Monday, May 19, 2008

I Left My Heart

I was born in San Francisco, in a little house on Saturn Street (just around the corner from Uranus, my brother used to tease me). But when I was still a baby my parents moved us out of the city and across the bridge, to the suburbs of Marin where there were better schools, to where it was always sunny and my dad's cousin owned a store called The Bead Freak. I grew up a child of wide dappled streets and handmade signs warning drivers of children at play, with ice-cream trucks and honest to goodness white picket fences. I can remember once going to the city with my dad and him telling me how to walk the streets there. Fast. Aggressive. Eyes ahead, no lollygaggling at puppies and clouds. My tiny little legs quick skipping to keep up with him.
Zoey was also born in San Francisco. Bryan and I bought our first house in the Outer Sunset, near the beach. At night we could hear the rounding squeal of tires as teenagers tagged the streets and burned donuts in the intersections. During the day the fog lay low, still, and our neighborhood smelled like Chinese food.
Once when Zoey was just a tiny baby I stopped at the video store on my way home. I drove around the block a dozen times until I finally found a parking spot, my bumper only a few inches in someone's driveway. Carefully unlatching Zoey from her car set, I held her in my arms as I twisted my body to get out of the car. But my foot caught on the looped strap of my diaper bag and I could not stop the momentum. I fell out of my car holding my baby, fast, hard and flat onto the sidewalk without my arms free to catch my fall. I screamed, Zoey screamed, I saw blood and so I screamed some more. Not ten feet away a man stood talking on his cell phone. He glanced at me and continued his conversation. It was at that moment that I decided we were moving our family to the suburbs, too.
In some ways we are sell outs, Bryan and I, DINKS* who became DIKS* not long after the positive pregnancy test, strictly bridge and tunnel with a car seat in the back. But I love the suburbs. I love easy parking and parks, trees and dogs that aren't all pit bulls with choke chains.
I don't usually regret my decision to move to Marin but this past weekend made me pause. We took Zoey to the watch the Bay to Breakers in the city. For those who might not know this is a race from one end of San Francisco to the other, from the bay up and over hills and through neighborhoods to the breakers of the Pacific Ocean. I believe a man from Kenya usually wins, but that's not what people come to see. People come to see the runners who walk in costume, the outrageous floats that people make, the kegs people carry and the people who run naked. The race as it becomes a city-wide party, a community of freaks and freedom.

I missed my city this weekend. The energy. Zoey, however, was a little dubious at first:

Of course I don't blame her. I also wanted to hide my head in Bryan's chest when this man walked by:
I noticed more naked people than ever this year. Mostly men, make that mostly men you'd rather not see naked. But there is something about the naked people that inspires me. The bouncing boobs that look a little painful, the jangling penises so vulnerable in the sun and fog and car exhaust. They are so open and I cannot help but smile.
Then there were people like this, a traveling drove of hip hop kids who threw down a sheet of cardboard every few blocks to break-dance. They would crank up their old school beats and everyone around them would stop for a minute to watch, heads bopping, hips swinging in unison. The crowd loved them (and Zoey did, too).
I cannot imagine what was going through Zoey's mind as she saw devils and fairies walk before her, as an ostrich winked at her, a parade of nurses and pirates and pigs, storm troopers, various organs, a walking plush vagina, the Mona Lisa and the National Dry Hump Society (they would stop every few feet and dry hump each other). I mean, whatever happened to the fine art of dry humping anyway?
Somewhere along the way Zoey finally loosened up. She laughed at the men in their Hooters uniforms, the peacocks with their colorful plumage. She thought the running snail was the funniest of them all. And that is what I would like to teach her here in the suburbs or wherever we may be. That all of us freaks are walking in the same direction even if we are listening to different music, dressed in different clothes or costumes or no clothes at all. We are all one mass of humanity, of smiles and cheers and skinned knees and puking, all of us walking as one down to the finish line, to the breakers where surely there will be someone to hand us a free drink and a commemorative tee shirt. That there is a oneness to it all even if it is a race. That the end is nothing, that the road is all.
*DINKS = Double Income No Kids*DIKS = Double Income, Kids, although I guess right now we are officially SIKS = Single Income, Kid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand your comments about the tall, naked man with the yellow hat. He looks in good shape and happy, not fat, wrinkled or dour. So why the negative comments?