We don’t even know how to describe this show. It’s like a city exploded in your ears — and you heard every whisper, every bird, and every chord struck on a Friday night and a Saturday morning, no matter where you were standing.

This episode launches Season One of our serial.

On a Friday night, Dana celebrates the success of her Mensch-of-the-Month calendar, with a party at the Palo Alto JCC. Meanwhile, here in the city, Maggie initiates a misguided attempt to mesh with her beer-brewing roommates, and Ellison discovers a mysterious suitcase filled with mementos from the lives of strangers.

Two letters in that suitcase – the first one opened, the second one unopened – mailed in the early 1950s to a woman in San Francisco from a merchant marine en route to the Philippines, launch Ellison’s quest to find Elsie. Why did she never open that second letter, and yet save it for all of these years? And why was that suitcase thrown away?

The next morning, Rob shows up for his job as a Docent at the San Francisco Zoo, and Olivia has pancakes and talks politics with her dad.

Like we said, it’s life on shuffle. Welcome to SonicSF!

A few months ago, I was stumbling through the streets of Cole Valley on my way to a party when I spotted not one, not two, but three pairs of skis in a dumpster. I don’t usually participate in winter sports; I’ve gone snowboarding twice and I was terrible at it. But when I saw these specimens in my slightly inebriated state, they were the most beautiful things in the world. Needless to say, I claimed them, and when I arrived at my friend’s house with my newly acquired limbo poles, the party officially started.

I like stories that live in something. Discarded objects, old photos—they all have a story to tell, and the streets (and dumpsters) of San Francisco are ripe with material. Just as long as the moist ocean air doesn’t ruin it.

I used to send my ex-girlfriend letters with pictures from garage sales or thrift stores included. We traded off. I sent her a black-and-white of a matador in action, and she sent me a grainy cowboy in return. We then added a rule: we must make up stories for each of them. On the back of each photo we’d include a short biography or a description of the scene. Suddenly, the characters captured in time were brought to life.

So it should come as no surprise that when I saw a dusty old suitcase heaped on top of a dumpster on 16th Avenue in the Inner Richmond, I was ecstatic and knee-deep in junk in no time. Much to my delight, the discarded luggage contained old pictures. They might as well have been gold coins. I bolted out of the trash and speed-walked to the nearest cafe, clasping the suitcase tight. The pictures were of a Japanese American family and ranged from 1918 to the 1980s. They’re high quality with great composition and clarity. The content is even better, chronicling the life of a Japanese family immersed in quintessential American culture, complete with family excursions, dinner parties, cat-eye glasses, and fishing.

And amongst the photos, two letters. One opened and another unopened. My adventure was just beginning…

*Originally written in January, 2013.

When people ask me why I moved across the country from New York City to San Francisco, leaving behind family and friends, an easy but maybe too comfy job, and a city—The City—that I loved, I usually ramble off one of the following answers: I came for adventure. I came to “try on the Left Coast for size.” I came because of Manifest Destiny. I came because … GOLD! I came after reading Jack Kerouac and drinking too many glasses of California wine. I came to live out my progressive values and get in touch with the hippie spawn activist within me. But really I came because my boyfriend wanted to move out here and because I love him.

We landed in Bernal Heights in mid-June. Our place, which we share with one other guy, is adjacent to my boyfriend’s brother’s apartment, which he shares with three of his friends. The male-to-female ratio of my home life is six to one.

I can’t really complain too much. Moving into a place that had a built-in set of friends eased the transition. They are a fun bunch, active and creative. Many of them, struck by San Francisco’s start-up fever, have left decently paying jobs to focus on their own projects, and I admire that. While liberating, the work-from-home lifestyle inevitably leads to a lot of just hanging out—like in college.

To add to the collegiate vibe, one of the boys’ favorite activities is brewing beer at home. Every three weeks they pool their funds, make a run to Brewcraft for supplies, and then gather in the tiny courtyard outside my bedroom window to begin the five- to six-hour ritual. I sat in on one recent brew sesh, as they are called, to observe the activities of the “brewmunity,” also their term. It’s a messy business with lots of sanitizing of equipment and boiling, cooling, stirring and filtering of liquids. There are moments of frenzied activity spaced out by long periods of waiting. It is a jocular environment with lots of breaks for playing music and imbibing the fruits of their labor.

While they are an inclusive bunch, and I appreciate the camaraderie they share, I couldn’t help but feel that as a girl—and especially as a “girlfriend”—I was intruding on an inalienable man space. I am happy that my boyfriend has found a community of friends, but standing around a brew boil waiting for the yeast to rise or whatever is not exactly my idea of fun. And that’s OK! All it means is that I have to find my own people.

So that is my latest adventure in this new city that I call home. I’m going to get out there and make new friends! The question is, how do you do that?


*Originally written in October, 2012

As I write this, I’m trying to decide what to have for dinner. Will it be Cool Ranch Doritos again, or should I splurge on a number one with cheese from Carl’s Jr.? Yeah, you read that right, I used “splurge” and “Carl’s Jr.” in the same sentence. After years of working on behalf of underserved communities throughout the Bay Area, I am now broke.

My parents are hippie-turned-born-agains who raised me to not only recite but to actually practice that scripture in Luke, “to much is given, much is required.” So for more than a decade, as a result of Jesus guilt, my professional career was dedicated to supporting nonprofit organizations that developed after-school programs for kids, organized community resource fairs, and lead voter registration drives. When the economy went to pooh a few years ago, so did my career, checking account, and dinner options.

It’s mostly because of my dad that I’m living in the capital of Face-Twitt-App-ville with job skills that read, “adequate packer of groceries for community giveaways” instead of “computer engineering developer genius.” His commitment to social justice has been life-long and began when he was a kid growing up in the segregated South. After college, he and my mom moved to the Bay Area, found Jesus, and popped out a bunch of kids. My three siblings and I were raised to fear God, vote Democrat, and pay it forward.

In addition to convincing me that a life of service is better than a life at Saks, my dad instilled in me a passion for politics. I can remember feeling deeply invested in the presidential election of 1988 and running for office (and winning handedly!) in elementary school. While growing up I always knew that my political nerdiness was a bit rare. Kids at school never wanted to discuss NAFTA or the Three Strikes Law with me, but luckily I had my dad to argue the same side of an issue with.

These discussions continue today, and, considering that we agree about pretty much everything (except the effectiveness of dropping the f-word in an argument every now and then), they can get rather rowdy. Our weekly breakdown of what’s happening politically in the Bay Area, California, and across the country act as a welcome distraction from my poor state of being. And they keep me feeling like my old, gainfully employed, maybe-I-can-save-the-world-one-day self.

*Originally written in January of 2013.