Life in the Bay Area

A series of 3 vignettes

Life in the Bay Area, Part I

Thursday, I showed up to work on time. At 2:45 it became clear I wouldn’t accomplish anything else without eating. Leaving work, I walked down Broadway and turned right down 13th. I was heading towards a reasonably priced sandwich from the always dependable Big Apple Deli.

Approaching the parking lot underneath a building on the north side of the street, I was unpleasantly surprised by a monstrous black SUV (with a license plate that read “something something something ESQ”) whose driver hurriedly usurped my right of way. She hit the gas and never seemed to consider that someone might be on the sidewalk, though it’s a very crowded area during the day. I heard the roar of the massive engine before I ever saw the vehicle of mass consumption and stopped in my tracks. Peeved, I tapped the car lightly with my right hand as it passed a foot in front of me at a dangerous speed.

The woman driving stopped as she reached 13th, leaned out the window and asked, mildly indignant, “Did you just hit my car?” Trumping her indignance with fiery self-righteousness (fueled by fear-of-crushing-death adrenaline), I pointed at her and blurted, “You were supposed to stop for me. You were supposed to stop.” [In America, pedestrians supposedly have the right of way. In the East Bay, unlike in most places, that right is almost always respected. In general, when you approach a crosswalk, 9 times out of 10 the driver will stop because he is almost entirely certain you will walk in front of him without breaking your stride.] In a tacit admission of being in the wrong, she rolled up her window and drove away, having nothing else to say.

Slightly shaken, I sought refuge in the Big Apple Deli. Having eaten nothing so far that day, I ordered a turkey, avocado, and Jack on a dutch crunch roll, a small order of red potato salad, and a very generous portion of fruit salad. When it came to just $6.95, I said to the deli’s owner with conviction, “That’s a good deal.”

“Thank you,” he replied, humble but pleased. “I haven’t raised my prices in years.”

On my way back to work, I stopped into the parking lot and informed the attendants that one of their customers displayed little respect for the life of this lowly pedestrian. I did so firmly but politely, acknowledging the incident was in no way their fault.

“She really should have stopped,” I said. “I can’t believe she was so rude.”

The middle-aged guy who worked there asserted, “You mean she was an arrogant bitch. She was an arrogant bitch.”

“Hey,” I replied with a relieved kind of chuckle, “I’m not going to disagree with you.”

Life in the Bay Area, Part II

On BART Friday between Macarthur and Ashby I looked to my right out the window. Squinting through a haze of distant smog and bright sunlight, I saw the city of San Francisco, majestic, beautiful, absolutely unique—in many ways the perfect embodiment of the American dream, for good and for evil.

What occurred to me at that moment, though, was this: “Why am I so far from home?”

Life in the Bay Area, Part III

Tonight I saw “The Princess Bride” on the big screen at midnight. The experience came complete with:

  • pink-haired vodka drinkers apparently in their early 20s
  • free candy thrown at the audience by a woman in an ape suit
  • a man spinning a hand-lettered wheel of fortune and “winning” the chance to stand in a cardboard sarcophagus while a theater employee in an eyepatch and surgical mask dumped an entire bag of stale movie theater popcorn on his head (after which the man, wearing a rather new-looking “Evil Dead” t-shirt, was given a copy of the book “The Princess Bride”)

It was spectacular in every way. Thank you, Berkeley; thank you, Landmark Act I and Act II.

On my way home on the 40 I chatted with Eric’s friend Jenn about the fact she doesn’t vote, and not feeling any particular urge to proselytize. About 10 blocks after she got off the bus, a couple probably about my age got on and sat near me. Suddenly the woman pulled out of her coat a tabby kitten and gave it to the man she was with. It grabbed onto his shirt, legs splayed in four directions, and hung onto him as he sat near me. I said something about how cute the cat was. He explained to me that they had just picked these cats up from the wild—there was a much weaker gray and white kitten, limp but hanging on, in her coat—and were going to take care of them. I believed him.

That simple act of kindness was one of the sweetest, most compassionate acts I’d ever witnessed. It was exactly what I needed. Thank you, Oakland.

ornamental divider

I knew having waited so long since the last time I wrote, that whatever I put here next would assume added significance. Walking home from the bus stop tonight, I knew I had something worthwhile.

And honestly not much has felt worthwhile for… a while. Though I’ve been somewhat busy, that’s not why I haven’t written. I just didn’t have anything to say and even less motivation to say it.

I’ve had many things weighing on my mind—personal, social, political, and job-related, all of which are probably way too intertwined. Partly because I have allowed one person to affect me far more deeply than I ever should have—which was not quite entirely my fault—I’ve missed opportunities to do some good in this, the most critical time possible, as we finally bring to an end the national nightmare that is the Bush administration.

With just a few weeks left in the campaign I will turn that around and maximize my effectiveness. Next weekend I will go to the South Bay and canvass for Ira Ruskin, a Democrat endorsed by CLCV running against a self-funded “moderate” Republican. The weekend after, I haven’t decided what I’ll do, but I’ll do something. Halloween weekend, I will go to Nevada and get people to the polls in what could be a decisive state.

After that, I’m going to get my own shit together.