San Francisco summer night

Anyone who's been within 6,000 miles of me anytime during June, July, or August will know how vociferously I complain about San Francisco's summer weather. It is, in short, unnatural, and although I'm sure I should've learned to deal with it uncomplainingly by now, I haven't.

But last night was an exception. D and I left the Presidio Social Club, passed the fellows dressed in 30's garb (about whom we were wrong: not a bachelor party at all, but in fact a common group outing) standing outside near their classic cars, and went not toward the Yoda statue as vaguely planned but instead back to Lombard. At the corner of Divis, we debated the merits of going into the Marina for drinks (decision: few to none) and opted rather to make the trek back toward Geary.

Divisadero is a ludicrous street to walk up, as it's insanely hilly for approximately 400 blocks (OK, fine: 5 or 6 blocks). But we gamely trudged upward, and though it was ass-kicking, it was also quite nice: the fog was visibly rolling in and the foghorns were lowing somewhere in the distance. It was windy but not bitterly so, and the temperature was pleasantly cool enough to offset the effects of climbing huge hills.

And somehow the fog made everything seem oddly hushed. Granted, the fact that we were walking through Pac Heights partly explains the odd hush--evidently, no one leaves the confines of his or her mansion past 9 p.m.--but still, it was as if someone had clapped a mute on the neighborhood.

We hit the apex and started down again, pausing at the corner of Divis and Sacramento to consider the bar there before deciding that the clientele were too young and boisterous for our liking (D: "I mean, that guy just bought, like, four beef jerkies at the convenience store") and heading toward the Fillmore. A block or so in, the silence fell again.

Of course, later on, after we'd spent time at the bar of the Elite Cafe (quite lovely, I might add) and set out toward Geary, the wind had picked up and cooled off enough that it ceased to be pleasant, and Geary itself was just plainly cold, and the quiet was broken by people and traffic and the general hubub of the street.

But for a while there, I didn't rue the weather, didn't wish for a proper summer, didn't complain about our off-kilter seasons. I just walked and talked and listened and fell fully in love with my sweet city all over again.


Thanks for the clarification

In my spam folder this morning:

"An Increase in Girth (Width) with One Easy Pill"

Though, really, if you so doubt the intelligence of your target market, why not claim that your pill increases both girth and width?


Summer Plath

While sitting on the bedroom floor tying my sneakers this afternoon, I let my eyes scan the bookshelves for potential books to take with me on my (desperately needed) vacation next week. The one I wound up pulling down--though, truthfully, I can't imagine lugging it across the country with me, even less so actually chopping my way through its pages again--was "The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath."

I actually read this book--the whole damn thing--back in, what, 2000 or so. It was in the fall. I remember having it with me when I house-sat for John and Lynne, remember reading passages from it in an attempt to block out the creaks and groans and other disconcerting sounds the house made as it settled in the wind at night as I lay in bed, waiting for sleep.

It ultimately took me months to finish, because when they say "Unabridged," they mean it: this is, like, every word the woman ever wrote in a journal, save for those torched by Ted Hughes. She wrote a lot, much of it brilliant, fair chunks of it not. For me, at least, the book wasn't a quick or easy read.

But there's much to fall in love with here, including the passage sharp-eyed readers of this blog will have seen quoted repeatedly ("...not so, not so, for in the parable the wells of the valley are sweet in their ripeness...") and are surely cringing at the thought of seeing again.

What I opened to today, mainly because it was marked with a red Post-It flag, was an entry from August 17, 1952, that begins "Band Concert on Friday." It's a long, dense, intensely detailed description of an outdoor concert, and what's most striking is the fact that Plath is able to take this ostensibly happy event, describe it as such, and yet, partway through, still bring a high, clear note of loss and sadness and regret to the whole affair.

But that, of course, is the most wrenching and beautiful part.

"And the kids, all of them, will dance, keeping time to music, chorusing 'Now We Go Looby-Loo' and then the teen-age couples will come out to the arena, and there will be waltzes, dark sky over, and the lights soft and the good big summer feeling inside you with the light gentle and the night cool and friendly. Always with the queer regret, blurring all the other summers into a fine nostalgic brew--distilling all the tart sweetnesses into this one, with the sea of music skipping over the time, and the feeling in you warm and it is our town, we all together, very sweet, all summer lights, sometimes almost tearful because it is so moving all the time. The fluid color the fluid sound, toward its ending. ('Into many a green valley, drifts the appalling snow./ Time breaks the threaded dances and the diver's brilliant bow.') And now I am sitting here crying almost because suddenly I am knowing in my head and feeling in my guts what those words mean when I did not know the full impact of them in the beginning, but merely their mystic beauty.

So it all moves in the pageant toward the ending, it's own ending. Everywhere, imperceptibly or otherwise, things are passing, ending, going. And there will be other summers, other band concerts, but never this one, never again, never as now. Next year I will not be the self of this year now. And that is why I laugh at the transient, the ephemeral; laugh, while clutching, holding, tenderly, like a fool his toy, cracked glass, water through fingers. For all the writing, for all the invention of engines to express & convey & capture life, it is the living of it that is the gimmick. It goes by, and whatever dream you use to dope up the pains and hurts, it goes. Delude yourself about printed islands of permanence. You've only got so long to live. You're getting your dream. Things are working, blind forces, no personal spiritual beneficent ones except your own intelligence and the good will of a few other fools and fellow humans. So hit while it's hot."