So now that I’m in love with the city, I take a walk suggested by my guide across Nob and Russian Hill. I am nearly delirious with joy, walking slash hopping across the streets, taking a million pictures. This is San Francisco like I imagined it: the nearly vertical streets and pastel houses and neary a person in sight. These are the upper-class neighborhoods you see in the movies, with the families and the middle-class white people.
Jack Kerouac’s house, a small dark wooden house in the middle of a nondescript street. Big Sur is tucked safely in my bag, the one that is still stranded somewhere in Heathrow. This will be the one Kerouac book I finish, I swear it. Though it might take me ten years.
Macondray Lane is a place taken directly out of my dreams, or an Alice in Wonderland mini-series. Between the flora and “don’t feed the coyote” signs, Christmas ornaments adorn forgotten pumpkins. On top of the wooden stairs, I shake da booty a little bit.
Used to play pretend, give each other different names we would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly far away. Used to dream about this place but now they’re laughing at our face saying ‘wake up you need to make money’, yo.
I climb yet another hill to the Vallejo St steps and the Ina Coolbrith Park and its amazing vistas. The Bay Bridge dominates the hills of the city, white over blue. Oh man, so much happy crying in one day. I get lost in there for a while, watching the city below me, the giant cacti and the blue birds. The sky is a canvas for my thoughts or some other poetic bullshit.
Okay, I never truly believed I would make it here. San Francisco was a pipe dream. I am in shock that it happened. What other pipe dream of mine can I make happen? The city is right there at the tips of my fingers, and it smells like weed. Are people here high all the time? I love these streets in a straight line, like an expressway to the ocean close-by. I just want to run the whole way there.
So, I more or less do.
I walk around Chinatown, trying to find the path of the Beats. Little produce shops, Chinese banks and fifty people to the square meter: this is very, very familiar. No Christmas bullshit here, the stores are already preparing for Chinese New Year. Columbus Avenue cuts across the neighborhood and leaves a strange taste in my mouth. I don’t like reading or hearing that name. America is still celebrating its genocidal, bloody heritage, apparently.
Jack Kerouac Alley is a mix of monumental paintings and inspiring, bite-sized quotes. City Lights Books is right there, a legendary institution for book nerds of every horizon. I enter the sanctuary and go on the hunt for treasures that I will buy, look at adoringly, and probably never read. Nevertheless, between the poetry section, the activism section, the women studies and the LGBTQI section, I find happiness. A dude walks by me, asking out loud “what does the I even stand for?” Fuck you dude. May your children educate themselves and shame you for your ignorance and bigotry. Fuck. You.
Here is the thing about the Beats: I do not give one fuck about them. I made it through twenty pages of On the Road and I have read and loved some Ginsberg. I get that they had a salutary influence on culture (or rather, counter-culture) in the McCarthian America of the 50’s and practically birthed the hippie movement. But nowadays the Beats come with an army of pretentious, mansplaining, large glasses-wearing, Dylan-loving white douches. I have very, very little patience for the sexist new-liberal man of today.
Anyway. Um. Books. I love books! So I buy books. Poetry by women. Fiction by women. Books about consent by women. Women! I love women.
I try to get lunch and get coffee instead. Lattes are a food group, right?
Somehow I end up in North Beach and Little Italy, walking from little quirky shop to little quirky shop. I buy stuff. Cool stuff. Too cool from my lame friends. Yeah, it’s better I keep it all for myself. Definitely.
I end up walking to Coit Tower, a tall building on a hill where you can see all of the city. The building is an homage to San Francisco’s firemen, and has a bunch of marxist art in it. From the outside, it’s all white Art Deco and pretty scenery. I don’t go all the way to the top because it’s full of tourists: ain’t nobody got time for that. I take the famous Fillbert steps down, miss Bob Kaufman Alley by a hair. At Washington square, I take Powel St all the way from North Beach to Union Square. Oh, how I love these streets in a square grid. From one end to another, I visit three different cities. Just follow the grey concrete road.
At Market St, I bump into Super Duper Burger, boasting its best burger status for two years in a row. I get a veggie burger with everything (hummus, cucumber, cheese, avocado, onion, lettuce and tomato). Yes, it is amazing. But no, not the best. The best veggie burger I ever ate was in a Swedish-French restaurant in Kampot a year ago. It was pirate-themed.
My belly full and my eyelids drooping, I walk back to the hostel. My entire body is in pain, my back is spasming like crazy. I am a thousand years old.
What a day.
SONG CREDITS: Stressed out – twenty one pilots – Blurryface + Blue Skies – Maxine Sullivan
Other important tracks of that afternoon: Everybody does – Julien Baker + pretty much all of Queen