Aug 14, 2017

San Francisco

Pride flag
I didn’t mean for over a month to go by before I carried on telling you about my trip. I came back from the West Coast full of joy and energy and hope, and then proceeded to have a very busy month. There was more travelling (home to see my family, and then to Paris for a long weekend, which I’d love to eventually post about), plus the start of summer reading at my library, plus some overtime and shift swaps resulting in ten-day long work marathons. When I finally got the chance to stop for a deep breath, I found that I was anxious and despondent again — that the world seemed scarier than ever, that I didn’t necessarily have any more answers than I did before, that many of the things that have always brought me joy seemed pointless and hollow.

But then I came back to my favourite lines from Adrienne Rich’s “From a Survivor”, which remain among the most powerful I have read this year: “…which I live now / not as a leap / but a succession of brief, amazing movements / each one making possible the next”. These few lines alone have done so much to sustain me. They get at something I need reminding of; that I need to come back to from time to time. I don’t need a once and for all solution regarding how to be alive in this world, how to be okay, how to make things better or at the very least not worst. I just need to get through the morning, the afternoon, the day, always doing my best to live by my values. Change is always incremental, and all those brief movements of surviving will add up to a lifetime.

This isn’t much of an answer, but it’s made me feel more grounded. And if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that the process of unfucking my life will have to involve coming back here, to this place of communion with writing, to the self-discovery and expression and community that putting my words out into the world has allowed me to enjoy for the past decade. I need to write regularly again; I feel out of kilter otherwise. The good news is that I’ve been reading, which strikes me as step one even if I never go back to reviewing in the way I used to: I’m currently in the middle of Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals, I finally read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and I finished No is Not Enough the other day. Even just telling you this makes me feel a little more like myself.

This brings me to San Francisco in a very roundabout sort of way: whatever my strategy will be, I know it will also involve dwelling on joy. The few days I spent in the city were full of joy and community, and I’m so glad I got to have this experience this year of all years:
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The Castro was beautiful and full of queer elders I wanted to randomly start conversations with and say “thank you” to. I don’t want to romanticise San Francisco too much — one of my regrets is not having bought Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s The End of San Francisco when I saw it at City Lights — but walking those streets surrounded by friends who truly see me was immensely meaningful to me.

Dog Eared Books in the Castro.

I was lucky to have been taken on a sightseeing tour of the city on a beautiful evening, full of golden light rather than the usual mist. Here’s some of what I saw:

The next day I went to City Lights, which was one of the highlights of the whole trip:

I went to the Beats Museum across the road from City Lights for the privilege of having a man ask me, as I bought my ticket, “Are you at all familiar with the Beat generation?”. This question was followed (I kid you not) by “Oh really? Who’s your favourite writer, then?”. I feel that I brought this fate upon myself. (I still love On the Road with all my messy, contradictory feminist heart, though.)

Sea lions!

I like driving around a city and randomly spotting an Angela Davis poster.

Bisexual ice-cream is the best ice-cream. (I had the Earl Grey and the Cream Cheese and Carrot Cake.)

Dolores Park.

Next up: The Last Bookastore in LA. Thank you for reading, and thank you for sticking around through my silences.


  1. I've always wanted to go to San Francisco. Maybe someday!

  2. Among other things, thank you for the picture of sea lions. The last time I went to San Francisco it was February, chilly and rainy, and although I went to places where they're usually seen, we didn't see a one.

  3. Amazing :) Gorgeous pictures, really love them, especially the bridge and the flowers - beautiful!

  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed your West Coast trip! And got delicious ice cream in San Francisco.

    I understand the feeling of coming back from vacation feeling at peace and happy, and then that feeling disappearing very quickly. I have been feeling quite rough these past several days myself. I am escaping with reading and friends and snuggling my new nephew.

  5. I am so happy to read all your posts about this trip to the US. It sounds like something deeply soul-sustaining, if that makes sense.

    I'm completely overwhelmed by the number of incredible libraries and bookshops you managed to visit during this trip.

  6. Oh, friend, I hate thinking of you feeling anxious and despondent. I'm glad you've found some wisdom that's helped you out, and I hope that you have plenty of things in your life day to day that give you joy. I wish we lived in the same place! I love you. I am so glad we were able to meet. You are someone I value and admire so much, and it's a genuine blessing to me that you're part of my life.

  7. Reading again is always a good thing. I've actually pretty much decided to dedicate the fall to rereading, to revel in the pure joy of the books I love.
    And now I want to go to San Francisco! It has literally been decades since I was last there. Boo.

  8. So wonderful <3

    I wish I could go someday.


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