Love+Haight: Red Vic Movie House

As I continue to get settled in my neighborhood, I thought I'd begin sharing some of the treasures and quirks of this colorful slice of San Francisco that is the Upper Haight. I live a block away from Haight and Ashbury, in the heart of a place known as the center of the '60s hippie movement. Counterculture is still alive and well here, coexisting peacefully with mainstream affluence.

The bums and drifters walk pit bulls on ropes, carry cats on their backs, and generally mind their own business. They hang around outside the American Apparel and expensive restaurants (see: the Alembic), and in passing have never done more than tell me I'm pretty or try to sell me grass. While the counterculture is manifested in little more than the clouds of weed lingering in the air or the used clothing stores on every block, the neighborhood still has that feeling that anything goes, that you can come here and be yourself, whatever that may be. My particular location provides a nice glimpse into the character of the area. Our flat is in a dingy Victorian with a record shop on the ground floor, an anarchist book collective next door, and a head shop across the street.

Last night I went with a friend to our local independent movie theater, owned by its employees and a proud part of the neighborhood for 30 years. The Red Vic is cozy, relaxed, and cash only. You can sit on cushioned benches that are halfway between your couch and a church pew. They play recent blockbusters in addition to old favorites (coming up, for example, are "Black Swan" and "The Big Lebowski"), and on Tuesdays offer matinee prices all day. I recently saw all the Oscar-nominated animated shorts there, and last night caught Sofia Coppoloa's "Somewhere". The movie was lovely, doing a lot with very little dialogue, prolonged shots, and a natural, understated performances. LA is viewed through a pretty pastel glow and I must say it had me feeling quite nostalgic for Southern California in all its palm trees, concrete and sun.

A trip down there may be in order soon, but for now I'll keep enjoying my home in the Haight.


Run for it

Image found here.
Yesterday I bought a pair of running shoes. Like, real running shoes. They cost one hundred dollars.

Only, I'm not a runner. In fact throughout my life as an athlete I can think of few things that made me more miserable. Few things that made me feel so weak and incapable. I swam competitively from age 7 to 17, with a couple years of water polo thrown in, and rowed crew for 3 years in college. This meant getting up at 5am every day (6am on Saturdays) and getting my ass kicked for 2 or 3 hours. I have been an athlete. I can do things that are hard. I can thrive on the pain and push through my physical limits.

But running is something I've never been good at, something I've always written off as not for me. I've resolved, however, to change that. The thing is that I live right next to the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park, a beautiful green wonderland laced with winding paths, teeming with lean, healthy bodies. I considered a gym membership, but the thought of spending $60/month when I could get in equally good shape using just my body and the park, well, the miser in me just couldn't justify that.

I've already given this one try and ended up hurting my knees to the point that it took 3 weeks before I could walk down the stairs without cringing on every step, stiff like a robot. I was told that good shoes make a huge difference, so here goes round two. I did it right and went to a small, specialty running store just for women, tried on at least 7 pairs, and with the help of an expert, chose the one that felt right. That's the thing, isn't it? The shoes, the place, the air you breathe, your body. It all has to feel right.
Image found here.
Speaking of feeling right, let's talk about yoga. This I like. This is where I feel strong, purposeful and at peace. I have only recently managed to get my heels to the ground in down dog and it is one of my greatest triumphs. There is a lovely studio six blocks from my flat, and the 90 minute classes have my arms and legs and back twisting and folding into places that needed to be found. I hold myself up with muscles that had been missing and forgotten. I sweat. I am only my body and more than my body. I am one in a room of 40 people, melting into a steady, round OM.

There is something about that moment at the end of the class when the teacher takes all the light from the room and you lie flat on your back. It feels like that first time you spent the night away from home without your parents as a kid, when the darkness falls on you and at first you aren't sure what you're doing there, but then you are calm. You feel safe and you try to figure out what that is in the air around you, floating in the dark. It's something you don't carry with you as you move through the city. This thing in a closed room full of strangers that can only be trust.


Hear me out

Good morning daffodil in the hallway outside my bedroom door.
Hello, old friends.

It's been a while, no? If any of you are as bad at keeping in touch with people as I am, then you'll understand that the longer you go without reaching out, the harder it becomes. So here I am, four (four!) months later, crawling back to you with my tail between my legs. If I have to beg you to take me in, so help me I will do it. The surprising and wonderful thing is, however, that some of you have asked me to return to this place. To begin filling, once again, this void I've left. And that, as hard as I tried, was impossible to ignore.

I've wondered whether blogs, like dairy, have an expiration date. Do they curdle and go bad if left untouched for too long? Or is a blog more like an old piece of clothing? Something that you used to adore and wear every day, but then suddenly couldn't stand the sight of, discarding it on the floor of your closet in a sad, crumpled heap.

This has been my view of le petite blog over the last few months. A sad crumpled heap that I never wanted anyone to see again. I started shopping around to replace it, trying on generic titles and begging web designer friends for a free makeover. I hated "toes over the edge" -- so sappy, I thought. So easy to forget.

But then my sister talked me off the edge, so to speak. Own it, she said. Nurture it and be kind and it will grow into something all its own. So I've picked it up and dusted it off just in time for spring. Maybe it was hibernating for winter? Like a bear? I wonder how many metaphors I can throw at you in the form of excuses. If a blog is like a bear, a living breathing beast with a will of its own, then do I get a pass for being lazy and uninspired?

Tell me, beloved readers, that you're still there. Tell me that you'll stick with me as I figure things out and, inevitably, make changes. (Because I am nothing if not fickle.) I promise I'll be here if you will.