Work today was at Jumpin’ Java in the Castro, which is what the world would look like if it were a freelancing paradise with Apple as king. Then a long walk through the Lower Haight, which lived up to its reputation by providing obligatory weed smells down Haight Street. From there up to Alamo Square with its Painted Ladies houses, and onto what quickly turned into some sort of which-Victorian-is-more-wow tour with the fantastically elaborate paint jobs in ever more lovely colour combinations. Back down through twee Hayes Valley, past the Civic Center with its homeless population on the lawn, back up Market Street to the hostel and Vietnamese leftovers.
I still have no thoughts in my head other than to look up and breathe.
Silicon Valley day. I took the Caltrain to Sunnyvale after a bus ride through what constitutes rush hour for these paradise-dwellers. After my meeting I went to Mountain View, home of Google, to see a town that intellectual property built. At Red Rock Coffee they serve single origin brew, while the next killer app is being drafted on a napkin upstairs. The sun was scorching, too hot to sit under, but still I couldn’t quite bring myself to seek shade. Back in the city I climbed up Russian Hill at sunset, past the Good Luck parking garage where each spot comes with a fortune stamped on the concrete (a first for touring a parking structure). Then up the stairs of Ina Coolbrith park, where the landmarks splashed out in front of me. The Bay bridge, the Coit Tower, waves and waves of hills, lights sparkling.
It’s been a week and I still feel like I just got here. I love it. Every day I just get up and see what I feel like doing, where I feel like going. This is pretty much the complete opposite of how I normally do things, as I am naturally lazy and need a plan or I will lay about doing nothing. Here, it seems, I am not what I am. I get up at 8am and get dressed before coffee, and then I walk around until my feet ache. Like they said in the Lonely Planet guide: “Other towns may surprise you, but in San Francisco you will surprise yourself.”
A few times a day I’ll chat to people, in the street, in shops, in the hostel, but mostly it’s just me. The overarching feeling I’m having, in my head, is one of blissful calm. The city is full of sound and colour, but all this silence … I had no idea how much I needed this. It’s feels I’ve come up for air.
The ferry provided spectacular views of the city as it kicked off, crossing the Bay bridge on the underside to take us across to Oakland. I walked up from the waterfront to the city centre in order to get the Bart to Berkeley, where students were posing in caps and gown all over campus after having finished exams today. I went up the Campanile, which boasts even more impressive views of San Francisco, far away in the haze and fog. Then a wander down Telegraph Avenue, nipping into the shops I used to go to all the time when I lived not far away. I used to adore Berkeley but now I’m not so sure; it’s quirky and neat and a fantastic hat-tip to a time when people really did wear flowers in their hair … but I’m wondering if Berkeley is a little stuck in time. Having said that, a revolution did happen here, and the place is still full of interesting characters. And it has some great shops: Rasputin’s for music and film, Moe’s for books (beloved Cody’s is no more, alas) plus the first Urban Outfitters I ever went to. The Nag Champa lingers. I sat for a while in Café Milano, which was still full of students at work, when a gentleman came and told me about the local Krishna centre. They could teach me how to change my karma there, he said, as “it’s fluid”. I think he’s probably right about that.