Take A Walk

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, love, music, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry or listen to it on iTunes. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 9 minutes and 21 seconds.

Selected tracks: Jack White “Missing Pieces”, Simon & Garfunkel “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”, and Passion Pit “Take a Walk”

I took a left on Fulton toward Alamo Square, walking down Divisidero, coming from the Fillmore. Not in the mood to hike an urban mountain en route to Hayes Valley, I took a detour across a diagonal gravel path that cuts through the small park that is Alamo Square. Hill management is a skill I’ve acquired over the year I’ve spent in San Francisco. I was avoiding the steep hill on Hayes Street that is east of Divisidero.

Timothy, a former childhood neighbor, and surrogate older brother, who’s known me since I was in diapers, had invited me over for dinner with him and his wife, Miki, at their Hayes Valley apartment. I was eager to talk to him in person. I wanted to get clarification on romantic wisdom he’d relayed in an email. “The best advice anyone can give you is to be yourself,” he wrote. “Don’t force things. As soon as you stop caring, that’s when you’ll meet someone; because you won’t be pretending, you’ll just ‘be’, and that’s the most attractive feature you have. The more you stress over it, the less likely it will happen.”

The first date I ever had with a man came not a month into my residence of San Francisco, almost exactly a year to the day. As a man of twenty five, without any dating or relationship experience, I had a lot of catching up to do. Over the past year, I’d been a fast study on first dates, but not relationships. Over twenty men, two kisses, a short fling, and a year later, I was a pro at procuring dates from dating websites, and finding common ground and chemistry over coffee or a beer. But my success at developing relationships was severely lacking. I looked to family and friends for advice, now that I was finally openly seeking out a partner. Everyone’s words of wisdom proved useful at one turn or another. However, I found many times where I could not quite piece together all the advice that was given into one cohesive strategy. It’s felt all the more difficult because I am not discernibly gay in my personal interests or external qualities, nor are the guys that I tend to be attracted to. In the sexually segregated society that we live in, I feel my options are far more limited than heterosexuals or more stereotypical homosexuals.

At the bottom corner of Alamo Square, where Hayes and Steiner meet, I passed an SF Chronicle distribution machine. It displayed the paper with the day’s headline: “Obama First Sitting President to Support Gay Marriage”. I then glanced back, getting one last glimpse at Alamo Square. The view of victorian homes and city skyline parallel to the park were featured in the opening credits to the ’90s uber PC sitcom “Full House”. I’ve always defined convenient ending monologues that wrap up stories as “Danny Tanner Moments”. That term came from my friend Ash, but I’ve long thought about the idea of it.

Danny Tanner, the father in the show played by on overtly sentimental and goofy Bob Saget, sums up at the end of each episode, with one long thought, the moral of each character’s story. The sitting presidents when the show aired were H.W. Bush and Clinton respectively. Their stances on same sex romance mirrored society’s: discomfort and disapproval. Time had evolved the country and now much of the disapproval had faded, but the general discomfort had not. This still left me feeling stranded.

—–

“We first met at the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero, you know, across from the Ferry Building,” Timothy began. “I was twenty and still going to film school at the Academy of Arts and Sciences. I’d actually given up on finding a girlfriend at that point.” I brought a forkful of Miki’s Japanese Curry and rice up to my mouth, latched onto Timothy’s every word. “After many breakups, I just didn’t believe I’d find anything worthwhile, ever.

“Anyway, once a week I’d walk from the campus over to the Hyatt and have lunch there. For a couple weeks in a row I saw this cute girl off in the corner, sitting at a table taking lessons of some sort.”

I looked at Miki and asked ,”What were you doing there each week?” “Uhhhhh….,” she had to think for a moment. “Oh, I was there for broadcast lessons.”

Timothy continued. “So six weeks after I first saw Miki, I went up to her and said ‘Hey, so what’s your deal? I see you here every week.’ We started hanging out after that, just as friends. We weren’t even sure if we were into each other romantically until a couple weeks later. Once love sort of just happened without either of us seeking it out in each other, Miki told me she’d be returning to Japan in three months. We both decided, what the hell, we’ll date until three months comes to a close. Six months after she left back home to Japan, I visited her there and, impromptue, we got married. Fourteen months later, we were together again, living in San Francisco.”

Timothy looked across the table at Miki and sarcastically remarked in a baby voice,”The best foundation for love you can have is friendship, right Miki?” Miki looked back at her husband with an exaggerated pouting face. “Right Timothy!”

While I waited for Timothy to find his hard drive full of his digitized vhs films and home videos from his teen years, I looked down at Hayes Valley from his top floor apartment. The beer garden bustled below at the corner of Hayes and Octavia. I took a sip of red wine as I turned and noticed Timothy plugging in the hard drive into his iMac. He scrolled through a long list of video files until he stopped on one labeled “Bodega Bay Vacation”. He double clicked and up popped a quicktime screen. It was our two families on vacation nearly fifteen years ago. Me, Timothy, and Miki hunched over the computer, laughing at the younger, naiver versions of ourselves. I had a high pitched voice, much lighter hair, and a large gap between my front two teeth. It was my prepubescent self. Those were the times not only where “Danny Tanner Moments” were still on air, but also when they seemed more relevant and more profound to me. Love and sexuality were not part of the equation yet. Now the illusion of life as fair and bending toward a certain, positive solution was gone. All I could take now were lessons that might help me find some piece of happiness.

I said goodbye to Timothy and Miki at the door to their apartment and thanked them for dinner and their stories. Once outside I set my ipod to Passion Pit’s latest release, “Take a Walk” and set forward down Hayes Street, back home to the Fillmore.

—–

“All these kind of places
Make it seems like it’s been ages
Tommorrow sun with building scraping skies
I love this country dearly
I can feel the lighter clearly
But never thought I’d be alone to try

Words I was at sundace station
Selling light and white camations
You were still alone
My wife and I
Before we marry, save my money
but my dear wife over
Now I want to bring family state side

To rock the boat they sail a while
Scattered cross the course
Once a year I’ll see them for a week or so
And most had take a walk

I take a walk

Practise isn’t perfect
With the market cuts and loss
I remind myself that times could be much worse
My wife won’t ask me questions
It was not so much to ask
And she’ll never flaunt around an empty purse

Once my money lacking
Just to stay a couple nights
In the silence she will stay the rest of her life
I watch my little children
As I’m putting in the kitchen
And I se them pray they never feel my strive

But then my partner called to say the pension funds were gone
He made some bad investments
Now the counts are overdrawn

I took a walk

Honey it’s this loan I think I borrowed just to much
We had taxes we had bills
We had a lifestyle of fun
But I swear tonight I’ll come home
And we’ll make love like we’re young
And tomorrow you’ll cook dinner
For the neighbors and the kids
We could rent the part of socialists
and all their ten taxes
You’ll see I am no criminal
I’m down on both bad ends
I’m just too much a coward
to admit when I’m in need

I took a walk”

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An Uncontrollable Rush

I Can See Better Through the Fog is a storytelling podcast series in the vein of This American Life and the Moth. It tells the ongoing story of an echo boomer’s quarter life crises, featuring life, art, love, and San Francisco. Press the play button below to hear an audio recording of this latest entry. If it doesn’t work, you may need the latest version of flash software. (click here to download). Another troubleshooting tip would be to go directly to the soundcloud website. Sit back and let your ears do the work. The text version of this entry is provided beneath the list of selected tracks.

Runtime: 14 minutes, 54 seconds.

Selected tracks: Rox in the Box, Star Wars Theme, Somebody That I Used To Know, & Love Interruption.

Dawn broke, and with it, so did my ipod. On an early morning jog through the Haight, clicks interrupted the music flowing through my earbuds. The volume adjusted itself high then low then high again, piercing my eardrums.  Continuing to run, I shoved my hand through my zip up hoody’s sleeve and detached the ipod from my armband. It’s screen was already lit, yet I hadn’t touched it at all. I tried changing it into the lock mode. Instead of fixing the problem, the music shut off altogether. Inconveniently, the last leg of my ritual morning run would be filled only by the sounds of the city and my own thoughts.

More than 72 hours had elapsed since what I consider to be my first kiss. For discretionary purposes, I’ll refer to the guy as Fang. He and I had talked very little since then. Just a couple texts letting each other know what the upcoming week was looking like. There was no mention of the millisecond long awkward kiss I had initiated. Because this was new territory for me, and because I had strong feelings for Fang, I couldn’t stop overanalyzing his sudden lack in communication. He was smitten over me before and after our first date making me hold no regret in kissing him at the end of our second one. Yet I was starting to wonder if he recognized my green qualities. And I wondered if that had scared him off, prematurely ending what I consider to be my first truly romantic experience. Just as the lack of a beat was getting to me, my apartment building came into view. My run was over, but the day, and the week, were just beginning.

——

The 4th grader’s current study unit was the gold rush. The teacher, Mr. Allen, stood in front of the class and introduced the story. “Ok guys, so when you’re reading about John Batterson Stetson, I want you to think about what the big idea of the story is.” Mr. Allen’s focus lately had been reading comprehension and how to detect the bigger point of both expository and fictional stories. “Remember the strategies we’ve worked on that will help you figure out what the big idea is.” He pointed to the board where there was a chart he’d drawn. It’s heading read Preview/ Connect/ Predict. Underneath it were two columns labeled What am I Going to Learn About and Notes on What I Learned. “We’re looking for one big idea, that is about the whole story.” He said.

The expository piece told how Stetson moved West during the gold rush and eventually came to invent the most commonly used cowboy hat. His road to success was bumpy, filled with failures. Back east no one wanted to buy his invention, but out West it became a necessary accessory. After finishing the story, the class began to take a stab at the big idea. “Don’t give up on your dreams.” One student suggested. Mr. Allen contorted his face. “That’s alright, but I think we can do even better. Does that sentence tell us anything about John Stetson’s journey to success? Let’s try another.” He picked another student. “Just because something doesn’t work at first, does not mean it will never work at all.” Exuberantly Mr. Allen replied back while nodding “That says a lot doesn’t it. Now that’s a big idea.”

——-

Midweek two friends came over after I got off work. We drank a couple beers and talked for hours, mostly about love, relationships, and sex. These were three overlapping topics until a year ago I refused to touch. I had been uncomfortable in my own sexuality and was ashamed of my attraction to men. Now was a different time. Our conversation was especially useful, as I was going stir crazy over the black out in texting between me and Fang. I was completely over reading into it. Rationally, I knew I had no control over how he felt, but still I had no control over my emotions. I felt like I was on a roller coaster. At one moment I had myself convinced he still was interested in me, and the next I felt it was all over.

Hearing my friends articulate their own short term and long term sexual experiences with such candor and maturity, gave me much needed insight into my own insanity. The two women agreed that turning someone else on in both a spiritual and physical sense, can be the biggest turn on for yourself. I’ve never let myself go in that way with anyone. I believe my self confidence has suffered as a consequence. I had myself convinced Fang was going to be the first guy I allowed through my emotional defenses. I was itching to know where he stood about the kiss and if he was interested in any further development between the two of us.

——-

Thursday morning I went with the 2nd graders on a field trip to see the San Francisco Symphony. As I walked with one student, they recalled performances they saw in past years. He was excited to hear the Star Wars theme again. Once inside we were ushered to seats above and behind the stage. They looked down at the orchestra and out onto the entire theater. We would be on display for the entire audience which made the teacher, Ms. C weary. She drew this to her students’ attention, letting them know they needed to be on especially good behavior. This was part of the field trip’s purpose: to teach the kids how to be a respectful audience at live shows.

I watched as seats filled, color coordinated by school. Below us on the stage a violinist, a cellist, and a trumpet player were all tuning their instruments. Their music sounded beautiful already, even though their sounds and rhythms did not fit together. Soon Davies Music Hall became filled to the brim with kids. Out walked the conductor. The teachers and adult chaperones began to applaud. The kids followed their example. Then the conductor bowed gracefully, and turned to his players. He lifted his arms up, holding his hands out wide. And then the orchestra played as one under his direction.

Afterward we had lunch in a park back near school. I sat with a student and asked him what his favorite part of the symphony was. “The part where we got to yell out Mambo!” He replied. “What was your favorite instrument?” “The big violin.” He smiled. “That’s called a cello.” I told him. As we continued eating lunch on the park bench he began telling me about his favorite Formula 1 race car driver, a Brazilian named Ayrton Senna. Senna was considered one of the best at his highly dangerous sport. The boy listed off all of Senna’s best races. Then he recalled Senna’s last race. At the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix Senna was in the lead. On a seemingly routine lap, his car smashed into the wall on a sharp turn. I asked the boy if Senna survived the accident. “No, he died,” the boy replied, unaffected by the weight of the story.

——

The week slowly rolled into Thursday night. I’d texted Fang on Tuesday, wishing him luck on an open mic he was to perform at with his band. He was on guitar and vocals. Early on when we were texting frequently he sent me some of his music. It was reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins. His singing voice I found both cute and sexy. No response had come, worrying me that he wasn’t interested anymore. That night I finally heard back. I received a long, two part text explaining his week and apologizing for his untimeliness and poor attempts to hang out. He needed time to put some things in his life back together. His message was unequivocally clear. It did not matter the reasons, we currently were not going to work out.

That night I decided to take a warm shower. I wanted to wash away the emptiness. Steam spread quickly through the bathroom. I glanced at myself in the mirror before stepping into the tub. My improved exercise habits had taken my body from frumpy to fit. Crescent moon pecs, a flat , tight stomach, and veins rippling down each bicep. I had molded body into society’s typical sex object. Yet here I remained untouched. My improved romantic habits had not taken me to a relationship. Fog blanketed the mirror now, concealing the reflection of myself. Strangely, in this moment alone, I felt calm. I had a handle on my emotions.

——

Mr. Allen’s class was especially attentive Friday morning. While his students worked silently on more reading comprehension, Mr. Allen walked over to me. “They’re doing really good today. Better than most days. But their attention spans can only last so long. I need to do something to let them know what being on task looks and feels like. Not to mention they need their minds stimulated in different ways so they can keep up their stamina. Watch this.” Mr. Allen walked over to his desk and retrieved a stuffed toy chinchilla. “Alright, good work guys, let’s switch gears. I want everyone to put away everything on your desk and then sit on the top of them.” The class followed his request. “This game is called Silence, Chinchilla.” He had all of his students complete attentions. “The goal of the game is to not be caught catching the Chinchilla when it cries out, and it only cries out if you catch it too roughly.” After a couple more instructions, the game commenced. The students followed Mr. Allen’s directions to a T.

Life is not like an ipod or an orchestra. We can’t always control the rush of noise that is our emotions. The best we can do is invest ourselves in varying activities, interests, and people. Through these occupations we can slow our fast beating hearts and our racing minds. The calming silence it provides can prevent a crash inside ourselves. Often love will seep through the cracks naturally when our hearts and minds are engaged elsewhere. I had been fortunate to have my volunteer work, my friends, my writing, my exercise routine, and the city’s infinite offerings to move me forward. I had been in a foolish rush to dig up a heart of gold. In this romantic failure I was reminded of how to let go of the uncontrollable.