Tuesday, January 29, 2013


"Free!" says a bright yellow paper hanging off a wooden set of drawers as I wander beside this driveway on Potrero Hill. 

Hours later, returning with my car, I also see some potted plants. Just then, a 30-something couple with their six-something son get out of a car. Man says, "oh great! I'll help you carry whatever you want."

I thank him and explain having just moved and wonderful to discover their gift! His wife says, "oh yes, I see your NY plates!" Spotting again the pots in the corner, I ask, "the plants stay, I'm guessing?" He says, "yeah, they stay." 

Minutes later,  as I'm adjusting placement of the drawers in the car, I look up and see a bright-green, potted jade-like plant in his hands. He smiles and says, "welcome to California!" Then he adds, "If you pinch off these large outer leaves and stick them in the ground, they will grow." All at once, I am home.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wandering on Potrero Hill

Wandering on Potrero Hill, I become fascinated with juxtapositions of this world in transition. One side of the Hill is pure pleasure: beautiful, smart, serene. It attracts me from the first moment arriving here last week as I meet likeminded and upbeat folks. Then someone tells me of the other side of the Hill, the one housing the projects where gets unsafe. 

Today, up top by the park, I see a young couple wearing grey sweats with a baby held in the woman's arms. They enter a ramshackle one-story apartment building. I look downhill and see what must be the projects. I turn and exit the park.

Added to the mix in this neighborhood are signs of its history, the wealthier side anyway, having been a working class neighborhood. Traces of this remain as if time traveling, subtle in spots while noticeable. 

I am reminded of Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land." Then something remarkable happens. I'm walking downhill, a steep hill, in bright while crisply cool sunshine. I hear an old woman's voice cry out, "Can someone help me?" As I turn around to assess where it is coming from, I hear her cry out again and again.

I walk back uphill a few steps and look into her open doorway, a Victorian home several steps up from the sidewalk. A woman with long, unbrushed, grey hair is sitting in a wheelchair holding what appears to be some kind of housecleaning spray bottle. The interior seems ancient and neglected. In the distance, faded light grey carpeting in what looks to be a messy bedroom stands out behind the worn wooden floor in the front hall. Hanging on the bannister leading upstairs are clothes drying. The musty smell is palpable as I walk up the few steps to meet her.

I ask what she needs. She asks me to unscrew the bottle top. Takes a few tries yet I manage to do so. She thanks me. I introduce myself and ask her name. She tells me. I tell her just moved and am exploring the neighborhood. She says, "yeah, I don't know why people want to move here." I reply, "sounds like you've been here a long time." She says, drawing out the words, "oh yeah." I ask, "what do you like about it here?" She pauses, sighs as she smiles then says with a trace of melancholy, "Oh, I'd be lost anywhere else."

We chat for a minute more and I turn to go. She thanks me again, I reply, "my pleasure" and head down the steps. As I turn downhill, I hear her door close and see a 49ers flag flying from someone's rooftop with the stunning cityscape shimmering below. I see a couple of boys throwing a ball back and forth. I take a deep breath, cool and clean. Not knowing what street I'm on, I do the only thing that seems natural. I keep moving.