Saturday, September 22, 2012

Flying solo in San Francisco

With January fast on its way and the need to use my allotted vacation time before it arrives, I went on a solo vacation to San Francisco a few weeks ago with a to-do list of work in mind. My uncle Jamie, one of my favorite people in the world, offered to let me stay at his place in the Mission and promised that even though he couldn't take time off work, he could show me around town during the evenings and take me to some of his favorite restaurants. I had expected to spend my two weeks writing every day, getting lots of work done on a fellowship application and eating really, really well. 

And we did eat really, really well: shrimp and grits and slugged up lemonade at The Front Porch; duck and white bean salad and fresh tomatoes at Bar Jules; spicy pizza and too many appetizers at Diavola in Sonoma County; shiso pesto and wagyu sashimi at ICHI, where the chef showed us the beautiful, expressive photos he had taken with the very large camera he'd built; and Izakaya Yuzuki, where we ate soothing, creamy homemade tofu and the sake sommelier poured out more flavors of sake than I'd ever tasted, including a sesame-scented one that for a split second felt on my tongue as rich and smooth as sesame oil. 

There were morning buns from Tartine Bakery, green figs from Bi-Rite and a massive, sticky cinnamon bun from The Cheese Board Collective. It was a good fortnight in food. 

But what I had not expected was the wide-eyed giddiness I felt being in a big, crowded city, despite the fact that the one I call home is even bigger and more crowded. Instead of getting any work done, I dove into that feeling and just let each day unfold on its own. I took long, windy walks, stared out at the ocean, explored busy city streets and got no work done at all. It took a few days to pinpoint that although I was able to navigate the streets and public transit system without getting too lost, the feeling was the same one I'd had when I first moved to New York a decade ago — the sense of being a country bumpkin with no sophistication and the ability to delight in even the smallest details of the day, like getting a BART transfer right or taking in the view for hours at the top of the de Young. It made me think that we carry our origins with us wherever we go, giving some of us from far-flung small towns a feeling close to awe when confronted with new, big places.

Since I've been home I've wondered if that sense of excitement, of feeling lucky simply to be somewhere new at all is just another iteration of gratitude. Perhaps it's practical-application-everyday-gratitude. Whatever it is, I like it. And I'll remind myself of it in the upcoming months, when the gloomy weather threatens to dampen my spirits.

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