Bird is Back and She's Riding a Magic Bus
I'm back on the grid - hurrah! Below is an entry from last week's SF journal (yes, I've been writing steadily even though I was exiled from the blogosphere)
I woke this morning to the sun streaming in through my bedroom window. When I sat up in bed, I could see out my window the cityscape, the bay, and the early morning fog, dissipating in the light. This is my life now.
I wake early during the weekdays, often at dawn. Though there’s coffee to make, a bath to draw, my papers to collect together for school, the sunrise distracts me. Different every morning, I note the changes in the sky’s colors, in the density and texture of the fog which sometimes is lifting, other times moving in gently, on Carl Sandburg’s cat paws, stealthily, gracefully, elegantly – and other times comes pouring in, moving fast across the northern reaches of the city, the thick bed of fog pushing from behind, from the ocean, moving its soft, thick, blunted spearhead into the bay and further south.
On Mondays and Fridays I catch the #33 bus downhill to the Castro/Metro Center and board the M train, which takes me south, or outbound, to SFSU. At the end of my day, I catch the M again, back to the Metro Center. I might take the 33 home, or I might walk. It’s about a half mile – but it’s uphill – and steep. Yet the walk takes me past cafes, bars, newsstands, flower shops, and on Saturday, when I returned from running errands downtown, past the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their tin
cups. The Sisters are political activists and have been a part of the San Francisco scene since the 1980s. They are good-deed doers, contributing to a variety of charitable organizations. They are charming, delightful, humorous, campy, and shocking to some – for they are drag queens – this is, after all, San Francisco and the Castro.
Yes, this is the Castro and there are more men than women about, and some of these men are incredibly handsome – but they are not for me. Still, they are wonderful eye candy. And in this neck of the woods, all the men seem happy, pleasant, friendly. I listen to conversations as I walk by: “Oh sweetie," says one fellow to another, “Aren’t you the cutest little chatterbox.” “You look exhausted darling, let me take you to dinner tonight.” They hold hands, exchange smooches. The air is filled with emotion, with caring, with love, and yes, let’s face it, with sexual energy. I love soaking it all up. It’s delightful and invigorating to feel the heat, the love, the joy that fills the Castro – even if it’s not for me. I smile as I walk down the streets, and I receive smiles in return. I simply can’t keep one off my face – I am thrilled to be here.
I move not only through the Castro with that silly grin, but the whole City. I am sure I stand out as a newbie- I need no scarlet N tattooed on my forehead, embroidered on my chest. Though I’ve lived in the Bay Area for over 30 years, and have been a frequent visitor to the City – I’ve been just that – a visitor. Now I’m a resident and I grin and glow all over. I have that silly, “Wow, I’m living in San Francisco” grin plastered on my face every day. I stare out the window of busses at the Victorian homes and shops we pass. I delight in finding the small alleys and staircases that create charming shortcuts through neighborhoods; I listen in to the conversations around me – of tourists and San Franciscans. I pause to listen to the street musicians – especially the cello player at the Powell Street station. I hesitate when boarding the bus and muni, not quite sure of what I’m doing yet and completely unabashed by my naiveté, my neophyte status, I ask for help at the station – not quite sure which machine I put my coins in for a ticket, which machine I put my ticket through. I sit at bus stops perusing my Muni map that has all the trolley, bus, and train routes marked on it. I whisper street names under my breath – trying to memorize key areas, key streets and their order. San Francisco is essentially laid out as a grid over a very small area. Master the grid and you master the City – or at least – you learn how to get where, which trolley or bus to take – and which ones are reliable and which ones are notoriously off-schedule.
Yesterday, I kicked around the City with my friends from Thailand – who arrived on Thursday. They paused in San Francisco before heading to Chicago where they are visiting family. They have stepped up their annual pilgrimages to the States. Once they came every year; now they come every nine months, to see aging parents – to check up on those parents and spend their evenings dancing in the living room, playing bridge and barbequing.
In the morning, I boarded the M inbound (north to the heart of the City) to meet my friend Bob at Union Square. We walked two miles toward the Bay and had breakfast in North Beach at Curly’s. Our path took us through Chinatown and we happily got caught up in some sort of small parade with dragons and tigers, banging cymbals and drums and marchers following along. Later, his partner, Tim met us at Curly’s and we walked further north, to the Wharf, where we were amused by the infamous seals of Pier 39, as they lolled about on the floating wooden platforms, basking and barking in the sun. We gawked at the tourists as well, then hopped the F Market trolley (an old-fashioned, historical trolley) to ride down the Embarcadero and then turn onto Market Street.
Market Street is my touchstone. It’s the pulse line of the City – at least to me, as in one direction it takes me downtown, to the Civic Center and the Sunday Farmer’s Market, to the shopping and theater districts, to the Embarcadero, to the Main Library and in the opposite direction – it takes me home, back to the Castro and then up the hill to my roost.
I love the public transit system in San Francisco. Long-time residents may grumble about its cost, its reliability – but coming from the Peninsula, the suburbs, where it’s often difficult to get anywhere on public transit, I’m enthralled. Let’s face it, I’m enthralled with every aspect of city life, from the grit and soot, to my neighbor’s butterfly bush that hosted, yesterday, a beautiful monarch butterfly – its wingspan about two inches in length. Dressed in the traditional yellow and black markings, it had an added dash of deep blue to the edge of its wings along its body – brilliant blue dots. I paused, walking up the hill on my way home, captivated by this butterfly as it feasted on the bush’s purple flowers. Now I know – I either need to carry my camera with me at all times or get a cell phone that takes pictures.
Back to the transit system – I can get almost anywhere I want to go – either by trolley, bus, underground, or cable car. I picked up a monthly pass yesterday and Muni map with a time table. I’ve discovered that the 33 is a magic bus.
Every day I get in the queue (too much, magic bus)
To get on the bus that takes me to you (too much, magic bus)
Im so nervous, I just sit and smile (too much, magic bus)
You house is only another mile (too much, magic bus)
I pick up this magic bus just four blocks down at the corner and it takes me to almost wherever I want to go.
Thank you, driver, for getting me here (too much, magic bus)
Youll be an inspector, have no fear (too much, magic bus)
I don’t want to cause no fuss (too much, magic bus)
But can I buy your magic bus? (too much, magic bus)
I can ride the 33 west, over the hill and down, down, down to the Haight, with its head shops, bars, grungy youths, and retro clothes stores and then walk across the street to Golden Gate Park. I can catch it headed northeast and ride it either to the hub, the Castro Metro Center where I can hop a line inbound or out, to downtown or to SFSU or the beach. I can ride it through the Castro, waving my beauty queen wave while the boys critique it – or ride it east to Delores Park, to the Mission – where the streets are lined with small family-owned grocery stores stocked with piñatas and stands of fruit dragged out on the sidewalk. Lined too with taco stands, and bookstores, cafes and bars, and The Marsh – a small theater which offers an impressive array of public readings, open mics, and small productions.
Yes, the 33 is magical and its mine – I’ve claimed it.
I said, now I’ve got my magic bus (too much, magic bus)
I said, now I’ve got my magic bus (too much, magic bus)
I drive my baby every way (too much, magic bus)
Each time I go a different way (too much, magic bus)
I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it ...
Today, I ride inbound once again, to shop downtown at discount stores for jeans. Tomorrow, I ride outbound, all the way out to the zoo and the beach, where I’ll park myself on the sand and read student papers. At the end of the day, I’ll return home to enjoy a quiet dinner and gaze out my window as the sun hits the tall buildings downtown on its way down into the ocean, to watch the shadows change on those buildings and the windows shift the reflection of light. To watch the lights across the Bay, along Market Street and on the Bay Bridge light up. I’ll sit in my living room with that silly grin on my face, watching the City don her night light jewels, listening to jazz, sipping merlot. Life is perfect.
Every day you’ll see the dust (too much, magic bus)
As I drive my baby in my magic bus (too much, magic bus)
Postscript: I see while I've been away that Blogger has changed its ways once again - its protcol (somewhat) for inserting links and photos and changing text features. Some options seem to have disappeared (text color and size). Sigh. Ain't it always the way?