Saturday, October 20, 2007

burst my bubble

It is day 2 of my 3-day weekend ("weekend" being defined as a period of time without having to go to work or school) and I felt a little guilty for having spent day 1 galavanting around town and not doing an ounce of writing, reading, or studying. So today I woke up early and besides some necessary trips to the kitchen and the bathroom, stayed at my desk. But I could tell from looking out the windows and from how happy my roommates were on coming in from the outside world that it was a pretty, sunny day out there. And so around four I gathered a pile of books, papers, and my laptop under my arm and ventured as far as the corner and found myself a little table at Maxfield's, my favorite cafe. So I got myself a nice warm cup of tea and cracked open my Arabic book to begin conjugating some new verbs. Halfway through the first set, I noticed a man coming up to me in my periphery.

Man: What's that? Hebrew?

Me: No. Arabic.

He wore jeans splattered in white paint and a similarly stained hat. He had a pencil behind his ear, and the skin on his face was red, splotched, scarred. He had a blond mustache and the idea that he was an angry person grew and grew as he continued to talk to me. Picture it: I am sitting at a small table just next to but facing away from the counter where the cafe people have put all the different kinds of sweeteners and creamers and utensils and this man is doctoring up his cup of coffee and continuing to talk at me and I vacillate between ignoring him to get back to my conjugation and turning to look at him because it seems like he wants to have a conversation but also it seems like he thinks he already knows who I am and he is angry at that person.

Man: What are you going to do with that? [Meaning, I suppose, the Arabic.] Be an interpreter for the U.S. government?

Me: No.

Man: You got student loans?

Me: Not for this. [I motion to my Arabic notebook.]

Man: You know, if you work for the government ten years they'll forgive your student loans, all of 'em.

Me: [Look up at him.]

Man: That's the problem with you kids nowadays. [I swear, these are the exact words that came from his lips.] You all want to be freelancers. Don't want to be managed. Just want to manage.

Me: [Look up at him.]

Man: You know what's going to happen? [No pause.] Our whole country's going to be run by [he might have said "illegal" here] immigrants.

Me: [Look up at him and feel a bit frightened by what I interpret as a hateful sneer and begin to have the urge to tell him to shut up.]

Man: You know where all this comes from? [No pause.] Lack of religion. No one wants to be told what to do.

And then he walks out of the cafe.

I've been thinking a lot lately how San Francisco, especially my 'hood, is like a bubble. It's all preaching to the choir. Everyone agrees. And as a result, people don't go deep, which leads me to judge them as ignorant and boring, which upsets me because I'm really working at being non-judgemental, but it's hard.

Maybe god sent me this guy to interrupt that recurrent thought.

Friday, October 12, 2007

i'm from the east

...the east coast is where my parents (and some cousins and an aunt I am honored to be named after) live, northern Virginia, to be exact. And its where I spent seven years of my childhood, not all at once but in spurts. I have friends there I've returned to, again and again. And places--shopping malls, schools, highways, museums--that I've revisited over and over. It happened again last weekend. I flew home and spent a few days with family and friends, who, in my everyday, are faraway people I know through telephone calls and photos posted on the internet. And it was great. I baked a raspberry-peach crumble with my sister, a finale to one of my mother's famous dinners. I got a good haircut at a cheap Vietnamese place, and my mom bought me a pair of sweet shoes. Took a drive south with my family, meandered some back roads, ate a satisfying yet unimaginative lunch at an old downtown inn. We are cosmopolitan folk, not overly impressed by ranch dressing and ice burg lettuce. I was jealous of my mom who ordered the crab cake. Lumps of amazing fresh meat smashed together on a toasty bun. The weather there was humid, and hot, strangely so for mid-October. The humidity made my hair curl and frizz, and my face broke out in a constellation of unsightly pimples. I felt like a teenager, which is inevitably how I feel when I am in my parents' house. Not necessarily a bad thing, I think. None of the leaves on the trees had turned color, as they normally do this time of year. They told me they heard that the drought means there will be none of that this year. The leaves will immediately turn a crisp brown and fall away crackling. A warm winter is in store. What is a warm winter? My mom and I saw an incredible film for free at the Smithsonian, a documentary about women in Afghanistan that followed the lives of three very different women from that country over a number of recent years. Amazing lens with which to look at the insanely unfortunate history of that country, as well as the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. "View from a Grain of Sand." Watch it if you can. I drank sangrias and ate amazing sandwiches with three friends I've known since kindergarten. I visited another friend who has been very sick. It was late on Sunday and we couldn't/didn't want to drink and so sat outside a 24-hour Taco Bell sipping sodas and talking about how much cooler it is in San Francisco. And at my house, eating fruit after dinner as we've always done, I complained to my mother the orange she peeled for me (my mom loves me!) was dry and she had a piece and said it was fine. "But they are so much better in California!" And the strawberries were pinkish and were Driscoll's, the same brand name and farm as the juicy, red ones I buy here. And then I flew back to San Francisco.