I was on my way to Burning Man headquarters to work on L2K. It was a bright, sunny, hot Sunday in the city. A chilly ocean breeze, normally the bane of San Francisco life, was actually pleasant... icy cool on my sun-toasted skin. I waited at a bus stop way out by the bay, on 3rd street where it intersects with 19th. Gotta love a mixed-up town where there are entire belts of numbered Streets as well as belts of numbered Avenues -- and don't confuse them or you'll find yourself shivering in the fog out in bumfuck Idaho instead of basking in the sunshine among hip thrift stores and trendy tapas restaurants -- but even better is the fact that some of the numbered streets themselves, wholly intended to run parallel (and doing so only in the very grand scheme of things), actually cross one another. Thus, I was able to stand on 3rd Street, where it intersected with its own sixteen-blocks-south cousin, 19th Street.
Looking north to my left I saw the glorious bow of the Bay Bridge arching gently onto Treasure Island. Next to that, the tip of San Francisco's peninsula was sharp and jagged with its high buildings, mostly sand-colored and reflecting the sunshine hotly. The sky was blue, and cranes across the bay in Oakland's harbor hung over their prey like giant mantises. It was a *perfect* day, and I didn't mind at all that the bus didn't come for a while. I just stared out towards the bay and the bridge and downtown, safe behind my sunglasses, with my sun-vulnerable nose burning a little. My heart spread open with pride at the beauty, both natural and forged, of this splendid city! I remember the first days after Ash and I moved here. Moving here had been a spectacular effort involving every ounce of fortitude I had, and every friend I had too... and culminated with what felt like a search and recover rescue operation, of returning Ashley to the United States from his old homeland where he had been banished. Once we were finally here, safely tucked into David's guest bedroom, Ash and I had wandered the streets of our new city in a dream state. All I could think was, "I can't believe I live in San Francisco! I can't believe I *live* in San Francisco!" San Francisco was always the weekend getaway... the only real city in California. The urban, slightly insane locale of screeching cabs (like a miniature NYC) and black-clothes-wearing locals, pierced noses buried in books; and clueless tourists, shivering in tank tops and shorts and unspeakably ugly sandals, looking confusedly at the three o'clock fogbank thickly crushing out the afternoon sunlight. I still find myself thrilled with the realization that this place is my home. And still, there are things about San Francisco that make me giggle. The long double-buses with accordian middles, which dip and bounce and flop around as they barrel along. The many causes of the many activists. They sit-in, stand-in, sleep-in, poop-in, dog-in, bike-in, save the city, save the trash piles, save the homeless, save the mom'n'pop grocery store where Ralph's wants to move in. I know. It's *not* funny. We take our causes very seriously, no matter how deeply absurd they sometimes appear. So here I am in a gorgeous, vibrant city which sparkles like a jeweler's case at night... and my heart sings out for it every time I fly back in from Cambridge, pulling a massive 747 u-turn over Downtown. I mouth the words to that Journey song: "I want to get back, to my sittay by the bay-ee-ay...". I've loved my life here, which has taken on massive variety the likes of which even a nut like myself could never have imagined.
So why have I become so sentimental? Is it my age? Okay, so my Mom and my brother and I moved down to Southern California when I was 12. We had moved from SoCal up here, actually, when I was 7, after the divorce; and stayed for almost 5 years. During that time I went to a Catholic school in Concord and made lots of friends there. So here I am, back in the Bay area; and I can't help wondering, where are those old friends of mine? I haven't seen them in 20 years but I still think of them... all the time. Memories of old loved ones always have poked around in my brain, giving me a little reminder-poke every couple of days. And it's been like that since I was little, and the more people I know and leave behind somewhere in my travels, the more pokes there are. You know what I miss from my twenties? I had this constant deep sense of longing. Yearning for things... for feelings, for places, for people, constantly. Symbolism was rampant in my life then, everything *meant* something more. Life was so intense and overwhelming, so wonderfully overwhelming! I yearned, and felt enriched by the feeling of desire so that a sweet, sweet bittersweetness filled me up. I made up the word "happysad". That was how I always felt then. And that is how I occasionally still feel, remembering people I've lost along the way... recalling all the memories I can conjure of the person, I feel a sweet warmth of the love I had for them then, mingled with an emptiness, a feeling of loss. I know they're out there somewhere, but where? Are they happy? Heartbroken? Raging? Thrilling? Moping? ... and, do they ever think of me, their old friend Susan, somewhere out there, forever young in their memories?
I had the good fortune and serendipity to find a long-lost friend recently. She had been my best friend from 3rd through 7th grade, up here in NoCal. Then I had moved away to SoCal, and only saw her again once or twice. Fifteen years later one has no idea where to even begin to look for a person; but here she was, still in the same area, having not changed her name (I hate that, the disguise placed on women by marriage!). I called her and we arranged to meet. She was unnervingly unsurprised to hear from me. I tried to restrain the feeling of possessiveness I felt, of recapturing something which had been mine. I didn't want to smother her and creep her out. But when we actually met, I felt suddenly calm and at home with her. It's absolutely amazing just how many years that phenomenon can span - the one of picking up where you left off, without a hitch, after not seeing someone for a while. As we talked, I looked into her face to find the 12-year-old I had last known. Her adult face was similar, but... sort of broader, rougher, more complex than it had been before, so cherubic and perfect. She had the most gorgeous eyes, sky blue and almond-shaped. They were still there, but they sort of fit into her face differently... more proportionate, not jumping out like they did before. She was beautiful, and sparkled with the liveliness I remembered from our childhood. But besides those hours talking, what can be expected from a visit with a long lost friend? Is that emptiness supposed to be filled, now that I know where she is? Really, I don't know her friends or family anymore. She's essentially a stranger with whom I share memories as far away and abstract as if I'd pulled them out of a film I once saw when I was 9. The ache was still there, sort of.
But today, I walked along and suddenly remembered I'd seen her. I recalled her face across the table from me, and suddenly the bittersweetness disappeared and was replaced by gratitude and a fulfilled sensation. "Yesterday," I thought to myself, "I sat across the table from Lisa. *My* Lisa." And I just felt so... glad! Here I am in this beautiful city, with a rich and diverse lifestyle, full from the colors and people and places that appear around every corner. Here is where my friends are, at the touch of a button, ready to play with me. And only yesterday I sat across the table laughing and reminiscing with the one friend whose memory has haunted me year after year, as if she no longer walked this earth. I realized then, hopping onto the curb and turning up the block to my house, how very lucky I am. Life is a parade, a carnival, a circus. Full of fireworks and hot chocolate and crazy rides. So far, every time I jump off the ferris wheel (turning back to wave at my playmates as they spin back to the top), there is always someone, or several someones, waiting on the ground for me to pounce on with arms and smiles. What a relief that it turns out I can get off a ride, wander around, take a bus someplace else, live a mini-lifetime at another fairground... and still come back and ride the same ride with the same people again.