It’s California Everywhere You Look

Less than a week ago I left the Bay Area for my little apartment in Denver, and here I am ensconced on the red secondhand couch, writing to you.

What I took away from California most of all is the landscapes—such a diversity of them. And I don’t just mean beautiful views, like this one from the Sweet Springs Trail in Portola Valley.

Sweet Springs trail one tree and sky San Francisco Aug 2014

I mean this man, sitting in Clarion Alley off Valencia Street, asking plaintively, “Do you wanna listen to a song I wrote?” Nobody did. I’m not sure any of the people checking out the murals in the alley even answered him.

Clarion Alley singer looking toward Valencia San Francisco Aug 2014

The panhandlers along Valencia and Mission struck me as different from Denver panhandlers—more aggressive, perhaps, or just more out there. But this man (also pictured below) was trying to make a trade and finding no takers.

Clarion Alley singer looking away from Valencia San Francisco Aug 2014

The most intriguing landscapes in the Bay Area, in my opinion, were the edges where the bay met industrial areas. I visited two: Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, which is the site of a restoration project by local group Literacy for Environmental Justice, and Bedwell Bayfront Park. I walked around both parks, and was intrigued to find that so many of the people at Bayfront Park were Latino, whereas most of the people I saw at Candlestick were African American. These two places aren’t really that far from each other—perhaps half an hour’s drive—but I guess they really are neighborhood parks.

I worked in the native plant nursery at Candlestick for a few hours one Saturday, and when I walked along the water afterward, my stomach rumbled at the smell of the barbecue. I thought of begging for some. At Bayfront, by contrast, I arrived near sunset, and people were jogging, walking their dogs, and strolling with their families.

Bedwell Bayfront Park sunset with ducks, San Francisco, Aug 2014

Even the ducks were out for a swim.