So I find myself in San Francisco, for very mysterious reasons, doing very mysterious things, because, as it turns out, I am a very mysterious person. An enigma, really *tightens knot in scarf and adjusts sunglasses for eluding paparazzi. Currently I am at Trieste Café, with its brilliant history of renowned authors and artists and musicians hanging out drinking flavourful coffees or shitty wine, probably engulfed in clouds of illustrious smoke back then, talking incessantly about super important things (I kid you not this is happening right now minus the smoke) then traipsing on over to Vesuvio (think Ship and Anchor but less tattoos) after working a shift at the eclectic bookstore, City Lights (Dylan, Ginsberg, Kerouac). I came here the first time and well every time, to support a loved one through some major shit, and fell in love with the place, not for its writerly vibe, though who can argue, but for the best of inner city living —staggered hills that make no sense, quirky buildings painted into hillsides, every square inch of space jam packed with abodes and restaurants, businesses that somehow pay the rent doing quirky as eff shit, and meeting spaces. Fire escapes fall from every façade (my own line from a song I wrote first time I was here), spires rise from ornate churches, bells ring over squares. I don’t know what it is about a small park in a square in the inner city. It has none of the beauty of a Canadian park, but because greenspace is scarce here and actual people spend weekend afternoons camping out enjoying the green grass amidst the bustle, it is so very appealing. I feel very purposeful spending an hour SITTING AT THE PARK. And then the whole thing, the icing on the triple layered, smartie infused, double chocolate cake, is the ocean, counterpointing all of that condensed humanity with infinite emotional space. Waves crash, sandy beaches stretch and flaunt sailboats and titanic vessels and red bridges that touch God.
True confession is that I love to run. You wouldn’t know HOW MUCH I love to run by looking at me. I don’t have one of those sinewy stringy body types (because curses). Other women would be struggling to keep up with the caloric expenditure that happens when I run. Not me! I mean you know self love and I am beautiful and blah blah blah, but seriously, I console myself with musings such as “well without it I would probably be 300 lbs”. I know what you are thinking right this very second, you’re thinking, how much do you actually eat? And the answer is, fuck off. JK. But seriously, the prettiest part of the run here is the ocean part, and I have to run a full run to get to the oceanside run, so I just keep running which makes for eleven miles or so, or 17 km. Daily. And then there are days like yesterday, when I am required to “pop” downtown for supplies, downtown being a 1.5 mile walk each way. If you’ve met me, you’ll know that I am not the best with conventional directions (my memory is visual), so I called my lovely sister in Calgary and hopped on the headset guiding me through the streets of downtown SF. “It’s like you’re God!” I said as she chimed in with “You should be seeing a Denny’s on the right in about a block”. It was much less lonely friends with her in my ear. I had to pick up some products, I won’t tell you what they were, again because I am so mysterious, but they were heavy. Heavy like a bag of bricks. And after about a mile and half of walking around picking up bricks, sandwiched between 3 miles of to and fro my destination, God chimed in with “Hey I know a shortcut home”. Well that sounded fantastic, because as much as I like my exertion I was feeling solidly done with it by 8pm.
Now, TBH I did have an inkling of concern. Something in me somewhere said Erin, shortcuts are potentially a bad idea. But I couldn’t quite recall why. And God was telling me I could avoid backtracking, which made so much sense. Yes, avoid backtracking. Be PRACTICAL Erin. Trust God. She has not steered you wrong. And so God and I began a journey of the most DIRECT route to home. The problem, friends, with direct routes in SF, is that GPS (God’s navigating tool) does not recognize HILLS. So, if you don’t count for seventy five degree angles, taking Mason Street to Mason Street makes a whole lot of sense. BUT, if as luck would have it MASON Street is actually not at the top of Mount Olympus, but over the top and then half way down the other side, well, direct route is less, direct.
We figured it out though. At the top. After my cries of woe. After, after (yes, it’s a lot of after) running 11 miles and walking 1.5 there and 1.5 around, I enjoyed my final 1.5 nearly straight uphill carrying the weight of 15 litres of liquid in one of those shitty plastic bags that cuts off your arm circulation for the next five or six hours. Obviously I wasn’t carrying drugs. Drugs are light and fit in small places, like purses or vaginas. I know from the movies. Anyhow, back on track, I reached the crest and then saw the way down. God was so sorry, when she could stop laughing long enough to catch her breath. Sixteen miles, a couple uphill carrying contraband. I mean not quite a Boston marathon. More like an episode of Survivor SF.
There are days here where I feel the mystery and the magic, even under the circumstances. Where I feel something great and grand is at work behind all of it pushing my life into a glorious outcome, a wheel of fortune with love at the helm. Laughing with my sister at the top of that hill was one of them. And then, with the flip of a switch the enchanting streets are cold comfort for the homeless; the odour of urine wafts up from the pavement. I am lonely, spent, aging. I am not the adventurist with a taste for finer things, I simply squander all of my fitness on candy and bread and wine. I know. It’s cruel and wrong that voice. Beeeatchy. Unfair. Trying to take away ALL OF THE GOOD STUFF from sweet little me. And all of that meanness ends up with my sad face featured in an anti-adulting meme. I don’t wanna play. And I don’t. No one wants to play when mean is the rule of the game. So what brings it on? This flip, this painful switch? Bad lighting at the mall. A sprinkle of dust from the evil fairy of feeling shit and perpetuating problems. Tinkerbell catching the Coronavirus (ummm is this an imported beer issue?). Well, you know what you are not supposed to do when the light wanes and you hear the voice of shit hitting on you from across the bar, suddenly demoted from alluring foreigner to skeezy stranger? You are not supposed to speak it out loud in earshot of your daughter. What!? True. The professionals say so. It’s not good for them.
You are supposed to say “I love myself the way I am. I am beeeeautiful, inside and out. I accept the lumpy bits and the wrinkly bits because they are demonstrations of my history and my lessons and my rich life lived”, blech, furball, blech. I mean don’t get me wrong I didn’t talk about ‘fat days’ with my young impressionable girls of a tender age. But there are moments when it feels like someone turned on the “everything is ugly” lights on LIFE ITSELF. We don’t want it to be so, and goodness knows I know how to hit back like the best of ‘em. But it happens. The gold dress becomes the blue dress becomes the “fat” dress in a poof of WTactualF.
All that we have worked for becomes the losing showcase in an episode of “Let’s Make a Deal” (it was a game show when back in the dark ages when I was a wee lass).
No one wants to spend too much time beholding the bad showcase.
I like to believe that when my eighteen year old hears me scrapping with those ideas like a bad bitch in a bar fight that it’s the exception. And that what she really sees and hears is that shit goes down, and shit rants and vies for territory and that when we feel knocked down by it we reach out and we say “Help me! I’ve fallen and the lights in this change room make me feel like the biggest loser, not of weight but of life”. But then she also hears laughter and ridiculously (dark) humour at times that takes the piss out of the shit (wow my swearing game is strong and inventive these days friends). And she revels not in the power of the scary blue mumu dress, but in the camaraderie of the reach out and the vent and the cry for help. And then the celebration of life that continues. The healing things, the choice for joy and hope and forgiveness and bravery and connection and did I mention love? That is the gist of it, the veggie bacon in lieu of the meat.
I know that y’all have the same issue. For the most part. I mean some of you are large manly men and some of you are twiggy chicks, but the perspective issue. The cinema lights flicked off and your life appearing as a Canadian commercial for a sale at the Brick #lessthanjoloathalftime
Some of you, if not everyone, have had those moments of struggle that seem to hit us out of nowhere, that paint all of our efforts into a corner. There are reasons for them. I get the reasons. Scary invisible ideas that we are a broken ruinous thing that we really are not. From this terrible place the lifeboats are someone else’s ruin; he is less fit, she is poorer, they screwed up bigger, imagine being them. Garbage from the pain dump that we don’t really mean or want as a comparison or a reason to feel better, even as it presents itself to us mwah ha ha. Don’t let me be the only one! To which I reply, Let every last one of us out of this dump together.
There is a relationship between the number of times the lights shut off for us daily and the hurt we carry around. There is a relationship between the number of times the lights shut off and our inner world. There is a relationship between the number of times the lights shut off and the access we have to a LOVING VOICE. But unless you’re Jesus and you’re walking on wine (because 2020 Jesus should up his efficiency game and give us a bogo on miracles) you’re going to have to flip the breaker or relight the pilot, now and again.
You’re going to have to hold on for dear life, and call and friend when the magic cape looks holey and smells bad. And when you accidentally travel 16 miles uphill you’re going to need to God in your ear, cracking obscene jokes, or the coach you can text at stupid o’clock because she is your loving wise friend and has learned to live without sleep. JK.
I ran by the church today and I heard a woman say to her friend outside of service “It’s like a mother taking you into the safety of her love”. I don’t mean that in a religious sense at all. But I mean it. That is the measure of truth.
Tonight I wore a yellow blouse which made me feel like a flower. I walked into the café and overheard this commentary: “I don’t need anymore stimulation; that politician stimulates me, the news stimulates me, that woman stimulates me (he gestured to me, because of course I was looking very desirable in my yellow flowery blouse and my mysterious air). I glanced back and smiled at no one in particular.
— Love Erin
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.