Spin. Stop.


Driving through North Beach this morning, pondering the closure of the French-Italian bakery and what an olfactory loss that was for the neighborhood, wondering cynically what hipster cocktail cave will take its place, it occurred to me that I’m actively trying to make peace with my city.

It’s an old saw, how much San Francisco has changed — is changing — since the arrival of the Tech Set.  It’s not particularly new, even (hello, late ’90s) but somehow the tiny basement-room ripples became penthouse-level waves, and things are shape-shifting so visibly now.  I drive down streets I’ve known my entire life, 38-odd years, like the back of my hand, and I find I’m disoriented.  Landmarks are gone, new ones erected, so suddenly.  What’s happening to my home?  And is it good?

Is it progress, or is it loss?  Can it be both?

It’s no mystery to LotF readers that I love this place.  I love it obsessively.  I am all-in.  We bought into the byzantine public school system, we support our local libraries, celebrate our museums, buy from our local farms.  But it’s hard, to see a corner of the world you thought you had memorized, morphing before your eyes, forcing the questions: Is mine a nostalgic love, or a live one?  Do I love it because I’ve always loved it, like a habit, or do I love it simply because I love it, no matter what?

I got out of the car a little farther along Columbus Avenue, where the smoky, chocolatey scent of Graffeo’s roastery filled the air.  The kids bounded out and down the familiar sidewalk, waving at friends from the neighborhood.

I breathed deeply, felt the cool damp of August mornings on my face.  I love it no matter what.

Even if I wish it was warmer in the summer.

In other words, I’m actively making peace with the place.

I’m working a lot these days on evaluating what I want to waste my energy stressing about.  “I don’t want to pick little battles with you,” I said to LittleMan the other morning, when he challenged me on the importance of wearing socks with his school shoes.  “I don’t want SOCKS to be the thing that brings us to our knees.  So can you just please, just trust me on the blisters thing?”

He put on his socks.

(What I love about summer is we don’t have to rush, so we can have rational conversations like this.
Me in summer: “At some point this morning you need to brush your teeth.”
Me the rest of the time: “I’ve asked you three times!  Can you just brush your teeth already?”
I’m working a lot these days on not rushing so much.)

In my day job, I’m a philanthropy consultant and a freelance copywriter, and I’ve grown oh-so weary of these words: change, growth, progress, impact…They feel empty to me, increasingly robbed of their nuance as they make their slow migration from meaningful language to overused catchphrase.

Maybe it’s the election, all these people running their mouths so much yet saying so little.  Maybe it’s the fact that I actually really enjoy the occasional hipster cocktail cave, and we don’t get out much, and I don’t want to waste any time feeling guilty about not supporting the dive bar down the street as I sip my craft martini.  But I can’t help thinking that progress is in the eye of the beholder, that change is double-edged.  That impact — as I’ve recently experienced, ha — isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.  It’s basic physics, isn’t it?  Any action will have an equal and opposite reaction.  Or as my dear friend once put it — and as any parent knows: Fear and even grief are the prices we pay for loving with all that we have…but that doesn’t mean we let them govern us.

And so it can be true that on many, many valid levels we are not evolving fast enough, yet — at least here — the ground seems to vibrate with a kind of future-shock whiplash.  It can be true that I can know a place and not know it at the same time.  It is possible to love a thing and be frustrated by it.

My mom used to say, You know, Jaime, not every day is a Good Day or a Bad Day.  Some days are Just Days.  I know now that she was trying to tell me that happiness sometimes hides in the middle, that the beauty of a thing is often all tangled up with its ugliness.

I’m working a lot these days on learning to live in a world that spins so fast, yet not fast enough.  Learning to listen when there is so, so much noise that it feels almost impossible.

Also: on not rushing so much.  Because honestly, it’s so much more interesting to see how events unfold if you don’t force them.


Photos by Lauren Hemmingsen

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