Thursday, August 25, 2011

San Francisco and Idealism

Annabel is 21 years old. When she tells me about living in San Francisco, she glows. Then again, she glows when she tells me anything. She has the energy of a young woman who is still amazed with the world. She is idealism walking. She describes everything enthusiastically, even things that you might not expect someone to be excited about.  Her favorite thing in San Francisco is when it rains.

"The next day after it rains, the city just smells so fresh. It smells so much better and so clean! The rain washes away the pee!"

Annabel tells me a few stories of having to move fast to avoid streams of pee traveling down the length of the bus she is riding on. She seems more amused than anything. I can't help but crack up laughing when she describes everyone she is sitting with on the bench of seats jump up at once to avoid a fast moving pee stream. I was nothing like her when I was her age. I was much more cynical. I am impressed with her seeming ability to take the world on in the manner that she does. Annabel moved to the city when she was 18. Since then, she has lived in many places under varying conditions. The cost hasn't varied much however.

"I moved here with an ex-boyfriend. He always told me that I was so much bigger than Santa Cruz, so we moved here together. We eventually broke up, and I was in school, so I stayed here. I never thought I could live on my own and support myself, but after that, I loved it. I didn't want to leave."

 "Living here is really expensive. I originally lived on Haight street in a little room under the stairs. I think I paid 875 a month for it. My door didn't have a turn handle on it, it was a pull handle. I think it used to be the cleaning lady's room. I would sit on my toilet to wash my dishes in the bathroom sink. I shared a room once for 521 dollars. It was by SF state. Now, my living room is my roommate's bedroom and our dining room is our living room. That's one reason our rent's cheaper. I have an awesome room and I am only paying 500 dollars for it!"

As we walk around Golden Gate Park, I am awed by the size and the scope of it. Lawn bowling, golf, museums, a lake, even a carousel. Annabel is originally from Santa Cruz, a "beach town", she tells me. She says living next to the park gives her an opportunity to get away from the craziness of the city.

I'm taking you to the AIDS memorial in the park. Sometimes I feel like I need to get away from the city. When I want to feel like I'm not surrounded, or if I have a stressful day, I'll just go on a walk through here. It is filled with flowers. It is a really cool little hike to go on. I started running here too because there are so many random trails in Golden Gate Park. It's huge! It's my favorite place because it is an escape. I have time to myself to think. Especially living with roommates. There are always people coming in and out of my house. Though I love the city, I am all about flowers and natureI came down here once, and there were people dancing with rainbow flags. There was music playing and people dancing all over the grove. It was great. You never know what you will find here. There are free concerts, artists bring their work here on weekends to sell, and on 4/20 the celebration on Hippie Hill is fantastic. All the stuff that happens here is great, but I love it because it gives me a place to breathe.

The AIDS memorial is simple and elegant, but quite small, especially when considering the size of the park it resides in. I consider Annabel and the memorial in a similar light. Both are small in the environments which contain them and share a quiet presence of beauty and strength which is both visible and palpable in the air that surrounds them.

Annabel and I walk around the park for a couple of hours, and she describes city life in San Francisco. She tells me about car theft, being kicked off buses, and finding dead people on the street. As she talks, it starts to dawn on me that most of the places that people are planning to take me in this city are "escapes". Like Annabel, it seems the people who live here need a dependable and quick escape from the craziness and the mayhem and the stink of this city.

I think back to my friend Dan's description of San Francisco; laid-back and friendly. I am wondering now if this isn't an observation that is possible because he lives in Walnut Creek. It seems lately that I am meeting a lot of people who need an escape from the city that they love. Most of the people who I have spoken with have a love for this city that approximates religious fervor, but what does it say about a place when its inhabitants' favorite places are places which exist for the sole purpose of getting away from the city they love?

No comments:

Post a Comment