I am still buzzing from seeing them tonight. Josh and I were the only ones in the crowd that were dancing. We were shaking our heads wildly and generally not giving a fuck because before the show he warned me that he was going to dance his gothy little heart out and I said “Josh, you don’t control the dance, the dance controls you” and then Austra came on and we were all shoulders and hair as white people will do. And for the moment between beats I looked around and we were still the only ones dancing, and thats when I realized that most of these people just dont know how to really feel. the. beat.
I flipped a coin. It was that simple and that spontaneous. I was twenty-two and living in the south where everything felt old and everything felt rotten. The house I was living in had two psychedelic eyes painted onto the front and as if some kind of omen, I felt watched and trapped. There was no window opening to me, and nothing on the horizon that represented change. I sat in my robin’s-egg-blue kitchen drinking coffee and spinning a quarter. I thought of all the places I wanted to live. Paris, Melbourne, Toronto, New York, San Francisco. I had been dreaming of San Francisco. Good and bad dreams. Dreams of the apocalypse with burning bridges and humans clawing at the wreckage trying to get out, while I screamed “there is nothing I can do to save you!” but also ones where I walked down a palm tree lined street, and the sun shone, saturating everything with orange glow. I dreamt that there was magic and air and nothing was rotting, instead the antiquity had been preserved and restored. Not left to ruin in the depression that followed the Civil War, like Richmond had.
So I flipped it. Heads- Brooklyn, where I could map out the footsteps on my ancestors and revert to being a true New York princess, or tails, San Francisco, where I knew no one and the only history I had there was what was yet to come.
With in two weeks I was walking down Dolores Ave. It was August and there was a slight heat that felt refreshing after years of oppressive humidity. People were happy here. They drank bloody mary’s and mimosas instead of forty oz. beers they paid for with couch change. San Francisco was by the water- a real bay that hugged the city, protecting it. The two magnificent bridges opened their arms to anyone who wanted her, and in that embrace I felt completely at home. I was surprised how little I missed Virginia. How little regret I had about leaving an entire life behind, and how excited I was for the future. It was as if instantly something had awoken in me. I could be who I wanted to be here. My San Francisco, a city built by the outcasts and weirdo’s, a haven of art and magic.
I came here with only literary rumors of the city in my head. I knew that this city had spawned the beats. From the bowels of dark cafes and print shops, artist freak-oids had used words as a way to rise above. I knew that Kerouac and Ginsberg had walked this city, one thousand endless derives and from them- poetry. I had read Michelle Tea’s Valencia and knew that queers ran in packs like wolves along the streets of a neighborhood called The Mission. I became possessed by San Francisco, I felt starving for her, for anything that talked about her. I was reading the Guardian every week, scavenging blogs that were all about SF. I spent my days, still friendless, seeking companionship in this city. I walked from North Beach to the Mission. Wandered into pockets of the city, each one that seemed so different block to block. I rode busses and trains and trams and trolleys. I sat in the parks letting the California sun heal my wounds. I read voraciously. Consuming Kerouac and Mark Twain’s essays. I read books about the great earthquake and did you know Dolores Park used to be a cemetery? My favorite fact was that no one was buried here, all the souls moved to Colma. This city was truly for the living and living is what I would do.
In the wake of Richmond’s obsession with the past, the dead, the dying, the lost, San Francisco was the living, the soul, the now, the decadence of every moment given and so I would take her for my lover, settle in her foggy embrace and let her sweet pacific breeze flow through my veins.