Category Archives: San Francisco

Your tax dollars at work

Wow. Today I received an e-mail from the San Francisco Public Library with the following information:

“The material(s) you have requested are now at the library shown below (next to “Pickup At”) and will be held for you until the date indicated.”

The book listed was one I requested four months before we even moved. I assumed the request had been accidentally deleted or otherwise expired. But here we are, almost a year into life in LA, and the book I requested has become available in San Francisco! I’d always loved the SF public library, but now a bit less.

Places I’ve lived, in descending order of awesomeness

Rome tops this list, even though I recognize that my experience there would be impossible to duplicate. When I lived there the Euro hadn’t yet taken effect, so it was possible to live very cheaply, and I was a student, so I wasn’t expected to do anything but soak up the city and the culture. Nevertheless, living there was a life-changing experience–despite lingering racism and a traditional mindset that strikes this American as somewhat rigid, the Italians get a lot of things right when it comes to living.  I didn’t move back to Rome after graduation only because my love lived in
San Francisco, the most European of American cities, which could easily occupy the top spot on this list. It’s beautiful, historical, and easy to navigate. It has mild (if a bit cold) weather, many ethnic neighborhoods, the ocean and the bay. It is not far from the resorts of Tahoe, the wineries of Napa and Sonoma, and the hiking/biking areas of the Marin Headlands. After surviving the gold rush dot-com days, when frankly living in the city sucked, and the depression of post-dot-com days, when the city was tolerable but my career was in the shitter, I feel a deep bond with that town. Despite its traffic issues, its so-democratic-nothing-can-get-done politics, and its lingering homeless problem, San Francisco tops the list of places in the U.S. I’d want to live. It broke my heart to leave for

Los Angeles, though LA  has brought its own kind of excitement. After much poo-pooing on this town and its relentless sun, its plastic-surgeried denizens, and its love affair with cars, I have to admit that the sheer vastness of the place holds potential for many years of exploration. Plus, its warm weather puts it a hair’s-breadth ahead of

Chicago, which was the first real city I lived in and a truly American city at its core. My alma mater as well as Northwestern, DePaul, IIT, U of I, and others keep the intellectual fires burning, and I believe it’s one of the best–if not THE best–cities for live theater. The citizens of Chicago are the type that make you glad to be in the Midwest–mostly helpful and friendly, mostly in love with their city.  I’m also grateful to have lived on the South Side, which was traditionally populated by blacks and blue-collar immigrants, so I was able to witness firsthand the scars of deep racism and segregation. I wish it didn’t exist, but it was certainly eye-opening, particularly coming from

Plano,  a suburb like pretty much every other suburb in America, though it had the distinction of being the teen suicide capital of the U.S. in the ’80s and the teen heroin capital of the U.S. in the ’90s. I managed to escape the trappings of the wealthy, idle teens in that town, largely because we lived in an older home on the run-down east side. That still doesn’t change the soul-sucking feeling of anonymous suburban life, where the houses look the same, the shops and restaurants are the same chains, and the anonymity is stifling.

Sometimes real life really is like high school

My first job out of college was as part of a team of women, most of whom were in their 40s and 50s. The only other 20-something in the group was the department assistant. I tried in my awkward way to make friends with her, because I was new in town and knew no one, while she’d lived there for several years and was one of those people who seemed to know everybody.

As you might guess, that didn’t work out so well. She accepted one out of every three invitations I issued and just never seemed to warm to me. Meanwhile, two other 20-somethings were hired, and those three started taking lunch breaks together every day. I was never invited to join them.

One day I brought my lunch into the break room only to find them settling in for the meal, so I asked to join them. I was excited by the opportunity to demonstrate that I could be one of them, too. But then the conversation turned to people I didn’t know. In fact, one of the three seemed intent on keeping the talk about people I didn’t know, with the purpose of keeping me out of the loop.

As the lunch dragged on, I realized that they were all friends beyond lunchtime, that they saw each other outside of work, hung out together frequently and often, hosted parties to which I was not invited. And I remember it making me unbelievably sad to realize that I would always be an outsider to these three, on whom I’d naively pinned hopes of gaining entree to a social group in this new town. To this day I feel the hurt in that realization, though with the benefit of time I also recognize the remarkable cruelty of those women once they’d formed their clique.

Of course I did eventually go on to meet people who were truly worth my friendship and with whom I had a lot more in common, to the extent that I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I’d tried so hard to be friends with these women in the first place. But it’s a part of my history that comes to mind today, as I’ve just learned that one of the cruel women (the cruelest, if you asked me) is once again deeply embedded in a group that I’d hoped to connect with. Will I learn from my earlier experience and just let it go?

Find: Book Castle’s Movie Books

One of the things I’ve really missed about San Francisco lately is the proliferation of used bookstores. Though I am generally anti-acquisition (I must tame the clutter beast!) I really enjoyed browsing at Dog-Eared/Phoenix and the mecca, Green Apple, when I was looking for something new to read. Down here we’re walking distance to a few new bookstores (one indie, one chain) but I was looking for a used bookstore so I could replace my falling-apart 1964 Scribner edition of A Moveable Feast. Buying the book new was unfathomable: my well-loved copy had been pressed into my hands by my best friend Laura at a Half Price Books in Dallas 12 years ago (this date I know because the sales receipt is still tucked into its pages). I was looking for something that would have the same feeling of history and serendipity and definitely lacked the New Book Smell. But as I looked around I realized that L.A. is decidedly weak when it comes to used bookstores. Most of the used bookstores listed in various directories are antiquarian and collectors’ bookshops, which are not at all my speed.

But today I agreed to accompany D to the wilds of Burbank to check out Book Castle’s Movie World in search of movie press kits for use in a multimedia presentation. Though we struck out thoroughly on our stated mission, Book Castle was the find of the day.  Continue reading

James Kim is missing

My stomach hurts as I read again and again about how James Kim and his family went missing over the holiday weekend. They left Portland, Oregon on Saturday (Saturday!) and never arrived at their destination. Read the post on Crave for pictures and the full details. If anyone among my handful of readers knows anything about his whereabouts, call the SF police: 415-558-5508 during normal business hours and 415-553-1071 after-hours.

The good news is that, James being a high-profile member of the blog community, the word is getting out fast; a reader in the Portland area even sent the info to their local news station, and it made it on the air. Let’s hope it brings us a happy resolution soon.

Update: Many other sources followed the story better than I could. Suffice it to say that the conclusion was the bitterest of bittersweets. Though the family he loved was saved, James is gone.

Torturing myself

With webcam views of San Francisco. It’s overcast and cool here today, but still nothing like the feeling of living in a cloud that was so common to life in SF. Sigh.