Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Traffic court.

So I had this car for two months. And y'all, it was ridiculous. I live in the mission - an outer corner of the mission, but the mission - and parking sucks. Constantly on watch for new spaces, memorizing the street cleaning days, moving that thing just for the sake of moving it. Don't get me wrong, there are awesome things about having a car - like being two and a half hours from Monterey, or going to Ikea. But seriously? Zipcar for that shit. No more cars ever again for me. But I did have one for two months.

In that two months, I managed to blow a headlight and totally forget about it since I never drove the thing. Lucky for me, San Francisco's finest were on the scene to remind me. I got a ticket. This ticket has one option: put in a new headlight, then "just have any police officer sign the ticket". Yeah, cool. What am I going to do? Speed up behind one and flash my new headlights at them and they'll totally know what that means? I don't know if YOU have tried to flag down a police officer to sign your headlight ticket lately, but they sort of have better things to do.

But it was a lease, right? And I returned the car on the 26th of February, and my "do this by this day" ticket was for the 4th of March. I told this to the officer as he was writing my ticket, and he told me I could come in with my lease paperwork and just show them that I didn't have the car anymore.

I go down to traffic court today (the day before my very last chance GIVE ME A BREAK IT HAS BEEN RAINING) and first of all, I go through the metal detector. With my bag. The surly lady that watches all of your wine openers go through the machine asks me "Do you have a wine opener in your bag?" The answer they don't want to hear is "Oh, probably." Because of course I have a wine opener in my bag. This was the bag I took to Monterey last weekend and I obviously needed a wine opener if I was going to be in a hotel, but it doesn't matter because I would probably have one anyway. So she tells me it has a knife and that I can't bring it in to traffic court. I ask her what I should do with it, and she tells me to put it in my car. I tell her I don't have a car, and she tells me, verbatim "You can try hiding it somewhere outside." Laughing out loud wasn't the response she wanted, but I legitimately thought she was joking.

Wine openers can, if done with great force, be shoved between the rails of a bicycle saddle and tucked up under there. YOU'RE WELCOME.

So I stand in line for 25 minutes and finally get to a human, who tells me he can help me out with this, then tells me it's time to pay the $25 compliance fee. California, I hate you. Compliance fee? I pay you $25 because I did what I was supposed to do? I mean, jesus. He then tells me that what he is SUPPOSED to do is schedule me a court date in June, but since my situation is "unique", he's letting me slide.

Out of pure curiosity, what do you imagine happens in that court date? I show up four months after I've gotten rid of the car to plead my case? A judge - presumably someone who paid a real ridiculous amount of money to go to law school, and presumably costs the state a shitload of money per hour - looks at the same piece of paper from Honda that I just showed the traffic clerk? Do I cry and say that I'll never do it again? Because I won't. Because I don't have a car.

The whole process was just ridiculous. It's a headlight. And look, I know, you should have headlights. Hell, I ride a bike. I want everyone behind me to have headlights. Get seven of 'em. I want to see you coming. So I get it. But, seriously, mandatory scheduled court dates for a blown headlight bulb? It's a little much. I have ideas on how we might close that budget gap I'm hearing so much about.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy anniversary.

My college gallery opening had a program of sorts, where all the graduates gave a short bio and quote. The end of mine was "It's been a good run - here's to the rest of it."

This time one year ago, I was zipping up my suitcases. I had to wake up early to catch my 6 a.m. flight out of Dayton, so I'm pretty sure I tried to go to bed early. I didn't take much. I assumed I'd just buy everything again when I got to San Francisco.

I didn't have a job. I didn't have an apartment. Thanks to an overlooked exit counseling session, I didn't even have my real diploma in my hand yet. The $1500 I had received three months earlier as a combination of graduation presents had long run out and I was living my life on a slowly dwindling credit card limit. I owned a house, I had a life, and now I was going across the country on a one way plane ticket in two suitcases. I don't do terrified very well, but I managed to figure it out for that day. It wasn't exciting. It wasn't exhilarating. It was awful.

So I arrived in San Francisco and I settled down to do whatever it is you do when you're 23 and you just gave your life up. I found a one month sublet for $600. It was 10x10 and couldn't hardly fit my bike and didn't have a kitchen. It had a bay window that looked onto 18th street and the sun woke me up every morning. I needed that bay window. I didn't have much to get me up in the mornings and having a natural, warm alarm clock will always be my favorite memory of San Francisco.

I broke my collar bone 18 days after moving here. It pissed me off. I had no money and no future and now I couldn't even put my own shirt on. Ten days later I scored a $700 freelance job that paid my rent for October in the new apartment that Harry and I found. It was the first money I made since graduation. I paid my rent, bought a burrito, and stored the remaining $150 away in the hopes that it would feed me for a month.

Things got better. I got another freelance contract, one that I still hold today with an incredible company that was really the first to take an interest in me out here. I took a job for a few months in Silicon Valley that just wasn't right for me and learned a few huge lessons about how I wanted my professional life to start. I returned to freelancing and have managed to make a pretty strong go at it. I've been overbooked for a month and a half and while it would be inappropriate to say that this might be things turning around, let's just say I'm hopeful.

It has been a heartbreaking year in a lot of ways. Say what you will about personal growth and learning, but none of it comes all that easy. I have not fallen in love with San Francisco the way everyone else seems to, but I'm slowly making my place here. I have a favorite bar. I have a couple of favorite restaurants. I've been car-free for over a year and have managed to do all the traveling I need to on a bicycle, something I wouldn't have ever believed was possible a year and a half ago.

I miss everybody and I miss everything. Being on the west coast when everyone you love is at least two time zones away is awful. I've become a much more internal person since moving here, and perhaps that's okay. I'm a little smarter, a little more calculated, a little more careful. But at the same time, it's the most unrestrained I've ever been. There's nothing glamorous about this life - it's a whole lot of Tecate on our roof deck, and a whole lot of $5 burritos because they can last me for two meals - but it is a life that's completely fluid and unpredictable and it's exactly what I needed to do.

San Francisco, I've been real hard on you this year. You are expensive and a little hard to get around and I'm pretty negative about you sometimes. So here's to all the Tecate on the roof deck. Here's to freezing at night because it's California and I'm too stubborn to wear a jacket somewhere that sounds like it should be warm. Here's to appreciating every single sunny day at Dolores Park, to burritos the size of my face, to street food regardless of whether it's made by 30 year residents selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs or new residents with push carts. Here's to your ridiculously beautiful neighborhoods, your ocean, your bay, your wine country.

Harry's quote was "This is it, kids, we're going to live forever. We're part of the story now." Breaking a collarbone 18 days after you throw caution to the wind and move across the country discounts your invincibility a little bit, but I think I'll hold on to it for a little while longer. It's been a good run, San Francisco. Here's to the rest of it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Suisun Valley

I've been absent lately, thanks to a couple of things - first it was work, then it might have just been laziness, and last week it was a quite tragic event in my favorite roommate's life that called us both back to the midwest for a week. I also visited LA this weekend, cementing the idea that I can't ever live somewhere where I would need to own a car again, but that's scarcely the point.

A time before that, we traveled to the Suisun Valley to do a 20 mile bike loop and get my first exposure to wine country. A good friend with a wine blog asked me to guest write for her while she's on a cruise in Alaska, and this was my first idea. So, head on over to Michelle's blog to see my guest post for her, Visiting the Suisun Valley Wine Country. And I promise we'll all catch up soon.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


So, I'm involved in the 48 Hour Film Festival here this weekend... which means you, my dear readers, may have seen a super questionable title on this here blog sometime in the past 24 hours because we needed a blog window to shoot and the title needed to not be "New to the Bay". And then we ran to film another scene, which meant I totally forgot to change it back, and I just realized 14 hours later that I had done something really stupid. My apologies to any readers whose sensibilities might have been offended. :)

Also, this is a shameless plug to come see our film on June 15th at the Roxie. And while you're at it, come see all of them. They might be awful, but it might also be a lot of fun.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Love for Zipcar.

My mother asked me a few months ago what I wanted for my birthday. I'm not very good with "stuff" - I live and work in a studio apartment with another person, and we have very little furniture in it, so finding a place to keep new things is tricky. I also don't really need anything - I've lived here for nine months with the things I have now, and I can't really come up with a tangible thing that would make my life better or easier.

What I did know is that I wanted to go somewhere. I wanted to do something. While I like to preach about how great riding bikes is, and I go on and on about how fabulous the public transportation options are around here, it's not always easy to do the things I want to do. We don't keep food in the house because we can only transport what our shoulder bags can carry. (I know racks and panniers are an option, but I'm already on a 40 pound, 30 year old bike. There's only so much extra weight I'm into right now.) The Roommate has family up north that we don't see very often because the bus + bike combo to their place would literally take us three hours one way, which is not ideal for a Saturday day trip.

Perhaps the solution is obvious to the rest of you, but it took a little while to become obvious to me: I wanted a Zipcar membership.

Zipcar, for anyone not living in a major city, is a car sharing program. You get a membership, and it gives you access to cars at hundreds of locations for an hourly or day rate. Want to go to the grocery store but can't buy more than you can carry? Get a Zipcar for an hour. Day trips up to see the family? Cars start at $69 for the day. And while that's a little hefty for a rental car, it requires zero advance planning. I can get a car in fifteen minutes. And my closest Enterprise lot closes at 1:00 on Saturdays and isn't open on Sunday, so a Saturday day trip would actually be a two day rental.

Plus, Zipcar pays for your gas and insurance. I don't have my own car insurance - since I don't have my own car - so this is an extra charge that traditional rental car companies have to charge me. I'm also still under 25 for a few months, and Zipcar only requires you be 21+.

I've rented from them three times now, and every experience has been great. I've had to call them for various reasons - a check engine light was on, someone forgot their jacket in my car, etc. - and they're always quick to answer and very helpful. A phone call with the press of one button extends your reservation another 30 minutes, which is helpful for the hourly rentals when your trip hits an unexpected snag.

I pay for their yearly membership rather than a monthly thing, because I just don't drive very much. It's worth $50 a year to me to have the convenience of a car whenever I want it. Carless members of large cities, I can't speak highly enough about them. Check them out at

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Left Coast Smoke.

I was born in Kansas City. For the first eighteen years of my life, my blood was part barbecue sauce. I just can't get enough of it. Sure, I'm partial to my hometown's style, but since I've left, I'll eat just about any of it. Memphis, Carolina, Dallas - bring it all on. Barbecue transplants can't be so picky.

I was sitting inside Shotwell's, my regularly mentioned favorite bar, when one of the bartenders, Dean, mentioned that he was thinking about starting a food cart. Barbecue, he says. Pulled pork sandwiches to start, with slaw and a couple of different sauces.

I became entirely too excited. Way, way too excited. The barbecue options - good, solid sandwiches with pulled, well-smoked meat, drenched in sauce - are few and far between in my neck of the woods. There are a couple of restaurants on Mission that call themselves barbecue, and I certainly mean no offense to their establishments, but they haven't been what I was looking for. I wanted barbecue, and Dean was offering me my chance.

I was worried that we wouldn't end up seeing the fruits of this labor any time soon, but sure enough, I got to be a taste tester the very next Sunday. I fell in love and couldn't get the sandwich out of my head.

They've got a sort of floating campground setup. A crockpot to keep previously-smoked meat warm, and then they heat it up for you, along with lightly toasting the buns, on their electric griddle. There's a tomato-based spicy sauce and a mustard-based milder sauce that's more Carolina style.

They're frequenting bars in the Mission on a fairly regular schedule. I know they're at Shotwell's on Mondays (6-8), and I've heard rumors of them showing up at The Knockout and 500 Club. Stop by and introduce yourself. I'll let the photos speak for themselves. A sandwich with a generous portion of meat, your choice of sauce and a side of slaw will run you $6. You can track them on twitter at @leftcoastsmoke. Good guys, good food. And my answer to beer+barbecue in the Mission.

Edited to add: I ran into Dean and John last night. They're at The Knockout on Thursdays.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Despite living here for nine months as of today, there's still a lot of room to learn things about this city.

Such as, and I am not kidding you, I did not know Muni trains ran underground. There is a good reason for this, I suppose - I ride a bike, and I rarely take public transportation since the collar bone healed up many months ago. I take the BART if I have to meet someone at the airport. That's about it. Also, you can't take bikes on the Muni trains, which is the only other reason I ever consider public transportation - aiding me and the bike in getting somewhere difficult.

But this weekend, I was going to meet a friend who lives in the Sunset, in the part of the Sunset that isn't easy for me to get to. Possible, sure, but we were going to have a few drinks at her house and I really didn't feel like planning to do all that 1 a.m. riding in a neighborhood I'm unfamiliar with was a good idea. Lucky for me, the L runs right down Taraval, a block or two off of her street. So, sure enough, I walk up to Market & Church (a much more pleasant walk than I had imagined; riding a bike has completely distorted my sense of distance and time between places), and I look for the L... which I think should run above ground, because that's where I see the J run, and therefore that's where trains run.

That's not where trains run.

Enter me, looking like an idiot, finally figuring out where I needed to go. Nine months of living here, with a stop one mile from my house, I had no idea that Muni ran underground. I guess there's still time to learn new things.

Other things I've learned recently - my constant whining about wanting more diners (read as: places to give me toast and eggs) close by has been answered by deciding to walk to the Castro. We were seeing Up on Sunday afternoon, and I'll be damned if there weren't three diners on the same block. Toast, eggs, ham, potatoes. These are the things I want on my Sunday, every Sunday. A walk past Dolores Park, up 18th, to have breakfast and catch a matinee at a really beautiful theater.

And, an unrelated note - Left Coast Barbecue, a new traveling food truck very near and dear to my barbecue-covered heart, is now at Shotwell's every Monday night from 6-8, serving up sandwiches that will make you think about them for days to come. Stop by and support the guys - they make a very good product and they're very excited to share it with people.