march, 2006

Thu, 2 Mar 2006 19:41:40 -0800

With this daylight saved during the "winter" months (chilly, which means below 60F, and rainy, so that my snowboarding-purchased orange rain shell suffices on damp mornings, my fleece vest -- both with the usual-province-of-boys-only Napoleon pockets -- absorbs enough of the cold on dry ones), the ride up the peninsula post-work is always in the dark. A shuttle before six sometimes affords a view of the last striations of orange behind Twin Peaks, reflections of the sun sinking into what must be the Pacific (maps tell me it's so; I have yet to venture that far West in Golden Gate Park); reasonably, though, six o'clock is on the early side for brain saturation -- that point after which content starts to roll off my head like rain, no room for it amongst lines of Python, modules written along internal APIs, stylesheets cascading into my brain. (I feel productive, but it's nothing compared to Ojan's new baby. He came home Monday for the first night in a week or so; I mutely handed him a beer and gave him a hug.)

And, in the dark, I, the spoiled hippie, fresh on Tuesdays from five-dollar yoga, a box of raw food on my lap and corn-byproduct utensils in my hand, can only absorb so much more. The offer of wireless encourages me to balance my Powerbook on my knees, clicking softly at the low-pitched keys, waiting for webmail to resolve itself into the next message. But on days when it's unequivocally dark, when I've been scrutinizing code all day, sometimes a more passive podcast is the most I can absorb. Diane Rehm; Kojo Nnamdi (maybe DC has left its mark on me).

And others, all I can do is something merely transporting: the Flaming Lips' new album; an old Múm; something soft from my iPod. Exhaustion prevents me from engaging my brain more. Tuesday in yoga, I began to yawn again, seemingly incessantly. I've had classes in Berkeley through which I yawned continually: lunging warrior poses, mouth open; agape as best one can be inverted in headstand. The teacher suggested that I was just underslept; of course I am. Unwilling to sacrifice my nights on the top of the peninsula too early to the comforts of my bed (MUNI rattling beneath the glass; purple cocoon of a duvet), I find things to do, people to IM, glasses of wine to drink, until past what should be my bedtime. A three-o'clock espresso no longer jumpstarts the afternoon as it should; the beanbag in Greg's and my office looked more comfortable than usual today as I tried to fight sleep deprivation with algorithmic immersion.

And so, on the shuttle home, there is no pretense of work being done. I fell deliciously asleep to Four Tet -- Everything Ecstatic, then Rounds -- riding up to meet Gabe a week ago. I am past the point of content creation or synthesis; my sentence structure convolutes; my fingers stop moving in the middle of a

Thu, 9 Mar 2006 19:06:08 -0500

I've been feeling young recently, which is odd, since the shift from top-of-the-pecking-order to youngest-at-a-party occurred almost three years ago, upon graduation from a series of holding pens of cohorts of peers, otherwise known as school. Granted, my primary associations are still with those roughly my own age, but "roughly" has expanded dramatically since age 22 go from the narrow "a year, or maybe two" to "eh, anywhere between 22 and 35 or so." A tripling of the window.

So, why young? Granted, I'm short -- at 5'4", I'm almost always the smallest one in a bar, standing on tiptoes on the rail in order to even be seen, let alone get a Guinness (Beckett's, Berkeley) or a martini (the Redwood Room, San Francisco). Dave passed me on the path on Charleston the other day, as I was huddled in my orange hooded rain shell in lieu of an umbrella, and commented you look like you're twelve years old. Colin was more generous; he always put me at sixteen or seventeen. Wearing my ski hat around, I must look underage -- wearing it to buy beer for Turadg's party on Saturday night, the man at the corner liquor store in Noe Valley peered at me skeptically: you sure you're over 21? Yes, I assured him. He wasn't assured. Are you sure? (Dude, either card me or believe me!) I handed over the Wisconsin license, on which my eighteen-year-old scowl looks very similar to my twenty-five-year-old mien. He scrutinizes, and then lights up; points to the third column of my birthdate and asks if that's the year; becomes apologetic and contrite; offers me chocolate from a box behind the counter "for having given [me] such a hard time." I decline (probably not vegan, and somehow Mom ingrained in me that not-taking-candy-from-strangers thing (a rule that somehow lifted every October 31st)). He says: I can even sell you cigarettes! Thanks, dude. That meant you thought that I was under 18, too.

But it's not just that; I get that all the time. At Lulu's cooking night the following evening, I make some offhanded remark including my age (à la, I'm twenty-five! I don't want to buy a ton of furniture!); Heidi looks at me in surprise: you're only 25? Incredulous. But you're so much more mature than that!

Funny, then, how people seem to place me at either ends of a 15-year age range, but seldom in the middle. (Maybe I just don't mark it when they do.)

No, the extremely youthful feeling -- by which I mean 'young' in a pejorative sense, not the I-don't-have-any-facial-lines or -grey-hairs or my-bones-knit-quicker-than-your-bones senses -- is more of a creeping suspicion that one's thirties are where life as an adult starts, once one's figured out a few more things about one's self. (Charlie in his Year in (P)Review: one's thirties are better than one's twenties and that this trend seems likely to continue.) And, for me, this is absurd. Colin once accused me of moving to California to "find myself"; that was no more in my thoughts than it would have been any place I would have gone a year ago -- which is to say, not at all. I've always had a good sense of who I am, and, though that revises as I find counter-evidence, I've never really floundered with it. Call it cockiness; call it a good sense of self; it's never failed me.

Which is not to say that it's failing me now. Maybe I should stop watching Sex and the City on DVD (I hate all of the protagonists, anyhow) (damn you, Netflix!). Maybe I should move to Paris in a few years, and live out my twenties seeking down vegan croissants and drinking soy cafés au lait. Or maybe I should chill the fuck out, and recall that I'm in San Francisco, and am about to jaunt up to Tahoe to go snowboarding this weekend. Now, what was that about my bones knitting quickly ... ?

Tue, 14 Mar 2006 09:27:00 -0800

Friday afternoon, when Malcolm & I decided it was too dicey to try and drive the 189-mile, 6000-vertical-foot drive up to Tahoe, I hoped all through a disappointing lecture and surprisingly good vegan risotto, stunning Lake Champlain chocolate, and full port, that the conditions would clear enough for us to escape the San Francisco chill and rain. I've gotten used to the sky opening up and pouring at random intervals, to the too-cold-for-summer, not-quite-even-winter weather that seems to comprise this season in this area, but I wanted nothing more right then (well, aside from that chocolate and that port) than to escape up to where it was doing what it ought: snowing, and hard.

I needn't have worried. We were on the road before eight the next morning, on the slopes at Northstar for a half day by noon or so. Though I've had dreams of snowboarding since my second time out, a month ago, I've also had a lingering fear in the back of my head that, somehow, I just wouldn't get it. After not quite wiping out off of the lift up to a green slope, I quickly began to build on the balance I'd improved last time. Watched little kids carve their way down the fresh powder beneath me; realized that an edge is something to be kept only to expedite one's progress in a chosen direction. I fell less, and by the end of the day on Sunday, had even made several runs down entirely on my feet, leaning into the speed gained by swishing forward and backwards down a mountain. Heel-edge; toe-edge; the powder slides beneath the board.

Snowboarding, really, is sledding for adults (well, adults who have just received their annual bonus (and a positive focal review)). Though Malcolm was doing black diamonds while I stayed on greens, I (the Wisconsonite) could make more educated guesses at the outside temperature, or at how his Civic would handle on a slushy street. And once I figured out how to stand with both feet latched onto a plank, it became just one more excuse to get out in -- and to -- the snow. And how glad I am to have one! The chair lifts up the mountain, aside from the music coming from two speakers mounted in pine trees around the kiddie tubing area, were peacefully quiet, serene. Two feet at least of fresh snow from the day before, plus that which was slowly drifting down, piled in thick caps on every bough, and powdered the layer on the ground. Even when, at the top, someone faltered getting off the lift, and the whole length of the pulley system rocked back and forth as we waited, the scenery made up for the delay. I felt as if I was in a German fairy tale, a woodcutter guided through a snowstorm by a lantern, through forests of pines as tall as redwoods. At the top of [my part of] the mountain, between clouds of snow, the lake itself would be occasionally visible, a blue between far-off green trees and patches of snowy hills.

My improvement at staying on my feet (though what a pleasure to fall into a cushion of light snow, instead of onto barely-concealed hard ice!) is much more than the mere elation of improving in ability at any activity; rather, it gives me an even better excuse to to go play in this wonderland of snow. This is the winter I've been missing -- Pennsylvania recedes slightly from memory, but certainly never had drifts like this; DC would shut down the federal government at the lightest dusting; Berkeley and San Francisco don't even freeze. Not since Wisconsin have I had the luxury of snow like this: that which transforms, hushes; that which makes me drag Ben out of bed in the middle of the night to drive through icy Madison streets, looking at lamplights coruscating through frozen branches.

Despite a 6.5-hour drive back through snow, dirt, slush, and driving rain, with chain control in effect over Donner Pass, when we pulled onto my curb in Duboce Triangle, it was back in the fifties. I'm beginning to understand why people would choose to live here, and drive up to play in the snow.

Wed, 22 Mar 2006 15:04:47 -0800

Sat down on the shuttle this morning in an extra-leg-room seat, next to Cooper, who was carrying a bouquet of daffodils. "Flowers!" I exclaimed -- for who carries flowers to work (save Bruno, who brought in vases of tulips as thank-yous for coworkers a month ago)? He'd just picked them up on a whim -- it being officially early spring -- and insisted I take three with me. I felt obliged to protest, but, unlike fighting over a check after dinner with a boy, I caved early, because, when you get down to it, I'm a girl, and I love flowers. The lilies in the lobby of building 1300. The yellow and red gerber daisies I bought for our apartmentwarming Friday night; the bouquet of orange ones Ailish brought to the party. And yellow daffodils, stuck in a makeshift vase of Smart Water from the minikitchen, now on my desk, now brightening my day. I couldn't help it; I smiled all the way in.

In some respects, I make no effort to deny my gender. Saturday morning, leaving the sticky floor from the night's festivities behind, Emily, Andrea and I ventured out for brunch, and then to a vintage store on Valencia where I bought and then changed into a seventies-cut spring dress, in which to prance through the warm, sunny, San Francisco afternoon. Sara, meeting us at Nordstrom, barely recognized me.

Sunday night, I painted my nails garnet, causing Ojan to comment on the girliness of the activity and the color. He was right -- if I ever polish my partial set of talons (six of them ever half-cropped, on the pretense that I still play viola regularly enough to warrant it), it's usually in oranges or purples; a red is generally not quite tongue-in-cheek enough for me to attempt it.

But, as much as I like being the only girl on a team of 26 in order to act like one of the boys (I love the unassuming epithet "man," when applied to me), today I have my hair down, my nails painted, and there are daffodils on my desk, making me beam. So simple. Maybe I am a girl (and maybe that's okay).

Wed, 29 Mar 2006 21:44:25 -0800

I'm not sure there's any one incident that can embody it of late -- sharp white snow glinting against a big, blue sky? A warm, bottomless mug of gen-mai cha at Shiki Sushi, out for lunch today with the Daves? -- but I'm realizing, very slowly, that I'm very happy here.

As much is obvious to the casual reader of this that I must now acquiesce is a "blog" (it's taken me six years, but, as the medium becomes more mainstream, no longer can I disavow the term). A stranger wrote me 'long about October 2004: "It's obvious from your writings that you need to get the hell out of Dodge." He was right; and I did. But California -- the big, unknown, mythological California of Joni Mitchell songs and Alan Ginsberg poems and surfing movies -- was a leap of faith, or even leap of atheism -- a break with the present, eyes only on that which may come. It's obvious it's paid off (Google; &c.), but precisely, what does that mean?

It means that my baseline, these days, is that of ridiculously happy. The MUNI, lurking and rumbling outside my window until past the witching hour, now lulls me pleasantly to sleep. I wake up, and, despite the shit-for-bagel (really, the only thing that can make me desperately, situationally unhappy these days is the utter lack of a good bagel in this ha-shem-forasken town. No, for real -- I'm about to go crazy in this regard. I've been reduced to buying bagels from Safeway, because they're better than what the bodega sells. You see?!), stare deliriously at the sunlit calla lillies, jasmine, and stubby palm tree in the backyard. My teacup is warm. On the shuttle down, the Bay comes into full, sparking view. Despite a horrendous team meeting yesterday, three pints of Fat Tire and three hours of good company were enough to quickly dispell the day's penumbra. A geeky encounter in a laundromat ("I've been blogging instead of doing my laundry." "Only in San Francisco. What software do you use?" "To blog? I roll my own." -- And it turns out the fellow launderer and I both worked at tech companies that owned blogging software) followed by the unmistakable waft of weed from the loiterers on my stoop. Finding a mountain full of powder -- soft, thick, puffy snow that, muffled, billowed when I shrieked my way (face-first) into it, strapped to a snowboard, amidst stories-tall pines on Saturday afternoon at Northstar. Passing a grassy median on the way to sushi this afternoon (umeboshi plums and shiso leaves! The delicate combination hovered on my palate for hours afterwards), I saw first one California poppy, then a small field of them. Simple, orange, and heliotropic -- both the flower and my interaction with this fairyland are captured in those three adjectives.

But is this still dismissable as my honeymoon with the city? With the state? After a year, I was certainly no longer (perhaps never was) smitten with DC. Swarthmore continued to be otherworldy after a year, but that was six years ago, and I but twenty. And college cannot be revisited, despite reunions spent desperately attempting to. So, knowing I can never go back, the best answer I can give for the present moment is San Francisco. Even the act of pronouncing the words in my head triggers songs, images of flowers and sun -- and this while I'm here! Will rainbows (like the small tricks of the light which appeared in my snow goggles on the road back from Tahoe this weekend) dance around its memory if and when I ever leave?

Clearly, this is the right place for me. And it leads me to conclude that, despite my relatively optimistic nature, different places can be different degrees of right for me.

This is barely worth posting, it's so banal. But it's still new to me. City, hills, flirtation, snow, intellectual rigor, orange and yellow flowers: I love you.

all this ©nori heikkinen, March 2006

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