I posted an essay on Medium about attending a certain creativity cult conference yesterday.
Archive for the ‘Bay Area’ Category
There’s a parallel San Francisco that I go to in my dreams. It’s full of unfamiliar streets, buildings, shops, but I know it’s San Francisco. It has the same beauty and mystery that has always attracted me to the city, but it’s unfamiliar, constantly shifting, unknowable.
Mostly unknowable. Because, see, it’s the same city. A ramshackle three-story Victorian that is the setting for one dream may come back days, months, years later, in the background of another dream, as I walk past, lost. There’s one curve of road, with a strange new metro line on it, that I walk over and over as I try to find my way around this city. (I’m pretty much always lost in my dreams.)
I’m slowly mapping it, I think. I’m slowly starting to connect pieces of this city, that looks like a love child of Hitchcock and Fritz Lang, even though the pieces move around of their own volition with alarming frequency.
How do I know it’s San Francisco, if no landmarks are the same? The same way you know anything in dreams – you just KNOW. But more than that, I know it from the way I react to it. I have the same feelings that I have towards the real city.
It awes me, and confuses me. It’s strange, ever-changing, unknowable, and it certainly doesn’t feel like Home, not when you look at it on a macro level – it’s someplace you have to fight your way through in order to find your way Home. And despite of all that, I love it more than I reasonably should.
Two separate but oddly similar issues have been converging for me recently. The whole #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen internet storm has been amazing to watch, though I haven’t had much to add to the conversation. I’ve loved seeing my friends share their stories, and seeing people struggle (and often succeed) to explain exactly why #YesAllWomen is important.
I wondered, though, how many men (nice men, men who really are #NotAllMen) were convinced. I wondered… until I realized that the lesson was one that I needed to absorb as well.
Gentrification is a very tender, but resonant, subject for me. About a year ago, Oakland Local (who still does great posts on the subject) and the Bold Italic ran an opinion series the topic, and I went back and forth on whether to add my own voice to the mix. In fact, there’s a blog post titled “Nothing New to Add to the Conversation” in my drafts, never published.
I realized this week that it’s more than the fact that I had nothing new to add — it was that my place in this debate is to listen, not to convince you that #NotAllWhiteWomen are gentrifiers. I had so many “buts” — but I was born in Oakland, but I was displaced myself, but I’m poorer than most of my neighbors, but, but, but…
Doesn’t matter. I’m still a white lady living in a historically black neighborhood, one that struggles with poverty and crime. I’m the privileged one in this situation, and I need to swallow all my “but”s and just listen. Just like #NotAllMen need to. Recognize your privilege, witness the pain on the other side, and speak only when spoken to. Or, you know, if you have to speak, do so without hijacking the conversation (like quietly on your own little blog where only your sister and one stranger in Ohio will see it 🙂 ).
I’m not terribly prone to road rage. It’s rare that I honk in anger, or scream and curse, and I think I’ve only ever flipped someone off once (after some careful deliberation). I think what I get is better labelled as Road Tics.
In other words, I gesticulate and make odd noises, but there’s very little anger behind them, and… well, they’re not the standard angry gestures.
Last night I was driving home in some mild (by Bay Area standards) traffic. A hole opened up in the lane next to me; I began to move into it, just as someone two lanes over did the same. We both saw each other, and moved quickly back into our own lanes, and then, when I saw the hole was still there and I was still positioned, I took the space.
As they passed me moments later, I could see the passenger had turned to face me and was screaming something. He didn’t look happy. Sort of idly, without even meaning to, I raised my hand with my forefinger, middle finger, and thumb extended… kind of like a gun.
I have no earthly idea why I did that. I wasn’t angry; I think I was even giving him a slight smile, in a “Hey man, it’s cool, we both did the same thing and were in the right, and hey, we even both saw each other in time to avoid a collision, aren’t we great drivers” kind of way. Collegial, you know? Not menacing or creepy — calming. I don’t think it had the intended effect. They fell behind, and stayed there.
I do this all the time. A hand raised in exasperation starts rotating, and turns into this weird “smell my breath” motion. One time, I barked. Like, a lot. Like, I rolled my window down and was barking at the top of my lungs at this woman who was trying to cut in front of me, across a solid line, after I’d been stuck in unmoving gridlock for the past 58 minutes, moving less than a half a mile.
Okay, so that one might have had some rage behind it. But she sure didn’t know that; she just looked mildly annoyed, then massively confused. And sped away from me.
Now that I think about it, I think these tics are pretty excellent survival mechanisms. They keep people away, like bright colors and spikes on lizards, without escalating the rage of any of my fellow highway drones. If I had any control over them whatsoever, maybe I could use them in other areas of my life.
“I’m sorry, the grant deadline is when?” *patting my head, flaring my nostrils, and sticking my tongue out* “Oh, great, four weeks. I thought you said four hours.”
“You need a break?” *ripping open my shirt, biting my lip, and blinking rapidly* “Oh, we should go on a mini-break. Great idea! Paris, on you? Sweet.”
“I’m sorry… did you say marry?” *thumb to nose, fingers waggling madly, and off-key humming* “Oh, no, right, merry meet back to you.”
Um, that’s all. Go say hi.
This challenge was never really about whether or not I could do it (I say defensively). I always knew I could – millions of people do, every day. I was just curious about how healthy I could be, and how much awareness I could raise. Man, was I confident.
Thus, the failure stings even more. I’ll post a picture of the amazing soup I plan to make tonight (the soup that should have been made on Monday) to cheer me up later, but for now… sigh. I’ll look at my oh-so-Important Lessons that I planned to rely on, and see where they let me down.
1. Soup. This would have gone excellently, had I actually made the soup. I wisely planned all soft foods, soup and mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs, knowing that on day 2 I would be having a root canal. Smart, except I forgot that the post-canal Vicodin would sap me of any will to make anything. Which means I sent loved ones out for piles of Boston Market mashed potatoes, milkshakes, and soup, all of which was way outside my budget.
2. Go Freegan. I actually kinda excelled at this, but it still felt like a failure, for reasons I’ll return to in a minute.
3. Plan. See item 1, re Vicodin.
4. Pick your shops wisely. A mix of failure and success on this one. The Sunday closing-time farmer’s market was as perfect as it could have been, but that success made me careless in other places, buying milk at Walgreens and a burger at In-‘n’-Out. Not that a burger anywhere should have been in my shopping plans.
I was weak, I know. People living on food stamps have days like my Vicodin-hazed Monday all the time, and they still have to stick to their budget. But I caved, and told myself it didn’t really matter. I’d get back to it soon enough, and finish up the week strong.
Except I didn’t. The leftovers from my weakness lasted me out the rest of the week, with a few freegan meals thrown in for good measure. Friends gifted me with Burma Superstar leftovers. Sisters brought me cheesy bagels and coffee. And there was a reeeeally good seminar at work that left behind brownies, cut veggies, and more coffee.
I ate it all with a guilty heart. Part of the reason I’m not on food stamps is because of my support system. Heck, it’s pretty much the whole reason. If this challenge was to really put myself in the shoes of a person on food stamps, wasn’t relying on them cheating?
Yes. Yes, it was. I’m consoling myself with the fact that I am still writing about it, and raising awareness, and really, if given the opportunities, wouldn’t anyone hungry do the exact same thing? But I cheated, with willful impunity. I’m sorry. I’m a bad, bad person. I think I’m going to go donate to the food bank in order to make up for it. You totally should too.
I was ready to go when I woke up. Saturday was the monthly meeting for my writing association, and I was able to squirrel away a cup of leftover fruit for my breakfast. I also picked up a cup of beautiful tomatoes, grown in East Oakland by the most amazing silver-maned erotica author you could ever hope to meet.
Then I went back to bed. With the Netflix increase this month, it’s no longer in my budget, so I watched my last online movie in bed (Tees Maar Khan; good, but not as good as Dil Bole Hadippa. You can’t beat cross-dressing romance and cricket stars) and put my account on hold. Sigh. I’ll be back. But I bet I’ll get a lot of writing done in the meantime.
I braved the world outside the covers just long enough to make a fried egg and fresh tomato wrap (with some Barbados hot sauce a co-worker brought back for me last year) and heat up leftover squash soup, and make a quick trip to the Farmer’s Market.
I hit Walgreens first for some milk and cash (already breaking my rule 4; milk at walgreens is anything but cheap, but I forgot to hit an atm) then the Temescal Market, just before closing. And what a haul I was able to pick up!
There wasn’t much variety – everyone was packing up for the day – but man, the deals! All of the above cost me $7.75, and should get me through the week. A full bag of peaches for $1!
Which is good, because my summer squash soup plan went out the window (goodbye, rule #3) as soon as I got home and realized I’m out of olive oil. Luckily, there just happens to be some leftover from my work’s summer courses; no one’s going to use that before next year. Score! But, it means I had to scavenge through the fridge and end up with a pricier wrap.
So. Freaking. Good. And there’s enough for tomorrow’s lunch. Shrimp, zucchini, fresh corn, tomato, and hot sauce. Yum.
So here’s my tally so far, including any tax:
$7.75 veg for the week
$2.00 shrimp, roughly
$2.50 leftovers for tonight & tomorrow, roughly (zuke, corn, squash soup)
$0.90 whole wheat tortillas
That leaves me with $15 for meat, bread, and pasta. Let’s see what I can do tomorrow.
I’m stoked with the healthy choices I’ve found so far, but it’s a heck of a lot of work. Plus, I’ve still got it easy with my freegan opportunities and markets; they don’t take food stamps at the farmer’s market.
I signed up for the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge, and starting on Sunday, I’ll be trying to eat for $4.72 a day.
Actually, I kinda feel like I’m cheating. See, I’m broke, and on Tuesday I had the first part of a very expensive root canal. So not only am I very unexcited about food right now, I also have just about $30 to eat on for this week. So hey, that works out.
I’ve been eating on that budget for a while now, but in even more of a cheater’s fashion, slowly emptying my cupboards of the unattractive beans and strange boxed meals. The cupboards are getting bare now, and it’s time to put what I’ve learned into action.
1. Soup. There will be TONS of soup this week. It’s a great way to stretch pretty much anything, and you can use not-quite-molding ends and tops to make killer stock on the cheap.
2. Go Freegan. I work at a fabulous place to find free food. There are workshops and meetings every week, and about half of them leave their snacks and leftovers behind. Coffee is easy to find, pastries a bit more of a challenge (Real Estate groups always bring the swankest scones), but the best day is when the retired school teachers get together for their monthly meeting next door. They bring a BOMB potluck hot lunch, and always bag it up nice for us rats after.
3. Plan. This is something I hate to do. I like to find a good, seasonal recipe, pick up the few ingredients I still need on my way home, and wah la. Dinner. Budget eating don’t work that way. I’m going to plan, plan, plan. One shopping trip, with hopefully a little leftover $ for emergencies.
4. Pick your shops wisely. Obviously, avoid Whole Paycheck and Andronico’s. But even supermarkets can be improved on. Farmers markets can have great deals, especially late in the day (and on a sidenote, does anyone remember when farmers markets actually catered to early morning restauranteurs and low-income moms and had the BEST deals? I swear, it was only yesterday that they turned ’boutique.’ Sigh.) and little local groceries often can beat out the big stores on prices, especially if you’re still trying to go organic.
I think I can already safely say that living on this budget takes serious work. Planning, searching, lots of cooking (just think, one night out at Zachary’s pizza would completely wipe that budget out). I think, think, that there won’t be as many surprises for me. But like I said, I’ve been cheating up until now.
This upcoming week, I’ll be staying away from the major foodstuffs left in the larder, but I think staples like flour and honey are okay. And I’m totally using my stock, because since I made it myself from leftover bits and pieces, it counts as freeganism in my book.
Here we go. Let’s get hungry.
As I mentioned, I use this blog to kick off my writing. It serves as the pressure-free blank page, and wakes my mind up gently. It’s actually doing quite well at its job.
Of course, there are exceptions. Yesterday I went for a hike in Golden Gate Park with the Boonie dog. I brought my computer so that I could find a nice shady spot with a me-shaped depression at the base of a tree. There are a lot more of those me-shaped spots than you would think.
I found a perfect tree and, since I was off-line, opened up my old Writing Journal .doc file to get started, as well as my WIP. The WIP (a fun story about trolls that I’m having trouble ending) was never touched. Somehow my “here’s where I am, this is what I’m thinking” blog post turned into a very dark story about an urban park that has become street-wise and eats little chihuahuas.
I suppose that’s not a pitfall, since my only intent that day was to write a story, and I did, in fact, write a story, but it still feels like I cheated somehow.
I am now seated in my back yard garden, enjoying the shade and the jasmine. I will now move directly to my WIP, with no fun and horrific detours along the way. Thank you, nothing more to see here.
Late last year, I was
coerced seduced invited to become a volunteer Board member for my local Romance Writers of America chapter. It was a pretty doggone good choice; SFA-RWA is a staggeringly fantastic group of strong women writers that I’m thrilled to be a part of. Though I’m a genre-jumper at heart (and will be until I really find my voice), I’ve found myself writing more and more romance, just to be a bit more like these awesome authors.
But I have a secret. One that came out on a date last night. I’m not totally sure I’ve ever been in love. And dude, I’m 32. That’s kinda embarrassing.
Oh, there’s been puppy love, and infatuation, and sincere like, but nothing that felt true enough or lasted long enough for me to say, “THAT. That’s love, ennit.” I’m not wholly convinced that anything different exists; what if we’re all talking about the same thing, except some folks talk it up more? Kinda like my old stoned-in-high-school conversations about color. If I say that’s blue, and you say that’s blue, how do we know we’re talking about the same blue? Your blue might be my yellow. Everything’s relative, and just because we share a language doesn’t mean I have access to the truth of your experience.
Maybe it does exist, and maybe some day it will smack me over the head with a frying pan. I’m keeping an open mind. But I refuse to fall in love just for the sake of being in love. If it ever does happen, it will be because I’ve actually found someone I actually want to give up some of my precious free time for.
Also, hey, congrats NY! I may not convinced true love exists for me, but I’ll be damned if I’ll keep others from committing to it.