Friday, January 8, 2010

Some Stuff I Didn't Take Pictures Of, and a Few Things I Did

I flew to San Francisco the weekend before Christmas to sell my knitted squids at the Renegade Craft Fair. I'd been up all night the night before I left, packing, boxing up last-minute orders and getting my house into a catsitter-worthy shape. In addition to stuffed animals and patterns, I've also been selling yarn and kapok stuffing on etsy, so Friday i headed to work with a huge clear plastic tub full of squids (exactly the size I could take on JetBlue without getting charged extra), two boxes of critters headed to folks before Christmas, seven lumpy Tyvek envelopes of kapok headed to various destinations, and a messenger bag with my camera, ipod, and two weeks worth of clothes, books, and knitting.

I had to go to my day job before the flight, and it was all too much to carry, so I loaded up the big red dolly I've been using to transport all my craft-fair set-up around town, strapped everything on, and walked 10 blocks to the nearest accessible subway stop. Since I started doing the craft fair thing I've started realizing how impossible it is to get around NYC without climbing a whole mess of stairs. For example, to get from my house to the Artisan Market just a couple miles away without lugging everything up and down subway staircases, I have to walk 10 blocks in the wrong direction to get to the nearest subway stop with an elevator, take the train to my stop, then take three more elevators to get out of the Atlantic Avenue subway stop. I've been taking to lugging my loaded dolly up and down the stairs, but my back really wishes I'd change my mind.

Anyway, I made it through my workday pasty-mouthed and un-slept, and dropped my packages off at the post office. My friend Wikipedia told me about microsleeps, where you fall asleep for a sliver of time even though you think you're awake. It happens all the time when people are driving. I often feel like it happens to me when I get off the elevator at work. Grey windowless hallway, grey windowless doors, ten minutes late, trudge trudge.

On the plane, I made it through the safety announcements before conking out. I even slept through takeoff. When I was a kid going back and forth between the US and Japan, I used to stay up all night whenever I flew on purpose, 'cause then I could sleep on the plane and jetlag would be less bad. Now that I'm older, this strategy fails me.
In San Francisco, the cabbie switched the radio back and forth between bubblegum pop and
death metal. It was like my own Ipod on shuffle, except without all the falsetto crooning and harpsichord numbers. I checked into the Fort Mason hostel and went for a little walk.

Fort Mason is right by the water - you can see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from the top of the hill there. It was really quiet and dark, and raining a little bit like it does in the winters in Portland - like fog that's falling, just enough wetness to make you blink a lot. I hadn't walked very far when there was a skunk in the road.

I stood there for a minute or two, soaking up the quiet and staring at the skunk. I had this bonkers impulse to send a text message to my sweetheart right then, "hey, I'm staring at a skunk," or even to Twitter it to my 98 adoring squid fans. Which made me think of a year or so ago when Facebook statuses used to be all in the third person and one night I came out of my bedroom and stepped in cat barf and instantly imagined myself typing "just stepped in cat barf" into Facebook. I'll admit it was mostly my fear that the skunk might notice me beeping away on my cell phone that stayed my thumb.

I had a similar run-in with wildlife a few years ago, when I went on a bike trip for my 31st birthday and saw a bear ambling down the road towards me near the Delaware River Gap as I sat on the guardrail eating my lunch. I was scared that time, and I forgot what you're supposed to do if you see a bear - is it make a lot of noise, or stay deathly still? Tromp tromp tromp comes the bear down the road in no particular hurry. Finally it notices me and freaks out its own self and goes crashing into the bushes. Yikes. A month later I read on the BOB list about a cyclist bombing downhill in a triathlon and crashing into a bear. The cyclist went flying, her bike skidded down the road, and the bear scampered off.

Anyway, I looked at the skunk for a while and tried not to think about text messages or New York City or the internet or my squid empire and just be still for a second, and finally I thought maybe it wasn't such a good idea to be hanging out ten feet away from needing to take a bath in tomato juice, so I turned around and went home.

The next morning I headed down the hill to Renegade, conveniently located 100 yards downhill from the hostel on the piers. I met Monica and Elizabeth from Applesauce, who I split booth space with. They make super-rad kids clothes out of upcycled vintage fabrics that you should totally check out. I set up my table just the way I liked it, and took a couple pictures for posterity, but when I hit review, the screen said "no card in camera". Ugh! I did take this one from my phone, but that's all I've got.

The show went pretty well. On day one I sold all the pillbugs I had with me (there's only two left that aren't yet in private collections), and the second day was better. Lots of smiles and goodwill, and sales too, and I really liked the laid back, spacious, happy, San Francisco vibe of Renegade as compared to the NYC Bust Craftacular two weeks prior, where lots of folks had a glazed, museum-fatigue look from all that crafty goodness in one place by the time they made it to my table. Of course it also helped that it was a gorgeous, sunny, 50-something degree day in San Francisco, and the space opened to the outdoors and had tons of natural light flooding in.

After two days of craft-fair, I brought what was left of my stock back up the hill to the hostel and walked up and down some more hills to North Beach. In the poetry room at City Lights I found a copy of Helen Adam's San Francisco's Burning that had probably been on the shelf since it came out in '83. And I got some of the most delicious almond croissants anywhere at Mara's. I stopped in a mostly empty bar for a drink and read my book over a beer, thinking about Jack Spicer sipping brandy with cream in his busted pants. Some friendly folks from Arkansas came in, and we talked until last call about I forget what, but it was really nice.

by erikgibb on flickr

The next day I wandered the streets a bit - I'd thought I would head to the not-quite-the-Castro neighborhood I used to live in (a crush called it "Taco Bell Heights") and stroll down the memory lane of my rather disastrous attempt to live in San Francisco in 1996, but I felt like walking instead, so I wandered up and down the sidewalks that turn into staircases in Russian Hill. I stopped for coffee and read in the SF Tribune about the Toilet Torcher. Somebody's lit 30 porta-potties on fire in the middle of the night over the past year, and the article had a sidebar listing the details of each one.

Also: doughnuts and barber shops. My sweetie and I have been talking about that wild, untended feeling streets get sometimes, not abandonment but a certain kind of settled, unlooked-at calmness. It's harder and harder to find that on my usual route in NYC - the Lower East Side used to have it before it filled up with bankers, Ditmas Park did before it got self-conscious and gentrified. It's like all the gaps are being filled in with shiny cold things that say "no sleep."

Calmness, stumbling home on empty streets. Potted plants. By the time I got off the Greyhound bus in Ashland, it felt like forever had gone by, even though it was only a couple of days.


maria sputnik said...

speaking of that feeling that everything's tended to, this story about people boating around looking for a forgotten brooklyn really hits the spot. boat-photo-comics!

maria sputnik said...

also, that marie lorenz show is viewable right now at the jack hanley gallery, which yes, is in fact the place where earlier this year they had the show with the exploding pickle: