June 16, 2013
Weather Weather Weather Weather
Weather weather weather weather
Night time, day time, summertime, wintertime–it’s always time for the weather!
Weather weather weather weather
Night time, day time, summertime, wintertime…
HOW’S THE WEATHER IN SAN FRANCISCO?
Pretty damn good! A recent survey revealed that five out of 85 people name it as one good reason to live here. Damn good reason too. I myself left Philadelphia’s frigid winters and intolerable summers behind to move west. As I write, on June 16, it is 66° in SF, 84° in Philly. I rest my case! But thirty years later, the trash-talkin’ Philly gal in me continues to dream about a move to Brooklyn, to sharpen my ax on that east-coast edge. As Kelly Cutrone remarked, “LA has weather, [New York] has life.” But Brooklyn and Manhattan beat out even SF as most expensive place to live in the US. If you’re going to pay through the nose, you might as well get good weather out of the deal.
BUT WHAT IS THE FORECAST
for San Francisco?
Pretty damn good. The survey was conducted by me, direct-messaged to my Bay Area “Facebook friends.”
I joined Facebook in 2008 in order to write a column about it. “I’m not actually ON Facebook, I’m just spying on everyone else who is.” And though I find it marginally ridiculous that I stayed on, it is a friendship facilitator. I have found friends and made friends on there, including my first-ever Babington, and since I’m not a particularly social creature, it’s just the right amount of contact I need with some folks. Here’s a roundup of the good reasons I was given.
IT’S NOT SOMEPLACE ELSE
“The first thing that comes to mind is this: It is not Anaheim.”
“Even though it is getting pretty scary here, the alternatives are in general more frightening.”
“I was born here and plan to live out my life here” (technically not a reason for me to stay here).
“I can’t and that’s why I left.”
“There may not be a good reason–I say this as a native. The politics seem to be more liberal here than elsewhere–I won’t say progressive any longer. It is a beautiful city with fairly decent air and water and a lot to do–however that to do stuff is often not affordable. You could stay and struggle politically as many are doing but the over all organizing on the left and among the progressives is not very developed. People seem to be leaving for a better life elsewhere…SF is oppressive and provincial to me now.”
“The weather is a good reason to stay in my view.”
“The weather. Never gets hot.”
“The weather here is good for your skin.”
“It’s geographically and architecturally beautiful, on top of many other assets.”
“To mingle with the world’s finest I.T. professionals?”
“Noir City” (high five!)
AND THE WINNER IS…
I already knew all those things, but were they reason enough to stay? A fellow by the delightful name of Chance happened to hit upon my own truth:
Anywhere else I think of to live just doesn’t match up, and inspires my recurring nightmare of balancing sacks of groceries while waiting for a bus in the driving rain, wailing, “Why did I ever leave California?!” Under consideration:
Pros: Many great lifetime friends there, lively, awesome geography, delicious moist air, Baghdad Theater and McMenamin’s Ruby Ale
Cons: Weather, been there/done that, already rejected that one, too pleasantly residential, more like a town, not enough opportunity for world-class weirdness, too many birds put on it
Pros: Exotic, high weirdness quotient, feels familiar
Cons: Too humid/swampy, hurricanes
Pros: Close to family, urban excitement, east coast “edge,” feel at home there
Cons: Close to family, expensive, weather sucks big time. Life is hard enough without having to wield a snow shovel.
Pros: Weather (pleasant), big-city personality, great graffiti, easy to get to Mexico, know a few folks there
Cons: Weather (monotonous), car culture, pollution, Hollywood
Pros: Weather (pleasant), charming but not in a cloying way, Balboa Park, trolley to Mexico
Cons: Ultimately too small, doesn’t really “do it” for me, no doubt California-style expensive
Pros: Great friends with great kids, interesting housing, cultural scene, natural beauty
Cons: Doesn’t “do it” for me; have not been seduced/deceived by its beauty in fair weather, because its foul weather is just that
Pros: Intriguing because an interesting (flickr) friend, whom I’ve never met, chooses to live there. Closer/not too close to family, interesting location re Canadian and eastern states travel.
Cons: Weather, too small, feels too “exposed” to the Atlantic, like it’s the cliff of America I could fall off of; land of the rising sun. I prefer the setting sun.
Cons: Too mid-western; Bible belt is more like a whip
Too hot, too dry. Brings to mind Sam Kinneson explaining poverty and hunger in the middle east: “YOU LIVE IN A DESERT!” I’m not going to live in a desert.
AMERICAN CITIES I’VE NOT YET BEEN TO
Not in the mood for that sort of challenge. Did that in my twenties, again in my forties, not in a start-all-over-again frame of mind. Where I really want to go is Europe, landing in Amsterdam. That will take some planning.
Ultimately, for now, SF wins because
Pros: weather is my idea of perfect; vortex of bizarre human and cosmic energy; strategic left coast location; colorful, vibrant, laden with quirky history, and the biggie: I’m already here. Getting back in would be nigh impossible, relocating myself logistically burdensome.
But the con is a big one: I’m not willing to share living space, and I’m not willing to work full-time to pay these rents. I don’t know if I can cut it in the gig economy. I still don’t know what I’m going to do about it, either, other than work my ass off to make it happen. And my ass definitely prefers the couch. I am lazy and I love writing, reading, sewing, film, and coffee shops, so I do a lot of sitting, but not nine to five at someone else’s desk.
I HAVE NO PERSONAL AMBITION
other than to spend every day doing things I want to do and nothing I don’t want to do, and “to leave something dazzling behind,” as friend Beau put it. As long as that holds true, I don’t need fame, riches, material goods. Those things would enable me to do other and more things I want to do, but having a full-time job to earn a living to acquire things, things like mortgage debt, consumer debt, a robust bank account, I have to pass.
If only I could get my cats to pay rent!
SO I JUST REMEMBER:
If your heart is where the sky is bluest, then the sound of winter’s twilight will be your friend - Sally’s Aunt Agnes, Dick van Dyke show. (Huh?)
YOU’RE GOING TO DIE ALONE!
Michael Procopio wrote a piece, “Shitty and Sweet: Cake Poops,” itemizing all the shitty things in his life, and at the bottom (or top?) of the list was “I’m going to die alone.”
That’s one of these horrible accusations one throws at someone that’s supposed to be killing, pierce them through the heart and reform them into someone malleable by you. Preceded by the unspoken “Because you don’t love me or want to marry me,”
YOU’RE GOING TO DIE ALONE!
Yes, there’s a chance of that. I live alone, so I have a better chance than those who don’t. But I choose to live alone–and yes, if I’m home alone when I go, I will indeed have died alone–but probably have a cat licking my face soon thereafter, and later chewing it.
I had asked myself, though I did receive an out-of-town Thanksgiving dinner invitation last year with acquaintances I don’t know that well (thanks, KB): if there is no one person or group of people in this city who would take it for granted that I would of course be part of their Thanksgiving celebration, their chosen family–what exactly am I doing here?
So I asked my Facebook friends: Give me one good reason to stay in San Francisco.
BUT THE RESPONSE I WAS LOOKING FOR,
which I knew would not come, was, “because I want you to stay.” It would not come because the person who would have said it, doesn’t live here. She died here. Breast cancer. Age 56, as was I, at the time. My best friend, the radiant, generous, heart-of-gold Donna, who hired me for a part-time job paying bills at a real estate firm. I had rung the doorbell on this private home containing their office, and no one responded. I saw that the back gate was open, and ventured into the side-yard, peeked into an open door, and there sat Donna. It was friendship at first sight. Mine was the only resume she had responded to, and myself the only one interviewed. We both got fired, so it had just served as our cosmic meeting place.
Besides Donna, there is not a person here in San Francisco who would have the right or the reason to say to me: please don’t go. I think if I packed up and left town tomorrow, no one would notice, for weeks or even months, unless I announced it on Facebook. By the way, I left town. That’s nobody’s fault. I’m not boo-hooing. I choose to live alone and I keep my social life on the down-low. I pretty much hibernated through 2012. I had nothing to offer.
I’ve been going to Philadelphia at Christmas to visit my family for eons, since the 80s, often combining that with a cross-county train rides. But last year I couldn’t afford the time or the cost, and as an unpracticed holiday orphan with most of my significant others spread throughout the planet, I found myself reflecting on why I should want to stay here anyway. Usually I’ll be the one to put on the feed for orphans, but it didn’t pan out this time.
I HAVE OTHER BEST FRIENDS, LIFERS.
They live in Portland, in Brooklyn, in Berkeley, in Delsbo, Sweden, in Philadelphia, Seattle, and even online, on flickr, or Facebook. I could go around the world just meeting folks for photo walks. And someday I will. But here in SF, Donna was the hub of the wheel, everything radiated out from her, and without her, the spokes collapsed in a pile.
It’s weird to live in a city in which you have no everyday confidante. She was my support structure, and I find myself without scaffolding. I do know a lot of people here, many of them through various “scenes.” If I show up at such-and-such a place, there’s a good chance so-and-so will be there. And I keep abreast of those people on Facebook. If I did leave, I’d probably see them more often on my visits back here than I do living down the street from them.
BUT THIS IS MY LIFE.
I’m not in a frame of mind to pack myself up and leave my own life, with no idea of a future to spur me on. Mr. brown wrote in an email:
[The author is sorry she missed that. - Ed.]
Yes, I had better stay, stay, stay here and search the streets for questions, as Lukas Vasilikos put it. “Don’t give the answers.”
JANUARY DID NOT BRING THE FIRST DAY
of the new year this year, but the last day of the old one.
This year the first day was January 3rd, because January 2, 2013, marked one full year since I lost Donna to breast cancer. And that pretty well sums up my 2012. If I spent any time doing anything other than reacting to that, it was in a purple haze of surreal visits to the world I knew was still out there. The year was devoted to mourning Donna. I’m a chronic depressive to begin with. I would make progress, then slip back. But now I need to concentrate on making real her faith in me. For friends of that caliber, one must extend one’s wailing grief. But you also have to use their influence to get back on your feet, as she wouldn’t want it any other way. We’ll never go to Paris together, but we did go so many places that make me smile. I think I’m ready to be grateful that I knew her at all, and to have made so many beautiful memories to carry with me.
WHAT’S LEFT IS THE LIFE SHE LIVED,
and a mighty one it was. My radiant, generous, big-hearted, fun-loving, spontaneous, adventurous, brainy best buddy Donna. Friend, soul-sister, mother, teacher, mentor, helper, soundboard, all good things wrapped up in one all-around great gal-pal. We had gone to Cancun together in May of 2011. The day she died, I had a dream that I was again going to Mexico, and was shocked and overjoyed to find her at the airport, wearing a red wig, intending to accompany me, which was impossible by then. Girl, you’ve got grit! But then she disappeared. Not into the crowd–disappeared, period. I ran into a mutual acquaintance and asked, what happened to Donna?
“She had to go home.”
That night I wrote her husband that I’d dreamed about her, and how was she doing? She was gone, had died that day. But still had managed to tell me goodbye.
YOU CAN’T GET ON THE PLANE WITH ME,
my dear, but you’re still my fellow traveler.
It’s only lately that I wake up feeling truly awake. Or wanting to be awake, or to return to and even take part in that world outside Apt. 5. There’s something about the power of a year, a full year, that encourages one to move on to something new. But all of 2012 I should have spent developing my online businesses, and instead I spent it mostly in bed, and find myself midway through 2013 broke and facing a bit of age discrimination in the young genius tech market of the Bay Area.
I’ve always been an advocate of not measuring experience or progress by the standard civilized increments of hours, days, months, years. I say, things take as long as they take. They unfold in the fullness of time. How come I was the same age as Steve Jobs when he died but I didn’t change the world and he did? That’s a question I would never ask myself. Apples and oranges (I, obviously, am the orange).
ACTUALLY, I AM THE ORANGE.
I recall an old newspaper quiz that discussed what your favorite fruit says about you. I had to pick one fruit among all others to be the only one I would ever have access to again, and I picked oranges–a thick-skinned fruit with a protective layer you have to make some effort to get through, but when you do…how sweet it is!
Too bad it is often too much of an effort for even me to get through to myself. 2012 was a sink hole. It simply disappeared into itself. I descended into it as into quicksand and didn’t care enough to cry for help. And though January 3rd rolled around, and a whole year had elapsed and a new one loomed, offering the usual promise of renewal, the metaphor didn’t do its trick. I stayed mired in gloom and doom through the winter, because grief writes its own rules.
LOOK, I MADE A HAT
I saw that book by Stephen Sondheim in Aardvark’s window and it made me think, as so many things do, of Donna. Because she was going to help me put a business plan together and would listen to all my plans and schemes for my Etsy shops, but one day said to me, “Well, I haven’t seen a product yet.”
And among my mourning was the poignancy of never getting to say to her, “Look what I did!” Her opinion and approval and praise were utmost in my mind. I was never even able to tell her I finally got a job, about which she was so worried, and returned to my roots as a seamstress, making custom dino hoodies. And except from heaven, she will never get to see me achieve my goals.
I have mostly not wanted to pile my grief on top of her family’s, who lost a wife and mother, but I’ve had to redefine my future to live without her wisdom and guidance and encouragement and spontaneity, and that’s just what I have to do now. I still have a life to live and she’d be pretty pissed if I didn’t use that gift to the fullest, she who had so much life in her still to live. I’ve been to her house “since” and it was really difficult to be there without outright bawling, I felt her presence so strongly, as I do everywhere.
I WAS GIVEN A SECOND CHANCE
to rebound, with the Year of the Snake. Donna was my Lucky Star, which in Chinese culture is the one who will help you a lot, especially when you meet with difficulties or frustration. And she still is, except that now her star is in the heavens, watching over me.
You must be my Lucky Star
You must be my Lucky Star
I HAVE NEVER,
really, been as good a friend to myself as Donna was to me. I have lived alone most of my life; I prefer it that way. I cherish my solitude, but I’d never known real loneliness. And now it’s all on me. After a year and more of devastated mourning, I have to be my own best friend, and Donna prepared me for this; she handed me the baton, and the final lap is mine to run.
I GOT HER A DRAGONFLY PENDANT
in Cancun and she’d attached it to one of her own favorite (silver and maroon) pendants, making two things into a more beautiful third. That is the story of our friendship: two beautiful things made a more beautiful third. Well I had a dragonfly too which I thought was on my key chain but had somehow disappeared. I forgot about it but grabbing my keys one day I asked a friend if it would be too weird of me to ask her husband for the one I gave her–but right then, as I was putting my shoulder bag over my head and adjusting the strap, Donna tapped my shoulder and said, “You don’t need to, dear, it’s right here”–in my hand. I’d hung it from a clasp. That actually made my friend cry.
I know Donna will have her hand on my shoulder for life. And for life I will be saying to her, “Donna, look what I did!”
Year of the snake
What's next? I just don't know.
copyright Alexandra Jones 2013