I hide under the picnic table which Issey painstakingly booked from the parks district for Margaret, Max and Karen’s birthdays. The barbecue is cooking, the sky is blue and hipsters of all shapes and sizes show off their biceps, their ultimate frisbee skills, and their impossible lifestyle arrangements. The first hour is already pulling at my small town orientation. Every time I visit, San Francisco never disappoints.
From under the table, I surprise one friend after another by grabbing at their thighs. Fiona arrives with a bottle of wine and a long night of passion evident on her chin. We corroborate the benefits of moving to the bay area and chicken out at the cost of a one bedroom apartment. Utopia is expensive, we both agree. Although I suspect Fiona can afford it with love, I on the other hand don’t have any left in my back pocket.
We do not have fast cars to justify any mid-life crisis, because, if I calculate correctly, I shouldn’t have to worry about that till I’m fifty if I intend to live to about a hundred. Peggy, Margzsie and I pull out the long boards, instead, and zip past ancient eucalyptus trees, homelessness in comfortable North Face sleeping bags, terribly cute and sensible kids of secular and enlightened parents, and more smoke from burning sausages from fair-trade farms in central Europe.We don’t burn as many calories as when we used to run around the academic oval at UP, and we don’t talk as much as when we used to end up walking around the academic oval at UP. But who’s counting? We feed off of each other’s silence knowing that five years from now, we will still be laughing at the memories we remember, the ones we make up, or the ones we will already have forgotten.
That night, we gorge on some Thai food at a hole-in-the-wall. The problem about San Francisco is not whether you can find a place cheap enough to eat well at. It’s whether you actually have the willpower to decide on which one to choose. I suspect San Fo’s diversity is a front to some Asian food mafia run by a fat old lard in a mint green apron and hair curlers from her San Jose bungalow. She sends all her minions to Le Cordon Bleu, and the ones who can’t cook get sent to Wharton with a pocket calculator. She is capitalizing on the conscientious ways San Franciscans consume during the day and throw all traces of sensibility out the window at night. In the end, MSG is going to win.
I crash into Margaret’s bed which subtly reminds me of a native Ecuadorian girl’s dress. We talk until we no longercan, and in the morning accuse the other of rudely sleeping mid-conversation. I take pictures of her apartment like I used to keep mental pictures of her Poblete house. Everything is askew, ajar and unwashed. I am comforted by the discovery that no alien life-form has jumped into my friend’s ear and taken over her brain.
We meet up with Karen and Issey at a neighborhood farmer’s market. Brunch is planned at the trendy Burmese Star, but the wait list is ridiculous, so we have bacon and pancakes at a diner instead. Issey talks about socio-economic and geo-political issues and while I throw up in my mouth at the sheer realization of the amount of things I have become ignorant to,I marvel at how I could rectify that by simply moving out here. I am actually in the midst of friends who have something to say beyond a frayed jean inseam or the mechanics of Florida’s no-fault divorce statutes. Feeling like a baboon in the middle of my friends’ nuclear non-proliferation discussion, I notice Margaret’s eyes start to glaze over, so I suggest making fun of a common friend’s history of selfies. I am not very proud of myself.
Margaret and I visit Castro for the exact amount of time I lose interest in it, grab a cup of coffee so we can use the bathroom, enjoy the mating calls of muscled folks in between steroid shots and yoga classes, buy a shirt for Brian, take photos of the Golden Gate Bridge,and try to look for the path that leads to a rocky outcropping where, a long time ago, when I was so much younger and gravity was something my body didn’t have to argue with, I and my brother Sheen went fishing for seafood I didn’t eat.
At Peggy and Lourdes’s downtown apartment, we screech like teenage banshees at episodes of Girls and Looking like it were 2000 and Queer as Folk just hit cable TV, pretending the bed can hold four people and we average a hundred and twenty pounds. Wine is poured and pizza is served while Lourdes snores midway between dozing off and falling off the edge of the bed.
The next day, I put my toothbrush in my backpack, inhale with all the desire in the world for world peace, and exhale as the though another dream has expired. Everyone has their own row house, Armistead Maupin fantasy. Mine just happens to have left in a rickety old tram.
(All photos ©M. Sanchez)