A Sky, Conflicted

Date & Time:
Thursday, November 6, 8:18am. It feels more like 5am. My mind is cloudy and coffee isn’t helping clear the fog.

The local Starbucks. I came here earlier this morning to get some work done and was surprised to find, upon entering the store, that Starbucks’ “Christmas-mode” was in full force. I double-checked the date on my phone to confirm that it was, in fact, November 6, and then tried to reconcile this with the sound of “O Holy Night” playing on the speakers and red coffee cups everywhere.

I always forget how this Starbucks comes alive just after 8am; packed with commuters in a rush to catch the bus and chatty groups of women who appear – noisily and all dressed in the same jeans-and-booties combo – from offices nearby. I’ve usually left – fully-caffeinated and with multiple emails sent – by this time, but today I experience the overwhelming, frantic energy radiating from this crowd of coffee-craving customers.

I can’t get any work done because I’m nosy and curious and instead of focusing on the document on my computer screen I’m trying to listen in on my neighbors’ conversations. There is an inverse relationship between my productivity and the level of good people-watching in any space. I often want to tweet something #overheard but then I remind myself to consider respecting people’s privacy.

Foggy. Foggier than yesterday; the kind of fog that renders the entirety of the Salesforce Tower invisible. Good thing I’m outfitted appropriately: in a full-on groutfit, grey sweatpants and a grey jacket, with a dress in my backpack for when I get to the office. Sweatpants make bus commutes more comfortable, that’s just a fact. I don’t make the rules.

Listening to:
Nothing. Well- Starbucks’ Christmas playlist, I guess. Earlier this morning I spent (way too much) time lying in bed listening to various renditions of “Amazing Grace” because I was sad and felt the need to amplify my already-emotional state with an incredibly beautiful song. I probably could have used something a little more enthusiastic and pump-up-y, but I’m not always my own best friend.

Later this evening:
I walked the few blocks home from the bus stop as the sun was setting. I stopped for a long while outside my door to stare up at the sky. Everything felt hazy and weird: my brain, the sky. Like neither of them could make up their minds: am I colorful or tired? Half the sky was shrouded in fog and the rest brilliant puffs of pink.

I watched traffic pass on the freeway to my right and noticed how telephone wires framed the still-translucent moon. At the bottom of my street bike commuters in hats and gloves dodged UPS trucks making their way in and out of the warehouse garage. I love cities during rush hour; the purposeful energy of the throngs of people walking and biking and standing on buses; everyone looking like they have somewhere to be, someone to go home to. When I’m feeling sad or hopeless I’m reassured by the sight of these commuters, like their purpose gives me purpose. In those moments I like to believe – wish, even – that everyone is just a few blocks away from a safe home and a warm meal and hugs from family.

Wednesday (in a) Fog

(Disclaimer: I’m testing out this new, self-devised template for my posts, not because it will generate exciting content – there’s a chance my writing becomes more mundane and rambling than ever – but because I hope it motivates me to share here more often. I write every day but my thoughts usually don’t make it much farther than the pages of my old notebook and, if they do, they sit in the draft folder of this blog. I’m not under the illusion that anyone other than my sister reads these posts, but at the very least they’ll be more organized and lasting for myself. So here goes day one of my experiment: write – however much or little – scan quickly for typos, and post.)

Date & Time:
Wednesday, November 6. It’s just after 7am and I’m groggy. The only reason I’m even out of bed is because Thomas is getting ready for work and as soon as he starts opening drawers and heating oatmeal in the microwave I wake up and can’t fall back asleep. I’m usually a morning person but have felt heavy the past few days – exhausted and a little sad – so I haven’t been getting up early. By this time most mornings I’ve already drank an iced coffee, written my daily to-do list, and responded to some work emails, so that when Thomas’ alarm goes off and he stumbles out of bedroom to the bathroom I’m hyped up on caffeine and dancing to music through my headphones (“Maddy, wtf, why don’t you sleep?”).

Home sweet home. I’m in no rush to work out or get to the office this morning, so I’m savoring the additional time in my sweatpants.

Grey, and a little foggy. Chilly in the morning. I like when the weather matches my mood. (Or does my mood match the weather?! Chicken or the egg?!)

Listening to:
Judah and the Lion’s cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”

Usually I’m like, “Why the F do we have to add banjos to everything?” (I’m looking at you, Mumford & Sons) but this cover bangs. It’s also one of my favorite Tom Petty songs and the lyrics were just what I needed this morning after feeling overwhelmed and a little hopeless.

You know how some days you wake up and feel as though you can take the entire world on… and others you can barely get out of bed and those same routine events – going to work, meeting up with friends, doing the dishes – seem so formidable? When you start asking yourself “what’s the point?” before undertaking things you’d normally do without a second thought? Sometimes — despite probably sacrificing a lot of what makes me human —  I wish I could always go through the motions like that, thoughtlessly and robotically, because to have any sort of thought around “what’s this motion’s purpose?” makes me depressed. I hope that for some people asking the question of purpose is a useful exercise; that it helps them prioritize what’s important and meaningful in their lives. But for me, most of the time, it leads to rumination and feelings of hopelessness.

Three weeks later, I’m still reading The Goldfinch. To be fair, it is an ~800 page novel, but I’m not used to taking this long to get through a book! It’s… interesting, to say the least, but I enjoyed it more when I first started reading because now I kind of just want it to end. It won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize so I’m curious to Google it and read others’ reviews and reactions, which of course I can’t do until I’m finished for fear of encountering a spoiler! Just writing these words makes me want to do a quick search but I must remain strong! I might be one of the only people who genuinely misses high school English class because at least the teacher would discuss books with me. (Yes, I know I should join a book club, but that requires coordination and not necessarily getting to choose which books I read.)

Fall in the Fillmore

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on one of my long and wandering walk-jog-runs. Today’s edition of “Saturday Streets” was a lot more urban than usual, but don’t worry, I’ve still got some tree and flower pictures because there’s only so urban you can get in a beautifully open-spaced, full-of-parks-and-nature city. (Also, I just typed out “Saturday Streets” on a whim but need a better name for my weekend adventures in San Francisco; let me know if you’ve got any thoughts. Other ideas that popped into my head: “Solo San Francisco,” “Wandering Maddy,” “Fog, Flowers, and Findings,” or “41-Findings” – that last one is wordplay on area code 415 – but none of them quite roll off the tongue.)

The best part about chugging coffee, lacing up my sneakers, and heading out the front door on a Saturday on which I have no other plans is that I never know where my feet will take me. Each of my city-ventures is different but all are unified by the same principles:

  1. Do not – under any circumstances – have a plan.

Actually, that’s it. That’s the only principle. Other things to keep in mind include:

  • Bring your Clipper card in case you get tired and want to take the bus home
  • Have a fully-charged cell phone so your husband doesn’t wonder if you’ve fallen off the face of the earth
  • Carry cash because you never know where you might need to stop for snacks along the way, and god forbid you smell something delicious nearby but the vendor doesn’t take credit cards
  • Wear comfortable clothing, ideally a full-on groutfit

Most of my weekdays are spent religiously following schedules I’ve outlined for myself because I a) have a compulsion to feel in control and b) genuinely do thrive with routine. My life is pretty logistically complicated on a day-to-day basis (“If I’m biking in the morning, what clothes to I need to change into for work?” “Should I pack lunch, or will I have time to get some in between meetings?” “If I’m taking the bus home, should I take the bus in the morning too, or leave my bike at the office?” “If I’m meeting friends after work, should I wear my work clothes or bring something cuter?”) so having the time on weekends to finally not have a plan is a luxury.

Today’s adventure took me through Hayes Valley, up into the Fillmore, across Pac Heights and along the edge of the Presidio, and down into Golden Gate Park:

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Most of my recent walk-jogs have found me leaving my house and heading west towards Buena Vista Park, Glen Canyon, or Mount Davidson, to optimize for solitude and nature. Today, though, Thomas was away camping with his friends and I felt the need to be surrounded by people. So, instead of continuing on through the Mission into the Castro, I turned onto Octavia and made my way through Hayes Valley into the Fillmore.

After dodging the unsurprisingly incredibly long line outside of Stacks (can’t you just make pancakes and eggs at home? Sorry, I have controversial opinions about waiting in line and overpaying for brunch), I kept moving until I reached the Fillmore Farmers’ Market. I’ve never been to the Fillmore Farmers’ Market and, while small relative to other neighborhood markets, it had the same assortment of beautiful produce and smiling faces behind its stands:

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Accidental first time at Fillmore Farmers’ Market #ScrunchiesOrBust

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Could these sauces and curries make my Indian food taste authentic?!

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Gotta get the tomato pic.

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Peppers, small and big.

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Cool, grey.

I spent some time chatting with a farmer wearing a 49ers sweatshirt at one of the stands, mostly because I love making “small talk” with friendly strangers, and also because I felt the need to let him know how much I know about football these days (if you spend enough Sundays sitting next to Thomas on the couch, you become an NFL expert by osmosis).

And because I can’t leave a farmers’ market without buying something – but couldn’t carry anything with me because I’m not supposed to be lifting (and also because I’ve tried many times to jog with apples in my backpack and it’s not exactly comfortable) – I bought a juicy peach to scarf down right there on the sidewalk.

I continued along Fillmore Street, stopping to take two pictures for all of my New England haters who claim they can’t move to California because it “doesn’t have seasons” (we all know you’re just trying to make yourselves feel better about living 3/4 of the year in the freezing cold):

Fillmore Street is interesting because when you first turn onto it from Duboce or Webster (or anywhere just above Market) you get the Fillmore District, Farmers’-Market-where-longtime-residents-shop vibe; you see elderly people and ethnic diversity (the district experienced an influx of diverse populations after the 1906 earthquake), and obvious signs of its legendary jazz history (in the 50s and 60s it was known as the “Harlem of the West”). But as soon as you cross over Geary, and make your way up to Post St., and then Bush St., it quickly becomes Lower Pac Heights, meaning… a street packed with Instagrammable brunch spots where hungover friends and acquaintances-on-first-Tinder-dates are congregating on a Saturday morning and ordering Eggs Benedict and hipster coffees for $30.

While I do rarely pass up the opportunity to people-watch, something about the whole brunch scene in San Francisco turns me off (if I had to put my finger on it, it’s probably because every single girl is wearing the same sunglasses and fuzzy-sweater-with-jeans combo, and the guys look disheveled even though they’re probably making five times my salary). So I passed quickly through most of Pac Heights, stopping only to grab a picture of this beautiful mural which looked even brighter against the grey sky:

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I’m gonna give it to you straight here: I go to specific parks in the city because of their abundance of babies and puppies. Alta Plaza Park is chock-full of adorable babies and leash-free puppies, and I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t make my day to watch children on the playground and dogs chasing tennis balls. Call me creepy, but it’s hard not to smile when confronted with such stark images of youth and carefreeness, especially when you find yourself unable to believe there could have ever been a time when life was that simple.

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Is there anything more wholesome than kids playing soccer?

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After a brief puppy-chasing hiatus, I turned west and headed towards the Presidio for an even bigger dose of #nature. The problem with the Presidio is that once I start, I can’t stop, meaning I’ll spend hours wandering its trails. I knew my energy would be more limited than usual and didn’t want to end up exhausted and miles away from home, so I dragged myself away after a brief hike up the trail along West Pacific Ave.

I love trees n trails.
I love trees ‘n’ trails.

Heading away from the Presidio and back down towards Golden Gate Park via Arguello, I found myself being passed by tens of middle-aged men in lycra (there is a movie by this name, by the way, in case you are desperate for ways to kill time) who I knew could only be heading one place: Arsicault. Because, are you even a cyclist in San Francisco if your morning ride doesn’t end at Arsicault?! Sure enough, when I reached the bakery a few blocks later, all of the men I’d seen were standing in the line that, as usual, extended out the door onto the sidewalk. (I’ll admit, the croissants are pretty darn good there.)

And now, multiple neighborhoods and a few hours later, my wandering was just about over. Why? Since you asked, here is a comprehensive list of reasons my weekend walk-jogs come to an end:

  1. I get a text from Thomas saying, “Are you still alive?”
  2. My thighs are chafing to the point it’s too uncomfortable to walk and I’m dreaming of Vaseline
  3. I get hungry or stop for food and then have no desire for any sort of movement

This week I waved the white flag due to reason #2, and took the bus back home from the Haight, but not before picking up an entire bag of groceries from the Whole Foods near the Panhandle and spending the entire ride home trying not to eat it all.

If you need me, I’ll be on my couch. Eating my snacks.