Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Musings

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood – 75 degrees, sunny, a pleasant breeze -- what to do with the afternoon?

In just a week, I’m already paranoid about moving my car – if I drive somewhere, I’ll lose my parking spot just half a block from the house, and weekend parking seems harder to come by than parking during the week. I studied the bus routes to assorted destinations. I studied the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) routes to other destinations. Then I went for a walk.

I’m walking every day because it’s easy and because I’ve not yet joined a gym. Besides, on previous walks I have observed:

• A family of four painting a bookcase on the sidewalk in front of their home.

• The roof of a convertible (unsure what model) draped around a tree, as though for safe-keeping.

• A woman bedecked in many a colorful tattoo – and those were just the ones I could see.

• An ebullient young man hanging half out of a car window shouting, “Hello!” to everyone. (Maybe he just moved here, too?)

• A German shepherd tied up next to a sign outside a restaurant called The Little Chihuahua.

I headed west on Oak to Divisadero Street. San Francisco is divided up into dozens of small neighborhoods, and Joel has described this one as the Middle Haight, nestled right between the Upper Haight, which is where Ashbury intersects, and the Lower Haight. I popped into a store called Cookin’: Recycled Gourmet Appurtenances, owned by one J. Kaminsky. Hundreds of thousands of kitchen items fill the cluttered shop – if you ever owned it or you ever needed it, it’s here. Four of us were meandering up and down the narrow aisles while Ms. Kaminsky answered questions, located items and chatted with her dog, who works part-time at the store.

One table holds Le Creuset cookware in all sizes, another displays a bevy of teapots. A tea cozy in a fish-print fabric is for sale, as are many, many sets of dishes. One man found a Calphalon accessory he said he’d been searching for over the past decade. A cookie cutter in the shape of a crab was on a shelf. Hundreds of salt and pepper shakers were available, as was a brand new, 24-inch-tall pepper mill. I admired a pretty red ceramic pitcher, an enamel cup sporting a cow and the best nut chopper I have ever seen, but left with only a Corning dish with a lid and an Oxo grater for me and a metal trivet for P&J.

A door or two away I entered The Other Shop, which is filled with vintage furniture, records, clothing and accessories. (Note to Gail and Other Gail: I spied not one, but TWO sets of nesting Pyrex bowls in primary colors – one marked $58 and one marked $78.) A desk lamp in primary colors, made in the ‘70s, caught my attention right away. Too bad it was by a famous designer and cost $62. A teak filing cabinet intrigued me. I liked the coasters from Australia with Aboriginal designs. Then I spied two Hawaiian shirts in perfect condition, both made in Hawaii. The shirts cost just $18, so I bought one! And I bought Edward a Not Birthday Present.

While I was in the shop, I overheard the manager order a sandwich from King Foot Submarine, a little place across the street. When the order arrived, they showed me the different sizes – you can get a tiny sub sandwich as well as a bigger one. I walked there and ordered the tuna sub with bacon and avocado, and sat in the window enjoying my lunch.

“I live here,” I said aloud. (No one was nearby to hear.) I laughed and then went back to my sandwich.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

All in a Week's Work

Last Saturday morning, I woke up as a new resident of San Francisco for the first time. I had a big suitcase (Gail made me go to Marshall’s to buy it the night before I left St. Louis, as my traveling gear just did not fit in my modest-sized suitcase – and she was right), a backpack on wheels (again, thanks to Gail) and my purse. And, of course, Maggie, plus her second-favorite blanket, a small bag of toys and a cotton fish on a string tied to a pole.

Today, one week later, I have an outstanding apartment in the Twin Peaks neighborhood, four sets of keys for it, a kitchen cart to hold a microwave oven, a microwave oven, a kitchen trash can, three new bottles of cleaning supplies (movers won’t store and move cleaning supplies), two big plastic bins for storage, a sink strainer, a bathtub plug, a shower caddy and half a dozen new hangers.

I also have an iPhone! I’m learning my way around it. Joel and Patricia want to give me their dining table (they need a bigger one), some smaller plastic bins and perhaps a wicker étagère for my kitchen, and then all I will need in the way of furniture is a large bookcase. Today I hope to buy a shower curtain and some sheer drapery panels for the bedroom. (I’m feeling Lace Curtain Irish…)

My car also lives here now, parked on the street, and so far so good. Judy and Scott arrived on Monday evening after taking the scenic route to San Francisco in my Subaru though Sedona, Santa Fe, Las Vegas and downtown Oakland. We had a great time on my birthday on Tuesday, which ended with a festive dinner when Susan joined us. (Patricia was out of town on business again.) The Guerreros also brought me another suitcase and laundry basket filled with clothes and Maggie’s favorite blanket and her bed, which is now in a chair in Susan’s living room that Maggie chose as her favorite. (Susan, in case you have forgotten, is Patricia’s mother, a warm-hearted and generous person and a wonderful woman.) Maggie and I also spend time together sitting in the sun room, watching birds in Susan’s yard.

I’ve been working my way through the list of people and agencies who need to know my new address and phone number. I opened a bank account. I applied for a bus pass, and then rode five one morning in 90 minutes, to see how that works and where they go. A bus that stops right outside my apartment will take me to the gym or to Patricia and Joel’s house. I’ve toured two fitness centers, and hope to join the small one sooner rather than later because not working out has made me crunchy and stiff.

Driving in San Francisco, I have discovered, looks scarier than it is. Everyone is in a hurry and many streets are thick with traffic. Once I got going, I did fine, but the initial adventure did not start out well. First, I could not lock Joel’s front door from the outside. It’s tricky, and I struggled – but if I can’t lock the door, I can’t leave. Finally I got in the car and started to assemble the GPS. I had everything but the cable. Went back inside, searched high and low three times, and couldn’t find it. Joel said he might have one, so I handed him my GPS – and it was broken. I don’t know how it happened or when, but it is just past warranty. Wrote down directions on paper and got back in the car.

Took a deep breath and opened a bottle of sparkling lime-flavored water I had grabbed from the fridge – and it exploded, fizzing all over me. I started laughing. What else was there to do? As I dried my shirt with my jacket, I recalled the Christmas night when Scott brought a tray of sliced filet mignon, hot off the grill, into the dining room to show those of us seated at the table. Smiling proudly, he held up the tray. We applauded. Then the tray tipped and the steak slid onto a dining room chair. Scott burst out laughing, a perfect response. In the car, I laughed some more and headed off to the hardware store.

A link to home arrived yesterday – a beautiful “Bon Voyage” book that Gerry and Tom assembled with pictures from the party they had for me, pictures of other friends in St. Louis (and G in Philadelphia) and pictures of family in San Francisco. What a wonderful gift! Be sure to ask to see it when you visit.

Yesterday I meandered around the Lower Haight (and no, I did not try to pressure people into reading this blog), popping into shops and peering into windows of others. I talked to the guy who owns Mickey’s Monkey, a secondhand furniture store. I bought some note cards at Merch, a tiny gift shop with cool stuff, including a padded canvas laptop bag with the stenciled image on the front of an old typewriter. (Loved it, but it was $55, so I left it there.) Went to the Three Twins ice cream shop, where I bought two pints for the house (lime sorbet and chocolate and peanut butter ice cream) and a single scoop of Harvey Milk and Coffee. Then I walked back to Patricia and Joel’s house.

I can do this! Here is what Amelia Earhart said:

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. You can do anything you decide to do.”

For now, I’ve decided to go buy a shower curtain.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

News from the Left Coast

SAN FRANCISCO: We got here – Maggie the Cat and I made it to San Francisco! She’s even been to Starbucks for her very first time, in the Los Angeles airport. I liked it better than she did.

Here are some notes on the past few days, for you – and also for me, to make sense of it all.

Weds. June 16: Resale shop picked up office furniture in the morning; I closed on the sale of the condo in the afternoon and then spent the evening packing every last thing I was responsible for. Went to bed early, fell asleep quickly, work up two hours later and repacked some stuff. Sigh…

Thurs. June 17: Movers arrived at 9:10 a.m. and were impressed with how organized I was. I accepted all the compliments and then lay on the couch, exhausted, until they needed to shrink-wrap it for storage. They carried out and loaded the last of the 117 boxes (!!!!) about 3:20 p.m. Then Gerry and Tom arrived, cheerfully took out the last of the trash for me and helped me load my stuff in their car.

They drove me to the Drury Airport Hotel, which I chose because it is across the street from Lambert and because they take cats. In our room, I took Maggie out of her little crate. She looked around the room and got back in the crate. (It was a LOVELY room!) I decided I needed to hang out with her for awhile before going next door for dinner. Finally she started exploring, coming back from time to time to where I was lying on the bed dozing, to express her concerns about our adventure. Then she settled in under the dust ruffle on the bed. I heard munching. She was eating half a Cheerio some other guest had left behind. I gave her a cat treat, put her in the bathroom with food and water and left, in search of something more filling other than half a Cheerio.

Had a DIVINE dinner at Lombardo’s – great family owned place (they also have a Lombardo’s at the Drury Hotel at Union Station and Carmine’s downtown) with delicious food. It was only 4:45 or so, so I got to know the young man at the next table, who just moved from Quincy, Ill., and wants to be a firefighter. We spoke of many things. Then I headed back to the room, showered and went to bed, exhausted, about 7:45 p.m.

Fri. June 18: With a mildly sedated Maggie in tow, I arrived at the American Airlines desk (I flew free; her ticket was $100) at 7 a.m., where we learned our flight to Chicago was cancelled. They decided to send us to Los Angeles instead, there to transfer to another flight to San Francisco. Saw a woman from my water exercise class and then was seated next to a woman my age wearing a blue tie-dye shirt with a peace symbol on it. Love this part – her name was Glinda! The good witch and I had a lot of fun talking on the flight, plus I got to see the Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon from the air! Very cool. Once in LA, we had a three-hour delay before we finally took off for San Francisco.

But you know – eventually we did get there, and I actually recognized Santa Barbara and Monterey Bay from the air. At last we were in Joel’s car (and care) and headed for the home of Susan Fox, my daughter-in-law’s mom, who kindly offered to put us up for a bit before the transfer to Joel’s. Maggie meandered around a lot at first and then seemed to settle in. Me too – slept soundly.

Sat. June 19: Joel and I set out with a list of six open houses at one-bedroom apartments in the Glen Park neighborhood and two other locations. The first was too small. Way too small. The second was even smaller, and had three flights of steps down to it. The third was a possibility, though it was not very interesting. The fourth, the most expensive on the list, was really bad – crummy and dirty.

We drove around looking for “For Rent” signs and saw none in the neighborhood. Heading back to Joel’s for lunch, driving through what is known as Upper Cole Valley/Twin Peaks, Joel pulled over to park and pointed to a sign across the street: “Open: Large 1-Bedroom with View.” I popped out and went into the building.

Long story short: The view is astonishing – three big living room windows from high on a hill look north, to Marin. You can see the city. You can see the Golden Gate Bridge. You can see Point Bonita. You can see the PACIFIC OCEAN!!! The view literally took my breath away – I gasped and tears ran down my face. So much for not letting on to the manager that I liked it. We talked at length. The apartment is in a quiet six-unit building, 725 square feet, lots of closets. Not much charm – no hardwood floors or bay windows or the look of San Francisco on the inside – but did I mention the view???

I went to the car and asked Joel to come in and meet the manager and look at the place. We decided to go home and eat lunch and think – was it too soon? Had I seen too few? What the hell was I thinking? I hadn’t even been in town for 24 hours! I told the manager I would be back in touch either way. Patricia was at home – back from a business trip – and the three of us discussed the pros and cons. Then we all three went back to the apartment. They encouraged me to go for it. (Did I mention how much I love these two people?) I put a hold on the apartment, with money up front.

Then the three of us went out for celebratory drinks -- iced tea for P and smoothies for J and me. We had a toast to the future – I’ll know Monday or Tuesday if I got it – and then we went to their house to get ready for a wonderful dinner at the Tadich Grill (I was there 29 years ago with Joe Schneider…) with Mary Kay (Joel’s aunt who is in town for a conference), her friend Gina, and Susan.

Not bad for my first day in town, huh?

Sun. June 20: Woke up convinced I have made an excellent choice, got a good price, and want to go buy a shower curtain right this minute for My New Place. Only of course it’s too soon. Susan went to church and I walked to the grocery store and got some food for us. Maggie is sleeping in the sun. I’m sitting here by her, grinning.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Good Food and Good Fortune(s)

Next week this time, I will live in San Francisco. I won’t have an apartment yet, of course, but I will likely be out looking!

A few posts ago, I wondered aloud how to leave all the people here that I care about. Now I know – at parties, over coffee, during lunch, throughout dinner. I have not eaten a meal at home for nearly three weeks! Every gathering, no matter how small or large, has been wonderful, warm and loving and reassuring.

And the gifts! Along with a boat-load of “We’ll miss you,” I got an “I am proud of you.” I got a “Good for you – this is a bold step, and you can do it.” And I got a profound observation from a friend. First, he noted that he wants in front of him what he likes and what he knows. Then this: “You have an interest in and curiosity about all 360 degrees, and San Francisco can offer you something at every point on the circle. This is a great move for you.”

One dear friend surprised me with a family-themed photo frame, a gift for the future. My Five Favorite Female Friends popped for a last-minute massage with Yue Ma at the J, a gift for right now. My water exercise buddies bought me an exquisite leather-bound journal from Italy. My Jewish Chinese medicine man gave me contact info for two of his friends in San Francisco. “You’ll like both of them – be sure to call,” he said.

And everybody who has met me for coffee, lunch and dinner these past three weeks has picked up the tab, so I have saved a lot of grocery money while out eating orecchiette a la Nonna at Paul Manno’s Café, the fabulous burger at Cardwell’s, roasted chicken at Mai Lee, a selection of small plates at Remy’s, homemade whole wheat bread and great guacamole at Carolyn’s, gyros at L’Ecole Culinaire, the pork chop at Duff’s, Sicilian deep dish pizza at Adriana’s, shrimp and fresh vegetables at Macaroni Grill, grilled pork loin at Beth’s, a taste of Tim’s flatbread at Robust, meatball pizza from Dewey’s, and lots of skinny vanilla lattes.

When not eating, I’ve been darting around picking up medical records, emptying the safe deposit box, making copies of my rental application, returning books to friends, shredding old receipts, filing new receipts, exploring San Francisco neighborhoods on CraigsList, getting my hair cut and – ever so occasionally – packing. I even had a job interview, for a freelance gig in San Francisco. I got it!

And I took time to meet for coffee with a friend who has been thinking about moving to the Bay Area for a couple of years, at least. “Just do it,” I said. Then I emptied my purse of tiny crumpled fortunes, fortunes I’ve been collecting from cookies for months, fortunes that seemed to encourage me to Go West. “Take my fortunes,” I said. “They can all be true for you, too.”

A few hours after that coffee date, I was at an appointment. I picked up a book in the waiting room and leafed through it. The book fell open to this: "The most difficult thing is the decision to act -- the rest is merely tenacity. You can do anything you decide to do.” The quote was attributed to Amelia Earhart. When I got home, I sent it to Greg, as follow-up to the little stack of fortunes. The quote echoes the theme of the sign-off I use at the bottom of my emails:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain said that. You know he’s right.