoring-- a soft 'honk shuuuu' a metronome would be proud of.
I can't tell if it's coming from the apartment to my left, right, or below me. I can't tell if it's coming from a man or a woman. I can't tell if it's coming from someone who went to a job they loved, and came home so fulfilled and exhausted that their only choice was to surrender to sleep, or if it's coming from someone who dealt with draining financial issues and problematic family drama all day and their only choice was to come home and surrender to sleep.
I want to ask them.
who loved you today? was it fulfilling?
who hurt you today? and how? and where?
are you lonely? yearning for solitude?
is anyone lying beside you?
what did you laugh at today, and can we laugh at it again, together, now?
did you eat anything memorable?
are you okay?
but my questions float into the night unanswered, and I drift into a slumber of my own.
i like the way the range hood fan spins when the wind blows through my open windows most mornings, even though it probably means the fan is broken or old
i like the light pink tile on the shower walls; it brings to mind a poem i would have written if I'd been alive in the 70's. i still might
i like hearing the St. Ignatius church bells toll on the hour; a too-jovial song rings out once a week, reminding me it's Sunday
i like the paper snowflakes hanging high in the foyer window. hope held fast to something that will never come
cheers from the bar downstairs rush in, any time of day. must be a sports game on
the 5R bus zips down its route, overhead wires whirring. "Fulton Street: Ocean Beach." the automated announcement. trapped in the heart of the city, or 10 minutes from the Pacific expanse? you choose
at night the fog sits heavily over my window view, but I never feel alone. sometimes it's a vagrant's distant shriek that fills the void. mainly it's the wind