San Francisco Waves

An observation of space and time in San Francisco.

“It comes in waves you know… and I love it.” The city of San Francisco has been a bit of a turbulent experience for me thus far. But as each day passes I find more to love about it. I sat down on the park bench around 2:30pm on a sunny day in Dolores park. There was a man with his headphones in on the other end of the bench. The view of the city from the top of Dolores park almost seems like an illusion it’s so pretty. I had never come during a weekday before, it’s a great contrast to the weekend Woodstock vibe.

View from Dolores Park

I stepped off a train from Denver around 4 months ago into this land of technology and ideas. This city is new to me, and I’d like to think it is new to a lot of things now here. Businesses, techies, hacks, nerds, hippies/sters flock to this area. Despite my love for counter culture it would appear I am just another member of the herd. There is an underlying tension here, rents are high(the highest anywhere in the US on average, ever) and areas are being gentrified. There is a house on my street “worth” $2.6 million and around the corner are people sleeping tents on the sidewalk. I can’t think those two elements should add up in a community. It is rather uncomfortable to think about, so of course I do. It is trivial, and relatively “inefficient” these days to just think.

Tent city tear-down

The man with the headphones leaves, I can only assume his episode of Startup ended. He was probably a nice guy, but I don’t know. He was in his own world, trying to improve his personal ROI(Return On Investment). Techies love acronyms, because they don’t have time for long words, most people don’t. :) I too, have been the headphones guy, so to throw shade would be hypocritical. I am alone for a little while on the bench, drinking a kombucha, not sure why.

A man walks by with a white, mid sized fluffy dog and he picks the pup up and sets him on the bench. The man takes a seat and the charming K-9 sits up and proceeds to stare at me with a blank face. A face reminiscent of stranger saying “have we met before?” Although I knew we had not met, I proceeded to pet and ask his owner his name. “His name is Charlie, and he just had surgery. He had a cancerous growth on his back leg. Doc says he’s cleared though, just gotta heal for a few more weeks.”

I sat and mumbled some form of “oh no that’s terrible but that’s also good he’s ok, I hope he’s ok.” The kind of response when you’re handed the good and the bad news before you’re allowed to respond so it comes out fast and awkward. “He has to wear one of those ridiculous cones so he doesn’t lick his wounds.” I respond “well hopefully the cone is a little comic relief given the circumstance.” He chuckles and nods. I tend to lean on humor when conversations get uncomfortable.

Our glances move to the park and the city. “It’s a beautiful thing you know, every group of young kids tries to change the world, and they do you know, in their own way.” I find myself listening intently, and petting Charlie’s fluffy head. “I used to live in this hippy commune in the 70’s with around 30 other people. We had a mansion and Francis Ford Coppola was our landlord. It was great. Rent was $1000 for the whole place!”

I come to find out the man’s name is Don and we talk about the city and how curious life is for about an hour. I learn that Don is a musician, he tells me about his favorite spots to see live music. I learn he sings and plays piano, and likes a bar called Pianofight that I will now go to. “People say the art scene is dead here, but any night of the week you can go down there and hear some great music or readings, it is still a wonderful place.” He explains he was apart of a traveling cabaret duo in his 20’s that traveled throughout California. “and as luck would have it, just recently I turned around and there she was.” Don ran into his former cabaret partner by chance after many years, and they are playing one final show in San Francisco.

Photos courtesy of Donald Currie

“It sounds like closure.” I say. “Yes!” Don replies emphatically. “We both didn’t want this to turn into another job.” There is a calming excitement to his tone, as if this show will be a final bow to something bigger in his life. “And guess what? Everyone from that commune in the 70’s are making the trip to come see it! It’s going to be magnificent, and Charlie will get to enjoy it too! Won’t you Charlie?” Don said as he tousled Charlie’s hair. I sat with a goofy smile looking over the city and said “That’s really beautiful. You know, I was pretty apprehensive about San Francisco in my first few months, it seemed like the city was changing too fast for its own good.” Don smiled.

“People always say this place is changing, they are always afraid of the new, this is the spot for change.” He pauses. “It comes in waves you know, in the 70’s it was the hippies here, the 90’s the gay movement, now it’s technology. And I love it, each group changes it for the better, and also leaves their mark.”

Don’s perspective comforted me.

Thank you Don.

Photo courtesy of Donald Currie

Cheers to new riding new waves and celebrating the past ones.

Don and Pilar’s Reunion Concert is Saturday August 20th. I plan on going. Thanks to Kate Mitchell for helping me edit my own thoughts.