Back in the 70’s and 80’s, each December I would go to Mt. Baldy Zen Center near L.A. and spend seven days in an old Boy Scout cabin sitting still with pained legs trying to breathe my way back to some Original Buddha Nature. It was a marathon-style challenge, but you emerged from the silence (no talking for a week!), the physical pain, the mental self-doubt, feeling more vibrant and alert and alive then you ever normally do.
And it was in this state of mind that I would return to San Francisco and often go to Cost Plus to shop for Christmas gifts. From the austerity of rocks and pines and silence to the cornucopia of things to buy, the bustling store, the bright lights, was quite a transition, but weirdly kind of fun. Cost Plus is where my wife and I bought our first Christmas ornaments (probably around 75 cents each and we still use them!). It was here that we could find things imported from the countries we had recently visited around the world— Indian bedspreads, Turkish throw rugs, Indonesian angklung, alongside food and spices. (My last visit to Cost Plus was back in January when I bought some Vegemite!).
And so the other day, we chose the Fisherman’s Wharf area for our new tradition of exploring (or re-visiting) another neighborhood in San Francisco. We decided include a stop at Cost Plus in search of papadums and a little nostalgia invoking that holiday shopping we used to do all those years back. As we turned the corner to face the store, we were surprised to discover that it was gone! Empty. No sign saying “thanks for all the years” or “we’ve moved.” Nothing.
And so invoking Queen’s song (my shameless attempt to attract more readers), there’s another icon of our San Francisco life gone. Joining the Clay Theater, Art’s Café, Louis’ restaurant near the Cliff House and other long-standing SF memorable places. If those years at Mt. Baldy taught me anything, it was learning to accept impermanence, the inevitable rise and fall of people and places and even whole cultures. But one should never do it casually. If you have loved something long, it is worthy of notice and some measure of grief and loss. And so this farewell to Cost Plus (yes, I’ve heard there are others in the Bay Area, but it’s not the same) and thanks for all the years.
Now, moving on…anyone know where I can buy some papadums?