Tag Archives: San Francisco

I’ll be darned and happy new year

Dear readers,

According to our year-end stats, people are actually reading my blog, and that has inspired me to get a little more active here in my virtual journal-land. Thanks for your continued interest and encouragement during my big transition to living in California!

San Francisco, my new home


My head has been spinning since first arrived in California on December 5th, returned to Seattle, attended meetings in Spokane (to wrap up work), and returned to California once again, all within a two-week period. In the last month, I signed a lease on an apartment, broke said lease, ignored Christmas and celebrated New Years Eve at a fun dance in the Castro, followed by midnight hitch-hiking and hysterical laughter with Kytha, have attended numerous yoga classes and dharma talks, seen every movie of interest, started the new job, was laid off the new job, signed a contract to work for the Santa Clara Mental Health Department instead, made a few new friends, and am preparing to move to a flat in San Francisco, right in the heart of the city’s Mission district, across the street from the women’s building. Whew! 18th Street is a thoroughfare for the annual dyke march and Critical Mass bike ride, among other political and social activities. Talk about culture shock (honey, we’re not in Kansas anymore…or Bainbridge Island, for that matter).

Critical Mass, monthly in San Francisco


I’m finding it easy to connect with the lesbian community, thanks to the internet, friends, and “Meet Up” groups. My roommate teaches yoga, and through her, I’ve made some nice connections which led to activities such as eating dim-sum on Christmas day and attending a cheese-tasting party at a local goat farm. I enjoyed Christmas dinner with Terri and her co-housing neighbors and family. Cousin Joe and his handsome gay friends took me out for a night of dinner and live music at the Rrazz Room, a small dinner club located at the ritzy Hotel Nikko in SF. I spent a glorious, sunny day at Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park with a new friend. It appears that I’m going at a rather frantic social pace, however, and I’m admittedly packing a lot in before work starts again, and I’m back to parenting when Jack joins me. My spirit is thriving here, despite the unexpected upsets along the way – the abrupt ending to work after only 7 days on the job, thinking I moved here and would now be unemployed, losing my deposit on the new apartment, losing my wallet, having my bank-account frozen for a week, and missing my son and Island friends, among other things!

Kim Nalley, singer extraordinaire, Rrazz Room


All of these trials and mis-steps have pushed me to the outer edges of my emotional limits. One day, when I thought I was unemployed, my bank account was frozen, and my wallet, missing, I had a major meltdown. Sitting in the parking lot at DMV, wondering how many hours of torture I would have to endure to obtain a California driver’s license, the phone rang. Even before I could answer, I burst into tears, seeing that Jillian was on the other line, and would know just what to say to help me put things in perspective. Five blubbering minutes later, I was giggling at the absurdity of my situation, and had braved the long line, waiting to have my picture taken with bright red eyes and a swollen face. The photo was horrible, but I was miraculously out of there in 35 minutes, even with having to take the written exam! Things improved from there – I found my wallet, I got a new contract, and my assets were freed up by Wells Fargo (whereupon I immediately closed my new account).

Friends and loved ones have spent hours on the phone and emailing me (you know who you are). Attending dharma talks and practicing Buddhism have also helped me keep perspective, and to stay focused on gratitude and what is working (I’m making great new friends, getting a break from work and parenting for the first time in years, I have a terrific place to live, I’m getting the luxury of socializing to my heart’s content, and getting to focus solely on taking care of myself, among other things).

The Women's Building - across the street from my new apartment


Ultimately, this experience has illustrated that even when we are stripped of our work, our money, our belongings, all that’s familiar – even our identification, what hopefully remains are the loving relationships that sustain us, along with our faith. Of all the things I could lose, the most painful would be the love of my friends and family. How lucky am I, that in the midst of all the drama and uncertainty of the last month, I knew my friends were there for me in any way I needed, day or night. And really, what was the worst that could happen?

I’m also reflecting on my own progress and personal growth. A year and a half ago, during another very challenging time (my mother dying, among a list of other things), I reacted in a self-destructive way that only inflicted more pain and misery upon myself. This time, I’m staying connected with others, taking care of myself, and reaching out, rather than giving in to momentary fear and overwhelm. Everything passes, even misery. We must remember that, and never give in to the momentary pain that life will inevitably cast upon us.

Happy New Year, everyone. Aren’t you glad we made it through 2010? Here’s to a little more lightheartedness and joy this coming year. What are you most grateful for?

Dedicated to Gracie, I still miss you, my little friend.

Gracie

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Sitting on the dock of the bay…

Monday night, I fell asleep to the sound of blaring car horns, cheering, and the hoots and hollers of San Francisco citizens celebrating the World Series championship in North Beach. Exhilarating, but not the stuff of good sleep, the night before “the big interview”! Just weeks before, I’d been invited to interview for my dream job, however, it would require a move back to the bay area – an unexpected turn of events!

Sunrise in Northbeach, October 2010.


My last memorable bay-area world series took place in Oakland at precisely 5pm, October 17, 1989, when the “big one” hit and took out the bay bridge, the Cyprus highway, and melted the ground under our feet for 15 seconds. I was just leaving work on Stuart Street, as the building swayed around me, and brick facades tumbled into the street. As the facilities manager for the Jewish Federation, I returned to the building where the security guard and I camped out until the electricity came on several days later.

Then there was my first move to San Francisco, back in 1987, on Super Bowl Sunday. Do not move on Super Bowl Sunday. You will do it alone. I’d been living on a sailboat in Sausalito since I’d arrived from Omaha, following college graduation. Sausalito was picturesque, but a bit isolated for this city-loving-lesbian. So I networked (how did we do it back then, before Craigslist and google groups???) and found a lesbian couple with a spare room in the Haight. Twenty-three years later, one of them is like a sister to me, and the other is about to become my roommate again, upon my return to the bay area after a 5-year hiatus on Bainbridge Island, outside of Seattle. Truly a full-circle moment.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve become pretty focused on the topic of minimalist living, being-over-doing, and as my friend, Terri coined the term, avoiding the “acquisition lifestyle”. After being offered a lucrative dream job in the bay area, I really struggled with this concept, because the bay area represents anything but minimalism (in my mind). In fact, it pretty much represents sitting in traffic. I worry that moving back to that environment will be too distracting, and I’ll lose the grounding I’ve gained while living a relatively simple, quiet life these past years. But I’ve also felt isolated as a single lesbian on this sleepy little island, and working mostly from home has exacerbated that feeling of loneliness. My son is getting older, and fewer hours are spent parenting these days, and my Aries nature does not care for strict routine!

I’ve had a lot of painful endings during the last year or so. My mother died of cancer, soon followed by my step-father. I had to put my mom’s dog down (after she had so lovingly entrusted her to my care). Then, my beloved dog, Gracie died just last week. My son had a couple of hospitalizations. And I made the very difficult decision to end a not-all-bad, 8-year relationship. It’s been a tough go, and a time of deep reflection and striving to create a beautiful life for myself, despite the pain of these losses.

Mom and Klaus' headstone in Memphis


Despite the excitement I felt about the job opportunity (a fun and perfect next-step in my career), I wondered if I could still fit in with old friends, since I’d stepped off the city-dwelling-rat-race years ago. However, as I thought about my old friends and the lives they had created for themselves living in the heart of big cities, the anxious voices in my head ceased.

Rita, the CEO of an investment banking firm (and my honorary auntie), lives about 1/4 mile away from her financial-district office. She has lived in a 3rd story walk-up flat in North Beach for 19 years, doesn’t own a car, and hikes most weekends with her adult children and friends. She is an artist and writer, with a small group of very close friends.

Cousin Joe lives in a gorgeous Golden Gate Victorian, which he has owned for decades. Retired, he and his partner John enjoy a quiet life when they aren’t traveling the world. Joe’s house looks like it has since I first visited in 1986.

Tamara lives on Alameda Island, just minutes from her job with the Oakland school district. The modest property has two little houses, so she’ll rent one out for income, and live in the other with her 9 year old son. She lives just a five-minute walk from the beach, where she goes to meditate each evening after work.

Terri lives in co-housing with her two children, and life revolves around a bustling, creative, loving community of like-minded individuals. She drives an old Honda she’s had for years, and enjoys traveling whenever she gets the chance.

Stack has been living in the same apartment for years, where she raised her nephew, and is now a yoga instructor.

I could go on, but you get the idea. These are all people I know and love, who don’t necessarily subscribe to typical big-city-acquisition-lifestyle. They have each carved out beautiful, meaningful lives for themselves.

This is all to say that I felt reassured about my decision to take the job in California, despite my initial misgivings. My “slice of life” will include paying off old debt (talk about simplifying), connecting with the local SGI (Buddhist) community, walking around Lake Merritt (where I will live in one of my very favorite neighborhoods), cooking with fresh ingredients from local markets, taking classes at Oakland’s Studio One Arts Center again, and socializing with dear friends.

Beautiful Lake Merritt - my new neighborhood!


I don’t regret moving to Bainbridge Island five years ago. I have forged deep relationships and will remain forever connected to them. I found a loving and supportive Buddhist community, I raised my son in a safe and nurturing environment, and I learned how to entertain myself in ways that didn’t involve recreational shopping. I’ve mellowed and hopefully, matured. I’ve become a great cook. I met sweet Noel, and we will continue our shared and individual journeys.

At the same time, I’m the consummate adventurer, and this will not likely be my last move. So stay tuned!

“When an adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it”. Amelia Earhart

I dedicate this post to my devoted companion of 9 years, sweet Gracie. You are so very missed.

Gracie

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