Vacation vacation

June 25, 2010

I threw a hexagram.

San Francisco: my land of modest indulgence, semi-sweet hedonism and thoughtful whimsy. We bought a bag full of fruit for under ten dollars. Mangos, plums, peaches, bananas, kiwi, cherries, nectarines, raspberries; never too much of a good thing, it seems.

I am staying with a friend of mine, Shannon, and her two roommates in the Mission district, a colorful part of town with dozens of murals covering the walls and mexican groceries with cheap produce and the tastiest mangoes I have ever had. The apartment building is a tan, three-story urban squeezebox, the kind with a flat facade and only a couple of feet between the next house, giving the street an inaccessible, walled-in feeling.

Cities always affect me paradoxically, I enjoy them immensely, but I don’t believe in them; I can’t get behind the act. Cities are unnatural and discordant. They are incomplete ecosystems. Coming from outside you just want to shout: “no! stop it! what are you doing! who do you think you are! it’s an illusion!” but perhaps there is something in this act, this play of meaning. The city is populated by esigners, artists, scholars, engineers; careers whose are worthwhile only in the culture of cities, and the city itself has a weightless significance: important only in and of itself. As an example: while sitting on a bench I watched a gardener trim rose bushes in front of a house. His position, as he may recognize, is ficticious. A person with money, who therefore feels the pressure to use that money (otherwise what is the point of having it) sees a groomed garden and translates this “luxury” as being value: an end result or justification of how they obtained the money.  Four rose bushes sat outside of the house behind a tall wall, lining the street but not visible from inside.The gardner would snip here and there, and look, and then sit down, and repeat. The bushes were eventually even in size and no branch drooped lower than another. Where was his motivation? To render the bushes in a way that would give the owner a feeling of joy and accomplishment, not the man himself. Maybe I’m wrong, and he was later moved to tears by the symmetry of the bushes and their lack of inferior blossoms. He worked for another for his own money-tool, which he can then translate into his reflection of value. The vanity of urbanities: grooming perpetually and admiring its own reflection. Now, suppose the homeowner was out trimming the same bushes; where does him motivation come from?

Across the street a large wooded park housed between 20 and 30 of the cities homeless, hidden in the shrubs and asleep under trees in the afternoon, unconcerned with aesthetics, but like the gardener, given meaning by the contextual city. Whether the meaning is manifest in contempt, scorn, sympathy or indifference; they are the sign of worthlessness, to consider them otherwise would crumble the meaning of success. If the man laying hidden in the bushes couldn’t see the rosebush, would the browning buds still be removed?

Participating in this city I have found happiness, joy, hope, boredom and solitude, all as permanent and influential as the direction of the wind. Same as it ever was, I suppose. It is a simple system, work, expend energy and in return others will work for you and you will be able to quantify the amount of your sacrifice with comforts and pleasures: in the end, it’s about how good your dinner tastes.

Shannon and I took a trip to Sonoma County, visiting a friend of hers for the night. Alicia lived with her boyfriend in a trailer on the edge of a horse ranch where he worked. I slept under the stars in the cold air, between the stable and a vineyard.

We had breakfast in Sebastapol, and bought some produce from the sunday farmers market for the morning. It was a nice little town I guess, in that “hippied-out” California kind of way. It was hot.

California’s golden hills are like no place on earth, and there is something undeniably special about this part of the country. The history, the peace, and the care that has been put into these small-scale wineries.  Wine is an old friend, evolving alongside our culture quietly for 8,000 years, and for the joy of taste. If this is our finest achievement, I think we couldn’t really ask for more. Brilliant.

We went to the Mayo Family Winery tasting room, just north of the city of Sonoma. The pours were a little heavy and we left a little drunk, having tasted quite a number on their premier flight. We ate the loaf of bread I had baked the day before and walked around a small vineyard until we started to clear up. Being so engrossed with the flavor, with sensory experience, caused the day to blossom and everything around became more vibrant, the incredibly blue sky, the smell of eucalyptus trees, the warmth of conversation. The 2007 zinfandel in particular roused a memory from a certain stretch along the coast, a sunny day’s ride through beachside forests.

“Where should we go next?”

“I dunno. Let’s go left.”

We stopped at the Deerfield Ranch next, whose tasting room was underground in their cellar, past rows and rows of wine casks. The smell of oak and alcohol was almost overwhelming, but the cavern offered a welcome cool from the heat, and our footsteps echoed pleasantly. We were a bit more modest in our consumption this time.

There was a lake in front of the ranch house, and we sat under the shade of a tree for a while, drinking in the valley air, completely lost in our day. We were young and careless, and that peacefulness has remained with me since.

I’ve been in San Francisco for a while, and I guess I could write more about it, but it wouldn’t be worthwhile. Mostly I get up in the morning and try to write stories while Shannon is at school. Sometimes I walk around and go in and out of shops or just walk around the area, or try new things at the local panaderias or produce stands. Time is rushing by and I feel as terrified and inspired as a child at the circus, and I am happy. I feel like a partial character, a detatched observer, doing only what is absolutely necessary of me. My steps have slowed down and my attitudes have become less polarized.

In the afternoons we check out new parts of the city, visit parks or play music. Usually we will go out for dinner and then will lay by the gas fireplace until we get so tired that out conversations don’t make sense. Sometimes there is ice cream. Specifically this one place with flavors like salted caramel, balsamic strawberry, and honey lavender. Like I said, modest indulgence. I am learning to appreciate stillness and simple pleasures, but cannot continue this forever. This lifestyle is unsustainable. I’ll be heading North on Sunday.

Also, two more things. I’ll be starting the sustainable agriculture program at Central Carolina in Pittsboro in August, and apparently I am now an official “Native American.”

Oh, and here are some pictures of my bread:


Ok bye.


2 Responses to “Vacation vacation”

  1. hwardphoto said

    I hope sf was everything you thought it would be.

  2. Jane Mahoney said

    thinking of you andrew …. will look up some information on the school
    come see us in Albuquerque anytime.

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