It’s an odd thing to travel alone when one is used to being available for the children. Even stranger for me is when I head to San Francisco: my city of my first marriage, my city of my single life, my city of victorian flat apartments, thai food in the middle of the night, semi disposable income and sushi on demand. Every one has the city they chose to live in in their 20s/30s I suppose. Once I left the City of my own accord. The second time I was pregnant and faced with bringing a child into an almost studio apartment with no real resources. So I left. I did the smart and the practical.
But then apparently so did everyone else I know.
Truth is I have very few friends in San Francisco now. We’ve all left. Whole swaths of neighborhoods are missing the cafes that I used to frequent, my favorite bar became a Chinese jewelry shop.I can’t tell if my favorite restaurants are good or if I’m just carb loading on nostalgia. A better time that wasn’t better at all.
I hit the bridge at 5 pm on a Friday. There’s not really any traffic coming in , just the bridge and tunnel people going out. I’m one of them now of course, but I still have the smugness of a native. I notice what’s missing. What makes it not my city anymore. I notice the new. What also makes it not my city anymore. I’m staying the night at my friend Betsy’s in the Mission. It’s the East Mission. I never used to stay out there before. Betsy is a new friend, not an old one. I’m grateful for the guest room. In the old days, I’d spring for a motel room. But in the post kid’s days where my money is no longer mine if it ever was, I’m a couch and guest room surfer.
We talk at her kitchen table. I freshen up. I call home. I never used to call home. We went out for sushi in my old neighborhood. I like this place because it was local, because the people were from Kumamoto-ken, and because it was my entry way into the city in the early 90s. It’s still there which makes it an anchor. After Tanuki, Betsy and I walk up to Green Apple which seems remarkably organized and does not look like an earthquake just hit it the way I remember it. There aren’t as many books on the floors, there are more tchotchkes to purchase. There’s a children’s room now. Wow. There’s that weird thing of walking through your old neighborhood with a new friend.
You pass by where your sister used to live. The sister you don’t know whether she’s alive or dead. You remember her bad choices and wonder if saying anything more than you already did would have made a difference. You don’t really mention it to your friend. That conversation would take too long. She suggests Toy Boat for ice cream and you order pie. You’d love to go to the Plough and the Stars for a drink but you’re an old person and it is officially beyond your bedtime. It’s always beyond your bedtime. You go back to her house and sleep in the guest room alone. You aren’t used to doing that anymore either…