december, 2005

Fri Dec 2 09:05:09 PST 2005

Hurtling past Twin Peaks on 101 early in the morning, at a reasonable time, the Bay fairly glows with sunlight. Endless -- there are faint shadows of the headquarters of various Silicon Valley giants visible in mist at its apogee. A bus of sleepy Googlers; wireless. Not so early in the morning that I won't be able to stay awake for the party tonight.

I can't wait to move to the city.

Sun Dec 4 11:25:57 PST 2005

Weekends these days -- stop-and-smell-the-roses, -drink-the-coffee, -sleep-till-noon days -- are more necessary than perhaps they've ever been. In college, there were no weekends (a break from class, sure; from work, never); at StreamSage, there was never the constant urgency and fast-paced dynamism and accountability amidst which I now find myself. (So much so that beer has perhaps been playing an overactive role in my evenings this past week: after a futile evening of missing deadlines and shuttles, Jacob & I ended up at Zeitgeist Wednesday night, surrounded by hipsters, Bianchis, picnic tables, and rain, with a pitcher of Franziskaner; I've stopped taking my ID to the corner store, where the guy who works nights knows me.) To have the option of lying in bed until it's afternoon, then, is so relaxing that it sometimes doesn't even matter if I exercise it or not.

Saturday, I woke up, unbidden, at a hellish 9:30, my head smarting from my encounter with a freight train delicious excesses of the previous night's company holiday- and post-party: seven solid hours of new cute outfit (fabulous earrings that cost less than my new left heel (I can no longer say that the only dress shoes I own are orange); a skirt, lacey thing, and stockings purposely un-cocktail-y -- I do not want to resemble the women of rest of my building, who regularly at work look better than I did Friday night) and of crazy-tricked-out, internationally-themed five rooms of open bars, and culturally appropriate activities and food, the latter of which I apparently did not eat enough. Everyone there; everyone looking fantastic. Just what I wanted.

This all made apartment-shopping the next morning a bit harder than it might have otherwise been (but hell, it was worth it). I ended up in my shirtsleeves after a quarter of an hour trekking up the hills of the sunny lower Haight -- a T-shirt in December! -- and then, mercifully, ending up at the nearby(!) Pork Store Café, just as we had after the SF half-marathon in late July: coffee + soy milk (no hair-of-the-dog mimosa this time); the one "Vegan Delite" on the menu; a bleary Ojan even worse for the wear (and the post-partying) than I. Places are renting available-immediately; we'll look again come January.

But to have this be home! I realize that one of the things I've most missed about cities -- and I mean cities proper, not their bastard across-the-Bay children -- is the leisurely weekend meal. In DC there was Café Luna the day after my 23rd birthday, then La Fourchette before I ditched the dairy, followed by Asylum for only a few months, sloshing up 18th street in the January muck, before I left DC. In contrast, the Ashby district of Berkeley, for all its flea markets, sketchy corner stores, and lone café, doesn't do so hot on the francophilic matutinal ritual front; the difference of it to the city was obvious Saturday morning, wandering past at least five suitable breakfast candidates in the two blocks on our way to the one I knew. I miss brunch! Andrea and I were fairly hopping with glee, examining high-ceilinged apartments with views of the entire Bay, picturing future urbanity.

A month and a half ago, even, Lulu's blog read: "La la la! I'm so happy! I love San Francisco!" Even then, I remember reading it thinking "better her than me." In this short span of time, my thinking has completely reversed. Lulu, I'm coming to join you.

Mon Dec 12 18:13:14 PST 2005

Any responsible adult should be thinking of three major investments: retirement, a car, and a house. At least, this is before one starts to think about kids -- and I, still drooling at cute babies but not even wanting to hold them; mutely waving at them on the BART is as far as I go -- and their potential college funds. My 401k is filling up without me even having to look at it. My own four-wheeled vehicle, I have debated and dismissed, and decided instead to move to the city where I can ride street- and cablecars. A house -- well, I rent.

But the Personal Finance for Dummies on my bookshelf, uncracked, seems to nag me to think about my assets, which are only now starting to be conceivable as such. Even with my raise, my stock options won't even begin to vest for another five months, and I've been ... well, living the life of a happy twenty-five-year-old. (Ahem: not saving much.)

But I am reminded by certain parties, in this latest apartment-looking I've been doing, that I might want to consider owning. Even though Krugman says the bubble is bursting, what's so bad (hypothesizes Colin, who appears to have finally soured on soulless DC and started rhapsodizing about the admittedly-magical area in which I find myself) about the value of your investment falling and being forced to stay in San Francisco?

The answer: barring an earthquake, nothing. Unlike DC, in which I maybe could have bought and then resold at a great profit, and in which quadrilateral of a swamp I had no illusion of staying for too long, I could see myself out here for ... well, I've so far refused to quantify. People ask me my plans; I parry. Vegan coconut flan at the Dobrá Cajovna-reminiscent Samovar; jasmine blooming on the streets in December? Remind me what my incentive to leave would be?

And if not Google, then perhaps the eternal next step: music school. The only place I can think of actively wanting to go right now would be the conservatory here in town (well, and Mannes -- but that's not a useful data point for the present hypothesis); this would fit into the lovely image I could see for myself of a house of my own, like Judy-the-viola-teacher's behind the art museum in Philly. Rereading the linked entry, in fact, I see how my image for myself hasn't changed much:

I want to be an artist like her when I grow up. Watch, this'll completely color and set the pattern for my idea of the professional-musician-in-a-city ideal that I'm aspiring towards. I like her house. [2001-02-23]

And to own! -- to be able to rip out old bathroom tiles and put in new and shiny; install a stained-glass window around; buy real furniture ...

I get ahead of myself, I know. The place Ojan, Andrea & I looked at west of Castro on Saturday was gorgeous: a three-story deck leading to a patio out back lined with tropical shrubs and Japanese maples; hardwood throughout (but you had to cover 75% of the floors with rugs); brass light fixtures; new kitchen appliances and a functional fireplace. But it's too adult for me yet; I need a place with neighbors abutting the patio that wouldn't mind the kind of parties I would want to throw on it.

So, this thought will have to be inched forward on my mental stovetop range, I can tell. For the meantime: a beautiful apartment to rent, yet to be found, but with centricity in this, my new favorite place in the world: San Francisco.

And also in the meantime, I'll have more time to fall in love with the city. Dave drove me up from The Greens at Fort Mason on Friday night: up Lombard, leaving 101 and the city falling off into the Pacific behind you, and then down: five sharp twists, but the best part of it the entire city laid out in lights, in shapes, in topography beneath you. Fuck the Berkeley hills -- this is Calvino's Invisible Cities, places so marvelous they defy existence. And yet, here is a panorama in n dimensions: Coit Tower on top of Telegraph Hill directly in front; buildings of the Financial District laid out to the southeast; the Bay Bridge spanning an expanse of water that will prevent my escape come the big earthquake of which I live in fear; and the hills, rolling throughout it all, unimaginable and unbikeable, and a joy to walk down backwards in stocking feet. San Francisco, I will put flowers in my hair and come live in you. I'm smitten.

(And how much safer to fall in love with a city than with a boy! The namespace of cities is diverse enough that autogoogling will not turn up my rhapsodizing about you. There is no shame to be had by looking at old entries when we break up. And -- most importantly, since it's all I really want in life -- the city will love me back.)

Sat Dec 24 17:44:20 CST 2005

How very Wisconsin: Garrison Keillor on the ancient radio in the kitchen; Mom wrapping presents; me munching almond spicebox cookies and sipping coffee made in my mom's ceramic melita. Christmas eve, and the tree's not up yet. But we've vacuumed! Made nisua (that neither daughter can eat, with our virtually mutually exclusive dietary restrictions) and palmed it off on the ever-cheerful Adelle; made both vegan and non- cookies; have tracked down occult ingredients at three different grocery stores for a feast that will happen sometime in the next twenty-four hours -- or whenever we get around to it. Snow on the ground, but it's melting fast (drips off the gutters! Icicles when Mom & I drove up on Thursday; mostly gone by now). Nowhere near as cold as it ought to be: mid-40's! Feels much less cold than it has even in rainy SF; here, the cold is dispelled by the blanket whiteness of the snow (and the precipitation not sloughing down in droplets to soak the entire lower leg of your jeans, as it did tramping between Gina's party, sushi dinner, and Susannah's party last Saturday).

Christmas, I'm recalling, is perhaps the most straightforward vacation I take all year, and therefore the most relaxing. Sure, there's always the obligatory Claritin to be bought and the house to be tidied; New York Timeses to be sought out (finally got my paper on the third try -- looks like every other Madisonian home from the coasts for the holidays are also missing their slightly-more-globally-oriented daily dose of news); potable tea to be found -- but it's routine. I know the roads of Madison instinctively, driving via Alana's to a small party/reunion of MCCers and high-school compadres, none of whom I'd seen in these six and a half years (my usually-abysmal memory for names held in most cases), to drink New Glarus local brew ("Spotted Cow"), try to sing Big Sky over Radiohead (failed), and to find out where people had gone to college, let alone what they'd done after, all of it free of the social constraints of the dumb 14-to-18 cohort.

I've managed to arrange this vacation, last-minute as it was, with a minimum of stress: no red-eye flights; only one transfer into Chicago. Making that one flight was rather unpleasant, however -- even though it was at a solidly mid-morning 11 AM, I had to get up after minimal sleep following a last-BART-back (moving to the city! moving to the city!) team offsite-cum-dinner involving more Bombay and pinot-gamay than it did haute Vietnamese food. But flying down the western coast from Oakland to L.A. on Wednesday, gawking out the window the entire time at the stunning mountainous panorama laid out beneath the cloud line, was blissful: the beginning of vacation; anticipation of our new, perfect apartment in glorious San Francisco (!!) that we'd just been offered; the remnants of a buzzed and happy ride up the peninsula the previous night, crowded into the car with the quarter of my team cool enough to live in the city. Chicago, once I got there, even afforded enough time for vegan-diner lunch with DC-Josh before driving Madisonwards.

I feel like my mother, wearing her peppermint-appliquéd apron, reading glasses on, not really bothering to measure ingredients. "I remember cooking with Nori," opines Mom, glass in hand: "It's get potted and have a blast doing your work."

And now, hours later, having been dragged to church and having tried to sing harmony to every carol in the book, it's off to finish this Eddie Izzard DVD, this bottle of Wollersheim Prairie Fumé, and to go to bed. Maybe my stocking will even have something in it in the morning. :)

Fri, 30 Dec 2005 23:47:17 -0800

Rain positively sluicing down outside: rivers running off roofs; small streams sinuating down streets. In preparation for vegan chocolate mousse, Dave and I stop by several grocery stores, me with my jeans rolled up and in flip-flops, side-ponytailed (a) because I can; and (b) testing out a hairdo for tomorrow night. Six pounds of chocolate; we try not to get deluged. I've never, I realize, had a New Year's that wasn't below freezing, if not subzero. Madison, Chicago, New York -- these are places whose grass does not thrive green and thirsty during quenching December; places where the leaves turn color and fall in October, instead of just now beginning to enliven the Japanese maples around; places in which eucalyptus trees do not toss their long, flirtatious fingers in the gales of an oxymoronic winter rain storm.

But who's counting, now? The more I work myself into a frenzy about moving to the city, the less upset I become about the inevitable plunging headlong into this crazy weather. Driving up 101 this evening, enjoying the ride (beat-heavy radio cranked up; my thighs tingling with music; good company) more than I would have the shuttle, we coursed through lacework of water. If this is a bay-area winter, then so be it. I might even say I like it. 2005, you'll go out with a well-hydrated hurrah.

all this ©nori heikkinen, December 2005

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