Tough and Tender
I had this dream last night that I was sitting in President Trump’s office on my computer doing a little work. I was extremely focused and didn’t even look up when he walked in and sat down at his desk in front of me. Eventually, we both looked up and he asked me “what are you doing in here?” I told him I was avoiding being with the rest of the group because I preferred to be alone. And as he pointed to the center of his face, he said that he could relate and that it was really hard for him to have to live with this giant strawberry of a nose. He told me “whenever I’m talking to someone it’s like I have to look through this giant disgusting orb and it pisses me off so much I can’t help but say mean things to them, you know, because I know that I am ugly.” I did notice the resemblance to an over ripe piece of fruit, but then asked him, “but have you ever tried to just be nice?”
I moved out of San Francisco 21 years ago, leaving my proverbial heart behind, and as I crossed the Bay Bridge, I said to myself that I would be back after graduate school. I felt a sense of calm as soon as I arrived in Seattle. It was, I always said, a kinder, gentler version of San Francisco. As a younger city, people in Seattle seemed just a little bit nicer. They were just nice to be nice.
Of course, in all fairness, I lived in a very tough part in San Francisco, in a neighborhood affectionately known as the Tenderloin, either derived from the steak houses that used to be in the area, or the strip clubs that were now on every corner. My apartment on the 6th floor was light and sunny and very removed from the activity on the street. I used to wash my car in front of the building and one day, A guy came up and asked if I needed help. A little naive, I agreed, and we continued to wash the car together. We seemed to have a great time, casually chatting about the city, and when we were done, he asked me for money. I thought to myself, “why couldn’t he just be nice?” and realized it was time for me to move on.
While living in Seattle, I visited my mom in San Francisco fairly often, and each time I would bring a checklist of favorite places to visit and favorite places to eat and see. Eventually, the list got shorter, and when my mom passed away in 2011, I stopped visiting San Francisco altogether. It wasn’t that I was afraid of being reminded of her at every corner, it was just that I just simply had enough time in the City and didn’t feel the need to relive old memories.
We rolled through San Francisco last Thursday and pulled in to the Candlestick RV Park. Candlestick Park, the former home of the 49ers, is now just a pile of rubble. The landscape around the point is beautiful, with a vast and expansive view of the bay. The surrounding neighborhood is very rough and the people are very tough, which you can always tell if they don’t look you in the eye. We double lock our bikes here because theft is so rampant and even still, whenever we come back, we think our bikes will be gone. The harsh aggressive fight for your life vibes made me realize why I left.
Yesterday, (Valentine’s Day) John was going to help a friend who works at an online florist to help with deliveries. I urged him to go for it since it would be a good chance for him to learn about the city, without my jaded view of it. About half way through the day, he told me they needed extra help, so I rode down to the warehouse.
We loaded my bike full of flowers coming out from all sides and I started peddling. My deliveries were in a neighborhood that I wasn’t familiar with so I had to use Google Maps to get around, which is always challenging because I wear reading glasses so there was a lot of stopping and starting again, and I went up a few hills a few too many times. Eventually, I cracked the code and got the hang of how addresses work. I walked into some of the poshest offices and handed over large beautiful bouquets to happy women and proudly told them “Happy Valentine’s Day!” The sun was shining and I felt like everyone around me was smiling and I fell in love with San Francisco all over again. Of course it was probably because how cute is it to see a girl riding a bike full of flowers on Valentine’s day? But it may just have been that I was doing something nice.