I wake up at my usual writing hour of 6 a.m., make a pot of French press, add rich cream bought from the wondrous Haight Street Market, then go outside to pick up The New York Times that’s been tossed right into the middle of our Victorian’s stone stairs. Sitting down to enjoy the dawning of the day, I watch the cavalcade biking before me on my new street.
Move over mommies in spandex with expensive baby carriages, and make room for the work-a-day bicyclists of The Wiggle! ‘Bye-bye to sumptuous views of water edged in fog; say hello to the sweet-smelling landscape of my youth, when peace, love and rock n’ roll were pretty much all we lived for. And a place where schlepping around in clothes that are kindly called “vintage” are really just old.
Yes, we found the house, made the move, and I now have a stoop to sit on! Like the newly formatted Marina Times, I too have expanded my coverage. Though no longer new to San Francisco, I am a neophyte in an entire other neighborhood of it: the Haight.
And I fit right in.
Not that I didn’t adore living on Lombard Street: the lofty beauty of Russian Hill, Pacific Heights, and the open skies bayside. I realize now that I needed to live in that part of town to convince me I was actually living in California, that I had left the dirt and sharp edges of Manhattan behind
With this move to the Haight, I’m beginning to feel like a genuine San Franciscan. Though living here feels rather like being back on the Upper West Side of NYC – with more crowded sidewalks, surprising storefronts, hairier people, and more tattoos – the heartbeat is pure San Francisco. Gentleness pervades and kindness pulses through the long street I walk daily to buy my organic veggies. I feel its history, and it is oddly familiar. Not surprising, since our entire country grew up in the ’60s against the backdrop this very street provided.
And I get to experience this rich neighborhood with my husband and our two best friends, as we share the new home we dreamed of when we moved west. We’ve already begun to enjoy its pleasures: the large parlors, moldings of extravagant beauty, original fireplaces, the closeness of neighbors who remember how it was “back in the day” and display the mellowness to prove it.
Plus, how could I not love a neighborhood where there is this thing called The Wiggle?
A one-mile, curvy bike route from Market Street to Golden Gate Park, The Wiggle cuts S.F.’s formidable hills down to size, and my street is a nice flat part of it. I watch the thick parade of people cycling to work, birdsong interwoven with bicycle bells, more often rung in friendly greeting than warning, and I see an entirely different cross section of S.F.’s humanity: the career woman in tight skirt and Nikes, a change of blouse fluttering behind her, helmet protecting a well-coifed hairdo; the business man with his gabardines rolled up, showing a hairy leg; wild-haired young women in harem pants, Indian blouses, tinkling earrings, and substantial backpacks; retired elders getting their morning exercise while biking their way to volunteer jobs. They drink from their water bottles, wipe sweat with kerchiefs, adjust iPods, keep glasses from slipping off noses, focused on the straight road ahead, unaware they are being observed by this new Page Street resident. They are part of my landscape now.
And as with every moment I’ve enjoyed since moving to this town a little over a year ago, I hold these new experiences, this neighborhood, these textured, intriguing neighbors of mine – both on and off their bicycles – in a grateful embrace, as they show me their San Francisco.
Oh, and did I mention the hookahs?