Artist Date 37: Before I Was a We: San Francisco Days, San Francisco Nights

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.

blue jasmineLike San Francisco, where Blue Jasmine takes place – Artist Date 37.

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.

chinatownMarina 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.

A reclaiming.

golden gate

Artist’s Date 24: Finding “Epic” Acceptance

epic flyingWhen I was about eight, my parents took me to see The Black Stallion at the Keego Theatre, a movie house where they played second-run shows for a buck.

Onscreen, a storm is raging.  Passengers of a luxury liner jump into life rafts.  A young boy cuts free an agitated, tied-up horse, and it leaps from the boat.  The horse’s angry owners hold the boy at knife point before he is flung into the dark, choppy waters.

I am hysterical.  Sobbing.  Unable to catch my own breath.  I do not know the horse will rescue the boy.  That the story is just beginning.

My mother pinches me under the arm.  “Do we have to go out to the car?” she asks.

My feelings are too big for my family.  This is what I believe, true or not.

It is why I often watched television upstairs in the guest room, alone – my emotions leaking out with Folgers commercials and documentaries on PBS.  It was a source of teasing – mostly good-natured – in my family.  But I was too sensitive to realize it.

Sitting in the Davis Theatre watching Epic – Artist’s Date 24 – I remember all of this.  The fear.  The anxiety.  The shame that is tied to these feelings.  I am experiencing it now.

I’m old enough to know that good will prevail.  This is a PG movie.  I know that the Leafmen will “win,” that the pod will bloom in the full moon, that the forest will be saved.

And yet.

There’s this loud, foreboding music.   Crescendo rising.  Bats flying.  Forest dying.

The Images are dark.  Mandrake, nemesis of the forest, of life itself, wears a rat skin like a hooded cape.

I feel my heart quicken, a desire to turn my eyes away.  I am afraid.  I do not trust it will end well.

I am the only adult in the theatre without a child in tow and I feel a little bit self-conscious.  I retreat to my head.  Do the parents think I am suspect?  A child molester?  Why aren’t the children afraid like I am?

A dad ducks and scurries out, gripping two little hands, one in each of his.  Are they frightened?  Or do they have to pee?

epic flowersI saw the trailer for Epic a few weeks ago, on another Artist’s Date.  I was enchanted by its beautiful images – flower-people, with heads like cotton pom-poms, dandelions turned to seed.  Faces on sunflowers and gerbera daisies.  I was called by its questions about belief.

This is what brought me here, on a day I find myself emptied out, running on fumes – the promise of loveliness.  Of faith.  Of possibilities.  This is what I receive:

Professor Bomba’s unshakeable belief in something he can’t see, but only knows.  Like God.  Like Horton Hears a Who.  His willingness to be perceived as crazy.  His willingness to lose seemingly everything for his belief.

The Leafmen’s simple code, “Many Leaves.  One Tree. You are Never Alone.”

I learn that love can bloom riding gently on a deer.  And a pod that blooms in full-moon light is the source of all creation.  That hummingbirds make great horses, but common brown sparrows can do the job too.

I am reminded that relationships between fathers and daughters are sometimes hard.  And that it’s ok to hold on to someone you hardly know – if they offer you a hand or a torso and you need one.

That each of us has a purpose – even slugs and snails.  We might not know it.  Don’t always ask for it.  But we can embrace it.  And continue to put one foot in front of the other.

That life is about finding out what we are capable of.  How high we can jump to get ourselves out of a hole.  And that each of us can learn to fly.

That we all experience loss.  Of a parent.  Of a friend.

And that sometimes, love comes back – oftentimes in the most unorthodox and unexpected of ways.

Queen Tara’s energy, twinkling light like Tinkerbell, speaking to Ronin and to MK after she has left this-worldly plane.

MK’s reunion with Nod, straddling “normal” and Lilliputian-sized worlds for the promise of connection, of love.

I think of my own recent reunitings, seeing someones I never thought I’d see again … and then did.

The tears stream down my face.  Gratitude.  Beauty.  Joy.  I feel their salty release.   I notice them, like I notice the fear, and do nothing.  I let them roll off of me in the darkness.  I can sit with them.  They are not too much for me.