Friday, August 20, 2010

SF, The City.

So after spending way too many months of my life in the greater Los Angeles basin, I vowed to never, ever contemplate living in an area where concrete overruled open space. The thought of anything south of SLO absolutely repulsed me. COUNTRY! WIDE-OPEN SPACES! COWS! PLEASE! pretty much became my mantra.
I haven’t spent any appreciable amount of time in the City since 2005, when I went up with some friends to watch a bike race. In the last five years, a lot has happened in my life. I’ve moved to the East Coast. And back. I’ve visited a lot more cities. I’ve had a lot more life experiences. I’ve realized I suffer (not always—it ROCKS when I’m mt. biking) from ADD. My life these past five years has been a variegated mix of new places, experiences, loves, heartbreaks, and general mishaps. So I saw this beautiful Northern California city in a different light this time.
I stayed with a close friend, who used to live in SLO. She, too, is a self-described “country girl.” Raised in Mendocino, she had some definite trepidation about moving to the City, but she’s adjusting well. She, too, is quite enamored with mt. biking, and she showed me, to my surprise, how amazingly close really good mt. biking is to the city. So we spent the weekend riding our bikes, sampling wonderful, organic, locally produced food, and touring the unique neighborhoods. The summer fog ensconced the mornings, and we were treated to sailboats on the bay, crispy brown hills in the distance, and the iconic Golden Gate near her neighborhood.
One of my favorite things about Northern California and SF is this deep appreciation for local food. Locovores are more common than vegetarians. People expect to find 100% grass-fed meats in their corner grocery. Sonoma County is close by, and people know that their dairy, wines, and meat don’t have to be trucked in from hundreds or thousands of miles away. It is refreshing to feel connected to the land even when you are surrounded by concrete.
To me, SF feels more like a cluster of various villages. Each has its own personality and flavor, and every neighborhood wears a distinct cloak of community. It is compact and succinct, and for someone like me, who is very wary of feeling overwhelmed and disconnected, SF radiates union.
I have this unique history with the City, too, which is part of the draw for me. My dad’s dad, and his dad, and probably his dad too (I don’t remember how many generations they go back in the city), were contractors in the city. They helped build it. We have roots there.
Right now, I really like the idea of roots and identity. I guess that’s part of stepping into my 30s. I want to feel connected, instead of displaced and adventurous. I want to know that my food was produced locally. I want to ensure I’m making sustainable choices with my shopping, transportation, and lifestyle. I’m suddenly okay with stillness and less activity. I’m learning to slow down. I’m appreciating where I’m from and whom I’m around, which is probably a big reason why my trip to the city felt like going home, in a way.

Ray, Wine.

Ray LaMontagne just released his latest album, “God Willing & the Creek Don’t Rise.” It is red wine. His music, to me, is always red wine. I hear it, and I basically run to the nearest grocery store to buy a bottle so I can listen and absorb his artistry.
His newest creation is less belty than his previous albums. His lyrics are even more contemplative, and his band mixes in some old-time country twang to some of the tracks. Listen to “New York City’s Killing Me” and you just might realize, as I have, that it’s one of the more catchy songs you’ll ever hear.
His two break-up songs, “Are we Really Through” and “This Love is Over” are utterly raw and heartbreaking and full. Do not listen to this album while you’re riding your bike or trying to exert energy in any form. You will swerve off the road, sit in a ditch, and most definitely wish you had a bottle of red wine in your water bottle cage. Techno would have been a better choice for said activity. Or reggaeton.
But if you want to spend your evenings immersed in soulful crooning and your mornings with a somewhat regrettable wine headache, then Ray’s album is for you. I’ve mapped out my next week to be filled with the above activities. It happens every time Ray releases an album: I listen to it incessantly until my head and liver and heart are crying “Mercy! woman! get a life!” And then I’m forced to hit shuffle, instead of “artists/Ray LaMontagne” on my iPod.
But I still have a full week to enjoy.