City Desk

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!

I collect hobbies. More specifically, I collect hobbies in a completely unsustainable fashion. I’m writing to you from my desk which is surrounded by an overflowing stamp collection, a box of neglected jewelry making bits, attractive tissue paper from various stores that I, obviously, shouldn’t throw away, and three repotted plants from my most recent obsession: container gardening. If you like radishes, well, then I’m your girl.

 

Most of the time I learn my hobbies from friends, sites like pinterest are doing me no favors, and often times, I get my hobbies from the guys I date. Old boyfriends are how I started biking, how I learned about some of my favorite bands, why I dabbled in rock climbing, pickle making, beer brewing… and while this might not be considered a traditional hobby necessarily, one old boyfriend even got me to stop keeping semi-kosher and start eating pork which I now do with the commitment of a dedicated scholar.

 

I guess now might be a good time to mention that I’ve met a really great guy named Dmitriy and he is an avid medieval sword fighter.

 

He trains weekly and often goes away for battles that last all weekend and involve camping in period dress. This is the real deal, heavy-duty armor, big swords, intricate costumes, and a lot of historical knowledge. This hobby is a huge part of his identity, and has been for over 10 years. I’m incredibly happy that he has such a passion for something outside of work, and I’m envious of the intenseness kinship he has with some of the other men in his group. But if I’m going to be honest, medieval times just aren’t for me. I’m not into the historical period and I would probably bruise to death if someone hit me even through armor.

 

But since meeting Dmitriy, I’ve completely caught up on one of his favorite shows the medieval-ish HBO series Game of Thrones which, we watched religiously every Sunday. I’m so obsessed with the series that I took an online test to find out what family I would be in (the Starks, thank god) and I’ve had several dreams involving dragons. But that is all no big deal, that’s just a wildly popular T.V. show,  that I too enjoy.

 

Recently, however, I found myself swinging a metal sword. I started tapping at an old car tire Dmitriy has hanging from the rafters of his room. At first I was afraid of how the sword’s blade would bounce off of the tire, the last thing I need is to knock out my front teeth, but once I swung I realized it was fun. Like, really fun…

 

Originally written in 2012*

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