San Francisco leaves an impression.

Waiting for Lunchtime - Jones Street - San Francisco Tenderloin - Tony Wasserman

The blogging of this trip isn’t really turning into a travelogue, I would have called a shame in days gone by as I’m pretty rubbish about remembering what I did on any given day. However, the older I get, the less I am concerned by the details of what I did and when, and the more important things are the people I spent time with, the things I learned, and the ways these experiences change/d me.

So in thinking about the time I’ve spent here in San Francisco, I have distinct impressions. Ones that will stay a long time. At least, I hope they do.

It’s been 8 years since I was last in here. My experience has been different now than then, maybe because I’m with different people, I have been traveling more alone this time rather than relying on hosts to look after me, and I’ve been staying in different neighbourhoods.

Very. Different. Neighbourhoods.

I have stayed in and near the Tenderloin district this time. It’s an old district, it’s close enough to all the places I needed to be, but it’s sketchy…

Nestled near the downtown area, the Tenderloin has historically resisted gentrification, maintaining a seedy character and reputation for crime. Squalid conditions, homelessness, crime, illegal drug trade, prostitution, liquor stores, and strip clubs give the neighborhood a seedy reputation. ~ Wikipedia

I saw all of the above; dozens of people sleeping rough, their dignity on the sidewalk alongside their excrement. I don’t remember many of them being white.  I have been a racial and socio-economic minority in this neighbourhood, and as I press the RFID key against the door to open it and make my way inside this beautifully appointed, pristine loft apartment it is way too easy to feel above all that I’ve seen.

But with every person I walked past I wondered if they always felt close to the edge, if homelessness was always just around the corner or if it was a surprise, and if it still surprises them. I wonder if anything can be done, because it all just seems so hopeless.

I am acutely aware that the opportunities I’ve had, and do have. I am completely mystified that a country with such opportunities as America has so many problems. I’m incredibly grateful to have been raised in a country with social healthcare, access to education for so many (and I hope fervently that we in Australia don’t lose site of its importance screw that up). I realise the cash in my wallet and the tools I have at my disposal to make an income set me a long way apart from the people I have seen here.

It’s hard not to stop and stare, it’s impossibly difficult to keep walking, confidently, purposely so as not to make myself vulnerable in this area of ill repute.

As if I was in any way as vulnerable as they.

Remote Control Life

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I remember when it was so prohibitively expensive to call overseas from New Zealand, or from the UK back to there that we rationed the number of calls to one every couple of months, and they were planned for and long anticipated, such special treats to talk to family when I was so, so far away, way back in the last of the 80s and first of the 90s.

Since I embarked on this American journey I’m hugely aware of the massive difference between then and now…

In the first two weeks after I left Melbourne (which was now, almost 4 weeks ago – crikey!) I have coordinated a house-sitter for my flat when unexpectedly Miss PUSS did not take to her new surroundings and needed to be repatriated to the family manor… this involved advertising the house-sit, coordinating responses (eep 20+ of them), interviewing prospective house sitters… all while I’m in NZ, and my flat and its prospective sitters, of course are in Melbourne.

On my first day the US,  in Los Angeles, I sat on a hotel bed, answered emails with clients, logged into their websites and trouble shot problems (which of course weren’t manifesting when I looked at them… typical). I also had a phone chats, with said client, nailed down some other issues and generally smoothed the waters to prepare for the next big project we’re embarking on together.

I fielded a concerned message from a friend who couldn’t get past the screen doors in my house to go in and clear the bedroom/bathroom of my personal belongings before the house sitter moved in the next day… The neighbours have the key but were nowhere to be found… So while I’m fielding calls from her I’m messaging the neighbours to see how far from the house they actually, are… and before you can say “Trans Pacific Data Transfer” the keys are handed over and the job’s done… all coordinated from all the way over here.  It just so happens that older ears don’t always her knocking on the door and a text message to alert them to their caller is all that’s required. A text message that starts across an ocean or more. Brilliant.

I love living in the future.

The attached image is HRH looking all blissed out with the lovely lady who’s currently living with her in my house.  I think it’s safe to say it’s going well.

A Visit to the Shire

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One of the things that happens when I come back to NZ to visit the family is that we default into just having family time, we’ll go out, sure, but I never feel like a tourist in NZ, because, quite frankly, I’m not one… So it’s been lovely to have a friend visiting from the UK who was happy to be shown our little corner of the world.

If you know the Waikato at all you’ll know that our biggest attraction down here is Hobbiton… the set tour of the Hobbit village from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie fame… I’ve wanted to go for ages, and so today we went over for the guided tour which finishes with a beer at the Green Dragon pub… The weather was stunning, NZ in spring is green and glorious and it was a really fun way to spend a couple of hours… here’s how it looked.

Casting off the Bowlines

Cast off the Bowlines

 

I’m back in the motherland… home of nephews, nieces, siblings and the rest of the family. I’m working; it’s basically business as usual, but I’m also marking time before I go adventuring next week… 90 days in the US of A.

It was a bit of an accident, the idea of spending an extended period away… an offhand thought said out loud that turned into a reality. One that still surprises me.

Good surprise.

So, I’ve dusted off the blog, spruced it up with a new theme, and I’m hoping to update it with tales as I go, starting with WordCamp San Francisco. I’ll be going from there to Portland, back to San Franciso and then on to Raleigh, NC and finally touching down with dear friends in Asheville, NC in mid November.

So, if you’re so inclined, feel free to follow along… I’ll be posting pix, no doubt on Flickr and on Instagram, and then occasional longer form thoughts and updates here.

I hope you’ll come too.

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