Thursday, August 6, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO DAZE

It's official: San Francisco is the bane of my existence. Not that I don't like the city. Au contraire! I've visited three times, and at one point -- at the height of the mid-'90s grunge movement -- I even harbored secret thoughts about moving there.

After all, many of my friends already were doing it. First, there was Laura, one of my best friends in New York City. Her departure from her one-bedroom apartment on West 16th Street crushed me. But I had always suspected that New York wasn't quite right for her. I saw her in wider, more open spaces. She had (and still has) a wild heart, and wild hearts run free.

Then there was Mo, Adrienne and Chrissy, part of my senior-year college posse. I went to visit them at the end of 1993. First, I spent Christmas with my brother in Los Angeles (my first trip there!), then I drove the entire nine-hour journey to San Francisco (via the interstate, not the route with a Pacific view -- cliffs terrify me, especially when I'm driving on the edge of one). When I got there, I'll never forget the first words Mo, remembering my legendarily overly cautious driving habits, said to me: "I don't even want to think about you driving on that interstate."

I was actually pretty proud of myself for driving solo all that way, and perhaps that played into my immediate love of the city. It was the height of the Nirvana years (actually, a few months before Kurt Cobain's death), and everyone, my friends included, was decked out in flannel and plaid. I loved the city anyway. Some four years later, when I visited Lisbon, I had SF flashbacks, probably because, like SF, Lisbon has so many narrow, hilly streets looking out on to the water below. Simply. Beautiful.

I returned the following summer with my boyfriend Khleber, and the city took on a completely different meaning for me, a more romantic one. (That's me above on Haight Street, or something like it, during that trip.) Ten years after we broke up, Khleber contacted me out of the blue, and we started up a six-month long-distance relationship, me in New York, he in -- you guessed it -- San Francisco.

My friend Rick, Mo's big brother, also tried out SF, only to find himself back in New York City after a year or two. By this point, Laura had long since bolted from SF to head back east, settling in Washington DC (which, by the way, is my favorite US city, after New York, Chicago and Los Angeles).

San Francisco has continued to come in and out of my life. The guy I bought my New York City apartment from in 2000 left the Big Apple to move there. I went back a few years later to visit Khleber and Rick and my college posse. Even after I moved to Buenos Aires in 2006, SF kept finding its way back on to the map of my world. The first couple I rented my NYC apartment to moved there after one year because the husband had found a new job there. Then several months ago, the second tenant, who had been laid off from her job, asked for permission to break her lease so that she could have a room with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It's one thing to lose friend after friend to the city. But when a tenant wants to back out of her lease seven months early in order to play slacker -- after all, what else does one do there? -- we've got a problem. Yesterday, she moved out, leaving my apartment empty and tenant free. (I won't depress you with the financial implications.) Suddenly, San Francisco has lost all of it's appeal.

Now I don't even know why Tony Bennett sings about it.
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