I love a Woody Allen movie. How it is always unmistakably his, from its first moment. Jazz crackling through a phonograph. Names in vintage font scrolling across the screen, inviting me in. Makes me think of Buster Keaton or some other silent-movie great. Another time. Dreamy and romantic.
Sitting in the Davis Theatre, I am home – to this place I lived for 14 years. To familiar street names like Van Ness and Post. And the windmill at Ocean Beach. The sky is a pale, whitish-grey. Fog. Wind. Like it usually is, as opposed to some Hollywood idea of the California coast.
The shots of Marina Green are spot on. South Park too…although it would have been a long walk there from 305 South Van Ness, where Jasmine is coming from, into the final scene. A solid half hour or more. But this is something only a San Franciscan would know.
Like knowing Noe Street is pronounced “No E” and not “No,” as it was incorrectly called on Party of Five, the 90s Fox hit show.
Like knowing the Dirty Harry movies filmed prior to the Loma Prieta earthquake – when the Central Freeway still ran along the Embarcadero.
When I moved to Chicago in 2007, every sentence out of my mouth began with, “In San Francisco…” It took a long time for me to even consider letting go of my identity as an adopted Californian. (I grew up outside of Detroit.)
It is one of the things that kept my ex and I together, and that ultimately tore us apart.
We came here united in our assertion that the Bay Area was the only place worth living. Hubris, in a New York center-of-the-universe sort of way. We identified as “other,” “different.” And we were certain that this was a mere sojourn.
But I got schooled. My eyes opened. I quit expecting Chicago to be San Francisco (or Oakland, where also lived). I was able to see all that was right with this place Frank Sinatra called “my kinda town.” And I fell in love.
We never said it, but with this simple opening up, I broke our unspoken rule. I “betrayed” us.
I’m not thinking about that today, sitting in the darkened theatre. Instead, I am thrust back to a time before that, before us. My single San Francisco. The place where I became a grown up. Sort of.
Chinatown. Teresa would send me here on days when I was blue, with explicit instructions to treat myself to something inexpensive and wonderful. A silk change purse or lipstick case with a mirror inside. Embroidered slippers. Each just a few dollars.
Marina Green. Rachel lived nearby on Chestnut Street. Every Saturday I would walk from my apartment in Haight-Ashbury to her tony neighborhood for brunch and the hope of spotting the former conductor I used to date.
South Park. The DJ took me to this then-off-the-beaten-path hip, cool patch of green for lunch. I wanted it to be a date, but it wasn’t. I knew what he was available for when I invited him to come by my apartment following his shift at the after-hours club. I thought I could change his mind. I couldn’t.
He was kind, and we developed one of those painful friendships – the kind where I waited for the day he would look at me and realize I had been there all along… loyal. And then pick me. Strangely, we did pick one another from time to time over the years…but never for the long haul.
He spun records at my wedding. That was his gift to me. I saw him in San Francisco the last time I was there. Over noodles, he recalled our unorthodox wedding. That I was the only bride he knew that danced to the Sex Pistols. His words fell onto the table with a thud. Neither my then-husband nor I said a word.
On the drive home, my now-ex asked me for a divorce.
Perhaps I let go of my strong San Francisco attachment because it was “ours.” Blue Jasmine reminded me of what was mine – alone.
Wednesday night disco at Stud Bar. Day-long walks through Golden Gate Park. Burritos the size of my head at Taqueria Cancun.