This past March, we Spring Break adventured back to a place we hold very near and dear to our hearts- the Bay Area in California. Where our love affair began over 25 years ago. First meeting in Berkeley and then moving to the City and spending our 20’s working and loving life in one of my favorite cities of all time- San Francisco. Many of the people we met there during that time have all disbursed throughout the world- some we only keep in contact with through Facebook and others we’ve managed to keep close, and I think of them all, often and with fondness and nostalgia.
We lived in San Francisco in the 90’s- before it became the tech city it is today, we remember it when all we paid was $1,200 for a rent-controlled 2 bedroom apartment that was blocks from the beach. Our neighbors were surfers and single moms and young people like us, just starting out in life with their first real jobs in corporate America. South of Market was not yet developed- there had been no ballpark built… yet. You took your clients to Palamino’s and Zuni Cafe for a nice lunch. The Slanted Door and Tommy Toy’s (closed as of March 2013) were where you took them to dinner. We had views of the Bay Bridge that were completely unobstructed – no buildings blocking your view. The Presidio did not have a million people walking and biking around. You pretty much had it to yourself. The mission district was not completely gentrified. You enjoyed the graffiti, the mom and pop establishments, the Mexican party bus that took you from bar to bar and all those crazy 20-somethings that were trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their life. Sometimes, it seems like a far-away dream that might have happened to someone else. Certainly, not me- suburban mother of 3 living in St. Louis, Missouri in charge of washing dishes, laundry and personal cook, driver and housekeeper to a family of 5. How could this be the same person?
On the day we arrived into SFO, we grabbed our rent-a-car and drove quickly down to the City- taking the old route in through the backroads- through the Sunset District and along the Great Highway. It was a breathtaking day and I yearned to have had more time there to explore but alas we had to arrive at our final destination- the Sea Ranch – before dark and we still had a good few hours of driving time ahead of us. So, instead, we grabbed a quick bite to eat. We headed to where else but our old dive and favorite sushi in the city- Kitaro Sushi! This was known as our place to all our old friends from back in the day. We used to order take-out from there on a weekly basis. It was exactly as we remembered it- the sushi was fresh and pure. Kitaro roll, Godzilla roll, Dragon roll, 49er roll- oh my! The kids devoured their sushi, drank their green tea and learned to really eat with chopsticks. Baby girl asked for sushi for lunch last week and I bought some at Trader Joe’s. She ate it for lunch and I asked her when she got home how she had enjoyed it. It was okay she said with a straight face but not as good as the sushi in San Francisco. Um, yeah I replied- that sushi pretty much rocks this world. It’s hard to compare!
The old neighborhood was the same and yet it was not. The city has a strange, moneyed vibe now with burgeoning amounts of homeless populations that have created tent cities in downtown. You have both sides living so close next to each other, living completely different journeys. The young adults on Geary Avenue look younger to me now, so urban with their sagging pants and big headphones and it seems my age has caught up to me. I struggled to connect and remember being like them- with no cares in the world and only time to kill, waiting for the bus to pick you up and take you along to your next adventure.
The coastline was still beautiful and rugged and cold. Linda still owns and operates the laundromat at the corner where I used to wash my laundry, week after week. “But a house on Cabrillo Street sold for $2.3 million recently” said Linda. “On Cabrillo Street!” Of course it was a tech executive. It’s not that they just come and drive up all the prices she tells us, it’s that they do not become a part of the neighborhood- they keep to themselves. Always working, never seen outside or as part of the community – completely isolated and self-absorbed in their money and their work.
I wonder what San Francisco will be like in another 20 years. And if I will still enjoy visiting it.