Sunday, January 11, 2015

City Life


After a week of non-stop teaching, Sunday came like a desert after rush-hour Manhattan.
Space and silence and vast stretches to traverse as I pleased. And so I set to work hacking through the overgrown jungle of e-mails (yeah, I know— mixed metaphor), cleaned my desk, sorted school papers and then walked to my neighborhood farmer’s market.

Have I mentioned how much I love my little Inner Sunset neighborhood? The bank, post office, bakeries, caf├ęs, restaurants galore, the bar where I watched the World Series (Go Giants!), a hardware store, bookstore, video store (in your face, Netflix!), a drugstore (in your face, Walgreens!), a Starbucks (in your face, Starbu… oops! Okay, but there are other local coffee places). There are places I go to once in a blue moon— shoe store, shoe repair store, Radio Shack— and places I will never go to— Tattoo parlor, nail salon. All of this a mere five blocks from my house and in the 30 plus years I’ve been here, mostly resistant to over-gentrification and over-corporatization. (The neighborhood refused a Blockbuster and Burger King died from non-response). And now on Sundays, there’s a great Farmer’s Market where I invariably meet neighbors or school families and get some great vegetables besides.

Today I came from 2nd Avenue and my daughter Talia came from 11th Avenue and we met at the market at 8th and shopped together. Then sat outside the bakery talking about her future. How lovely was that? We decided to try to make it a weekly ritual.

Home with some deep green kale and crisp pink lady apples and rustic sourdough bread and then into the car for the two-mile short jaunt to Trader Joes. Home with my new-found discovery—red pepper spread—take down the last Christmas lights from the front room, sit down and play some piano and then try something new—biking to a matinee movie! Why not?

So my wife and I set off through Golden Gate Park, closed to traffic on Sunday, whirred and whooshed and wheeled our way some 40 blocks and locked our bikes up at the rack outside the old-time Balboa Theater. Usually not confident about leaving our bikes locked up outside for so long, but it was right in front of the box office, our locks are sturdy and the neighborhood seems benign. We took a chance, paid our $7.50 Senior Discount (yeah!) and enjoyed Into the Woods. (Though I’m obligated to complain as I do about Sondheim and musical theater after 1965. The music feels like all recitative— not the kind of repetition and structure that makes for a memorable melody that you leave the theater humming. Sing a Sondheim song—go! Not easy. Gershwin, Porter, Kern, Rodgers! Well, how much time do you have?)

Now it was 6 pm and dark and we went with our bikes… well, into the woods. In the dark.
But a few streetlights and bike lights enough to illuminate the return trip back through the Park, past a few other bikers and joggers (in the dark?). Unusual to come out of a movie and hop on a bike, but I loved it!

And so this little praise piece for the leisure of Sunday and the pleasures of San Francisco city life— a place that’s walkable, bikable, busable, car ridable, with authentic neighborhoods that furnish both household needs and culinary and social pleasures.Coming into adulthood, my friends always talked starry-eyed about “life in the country” and me, too. But hey, with Golden Gate Park a half-block from my house, hiking on Mt. Tam or Pt. Reyes a mere half-hour away, the feeling of a little town just blocks from my house, the urban culture of music, lectures, plays, festivals a short N-Judah streetcar away— well, city life is just fine with me. Yes, indeed.

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